Hello October! It’s been so long. I’ve missed you fiercely. Yes, folks, you guessed it. Since October is my favorite month, we’ll be having a month of Inspiration Through Music blogs that will help to write that horror/supernatural/or mystery novel locked deep inside you. Granted, I’ve already done so many other Inspiration Through Music blogs that relate to that, but… now I have an excuse for it. So, the first in our October series will be from none other than Petri Alanko’s masterful Alan Wake score. For those of you out there whom are under the impression that video games are a complete waste of time, I shake my head at you. Yes, I agree that there are some that have very little contribution to the art world, but the majority of them are brilliantly executed, the stories vivid, and the music fresh and inspiring. Such is the case for Alan Wake.
Alan Wake is a psychological horror game created by Remedy Entertainment, the same folks who gave us Max Payne. In the story, the titular character, Alan, is a writer who is on vacation with his wife in a remote town (presumably in Washington State) called Bright Falls. While there, Alan’s wife is kidnapped by a dark entity and he is forced to traverse the twisted and dark countryside in an effort to save her, all the while battling the Bright Falls townspeople who have been changed into the shadowy “Taken” by the malevolent dark force. Not only does the game keep you on your toes since you never know when you’re going to be attacked, the music really sucks you into the experience further, making you feel as if you, too, are stranded out alone in the darkness. Having listened to this soundtrack for over a year, I’ve been inspired to work on several different projects with it guiding me in the background. Today, I’ll be discussing six of those songs with you.
Alan Wake: The moon basks the woods outside in silver light, the snow nearly gleaming. She stares out her window, waiting for it to appear. It was a mistake the first time she saw it. She hadn’t been able to sleep that night, had gone to the bathroom for a glass of water, and to forget about the dreams she’d been having. But on her way back, she’d noticed the shape in the trees, something that didn’t belong, something that didn’t quite seem… human. She checks her bedside alarm clock. The time is almost exactly the same as the night she’d first seen it. And yet, there was nothing out there. Just the light gust of wind rippling through the bare trees. She shakes her head. She imagined it. That’s all. It never was really there at all. She was just losing it. She turns away from the window to snap off her light and looks once more toward the empty woods before climbing into bed. She closes her eyes, despite the chill she feels against her back, knowing that she’s not quite convinced herself that it didn’t exist. From the woods, the creature watches her bedroom window. Finally, she is asleep. (This highly atmospheric piece inspired the scene in my apocalyptic fiction novel that I’m still currently working on.)
Taken By The Night: She turns off the light and wraps herself into the covers of the bed, pulling them so close that her fingers ache from clenching. Out there, nothing is certain. It’s just darkness and unpredictability. She is thankful to be inside a house, even if it isn’t her own, even if she has no idea whose house it was. Every time she thinks she’s drifting off, the house will creak and her eyes will open. She wonders if she’s closed all of the doors tightly enough, lest one of those creatures finds its way inside. Her ears are ever attentive, just waiting for a sign that something is about to go wrong. She can’t relax, not when her own life was at stake. From the chair in the corner, she hears a rustle of cloth and for a moment wants to leap out of bed. But then she hears his low voice, “Hey, it’s all right. I’m right here. Go back to sleep.” His voice comforts her even if what he’s saying doesn’t. Even if he were there to make sure that nothing happened, all it would take was a moment of confusion of indecision, and it would be all over. She pretends to sleep, so that he won’t keep nagging her. But truth is, she’s awake all night, just waiting for something to go wrong. (Another from my apocalyptic fiction.)
On the Run: This isn’t the first time that she’d lost power in the apartment. After all, the last few weeks had been stormy and the telephone poles around here were as brittle as toothpicks. It was as if every night there was a downed line or pole. She had gotten used to cooking over the wood stove and bathing in cold water, though she didn’t enjoy it. But now, it didn’t make any sense. There wasn’t a cloud in the sky. There wasn’t a strong gust of wind to be felt either. She tries the lamp again, wondering if it is just a blown bulb. She stands and crosses to the switch for the overhead and flicks it. But nothing happens there either. She walks to the window and gazes down the street. The sight makes her stop. The other houses are all lit up. Everything seems homey and normal. And yet… she moves out into the hallway to dial the electrical company. That’s when she sees it. The front door creaks as its slowly pushed in. Instinct forces her back into the bedroom. She pulls the door closed behind her and listens. She can hear the shuffle of feet. Someone is inside.
Water Pressure: He clicks on the flashlight and stares deep into the darkness of the tunnel. It’s so silent that all he can hear is his own breathing, rasping in and out. It barely sounds like him, more like some noise a monster would make. He doesn’t want to be locked down in here without knowing what lies ahead. But he can’t turn back now. There is nothing to turn back to. He has to keep going. He descends the set of stairs, and eases a gun out of his pocket as he continues further. He follows the map in his head, knowing that the wrong turn could send him miles from where he needed to be. First left, then right, follow it straight. He continues on, hearing the tell-tale scrapes from far behind him. They’ve found the entrance to the pipe. They’re coming for him. He starts running. Right, another right, straight on, left. And then, he gasps. A wall. He took a wrong turn somewhere. He turns around, hearing the noises drawing closer, the scratching and scraping making his skin crawl. There was no way to avoid them. He was trapped now.
Cross That River: The bridge looks old and creaks loudly as it sways in the breeze. The river roars beneath it, sending torrents of brown water plummeting over the falls only a short distance away. He would have to be a mad man to cross it but as he looks back over his shoulder and sees the leaves rustle, he knows there is no other option left. He must. He makes his way onto the first few old boards, listening as they groan under his weight. He moves a little further out and the boards squeak some more. Further along, it’s hard to hear the sound of the boards over the rushing of the water beneath. He’s half way when he feels something dreaded. A rope has snapped behind him and now one of the hand holds is limp. He glances over his shoulder and sees a figure at the start of the bridge, the darkness shielding it’s features. But he knows its one of them. And the fear spikes in him as he runs for the opposite side of the bridge. Boards squeal and pop behind him. Almost there, almost there, almostthere… suddenly, the solid ground drops out from beneath him and he’s falling.
The Well-Lit Room: The music box plays the same tune that she remembers receiving at the baby shower. Even all those months with it being tucked away in the back of her closet, she can’t seem to forget it’s haunting melody. But now, as it plays, the memories that come with it are forced back into her mind with a renewed strength. She almost doesn’t feel as if she can bear to listen to it any longer. She hears him shout for her outside the house and quickly tucks the music box away in her bag. She can’t lose herself in the sadness now. She has to stay focused. Otherwise, she might not make it out alive. She rushes to her bedside table and yanks out the drawer. Beneath a cloth, she pulls out her old gun, the one she swore she wouldn’t touch ever again. It falls into place in her palm as if she’d never let go of it and its security astonishes her. She checks the magazine, clicks the safety off, and pulls back the slider. Looking once more back at the room, knowing she’ll probably never see it again, she leaves. (Also from my apocalyptic book.)
Next week on Inspiration Through Music, we’ll be delving into the music of VAST, a band that I listened to frequently while working on a science fiction thriller a few years ago. Stay tuned!