Writing Music Monday: Aida by Giuseppe Verdi

21 Jul

Verdi conducting

Verdi conducts Aida in Paris.
Adrien Marie, 1881.

Because sometimes you’ve just got to write to opera.


I’m being serious.

Sometimes you have to do that.


And, lucky you, there is a site that has the vast bulk of Verdi’s operas available in MP3 format for free under a Creative Commons license. The recordings are generally from the 1950s, so they’re not super-high tech with surround sound. But seriously, who needs that? All you need is the music, the beauty, the epic emotion. And you get that in spades.

In truth, the only opera I ever listen to is Verdi. And while I count Aida as my favorite, I don’t know the story of it. I just listen and let the music and emotion flow through me.

A the Italian site Liber Liber, you can download most (perhaps all) of Verdi’s work (including the Requiem), but first (and to my mind foremost) are two different recordings of Aida. You want them. If you only get one, my favorite is the first one listed, the RAI recording. Download the entire thing. Maybe both versions. If you’re a nut like me, download everything and spend days wallowing in Verdi.

There are worse ways to spend your time.

Aida by Verdi is in the public domain. The recordings offered by the site Liber Liber are made available under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 2.5 Generic license. (CC BY-NC-SA 2.5)

Writing Music Tuesday: bunk by Jahzzar

8 Jul

bunk CoverI’ve been sick the past several days. Not mortally ill or anything, but enough to be distracting, irritating, and yesterday I hopped myself up on Benadryl so that I could breathe without blowing my nose every ten seconds. Benadryl sends my brain of to some OtherSpace where it floats hither and yon, bumping gently into many thoughts but unable to hold on to any one for longer than a minute or two.

So, I meant to post yesterday, but it just did not happen.

And even today, sans Benadryl, I’m not braining too good. So if the following doesn’t make a whole lot of sense, ignore it and go listen to the music, which is the main point in any event.

With bunk, today’s album, Jahzzar has now appeared in five different Writing Music posts. I note that particularly because it is, in some ways, a companion album to the very first of his that I shared with you, Wake Up. Where that first album was the bright and happy side of ’80s style synth, today’s album is darker, slower, and more lonely feeling.

Here’s what Jahzzar himself (Javier Suarez, in his non-superhero identity) has to say about it:

Bunk is a collection of beats. It’s instrumental hip hop and ambient. Minimalism and maximalism. To explain it, is better to imagine a triangle. In one vertex we would have r’n’b: The Weeknd, Drake or araabMUZIK (even). In another, the maximalism of people like Flying Lotus, Rustie, amor,est. or Mouse on Mars. Dreamer Tokyo may also be included in this vertex. The last vertex would be for the minimalist ambient: Alva Noto, Balam Acab, Nicolas Jaar electro …
Arguably, Bunk tries to find the middle point within this triangle.

It’s not something I listen to all the time, but when the mood is right and I need the dark of ’80s post-apocalyptic synth, it usually works.

You can download bunk in almost any format you like, as well as sending some well-deserved money Jahzzar’s way, through BandCamp.

Alternately, you can get it in either MP3 or Ogg Vorbis format from Jamendo, absolutely free.

Creative Commons License
bunk by Jahzzar is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.

Writing Music Monday: Impact Valentine by Lobo Loco (WMM Edition)

30 Jun

CoverHere’s where you can see a small benefit of the Creative Commons. I’ve had this album on my android forever. Every now and then, I go back to it, and begin with the thought “This is great! Why haven’t I put this up on the blog yet?”

And then one of the vocal tracks plays.

And then I don’t try listening to the album again for months and months.

I won’t get into whether the vocals are good or bad, but they yank me right out of the mood the instrumentals put me into, every single time. This, for a collection of music to write to, is Not A Good Thing.

So I have taken advantage of the Attribution-Share Alike license and “remixed” the album — if by remix you understand me to mean that I just dropped the vocal tracks entirely and let it go at that.

This is “modern” jazz in the sense that it’s the sort of thing that I usually do not enjoy, much like last week’s album. And much like last week’s album, this is a strong exception to the rule. I really enjoy these tracks, having them in the background while I’m writing or outlining or just thinking through structural problems with a story. It works for me, in some way I can’t explain, or differentiate from other albums in similar style.

