#Writing #Music Monday: Adventures by madelyniris

20 Apr

Adventures CoverYou’re writing a Young Adult book, and need lyrics to a song that’s at least a little bit like Lorde or some singer or artist who sounds contemporary.

Meet madelyniris. You’re welcome.

It’s entirely professional, to my ear it sounds exactly of a piece with today’s pop music.

And this might mark the change of everything. Why? Because it was:

Recorded in the closets of sorority houses and wintered piano rooms at a midwestern university with a broken macbook…

I’ve heard professional-sounding amateur recordings for years, in the Creative Commons and elsewhere. But usually, there’s some element that’s off, a little or a lot, purposely or due to lack of experience by the artist. There is nothing off here. At all. Everything it aims for, it hits, and each hit is a bullseye.

You can do that, now, in closets, with a broken laptop. Now the only thing the recording industry has as an advantage is marketing.

So you’ve got five completely legitimate contemporary pop songs under a straight Attribution license. Quote away, give the artist attribution, and you’re set.

Download Adventures free from Jamendo.

Creative Commons License
Adventures by madelyniris is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported License.

97. The Master of Ballantrae by Robert Louis Stevenson, 1889

16 Apr

coverI posted a bit of a whine earlier about the difficulties I have reading Robert Louis Stevenson, but a funny thing happened after that.

The point of view shifted for a chapter, and that chapter was not only easier, it was a quick and entertaining read. Then things shifted back to the main(-ish?) narrator and, while not as smooth, the reading was certainly not as rough as before.

A few other things made the early bits slow going, apart from my apparent antipathy to the way RLS kicked stories off.

First, the title. I am unused to Victorian-era novels, and earlier, taking their titles from the villain. Generally speaking, if the title is after a character, it’s the protagonist, but that’s not the case here.

But I’m getting ahead of myself.

The Master of Ballantrae is Robert Louis Stevenson’s take on the sturdy old story-frame of the evil son versus the good son. And for all its many faults — many, many, many faults — it achieves its main goal exceptionally well. It is a remarkable portrait of how a sociopath operates.

The story begins with an unnecessarily distancing device, in which Stevenson narrates how he came into possession of the manuscript of the novel, which he presents as “real”. Then the story proper begins, and again distances the reader, for it is narrated by MacKellar, a supporting character in the narrative, inserted into the story at various points, sometimes well and sometimes awkwardly. As it begins, MacKellar makes his return journey to a fictional Scottish town, Durrisdeer, to return to service of the family Durrisdeer.

And here I pause to lay out another failing of Stevenson’s. While some of the characters are well-drawn, few of them cohere into full characters in the mind, to the point where names did not stick with me. Part of the fault is RLS’s insistence on rotating through all possible titles for each character, without explaining clearly the significance of each title. One is Just Supposed To Know, it seems.

And seriously, it gets confusing when “the master” and “my master” are two different people, and “the lord” and “my lord” are also two different individuals.

So I’m writing the first pass of this review with only the info I can recall, not referring back to the book.

The Durrisdeers as we meet them are a titled family basically in charge of the land around Durrisdeer. But the family is on hard times, having sold off much land just to service debts. There is the father, two sons, and an adopted daughter who is heir to both wealth and land, and is intended to marry the elder son.

The elder son, John I think, will become the titular Master of Ballantrae, and that title is never explained in a way that made sense to me. It functions as a title among “his” people, as a note that he is beloved even though he did not inherit the Lord Durrisdeer title. The Master of Ballantrae is a villain, known to be deceitful, manipulative, and a shirker of all responsibility. But he is also completely charismatic, and is his father’s favorite, though the father knows his faults, and beloved of all the people of Durrisdeer.

The younger son is… Henry? I think? He is the good son, but difficult to love because he is not outgoing, prone to depression, and not flashy and exciting in the way his elder brother is. He also knows full well that his brother is a monster, and is one of the few immune to the man’s charisma.

The not-quite-adopted daughter is, of course, entirely in love with Evil Son, and cares little for Good son.

