Sound, imagery inextricably linked

I listen to music cinematically. I think about music and how it would make me feel when it’s put to an image, a moving image, and I love it — Walton Goggins

In the last three or four weeks, I’ve been obsessed with a musical mash-up between Blondie (Heart of Glass) and Philip Glass (Violin Concerto: II) which was created by Daft Beatles a few years ago. Titled Heart of Glass (Crabtree remix), I never knew this was a mash-up I needed in my life and on my writing playlist.

The first time I heard the song was on the July 11 broadcast of CBC’s q with guest host Ali Hassan. Hassan was interviewing Michael Perlmutter, the music supervisor for the TV adaptation of Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale. They were discussing the rise of the music supervisor and how the Emmys finally created a category for outstanding music supervision.

Side note: Perlmutter didn’t make the cut for that category. Bummer.

Second side note: the job of music supervisor or music editor for a film or TV series fascinates me to no end. Soundscapes are just as important as the visuals and when you have a perfect marriage between the two, it is absolutely unforgettable.

The TV series Person of Interest was the first show I became aware of the music they used in their episodes. They used music by artists such as Johnny Cash, Nat King Cole, The Kills and Philip Glass for two or three key scenes in every episode during the five seasons that they ran. It was smart use of sound and visuals to manipulate the viewer into feeling a certain way about a situation or one of the characters. Although the show probably paid a pretty sum to use the music of these artists, the real star, musically-speaking, was music composer Ramin Djawadi who created the score for the series. This is where I discovered his music and have remained an ardent fan of his work. The leitmotifs he created for the series were sublime. Mind you, his work for Game of Thrones is nothing to sneeze at either. Light of the Seven will always be one of my favourite works from Djawadi.

Watching this series made me think about the marriage between sound and imagery. It also made me want to talk to the show’s music supervisor, Djawadi and the show’s producers about their views on music and its role in visual storytelling. I just wanted to pick their brains. It would have been an eye-opening experience.

Anyway, back to Perlmutter and his CBC q interview. Assuming I heard the man correctly, the show submitted its third episode for Emmy consideration which featured the Daft Beatles mash-up. Then they played the song without naming it. Well, I nearly fell over when I heard the piece. I love Blondie. I love Debbie Harry. And I have an ever-growing appreciation for Philip Glass. Holy crap. Who knew these two artists could be mashed up like that and sound so sublime. I didn’t. And had I been PVRing The Handmaid’s Tale I would have discovered this little bit of aural heaven a lot sooner.

Of course, it’s a piece of music that fits perfectly with my current writing playlist. The piece is visually and emotionally evocative. It inspires my characters. It sets the right tone for them in some of the scenes I plan to write. It sets the wheels in motion.

My playlist is forever evolving and being fine-tuned as I work on the second novel. What the playlist looked like at the beginning of the writing process will look almost completely different by the time the first draft of the book is finished. What will remain are the core pieces that represent the characters and their relationships to each other.

Music and the writing process are inextricably linked.

I’m not sure when I started listening to music cinematically. I probably started when I was a teenager. Bits and pieces of images that would pop into my head because the music I was listening to at the time demanded it. I’ve always believed in the power of combining music and imagery, be it still or moving. But not everything I hear is cinematic. The pieces of music my brain registers as cinematic share some sort of intangible quality. I know what some of the commonalities are but it doesn’t completely explain the reason they affect me the way they do.

To be honest, I’m not all that interested in over-analyzing it. I go by gut instinct when it comes to music.

And now, I’m off to obsess over music and story.

Revisiting youthful obsession

It’s hard to get hot over a painting; there’s no equivalent for teenage obsessiveness. Art obsession is ideology. Ideology can be made sexy but it’s easier in music — Kim Gordon

My latest obsession is listening to Gaby Moreno perform the Spanish version of Blondie’s classic, Call Me.

The song isn’t available to download until this Friday (April 28) which is also the same day the movie How to be a Latin Lover — a comedy starring Eugenio Derbez and Salma Hayek — hits theatres in the U.S. The song was recorded for the film.

And since I don’t have Moreno’s version to listen to any time I damn well want, I’ll listen to the Spanish version Blondie did for their 1993 album Blonde and Beyond. I didn’t know they did a Spanish version until Moreno mentioned it in an interview regarding her interpretation of the classic.

This also goes to show you how long it’s been since I last kept track of the band. I was in my 20s figuring out what the fuck to do with my life so childhood heroes and inspirations were tucked away in the back of the mind. I’m still figuring out what the fuck I’m doing with my life. Hasn’t changed at all.

Anyway, I have the bloody song looped. I’m listen to it at home, in the shower, in the car… before I go to sleep. Maybe after I listen to it a thousand times, I’ll be fine. Of course, once I get Moreno’s version onto my playlist, the madness will continue. If you must, ignore the cheesy image that comes with the link to the song. Punch up the volume and give ‘er:

Unfortunately, I’m a little miffed. I can’t seem to find a Canadian release date for the film. April 28 is the U.S. release date. I’ve read somewhere the film might start off in limited release on the same day here in the land of poutine and Prairie skies before going nationwide.

Right now, I don’t see a upcoming listing of it for the local theatres. Heck, I didn’t even see it in the theatre trailers the last time I watched a feature film. Arrgh. Seriously, I want to see this film. I suppose my other option is to wait and see if it’ll show up on Netflix. Maybe I’ll resign myself to that for now. But, iTunes had better have Moreno’s Call Me available for download this Friday. Hell, I’ll download the entire soundtrack.

