A bit outside the usual posting schedule, but that makes sense for this one. A warning up top, this is going to be pretty unplanned, unstructured, and probably unedited – we’re gonna barf a rant here, so bear with me.
Do you have a “happy place” that you go to?
Actually, different question (but hold onto that one).
Have you ever seen Ratatouille? It’s the movie with a little rat named Remy in Paris (I’m pretty sure), voiced by Patton Oswald, who discovers there more to food than eating trash. There’s a scene somewhere near the mid-beginning wherein he tries introducing his brother to flavors besides trash. He has him close his eyes, eat a piece of cheese, then a piece of grape, then try the two together. The entire time his brother is chewing, the background behind him goes to black and these ribbons of color trace themselves and dance around to reflect the sensations brought on by the flavors.
Since seeing that movie, I’ve done the same thing with a really good meal probably a thousand times (my friends can attest, as they make fun of me for it). But it’s an excellent way to just…savor.
Somewhere else I’ve found a similar experience is with music, and God just writing it out it feels a little woo-woo. I feel like it comes off like a Grateful Dead hippie who talks about “feeling the music, maaaaan,” but it’s real.
I want to be – and I mean this – a pretentious douche who can honestly say that I’m way classier than you because I appreciate the orchestra and classical music, but I can’t; I hate it; I’m just not that person even though I want to be (I have similar feelings about coconut water).
However, somewhere I’ve found I can appreciate the body that is orchestra and the wonderful phenomenon that is several dozen instruments coming together harmoniously in a symphony…
…are soundtracks. Soundtracks to movies and video games. Those things that give the subconscious, subliminal flavor to a storytelling experience.
Even as I tippy-type this on out, I’m listening to the soundtrack to ‘Detroit: Become Human’ and if you don’t know what it is or haven’t experienced it yet, you owe it to yourself to try it. Don’t think of it as a video game, even. It’s a piece of interactive fiction. It’s an exploration of narrative and a masterfully done composition of character, experience, empathy, choice, and music. Don’t look up a play-through, don’t listen to a friend tell you about it, do it yourself. Trust me. And when you do, go into the Extras and pore through the “Making of” and “Behind the Scenes” style videos.
I say all that because it brings me to this: remember that question about happy places?
Maybe not a happy one, exactly, but one of my favorite places to be is a place where I appreciate and wonder. I enjoy writing and feel a compulsion to do it whether people read and listen or not because of the process that goes into it. Loosely quoting Chuck Palahniuk, the man who wrote Fight Club, he said “real writing shouldn’t be easy, it should tear you apart.” And by and large I agree with that wholeheartedly.
The process of storytelling in a fictional capacity is creating a conflict in your mind and others by describing people, events, decisions, consequences, feelings, and mistakes that by right don’t physically exist, then resolving it in a very real way that reflect aspects of what it means to experience the life of a living being. It’s…it’s a privilege we have.
An art form I’ve never understood but have long wanted to: music composition, which brings me back to soundtracks. Nowadays, they’re cinematic enough to have grabbed my attention, but they employ the means of orchestra, so my interest has a foot in the door of that hoity-toity interest I said earlier I can’t be classist about.
And that note about happy places? One of my favorite places to exist, and I hope you can either relate or give it a try sometime, is putting myself in the mind of a composer. I love listening to the soundtracks and scores of movies and games (Detroit is obviously one, but really pick any that you enjoy) and picking out the instruments I can hear and identify, then picturing them being played alongside the others.
But it makes me so envious. It’s one thing to observe and appreciate something an artist does, but it’s something else entirely to think of the place in the mind that made it. Like Remy’s brother in Ratatouille, I imagine it’s like that: an empty black background, and then sounds bleed out of the ether like ribbons of light and dance, singing just to you; but then it’s up to you to capture it. And it’s that first step that has me so jealous. To be in the quiet and slowly begin to hear the timpani, the horn, the cellos in concert, and violins above it all come out of the silence and begin to fit together.
Or maybe it isn’t like that at all. Maybe you walk down the street and start to just feel a rhythm that exists in that moment like we’ve seen in commercials: the construction crew down the road and its jackhammer lay a background that car horns and doors opening and closing fit into to create a symphony only you see.
I got to speak recently with a friend who graduated with his Master’s studying music and is going onto teach. I thought it was the perfect opportunity to ask him about all of this stuff about a composer’s mind and was floored to hear him say he doesn’t have an interest in it, that he enjoys playing clarinet and that process, but not creating music for symphony. To each their own, but all that did was reinforce my want to exist in the mind of someone who hears what I imagine they do.
So, Philip Sheppard, Nima Fakhrara, John Paesano, if you’re reading this, just know: I’m a fan and I’d love to talk to you.
Anyway, thanks for stopping by. I’ll catch you guys tomorrow.