Recently while sorting through my soundtrack collection, I came across an old and beloved piece of music. Titled “Baba Yetu“, it was the feature song for Civilization 4, an entry in a popular strategy game series that came out in 2004. While humming the tune and falling into the timesink that is Wikipedia, I learned that the song is a Swahili translation of the Lord’s Prayer, that it was the only videogame song in history to win a Grammy, and that the composer Christopher Tin‘s latest creation was a classical crossover album around the theme of water called “The Drop That Contained the Sea“. “The message [of the album] is that, essentially, in the coming century water, and water management, is going to be the most important global issue to all people and across all countries,” Tin says, “Between melting Antarctic ice sheets and rising ocean levels and droughts and increased devastation from hurricanes and so forth, water is literally going to shape the way we draw our maps.” – Christopher Tin, Public Radio International Needless to …
I am probably one of the few who looks forward to my commute. Not because I get on far enough away to grab a seat on the train, or that my mind requires the extra hour of warm up to function properly; both are true, but more important is that the commute allows me to enter the world of radio podcasts. Daily I have time to listen to stories from CBC’s Ideas and Wiretap, and from This American Life and RadioLab. Steeped in narratives of art and science, psychology and philosophy, anthropology and history and everything in between, I find myself constantly awed by the power of voice and ambience to build imagery. I listen and feel inspired. A recent Radiolab episode tuned me into the Pulitzer-winning work of composer John Luther Adams. Excerpted from a longer interview on another program called Meet the Composers, hosts Jad Abumrad and Robert Krulwich delve into Adams’ compositions – music that is more akin to a primal and elemental force. You can listen to the fascinating half-hour podcast HERE – I’ll be …
“More familiarity with our own mythology might help us to relate to theirs.” – Jean-Luc Picard, from last week’s piece on Darmok With this quote and the tale of Gilgamesh and Enkidu still fresh in my mind, I came across a piece titled A Wild Man, Tarzan of the Highlands over at The AnthropoEccentric. In his thought-provoking essay, N.S. Anderson explores modern re-imaginings of the tale of Gilgamesh in music, translations, and art while highlighting the connections between nature and culture that lies at the heart of this Mesopotamian epic.
“Windrider is a project that I began in 1989 when music began to form in my mind while reading Nausicaa of the Valley of Wind for the very first time. Back then my musical equipment encompassed a couple of synths, a sound module and a MIDI digital sequencer. I was sometimes surprised when I would simply put my hands onto the keyboard and melodies would erupt from my hand movements. I did not really understand what was happening but it soon became evident that the music suited certain scenes and moods within the Nausicaa manga.” – Karl Schaal, The Windrider Project
Sticking to last weeks’s topic on music and sound in storytelling, I wanted to share a series of development videos around Flower, a videogame released in 2009 by thatgamecompany. It’s one of my personal favourites, and in these videos, music composer Vincent Diamante and sound designer Steve Johnson talk about their experiences crafting an emotionally resonant narrative for a game without text, speech, or even characters. Take a look:
While listening to the incredible soundtrack of Cloud Atlas during my writing session, I thought back to a post I read a few months ago about the power of music in storytelling. In it, the author shares his firsthand experience with something most of us know to be true, that music can play a crucial role in enhancing narrative: “Emotions become clearer, drama becomes more intense, and action becomes more exciting. The whole story is augmented and pushed to a new level that the visuals alone can’t accomplish.” But can sounds by themselves, without words, become primary vehicles for storytelling? Connecting this thought back to an environmental theme, I came across this fascinating video by University of Minnesota undergrad Daniel Crawford in which he converts global temperature records in a piece he plays on his cello. Have a listen:
I love soundtracks. To me, they play a crucial part in my enjoyment of stories in films, television, and games. Done properly, a soundtrack dynamically complements and enhances a narrative’s ability to resonate deeply with us. Good atmospheric music set the emotional tone of countless scenes, while pieces rich in memorable melodies and rousing leitmotifs can instantly transport us back to meaningful moments of the story, long after the tale itself has faded from our memories. Today, I want to return to the world of Termina with Time’s End: Majora’s Mask Remixed, an album by Theophany that was appropriately released on the Mayan End of Days. Even if you haven’t read the Majora’s Mask Ekostory and know nothing about videogames, the music is worth a listen. Theophany’s tracks capture the rich and terrible world of Majora’s Mask and the elements of grief, apprehension, mystery, and wonder that colour it. Terrible Fate and Time’s End are my personal favourites. Have a listen while living life in the first exciting days of a “post-apocalyptic” world!