Now, that I’m done ranting (I think), I should explain that Blondie is the first band whose music I avidly listened to in my formative years. Parallel Lines was the first album I bought with my accumulated allowance. I might have played that album to death. I also might have bought a second copy because something happened to the first. Then their next album, Eat to the Beat, was quickly added to my one-album collection. Then I heard Call Me.

I never saw American Gigolo, simply because I was twelve at the time. I knew what a gigolo was but it wasn’t a solid enough reason for me to sneak into a movie theatre to watch it. My hormones weren’t raging yet and even if they did, I still wouldn’t have been interested enough to see what the scuttlebutt was over the film. I think it might have had something to do with Richard Gere. I don’t know. I just remember there was a fuss about him when the movie came out. Maybe I should try to find a copy of the film and watch it, once and for all (oh hey, it’s on iTunes. I know what I’ll be doing this week). But fuck, I loved that song. I’d dance around and lip-synch to Call Me. Yep, I did that shit. I’ll admit it.

Now that Call Me is back in obscenely heavy rotation on my iPod/iPhone, I’m back to lip-synching, in English and in Spanish, and jumping around the kitchen like a 12-year-old without a care in the world. Just living in the moment.

Call Me, without a doubt, is my favourite Blondie tune of all time. The Hardest Part is a very close second.

One of the things I love about them is how experimental their music was and how they never stuck to one style of music. There was punk, pop, disco and hip-hop all thrown together without a concern what anyone else thought of them. What they did seemed completely normal to me (this probably explains some of my creative and artistic endeavours — past and present). If there were debates about the different musical styles they dipped their collective toes in, I never heard it. And that was because I was too young to care or get caught up in those kinds of conversations. The fact the band recorded a French version of Sunday Girl is beyond cool. When I heard there was a French version of the song, I had to listen to it. I wasn’t aware of anyone else on my radar doing what they were doing. Not that I was geeking out in that way at the time.

Their latest album, Pollinator, is scheduled to drop May 5 and the scuttlebutt is it’s their best album in years. Definitely looking forward to listening to it.

Another thing I love about the band is Debbie Harry. She was my first female role model, outside of my mother. When the band broke out with Parallel Lines, Harry wasn’t a neophyte 20-something singer. She was in her early 30’s and to look at her, you wouldn’t know it. Yes, she is photogenic as fuck. Still a striking woman at 71. Yep, that’s how old she is right now. She has always understood and embraced her sexuality. She has never hesitated to flaunt it as the band’s front woman.

But I have always loved her voice. I love how she throws in a little sass and attitude into her vocals and how she phrases a lyric. Aside from being a singer, she’s an actor, a lyricist and a philanthropist. Regardless of the success or failures of her creative endeavours, she has always done things her way.

To be honest, she was my first woman/girl-crush.

The one thing you would never describe her as, is delicate. In my eyes, she has always been badass. And is still a badass. It’s one of the reasons, if not the MAIN reason I love and respect the woman. She led by example for me. She still leads by example.

I guess my goal, subconsciously, has always been to be a badass. Not sure how well that’s working, but I’m gonna keep trying, in my own little way. And I won’t stop trying.

Well, I better get back to blaring some music and not giving a shit.

The kind of elixir I enjoy

I see only one requirement you have to have to be a director or any kind of artist: rhythm. Rhythm, for me, is everything. Without rhythm, there’s no music. Without rhythm, there’s no cinema. Without rhythm, there’s no architecture — Alejandro González Iñarritu

Considering there is a lot on my plate around this time of year, discovering the music of Italian pianist and composer Ludovico Einaudi is the last thing I should be indulging in.

But here I am, listening to him on Spotify when I can, wherever I can. The man has a profile there and he compiled a ‘Best of’ of his work. I cannot tell you how his compositions have added fuel to the creative fire that burns relentlessly in my soul. Not that the fire will ever be in danger of burning out.

I am forever humbled and blown away when my senses, combined with an already overactive imagination, are stimulated to the point that new scenes, ideas and concepts for my writing start throwing themselves into an already volatile mix of storytelling elements ready to transform into a novel. Christ, that was a long sentence. Maybe too long. Well, fuck it, I’m leaving it. That’s what Einaudi’s work has done to me.

He’s managed to seduce my imagination and, in turn, seduced me. That’s one way to burrow into my heart. Music. Talent. Mad skillz. Passion. The images his music evokes are cinematic in scope and nature. Just the kind of elixir I enjoy with unbridled want.

Einaudi’s work has been described as meditative and cinematic. I discovered that description somewhere online after a couple of days of listening the music. It had me at cinematic. That would explain the images freely swimming in my head — the chaotic kaleidoscope of shapes and colours swirling in my mind, waiting for me to dip my hand in to pull them out and arrange them into something beautiful and hypnotic.

What is so enticing and engaging about Einaudi’s work? For starters, he has simple leitmotifs that he uses to build complicatedly beautiful layers of sound between the piano and strings. His solo piano work is stunning, too. But the sound of strings and piano together is tantalizing to my ears. I’m not sure what it is about that combination of instruments, but whatever it is, Einaudi uses it to full effect. His musical sensibility is so alarmingly in tune with the way the creative part of my brain wants to function. Kinda a scary, to be honest. But so thrilling at the same time.

I think discovering Einaudi’s work is another sign that the storytelling ambitions I aspire to, are the right ones for the tools and skill set I’ve been trying to hone and sharpen in the last several months.

While I tend to my book design commitments, the creative fire will continue to burn. At low intensity, for now. But there are things I can do, such as re-examine the trajectory of the characters and make adjustments where necessary. Let those thoughts and ideas grow.

Once the commitments are done for another year, I will go back to stoke the creative fire so it can burn as brilliantly as Einaudi’s compositions.