When the Second Jacobite Rebellion is in the offing, Lord Durrisdeer decides that one of his sons will fight with it, and the other will support the Stuarts, so that whichever side wins, the family will retain their title and lands. The sons clash over who is to take the more dangerous role of fighting with Bonny Prince Charlie, with Evil son getting the honor, and Good son being despised by his tennants as a coward for not choosing to do so. (Of course, he is no such thing, but his brother puts it around because it suits him to have the story known that way.)

The rebellion doesn’t go off, and to follow Evil son’s exploits, we get narration from an Irish Rascal whom he fought alongside, and adventured with afterwards.

This is where the story picked up for me, because the Irish Rascal was a far more engaging narrator for me, and because it is during this section that I finally twigged to Evil son being unremittingly evil, a full sociopath. He flat-out murders someone who is, at worst, a slight inconvenience to him, and he does it simply because he knows he’ll get away with it.

The bulk of the story depicts how Boring Good copes with the continuing returns and retreats and regroupings of Charming Evil, until it gets to the ending, which is a wet firecracker of non-confrontation and Plot Convenience, unfortunately.

But the strength of the book, depicting the machinations of how Charming Evil works (often narrating it rather than dramatizing, but doing it so potently that it feels utterly real), is a genuine and compelling strength. Before “sociopath” was a word, Stevenson depicted exactly how such personalities operate, how they cannot even conceive of higher abstractions like honor and integrity, how they work social interrelationships to become puppet masters of a sort, getting each individual to act in a way the sociopath deems beneficial — and importantly, how such manipulations are in fact self-defeating, and destructive to everyone around them.

Was it worth reading? Surprisingly, yes. Is it an underrated classic? Not really.

I read the FeedBooks copy which was filled with typos and lazy typography (using all caps instead of italicizing, e.g.). So I’m linking the Gutenberg edition, which was probably the source for Feedbooks, but likely to have been cleaned up in the meantime.

Download The Master of Ballantrae from Project Gutenberg for free.

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This review of The Master of Ballantrae by D. Jason Fleming is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.

#Writing #Music Monday: Pen by Jeffrey Philip Nelson

13 Apr

Pen CoverJeffrey Philip Nelson is a singer-songwriter in the ’70s mold, and I basically mean that as a compliment.

This album of folk-ish songs is quiet, evocative, and entirely appealing. And they’re the product of an interesting life. Nelson didn’t put everything down on “making it” as a musician. He owns a construction business in southern California and has a family. His songs are the result of living life, and his life supports his art.

Isn’t that refreshing?

But back to the actual music. I’m going to say something about it that will be too easily misconstrued, so I’ll try to make clear what I am and am not saying.

The quietness of the songs, the spareness of the arrangements, and the focus on the carefully crafted lyrics put me in mind of Townes Van Zandt.

But I am not suggesting his lyrics and songs are as brilliant as Townes’s work. Nobody’s is, honestly. But Nelson has a bit of the same feel as Van Zandt’s recordings, and some of the soulfulness as well.

This is another treasure trove of lyrics that you can quote freely in your books, with the only requirement being that you give proper attribution for them (Credit and copyright on your copyright page, along with a link to Nelson’s site, and a direct link to the song’s download page would, I think, be appropriate.)

Listen to and download Pen by Jeffrey Philip Nelson free, from Jamendo, from NoiseTrade, or pay for it on Bandcamp (and still get the same license!).

Creative Commons License
Pen by Jeffrey Philip Nelson is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported License.

#Writing #Music Monday: What Is Love by Melanie Ungar

6 Apr

What Is Love coverKicking off a second Lyrical April run for Writing Music Monday, we’ve got an EP (but really, nearly an album) that hits all sorts of sweet spots.

First, it’s very good. Professionally produced and performed.

Then, it’s Attribution-licensed. You can use this album for just about anything, including using song lyrics in your novel, so long as you provide proper attribution.

And last, but definitely not least, it’s in a genre for which there is a dearth Creative Commons music: country. Pop country, in fact.

Melanie Ungar’s What Is Love is, by just about any standard, excellent. The only possible objection to it is if you don’t like the genre.

(And even then, country’s not my favorite, but I like these seven songs and twenty-seven minutes very, very much.)

