#Writing #MusicMonday: Moonxine by Jahzzar

Cover[This post was supposed to go up on January 25th, but didn’t due to the Great Laptop Failure of 2016.]

I realize that I share a lot of Jahzzar’s music, but in my defense, he puts out more new music than I can keep up with, when added up with his rather extensive back catalog. Plus, he’s really good, so there’s rarely reason not to share.

Moonxine is, I think, one of his older works that I happened to start listening to after the new year, and it fit in just about perfectly with the previous Writing Music Monday album, Sparks by Chill Carrier.

Where Sparks was very upbeat, Moonxine is more reserved and contemplative. (Jahzzar has it marked as sad, but I disagree. Except for the track Part VII, which certainly has a melancholy feel. But that’s part of the overall contemplative mood of the album, I think.)

And what I mean about them fitting together nicely is this: I had them in a playlist, one after the other, along with lots of other stuff. And every time I got to listening without paying attention closely, I never, not once, felt the slight jar of the usual transition between albums and artists. The mood of Sparks segued pretty much perfectly into Moonxine, in spite of the fact that the two artists are really quite different, musically.

It’s very synth, in that “proceeds from the ’80s better than what actually proceeded from the ’80s” way that I particularly like. And, as stated, feels contemplative. Just the sort of thing to write to, if you don’t want overbearing drive, but something that hangs back and encourages you to think through the words you’re putting down.

Download Moonxine free from Better With Music.

Creative Commons License
Moonxine by Jahzzar is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.

#Writing #Music Monday: Leaving Paradise by Kammerer

Cover[Note: I am flailing with NaNoWriMo right now, so I may not have time to rant about it, but I no longer think anybody—musician or user—should have anything at all to do with Jamendo. With their new redesign — the second in three years — they have also begun a policy of lying to their users. Outright lying. They deserve to go out of business, and the artists who use the site should flee to other services, including BandCamp, the Internet Archive, and self-hosting using the free and open source CASH Music software. So while this album was originally posted on Jamendo, I won’t link there.]

More calming, relaxed “chillout” music from Swedish composer Kammerer (or however it is properly spelled; there are at least three variations on the A). This is an earlier work, and meant to be summertime, poolside background music.

Not much to say about it, except that it’s quite good, as is most of Kammerer’s work; that it’s Attribution-only licensed, meaning you can do what you like with the music, including using it in a Youtube video without asking permission from anybody so long as you give attribution, and that it makes excellent background music for writing.

Kammerer himself says:

Some simple summerchillloungegroovestuff for the sunny ppl.

Download Leaving Paradise by Kammerer from the Internet Archive.

Creative Commons License
Leaving Paradise by Kammerer is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

Writing Music Monday: Martian Winter by Bruce H. McCosar

Martian Winter coverBruce H. McCosar is another O.G. Creative Commons musician who seems to have stopped releasing albums, which is a pity. But he has hours and hours of music available, and all of it is Free Culture-licensed, which means that even if he vanished in the the middle of the Bermuda Triangle intestate, his works will live on.

Between 2006 and 2010, McCosar — a middle school science teacher by profession — released eight solid albums of instrumental rock, post-rock and jazz.

Martian Winter was the fifth, released at the tail end of 2008. It combines his rock and jazz influences in interesting ways, and makes a very good soundtrack for writing or outlining.

As for what it means to him personally:

Like NASA’s Spirit rover, I survived a long journey, and found myself in a new land.

Like Spirit, I find myself under a darkening sky. Time goes on, and the light fades.

During Martian Winter, Spirit shuts down. But Spirit always returns.

That day is today. Listen to the newest transmissions from your sister planet.

So, it’s not nearly as spacy or Vangelis like as the previous Writing Music Monday album, but it’s still not a thing easily to be slotted into genre strictures. It’s a personal work, and feels it.

Download Martian Winter free from Jamendo.

Creative Commons License
Martian Winter by Bruce H. McCosar is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.

Atlas Shrugged as an alternate reality tale

Some readers new to Ayn Rand’s magnum opus Atlas Shrugged find the setting to be disconcerting. The novel purposely does not name the years in which it takes place, but there’s more to it than that.

Certain cultural references seem to be from the late 1920s or the 1930s American pop culture, throw-away details like a tagline on a movie poster, or the smallness of the society of the literary and cultural elite.

Others come from later, like the fact that television is common.

And others clearly indicate, from the viewpoint of the year the book was published, that it was meant to be in the future.

This was all by design.

While she was writing The Fountainhead, which is set in a very specific timeframe (1921-1940, give or take), Rand’s friend and fellow writer Isabel Paterson insisted that she cut out all references to President Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal programs, and not to include any references to the European situation sliding toward war. The purpose was to let the novel be seen more clearly for what it is: a timeless story, rather than a critique bound to a contemporary conversation. There are many cultural details that are spot-on for the time period, but nothing that acts as an anchor on the book’s themes, nothing to let the snide dismiss it as “simply an anti-FDR book”.

When she set out to write Atlas Shrugged, Rand explicitly decided to set the story in her own universe, a world over which she had total control, not bound by a time or set of fashions in even the slightest detail. So she took Paterson’s suggested technique that much further.

