I’m often drawn to the understated elegant soundtracks. They don’t sound grandiose; they don’t sound imperial or adventurous or over-the-top. The smallest nuances in how the individual tracks are composed, the development in the pieces that grow along with the characters and plot… These are the soundtracks I hunger for.
Recently, I found myself checking out the nominees for best original soundtrack for the Golden Globes. Of course, “La La Land” was the winner of the award with its whimsical, jazzy soundtrack. It’s something fun and different and puts people in a good mood when they listen to it. It’s a phenomenal soundtrack and for cooking or hanging around the house, it’s a joy to listen to. But for writing…I look for the darker more serious soundtracks. This is why I was immediately enamored by Nicholas Britell’s score for the Golden Globe best drama motion picture winner, “Moonlight”.
(I wrote this back when the Oscars were happening… yeah.)
I have always, and will always be a fan of music composed by Thomas Newman. I own a number of his impressive film scores, several of them Oscar nominated or winning and all of them gorgeous in their own right. Little Women, Phenomenon, The Horse Whisperer, Meet Joe Black, American Beauty, The Green Mile, Finding Nemo, Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, The Help, Skyfall…(and let’s not forget TV show Six Feet Under and Miniseries Angels in America)! And now, the dramatic and emotional score for the Oscar nominated film, Bridge of Spies.
When I grew up, I was one of the Trekkies. I loved anything and everything Star Trek but I had a respect for Star Wars and the world and characters that George Lucas had created. This year brought the series back to life with the latest (and greatest) in the Star Wars story, The Force Awakens. Having not watched The Empire Strikes Back or Return of the Jedi, I was missing pieces of the story and worried I wouldn’t be able to follow it. Thankfully, The Force Awakens was easy to follow, had a collection of fantastic characters and locations, and a plot that kept me guessing what was going to happen next. Most of all, I was impressed by John Williams new score. There were many times while watching where I was actually drawn to listen closer to his compositions and found them stunning and beautiful.
Two weeks ago, I came to the somewhat depressing decision that I needed to rewrite my book (again) from the beginning. And shortly after starting the rewrite, I stopped and started the rewrite again. I’ve probably done this ten or so times with this book. But now, I really feel like I’m in the right place with it. The Wild Dark has been a difficult write for me in many ways that I thought Memento Mori (my latest release) was. The Wild Dark deals most importantly with friendship, loyalty, humanity, depression, and loss. The protagonist longs for a simpler life, a way to lose herself in ordinary routines so that she doesn’t have to face the death of her best friend and failed relationship with her fiance. This all happens in the wake of a supernatural event that brings a strange transformation to the world she knows and loves.
Like all of my stories, I have a playlist of songs that I listen to when working. For this particular story, I have two: one featuring music with lyrics and one without. The without list is long and from the very beginning, has featured music by respected composer James Newton Howard. The most featured of his music is from M. Night Shyamalan’s The Village Soundtrack, which (in my opinion) has some of the most beautiful music ever composed. The undulating violins and contemplative, tranquil piano effectively take you inside a world filled with characters who wish to live simpler lives, characters who are innocent and have trouble even conceiving wickedness. They are terrorized by legendary creatures that live in the woods around their bucolic village, creatures who have decided that the peaceful truce they’ve shared for many years is now void. The Village is not so much a horror film as it is a romantic one and that is reflected in every track that Howard wrote. Just like The Village, The Wild Dark is more about the love and bond between two friends and where that takes them than it is about the apocalyptic events surrounding them. Today, I’ll be sharing a few songs from Howard’s soundtrack along with what I see when I listen to them.