The album’s download page says:

What Is Love is the debut E.P. from Canadian country-pop singer-songwriter Melanie Ungar. Inspired by the honesty in country music, and the fun in pop music, Melanie writes and sings songs about the ups and downs of romance. From the love ballad “Madly, Deeply” to the sassy, up-beat title track “What Is Love”, Melanie’s catchy songs and heartfelt lyrics will keep you singing along.

And that’s not just ad copy. The tunes are catchy. The lyrics are heartfelt. The whole thing just works, and wonderfully.

Download What Is Love free from Jamendo.

Creative Commons License
What Is Love by Melanie Ungar is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported License.

#Writing #Music Monday: This Is Psytrance by Jordan Margera

30 Mar

This Is Psytrance CoverHere’s an entry in another subgenre of techno with which I am unfamiliar. This time around, we are delving into psytrance, which is a variation of trance, which is a subset of techno.

Beyond that, I can’t really explain the differences yet. I tend to prefer 80’s–sounding synth, but this is more modern and hard-edged than that.

Jordan Margera is a French DJ, and this appears to be his first exploration of psytrance, so it’s a first for everybody around here.

The album (it’s labeled an EP, but it is forty-four minutes long, which is longer than a number of older LPs) is dark, hard-edged and driving. It throbs. It pulses. It pauses unexpectedly, then cascades new sounds on you before circling back to familiar territory.

To my way of thinking, it’d be good background if you’re writing something gritty, urban and set within the last twenty years or so.

Overall, it’s an interesting and evocative soundscape. Not one I want to live in every day, but worth visiting and revisiting.

Download This Is Psytrance by Jordan Margera free from Jamendo.

Creative Commons License
This Is Psytrance – EP by Jordan Margera is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 International License.

#Writing #Music Monday: L’autre endroit by Silence

23 Mar

[cover] Silence - L'autre endroitHere we have a one-album one-man band from someone whose main occupation appears to be as a digital animator. Yet this album argues that he should probably give more attention to creating music.

L’autre endroit is a strange, haunting mix of orchestral classical (or, as one Jamendo reviewer puts it, pseudo-classical), majestic guitar rock, and electronic music that has hard, sharp edges, yet works well as background music for writing, too.

To name one’s musical project “Silence” could be either pretentious or interesting. I would say, after listening to this album through a few times, that this case falls under “interesting”.

I’m not kidding about those hard, sharp edges, either. One track, “Stop!”, has the sounds of a woman being abused in the background. It’s not presented approvingly, not in any way, but this is definitely a work that should be handled with care.

L’autre endroit by Silence is free to download from Jamendo.


L’autre endroit by Silence released under a Free Art License (FAL) 1.3, also known as a Libre Art License (LAL).

This license is compatible with the Creative Commons Attribution–Share-Alike 4.0 International (CC BY-SA 4.0) license.

#Writing #Music Monday: It’s Better To Burn Out Than To Fade Away by Re-Drum

16 Mar

CoverGoing a bit outside my comfort zone here, and possibly for the rest of the month.

Re-Drum is a French musician/d.j. who focuses a lot on the variation of techno called “house” (a distinction which escapes me). This album is the one I’ve listened to enough to be familiar with, and it’s not generally the sort of thing I like. Very repetitious and loop-y, mixing in spoken word in ways that most days I’d generally find distracting than writing-trance inducing.

But I’ve listened to this one enough that it doesn’t rub me wrong as background music, if I’m in the right mood.

That’s the thing though — it’s not easy to love this one. And it is easy to be irritated by it.

So, as stated, this one is outside of my usual comfort zone.

The only commentary by the artist I can find regarding this particular album is “This is a collection of really deep tracks”. So, unusually, he let’s the music speak entirely for itself.

About the artist himself (real name Léo Urriolabeitia):

After being heavily influenced by 70′s music, Zappa and Minimalism he decided to imagine a place to share sample based music with an experimental edge. That was the connection of past and future music, something that hasn’t been found on the web yet. While still DJing in Toulouse, Re-Drum is now more focused on Live performances and various Audiovisual experiments/Short Movies/Animations.

Download It’s Better To Burn Out Than To Fade Away free from Jamendo.

(You can also get the album under a more restrictive, non-Free Culture CC BY-NC-SA 3.0 License, from Bandcamp.)

Creative Commons License
It’s Better To Burn Out Than To Fade Away by Re-Drum is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 International License.


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