A Theme of Hope
Music is a naturally creative and imaginative outlet in the composing, creation and yes in the listening of it. As writers we often comment on the music choices that currently inspire our writing. For so many of us, music can play an important part of the writing process. Often times it is inspiring or helps to set the tone of a piece, a scene or even a story. Music has that ability to evoke reactions, emotions and imaginations.
Music also has a power as it harkens back to a memory, a moment, a connection. When we hear the chimes and the stirring vocals of TOS, the brass of TNG, the strings of DS9 and VOY and the guitar strums of ENT we find ourselves transported back some of our favourite telly and characters. And of course, flights of fantasy when we listen to some of the musical scores of the films. Are we not re-imaging the appearance of Enterprise to Kirk when we listen to https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Rev8mhy7xOE or remember preparing for battle against Khan in the Mutura Nebula https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KilBvojsMdw ?
I am sure as much as we share in common in terms of music being an inspiration we also differ vastly in terms of the music that we listen to and the manner in which we write and if we listen to music as we write. I know for example that many authors cannot fathom playing music if they were to sit and write, finding it too distracting while others possibly need music playing to assist the creative process.
Speaking for myself, I often will have music playing as I write. It can be distracting or when the playlist plays out I find myself so caught up now in the writing that I do not notice the silence that sneaks in. For me the important part of listening to music is pre-writing when I am looking to find the tone for a scene or if I am looking to set a score to a scene listening to certain pieces of music can help with the ebb and flow and the pace of the action therein. This is probably based on the choices of music I tend to listen to being largely soundtrack based.
Of all the people on the site, I am probably the least qualified in terms of having an ear for music than most. I cannot pretend that I am a music aficionado for I am not. My musical knowledge, range and experience is startlingly limited. When I go casting about for music inspirations I do start with a few stock favourites but many a current song or youtube fanvideo provides a rabbit hole experience of chasing down music that helps me get the vibe for the character or scene I am looking to write.
At this stage, I might listen to a fanmade video for an emotional context if it were. Or if I am writing or building towards an arc of action scenes I go to trailer music. Two Steps from Hell, X-Ray Dog and Immediate Music are old staples of this tactic with Freedom Fighters being an old fave despite the association to Trek’09. It is in fact the trailer in my head for faith in McGregor narrated by Dr. Judith Monroe.
However, the truth of the matter is that the music I do choose to match to scenes is limited. In fact, badly restrictive I imagine being mostly confined to soundtrack scores from film or television. Largely the pieces of music that I choose are often instrumental music scores or even trailer music where appropriate, these are the larger influences on me when it comes to writing, or especially to getting a tone for a piece.
This is not to say that I don’t listen to songs proper. However, I am ashamedly, useless at actually hearing the words comprehending any deeper meaning to songs more often than not. I like a song for the sound of the voice, for the music and tone of it. I am always amazed at how other authors, here especially on Ad Astra, are so attuned to matching lyrics to characters and moments. Really, I think that is a skill, one that bypasses me I am afraid.
That said I know what I like and I know what inspires me in my writing. To help me get into a writing mood or mode I will toggle through playlists from youtube or downloaded to RealPlayer and set them to play. My poor neighbours must wonder at times what the heck I am doing. ‘Can he really be watching The Dark Knight Rises again?’ No but I can actually be listening to the music from it from it again!
Yes, as the comment above suggests, The Dark Knight is an especial favourite because the music in it and from Batman Begins are the music scores I’ve set too often for my Kestrel story’s action and culmination scenes.
Indeed, Hans Zimmer is a regular on my playlist of composers with music from the Dark Knight Trilogy, Angels and Demons, Da Vinci Code, Tears of the Sun, Inception, Pirates of the Caribbean, Gladiator, The Last Samurai and most recently Man of Steel.
Hans Zimmer’s Science and Religion is for example one character theme for T’Vel and her mastering of her emotions yet doing so through logic almost as a faith, her IDIC symbol as a talisman beckoning her home back to her centre (another I have used is Zimmer’s Injection track from Mission Impossible II).
Zimmer also provided the musical cues in my head for the chapter The Devil’s in the Details in Kestrel when the boarding team do their Border Dogs thang. Listening to Mombassa from Inception and to Dark Knight’s opening music track helped me write the out and out action of the scene.
I also find myself (probably because I have these things on repeat so often) searching about for remixes and restructures of the pieces of music I like. Especially if they are a ‘character theme’. For example, I use Murray Gold’s Doctor Who music is a favourite for some McGregor and for some Tabatha antics. I love looking through for re-edits and remixes of the ‘I am the Doctor’ from heavy metal, electric guitars, quartet vocals and cello versions. All the variations on a theme I can use for different Tabatha Chase and McGregor scenarios. Additionally, McGregor fits for the ‘He’s a Pirate’ theme and again there are many a version out of there on youtube of it.
I have quite a few other choices of composers that I go to for themes and tones that fit certain stories/series I have in development. Assigning composers to them and pieces of music helps me to pick up and plan them when I hit a block. The music or the composer’s collection acts as a key back into the vibe and feel of the particular stories. These include the amazing Zack Hempsey. His Vengeance is a theme for the developing story of Legacy/New Ground. Along with Clint Mansell’s Mass Effect Earth theme is a shoe in for an invasion calamity story part of the Watchtower universe. Cardassians and Starfleeters alike face up to the challenge of working together post the Dominion War to build a new home.
Bear McCreary with the often achingly beautiful music from Battlestar Galactica and new theme for Defiance are big inspirations. With Bear’s BSG music currently inspiring a WIP called Homestead that forms part of the Watchtower Universe and Dues Ex Machina soundtrack forming the trailer in my head.
The reason for the attention to music is because I recently saw Man of Steel and again Zimmer came up with the goods. His theme, An Ideal of Hope used in a trailer struck me and in turning once again to the process of writing my story Hope Station set within what I now call The Watchtower Universe the piece of music was perfect.
It fittingly in name and in theme matches the name of the show here. Given that the story is going to be on a vast scale, including a number of ships and a plethora of characters amid a changing and hopefully dynamic political situation, fraught with danger and intrigues. However, dark clouds beckon for the premise and of course a danger lurks in the shadows. The war has been won but the peace has yet to be. Dangers, plots and threats await for the crew and civilians of Hope Station and the crews of the ships that patrol its sector.
Despite the dangers and threats the theme will be crews, people and politicians trying to make peace work. The story will be about hope. Hope for peace, Hope for a new home, a new beginning, a new legacy. The hope to keep and win the peace after the war and the hope to avert any new war even when enemies remain and hatreds fester. With that in mind, I wanted not an explosive and doom, doom theme for the overriding story. Therefore, I go with this piece.
So tell me, do you have particular themes for your story/stories? Does a certain piece of music fit a certain scene? Do you think of a particular character when you hear a particular piece of music? Share with us your themes. I hope you enjoyed hearing about a fraction of mine.