(I find it fascinating that Rand, so devoted to reality, was so disdainful of realism in fiction. Yes, she had her reasons, which she explained a number of places, but that doesn’t alter the fact that she kept pulling her fiction into an ideal world, away from the dirty “naturalistic” one. But that’s a post for another time, perhaps.)

So Atlas’s background is intentionally left to the reader’s imagination except insofar as it is important to the plot.

I submit, however, that these choices place the novel pretty clearly in a fascinating alternate history.

(Rand would detest the term, especially as it is associated with science fiction, a genre she disdained. And yet two of her four novels are clearly science fiction, even if she would have been indignant at the label. But I digress.)

Look at what is missing. None of the characters makes any reference to a great war of any kind. World War II impacted everyone in the nation in ways that are almost impossible to comprehend today. There was nationwide rationing of food and fuel, to begin with. A striking percentage of men served in the military. The economy, in awful shape during the Great Depression (due in large part to FDR’s many attempts to “fix” it, in fact), got even worse during the war, of necessity. (If you’re shipping tons of food off to the boys overseas, those are tons that are not getting eaten at home. Hence the rationing.)

The US culture for at least fifteen years was utterly shaped by everybody’s experience of WWII.

Such a culture-shaping event is totally absent from the lives and histories of the characters in Atlas.

There also seems to have been no Great Depression. The world is experiencing one at the time of the story, but before that there was prosperity, and no mention of having been in a similar downturn before.

In fact, there was not even a World War I. I’m on shakier ground here, but I believe this is a solid inference from the textual evidence.

The world situation is largely ignored in the novel, outside of Francisco d’Anconia’s Argentinian background, and his San Sebastian Mines project in Mexico. The relatively rare references to the world outside the USA make clear that all other countries are “People’s States”, variations on communist totalitarianism. And while no sense of a timeline for this happening is given, it appears to have been the situation for at least the adult lifetimes of the characters in the book. Any revolutions have been over and done with long enough that they don’t get commented upon.

Given that the nations of the world all seem to have fallen from within (again, no reference to war is made that I can recall), and that it seems to have been the case for some time, it seems reasonable to infer that, instead of a “war to end all wars”, something else happened between the turn of the Twentieth Century and the 1930s. A wave of revolutions, ending in People’s States, perhaps most happening within the same year, as with 1848.

In any case, if such revolutions took place across the globe, rather than the Great War, then the proximate causes of WWII are removed from history, and the energy spent in destroying other nations and peoples seems to have been turned into a series of self-destructions.

This also goes to explain the most glaring absence in the book. You see, for a book that was begun in the autumn of 1946, one that was intended to change the world, it is distinctly odd that there is no atomic bomb, nor nuclear energy.

It’s not like Rand was ignorant of it. Who, in 1946 America, could be? But more than that, Rand spent considerable time researching and outlining a screenplay for Hal Wallis on the Manhattan Project, the secret effort that led to the atom bomb. She certainly could have included it in some fashion in the book, but chose not to.

It’s a bit of a shame that the Ayn Rand estate is so harsh about fan fiction, because there would seem to be a myriad of stories one could write against this alternate history. Citizens on vacation abroad when revolution cascades across the globe is just the first thing to come to mind. I’m sure much, much more could be mined from it, as well.

Writing Music Mondays: Turn by KRESoff

[cover] KRESoff - TurnTurn by Russian composer KRESoff is simply wonderful. I was writing last week and — oddly — jazz was not doing it for me. I put a list playing that had this and a few other things on it, and when KRESoff started playing, I somehow shifted to high gear and tore through a thousand words in the first two or three tracks.

Which for me is quite a lot of words in a very short time.

I’m not sure how to describe it, except that his self-selected label of progressive rock seems apt. It’s instrumental, guitar-heavy, and very melodic while also carefully creating a sonic landscape underneath the melodic elements.

It was both pleasing and productive to me, so of course it gets into the Writing Music Mondays list. I commend it to you.

Creative Commons License
Turn by KRESoff is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported License.

Writing Music Monday: Supriscording by Hugo Droopy Contini

Bassist Slikk Tim:

“Hey man, you’re gonna record your first album in 4 days.” That’s what I told Droopy Contini one Monday evening while sipping some beer after rehearsal.

I was actually thinking of testing my recording tricks and gear, without really thinking of producing a serious album. It turned out better than we all expected.

Fine bop. Fine jazz. Definitely something to have playing while you write.

Creative Commons License
Surpriscording by Hugo “Droopy” Contini is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.

Writing Music Mondays: Alegria by Diego Sanchez

[cover] Diego - ALEGRIAHere’s one I don’t get, an album that’s quite pleasing, lengthy enough to be substantial all on its own (just shy of an hour), with talent and ambition, the most open licensing you could ask for, and it appears to be getting no love at all.

Alegría by Diego Sanchez is latin jazz, modern in (mostly) really good ways, and something you should have no problem putting on to play in the background if you want something upbeat, jazzy, a bit rock-ish, and basically happy in the background while you write. The Attribution-only license is merely icing on the cake.

And yet, though it’s been out nearly two years, it doesn’t have quite 1,500 plays, and barely more than 200 downloads. (He has another album that’s gotten substantially more attention, but I’ve not gotten to that one yet.)

So go, have a listen, and if you like it, download away.

Creative Commons License
Alegría by Diego Sanchez is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported License.