Lobo Loco appears to be a German individual (go figure, again), and has contributed quite a lot of music to the Free Culture movement. His musical and melodic sense, in the instrumentals I’ve listened to, are quite good. His vocals, alas, are not for me. Even so, what he has contributed is good stuff, and all licensed to be used just as you see fit.

You can download Impact Valentine (WMM Edition) from either the Internet Archive or from this playlist page at Jamendo.

Creative Commons License
Impact Valentine (WMM Edition) by Lobo Loco is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.
Based on a work at http://www.jamendo.com/en/list/a120046/impact-valentine.

Writing Music Monday: Nothing but Gonzo by GONZO GONZALES

23 Jun

[cover] GONZO GONZALES - Nothing but GonzoThis one really is not going to be for everybody. As should become clear.

I usually explain my love of jazz by including a cutoff date: 1960. If it was recorded prior to that year, I generally like or love it. If it post-dates that year, I probably dislike it, though there are any number of exceptions.

What I especially find tedious is all the “fusion” that came from Miles Davis’s late-1960s works, like “In a Silent Way” and (especially) Bitches Brew. I admire Davis himself, and either of those works I can listen to if I’m in the right mood. But almost anything derived from or inspired by them, I just don’t have the right mind or background to even begin to appreciate.

So it’s odd that I enjoyed this at all, because it proceeds pretty directly from that period and style.

But I did enjoy it, and it makes for good background while writing or outlining, at least for me, at least for the mood I’ve been in the past few days.

GONZO GONZALES looks to be a German band (go figure), and they have four albums on Jamnedo. Nothing but Gonzo was recorded in 2003, and released on Jamendo in 2007.

Nothing but Gonzo is free to download from Jamendo.

Nothing but Gonzo by GONZO GONZALES is available under a Libre Art License (AKA a Free Art License).

Style and Description

17 Jun

I had dinner with an old friend, who was also one of the first readers of Spring That Never Came. When we got onto the topic of that story, she observed that she had “miscast” one of the characters in her mind, thinking at first that a later description of him contradicted what I had earlier said.

When she went back and looked, she turned out to have been wrong, but it pointed up to her that I was fairly minimal in my use of descriptive passages.

Which is true. In Spring, it was largely deliberate, though I confess that I avoid excessive description in general, both by nature and due to my various influences, and I thought I should explore that a little, here.

"The golden glow of flowery description suffused the air between the towers of Shanghai, looking suspiciously like smog."

“The golden glow of flowery description suffused the air between the towers of Shanghai, looking suspiciously like smog.”

To begin with, my reading style tends to skip long descriptive passages, or else my eyes glaze over and I have to read the passage three or four times before it penetrates. There are authors who circumvent this in various ways and whose descriptive passages don’t cause me to stumble and repeat even once, but they are rare. In general, more than a few details lumped together and I start to treat it like somebody else’s grocery list — possibly important, but not to me. I skip on to get back to the drama.

Then there are the writers who have formed me as a reader and a writer.

Robert A. Heinlein is a biggie. I inhaled mass quantities of his work between the ages of twelve and eighteen. And if you’ve read him, particularly his earlier work, you know that he had a distinctive way of handling description, which is not to describe, but to drop a detail here and a detail there as the story keeps barrelling along. By the end, you have a fairly comprehensive image in your head of whatever it is, but you may also have your own impression of what a character looks like based on how they act and how others react to them, which may or may not match up to the accumulation of details. Heinlein is also the author who declared that the ideal science fictional sentence was “The door dilated.” That is, you don’t stop the story to discourse on the mechanics that permitted that to happen or the engineering history that led up to that becoming a common thing. You just state it, and let the implications work themselves out in the reader’s mind.

I’m telling you right now, I still think that’s a good idea of how to handle all kinds of things. Not always the best, not always possible, but a good default mode. (Among Hoyt’s Huns*, we call that sort of subtle description “Heinleining”.)

Another author who has had enormous impact on me, for good or ill, is Fyodor Dostoevsky. (I was reading The Brothers Karamazov in my sophomore year for fun. I don’t even want to know what that says about me.) Mad uncle Fyodor would very often go on long jags of nothing but dialogue. No description, not even describing the physical actions of the speakers. And yet, it’s not quite like reading drama, because his characterizations are so strikingly vivid that you can see in your head what they’re doing just by how they are speaking. Not what they are saying, but their tone of voice.

