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.

Can’t make this sh*t up, folks

I’m sure everyone has heard the sayings ‘you can’t make up shit like this’, ‘fact is stranger than fiction’ or some other phrase that shares the same sentiment.

Well, this week I am presenting a ‘you can’t make up shit like this’ story for your entertainment.

It started out innocently enough. Flew out to Toronto last Friday to catch the Game of Thrones live concert experience, featuring the show’s music composer, Ramin Djawadi. The show was held Saturday at Air Canada Centre. Great show, by the way. I went to see the concert because first and foremost, I love Djawadi’s compositions. The Game of Thrones angle? An afterthought, for me. Should he ever decide to do this again, perhaps after the series ends, I will see him again. Maybe by then, I’ll have watched the entire series. But I wouldn’t hold my breath on that.

I’ve admitted before that I have not seen one episode of Game of Thrones. It still holds true. I still haven’t gotten around to seeing the series. There are too many quality TV programs and great films to watch. There’s too much reading I need to do. Then, there’s life that keeps moving along whether or not you want it to. It’s a heck of a juggling act.

The show weaved the music with some of the show’s most talked-about scenes and spotlighted some of their most compelling and enigmatic characters. I gotta say I’m definitely intrigued by the show. My soft spot for dragons has been strengthened and I may have developed a bit of bloodlust while experiencing the show. There were some powerful moments during the concert — potent enough for me to get a little teary-eyed at least three times. That is the power of marrying images and music together.

The audience — maybe 99.9% were hardcore fans — was into the whole experience. Cheers, screams, unsolicited advice for the poor bastard who dies in the next clip, could be heard quite heartily throughout the arena. It was pretty funny. Even the dude selling popcorn got into it before the show started. He spoke as if he were from the fictional world of Westeros. Gotta use what’s at your disposal to sell popcorn, right?

I snagged a couple of t-shirts at one of the merchandise tables. Fingers crossed that they don’t shrink after being washed. But I’m pretty careful with my clothes so I think they’ll be okay.

So, the evening was a visual feast and I left feeling good about the whole live concert experience. Up to that point, nothing about the evening was ever in contention to own the phrase ‘you can’t make up shit like this.’

So, let me tell you my first ever ‘you can’t make up shit like this’ story. I’m kind of channelling Ben Mendelsohn because that man has a great delivery and has the best burst-out-laugh ever.

It started with me arriving back to the hotel (which shall remain unnamed) after the concert. It was after 11 pm on a Saturday night. I had skipped a full dinner because I was having tummy troubles. I did manage to eat a protein bar before the concert started.

Of course, by the time I got back in the hotel room, I decided I needed something to eat. Hey, there’s a Tim Horton’s not far from the hotel. So, I wandered back out, grabbed a chicken salad croissant sandwich and headed back to the hotel. The lobby was full of guests just arriving from God-knows-where. Mainly families with small children. Most of them had made their way up to their appointed rooms and the last family just took the last elevator by the time I got back into the lobby.

So, I waited for the next elevator which arrived about 10 seconds later. To be honest, I like having the elevator to myself. More room in an enclosed space. The next time the elevator doors slid open was at the second floor. I wasn’t paying attention and almost bumped into a guy entering the elevator. Didn’t bump into him because I realized it wasn’t my floor. Stopped myself just in time and backed up a couple of steps. We acknowledged each other. He was shirtless. Okay, I thought, he just came from the fitness centre. Peripherally, I noticed he was barefoot. Seen that before. The carpets were pretty clean so his feet probably weren’t all that dirty. Short trip from the second floor to whatever floor his room was located.

He walked into the elevator and I realized the guy was naked as a newborn baby. Seeing a bare-naked ass less than three feet away from you in an elevator is one of those things you don’t count on finding. Well, I found it. The guy had a towel draped over his forearm which concealed the family jewels. I had assumed he was wearing shorts. Silly me. The dude had a nice ass, though. I’ll admit it. He had a shaved head, trimmed facial hair, no discernible tattoos that I were visible to me. He was fit.

I’m impressed that he was pretty casual about his nakedness. Good thing he didn’t take the elevator with the family in it. That would have been awkward. I opted to not gawk at him because that would be plain rude. Kept my eyes on the elevator doors, looked at the croissant sandwich I was holding with my left hand and kept my right hand in my coat pocket.

Keeping it casual after 11 pm on a Saturday night in an elevator.

His floor was above mine if you were wondering which floor he was staying on. Or… maybe he was visiting someone on the floor above and his room is actually on the second floor. So many ways this could go. The imagination will run rampant if you let it.

I’m positive there wasn’t a sauna listed as a hotel feature for guests. There is a fitness centre and a boardroom located on the second floor. I’m just a little baffled as to why he would be going about his business in his birthday suit.

Was I offended by his casual nakedness? Nope. My mother would have been if she was there. Not me. I’m just surprised that I get to tell a story like this because it actually happened to me. This is hilarious. You hear strange stories from friends and acquaintances, and depending how strange the story is, you either wished it had happened to you or wished it would never ever happen to you.

I’m thinking I’m the only one out of my friends who has shared an elevator with a naked man. And I am now part of the ‘strange, but true’ club. If I ever need to break the ice at a party, I’ll just pull this ditty out of my pocket and share.

Call me strange but I consider sharing an elevator with a naked man one of life’s interesting highlights.

In need of bewitching

Today is Thanksgiving here in the Great White North, aka Canada. Happy Thanksgiving to my fellow Canucks!

All I can say is I’m thankful for being a Canadian after listening to the second American presidential debate between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump last night. Gong show. That’s all I’m going to say.

What am I doing today for Thanksgiving? The usual. Dinner with family. I’m making two dishes and the other family members are taking care of the rest. Does that make it potluck? I don’t know. I’ll be making marinated pork back ribs (sorry, no turkey) and a yam and apple casserole done in the slow cooker. Mmm, mmm, good.

After listening to the presidential debate, I had to clear my brain. I would have loved to have watched some Game of Thrones to clear the ole noggin. But considering I don’t subscribe to HBO (something I may have to consider eventually), the next best thing I could do was listen to the Season 6 soundtrack from the show. Nothing like re-arranging my brain synapses back to where they were after trying to process surrealism.

Ramin Djawadi’s work as a composer is brilliant. If I could be in the same room with him and watch his process, it would be absolutely eye-opening for me. I would revel in it and pick his brain.

Watching creative people do their thing is intoxicating. Engaging with creative people is intoxicating. Creativity is intoxicating, beguiling and bewitching. Quite frankly, it is a huge turn-on for me, and I’m not necessarily referring to it in a sexual way. When you’re inspired, you want to aspire to be more than what you are. When you get to engage with someone who inspires you, there is no need artificial stimulants. The whole thing is a beautiful high. I can probably count the number of times I’ve had the good fortune of experiencing that pleasure on one hand. However, I can’t recall anything off the top of my head. That doesn’t bode well. But I remember the emotions and energy associated with that creative engagement. That means I’m way overdue for some creative intoxication.

Anyway, I better get going and start cooking part of that Thanksgiving dinner for this evening.