I have fond memories of playing the PSOne console. It was a video game system that my brother and I shared and it was housed up in the attic of our house. The attic wasn’t creepy and dark like most would assume. The sewing machine was up there, with a couple beds, my mom’s craft things, and the old Performa Apple computer. There would sometimes be daddy long legs scaling the sloped ceilings and sometimes you would have to curl up in a blanket in the winter months when you sat down to play a game. My favorite memory of playing Rayman 2 is with a hot cup of peach tea on a sunny afternoon. I let the sun and the tea warm me and played through the adventures of limbless Rayman, trying to defeat robot pirates as they took over his world, all to the sound of a diverse and playful soundtrack. I eventually sold the game in favor of another one (can’t remember which) and continued on. But that memory stayed with me: the sun, the tea, and the music from that game. I eventually tracked it down and bought it again and every once in a while, give myself a refresher of the environments and the fun tunes that accompanied this game.
Today isn’t necessarily an exercise in seeing scenes while listening to music as much as it is appreciating said music. There are times when I get stuck while writing; happens to the best of us. Often we get up, we go for a walk, we fold laundry, wash dishes, watch a movie…anything to get our minds off of it so that, hopefully, an answer will come to us through something else. I often will listen to some music…and usually, it’s from a selection of video game soundtracks that I hold in high regard. Video game soundtracks can and often are a form of art. Growing up with Nintendo, Super Nintendo, Playstation… I’ve been introduced to several gorgeous compositions that have fully immersed me in the world of the game and often inspired me in my writing. If we’re being honest here…there are dozens upon dozens of game soundtracks that I own and adore. But, today, I’m going to share with you my top ten along with why I enjoy them. So…here we go!
There has always been a part of me that really wanted to write a fairytale. While I can really lose myself in fantastical elements being twisted into our every day lives as seen in The Monstrum Chronicles speculative fiction series, I’ve never actually sat down and pushed myself to try something completely in the realm of magic. Several months ago, though, I was introduced to a weird and wonderful game called Year Walk by the company Simogo for tablets and phones. The game has since now been made available on Steam. In it, an unnamed protagonist leaves his young lover and goes on his year walk, an ancient Scandinavian ritual that is supposed to help the individual foretell what will happen to them later in life. The games atmosphere is deeply unsettling, fraught with strange mythological monsters and an eerie landscape of snowy woods. The combination of images and the incredibly creepy musical score by Daniel Olsén left me with a taste in my mouth for dark folklore.
Once again, we find today’s subject of Inspiration Through Music is a story-driven, emotional, and beautifully designed game. The Last of Us, which debuted last year for Playstation 3 by Naughty Dog, is among one of my top favorites in video games. The story of a childless father and a parentless girl as they cross a post-apocalyptic America, hiding from people and frightening creatures is portrayed so realistically that it locks you into the gameplay and immediately makes you care about the characters and their journey. And of course, like every other game I’ve mentioned, the music adds an extra layer of immersion to this stunning game. They couldn’t have picked a better composer than Gustavo Santaolalla, who can pinpoint even the most difficult human emotion to emulate through music and make it dig right into you.
Yup, you now know that I’m a Tomb Raider girl. I love absolutely everything about the series and I think that Lara Croft is one of the best feminine heroes ever created. And while the first five games were really iconic and featured lots of globe-trotting, cave-spelunking, yeti-tackling, and deep-sea diving adventure, plus the occasional tomb exploring, my adoration for the series really took off with the release of the sixth title, Angel of Darkness. Unlike most of the other games, Angel of Darkness takes place in only two cities: Paris and Prague. I liked having the chance to stay in one place longer and explore all the different facets of each city, the building tension, and uneasy atmosphere. This game played a lot darker than the previous titles and that also drew me to it. But one of the things that really made me sink my teeth into the game was the music.
Let us descend into another dark and utterly spectacular world given to us by Telltale Games, the creators of The Walking Dead Game. Inspired by Bill Willingham’s Fables comic series, the game “The Wolf Among Us” drops us into the seedy and sinful atmosphere of Fabletown and right into the shoes of our main character, Bigby Wolf. The characters are the real world versions of characters taken from popular fables and fairy tales, some of whom have moved to the city and others whom have remained behind in that other world.