Then we come to screenwriting. I am a failed screenwriter. I spent years studying the craft, working out a plan of attack on Hollywood, and writing writing writing.

Now if you’ve studied screenwriting at all, you already understand why I don’t blink at a lack of flowery description, but if you haven’t, here’s a quick guide to the common wisdom for describing characters in a screenplay.

When a character first appears, you give a one-line description so the reader has an idea who he is dealing with and has something to picture. But you do not describe too specifically, because you want to leave the director and casting director a wide latitude in selecting an actor for the part.

The canonical example is from Lawrence Kasdan’s script for Body Heat, wherein you are introduced to “TEDDY LAURSEN, rock’n’roll arsonist”. And that’s all the description you get. (Honestly, after that, do you really need more?)

So no, I tend not to linger on description much. I give necessary details, and perhaps an evocative detail or two, and then let the reader’s imagination fill in the rest. If it’s important, it goes into the story. If it’s not, I’d rather not be Dean Koontz or Dan Brown and go on and on endlessly just to show off the reading or research I’ve done.

In the future, perhaps, I will try to give a bit more detail, but I’m not sure how it will go. It’s just not how I’m wired. I’m less about pretty descriptions and more about getting to the point (i.e., the actual story).

Writing Music Monday: My Own Album With Blackjack And Hookers by Andrey Avkhimovich

16 Jun

CoverI was in the final throes of banging out my dark fantasy/horror novella Spring That Never Came (it began life as a “quick” short story, and ballooned monstrously to more than six times the planned length, but that’s another story), writing the climactic battle, and I had need of something… other.

Something different.

Something epic… and dark… and not right… and not at all my usual thing.

Andrey Avkhimovich’s My Own Album With Blackjack And Hookers hit that sweet spot just when I needed it.

It is techno. And probably house, and EDM, and a bunch of other genres I don’t generally care for.

It is also dark and loud and throbbing.

And for what it is, it is really damn good.

Do you want or need dread? A sense of foreboding? Impending doom? Dark, dreary, and yet unmistakably cool?

Then you need this album.

You can download My Own Album With Blackjack And Hookers from Jamendo, or get the lossless FLAC files from the Internet Archive.

Creative Commons License
My Own Album With Blackjack And Hookers by Andrey Avkhimovich is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported License.

Publication Day!

11 Jun

Spring That Never Came cover

When you’ve lost everything,
sometimes all you can do —
is save the world.

Today is the day I officially announce publication of my newest novella.

Spring That Never Came is an urban fantasy with dashes of Lovecraftian horror (squicky other-worldly beings, but not a lot of gore) that takes place in 1979 Los Angeles (and a few other dimensions).

Here’s my official synopsis:

Tammy Kirsch has had her shot at fame. She came to Hollywood with stars in her eyes and lint in her pockets and looks that would open any door in town just to try to get her onto the casting couch. After several guest roles in TV shows, one starring role in a movie that nobody saw, inadvertently dodging the mid-70s porno chic moment and keeping her dignity and reputation intact, her career sputtered to a halt.

Then she lost her daughter in a custody case, and what was left of her world came crashing down around her ears. When the crazy homeless man tried to talk to her incoherently as she was leaving the court building, that only seemed to be the cherry on top of the layered dessert of her misery. In fact, it was just the first step on her path, a path that would end with her defending the entire world from an invasion of other-dimensional eldritch horrors.

This is the work that consumed my brain through the end of April and most of May. I’m really pretty proud of it. When you read it, you’ll see why.

And it’s not just me, your humble author, who thinks it’s pretty spiffy:

“You’ll think you know where it’s going, you don’t, it’s a ride, remember to buy the photos when you stumble off.”

Stryder Dancewolffe

As of today, and through early September, it is available exclusively through Amazon.

Buy it (or if you’re an Amazon Prime customer, borrow it for free!), then leave a review, either on Amazon, at GoodReads, or both.

(And never fear: as with any and all of my work, it does have a Creative Commons license attached. Also? No DRM.)


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