Writing and it’s Relationship with Music

As a writer, should your primary source of influence always be from other examples of writing?

As an artist you should be able to admit, that music is amazing. It is a lot more self-contained than creative writing (poetry aside) and obviously film. The best thing about music is that it is a representation of emotion, even those dance songs you play on Saturday night. Personally, as someone trying to expand as a writer, I find myself skipping these Top 40 favorites and engaging significantly with classical music performances, movie soundtracks and acoustic soul-sapping encores. It is this music which I find inspires me, more so, in some cases than my favorite pieces of writing; this is an interesting thought, for if you want to write, you have to read right? Well what happens if you’re a writer who listens?

Needless to say, I’m listening to a medley of fantastic songs when writing this, bopping along at times or just pausing, mulling things over in my mind. My connection to music is probably as far from an ‘objective’ relationship as you can get. I care little for the persuit of new talent, I am literally of the disposition that if I hear something I connect with, I will buy it and listen to it endlessly. I mean, I have my fair share of rubbish on my iTunes, but when a song comes up that really makes you stop, that’s when I feel at my most imbalanced, stimulated and ready to write.

Of course, the problem with this approach is that it is incredibly subjective, not only in form but of course in content. Lyrics, melody and the countless other spectrum’s of musical refinement create such a variety of musical output that everyone is going to react a bit differently and in a lot of cases not at all. For instance, a lot of people I know will write with music playing in the background, I mean, I’m doing that right now, but it’s quiet and more or less lyric-less, this helps create an ambiance, a comfortable writing environment and yet this is still my limit. In truth I find music a distraction to objective writing, but the mood it envokes cloaks me thoroughly for a period of writing. It is this resonance that I feel when listening to music that I feel strengthens me as a writer.

I mean, is this a writing technique we should attempt to coin? Cinematic writing perhaps? Of course not, because if you want to convey something specific in tandem with music (and a stark visual image?) you might as well be a screen-write, right? Wrong. Personally whilst a huge fan of cinema, my connection to it is very similar to music, I don’t go to the cinema all the time but when I see something I enjoy, I will exhaust it until I feel I fully understand it and to some extent, can replicate it. Clearly then, I am someone who is forever buried in books right? Wrong again, because this article isn’t about defining myself as a writer, but defining writing as a process that is subjective to the individual. If I told you I loved watching films more than reading books and I wanted to be a writer, you’d scoff; at least I’d hope you would because I mean come on, that’s just stupid. However, if you can balance these mediums of storytelling (yes, music is a form of storytelling) maybe then you can create something original, maybe not.

Your primary influence in your language of writing will be your literary background, that I feel is somewhat unavoidable; however your writing style and written image can be highly influenced by the content you experience; which is where I draw my most significant distinction in this article. Because cinema and music are ‘experienced’, they help create mood, writing helps more to focus the skill of writing and paint this mood for others to understand. Maybe I’m wrong and I just haven’t read the right stuff, but I think if you want to create a detailed creative fiction, don’t just read books, do it all.

At the moment I am experimenting with non-linear narratives, stories that don’t always go in sequence because I’m experimenting with form and I feel that by creating imbalance in the narrative timeline, you can create better enigmas and you, as the reader have to work harder to deconstruct the narrative. I read somewhere that the harder you work to understand something, the more you respect it, if I find out where that’s from I will credit it at the bottom of the article.

As for now, I feel I didn’t do too badly channeling my thoughts for a bit. Maybe I’m just one of these new-wave pretentious wannabe-different writers; I hope to god I’m not… but I’ve been wrong before. As for now I’m going to break away from my own introspective narrative and relax, because to drown in self-awareness would be a sorry way to go :)

If you liked this article please leave a comment below, thank you.

Don’t Be Creative Be Passionate

Now, don’t take the title too literally but consider this. Don’t come up with ideas because they are different, nurture them because they matter.

Hey Guys,

I wanted to write a post today for people who work in creative fields. This idea came to me yesterday, when after spending the weekend working on a couple of separate projects, I ditched them. I realised that I didn’t really care about these ideas, and I was developing them as a priority above my other work because I thought they were pretty avant guarde. Except they weren’t, they were crap. One I will admit, just needs a lot more development if I’m ever even to consider picking it up again in the future, but the other one is my primary example for this post…

Flying horses. Nay. Flying Toy Horses. My idea was this: I picked up these plastic model horses about 6 months ago because I thought I could use them for a mini-project. What I eventually tried to do, was animate still images of them with the distortion pin tool on AAE; creating a super slo-mo sequence of them jumping off of stuff. I ran a couple of renders, still not 100% but prepared to keep an open mind. Yesterday I finished two test renders, they had immaculate masks and lighting effects so they look relatively believable. My animation was good too, the motion of the legs, head and neck being key to the movement of a horse. But then I watched them back, and yeah, technically they were ok, but I was hit with two thoughts. What does this mean? And Why am I doing this? 

I was doing it because no-one else had; I’d side-tracked projects that mean a lot to me because I was in a rush to stand out. That’s not how you create art, that’s how you create shite. I took a step back, saw what I was doing and abandoned the project. I’m now refocusing my efforts of two of my large projects. In particular, my dissertation project for my final year at university. It’s sometimes hard to work on because it reflects some personal memories and intimate relationships, but so far it’s coming out well and I have no doubt that when I finish it, it will be a triumph. The project is called ’The Second Man’ and I will add a link here when I have finished rebuilding the promo page.

This post isn’t for self-promotion though, it’s a thought on how sometimes it is so tempting to try and stand out, we breach our own values of quality. Gimmicks aren’t respected and never deemed as classics. So take your time and create the fantastic, powerful work you’re capable of. Impress yourself.

Take it easy,

Matt  :)

LIMBO: Review

 

LIMBO is one of the most special games I have ever played.

I wanted to write up a quick review for this game despite it being about a year out of date; but recently the title became available on Steam and so I’ve finally had a chance to play this game after waiting for ages.

In short, LIMBO is a platforming and puzzle solving game with a stunning art style. You play as a nameless boy who has just awoken in Limbo (otherwise known as the edge of Hell) and to say anything else of the plot would ruin it for you. Though, that said the game is minimal in every regard, including the enigmatic plot.

LIMBO is a great example of visceral storytelling and the mute protagonist reflects perfectly, the world of barren despair and death which you traverse. This game world is a punishing one; you will die often – the developers coined LIMBO ‘- a trial and death game’. But that’s fine, the puzzles escalate to an almost punishing level by the end but once you come to the solution you might kick yourself that you did not realise it sooner. LIMBO’s gameplay is roughly 70 percent reliant on these puzzles and so it is testament to the level designers at Playdead studios that their puzzles can be only slightly frustrating but always solvable without guides. I had to only quit the game once when I was stuck on a puzzle, but after stepping away and coming back to it I worked out the solution.

I finished LIMBO in  3 sittings, and for a game that took me about 4/5 hours to complete that should reflect the addictive nature of LIMBO’s gameplay and immersive gameworld. But whatever you do, don’t be put off by the short campaign length. There’s no multiplayer but I am already excited to replay LIMBO, it is the perfect length for a game as avant guard as it is.

I must not finish without talking about the game’s stunning art direction. I have played many beautiful, cinematic games with Shadow of the Colossus being my other most notable choice for amazing art in a game. However LIMBO is completely unique and instead of being grand and epic, it is suitable poignant and minimal through it’s clever use of black and white, the dusty vignette and the constantly flickering light sources, a reminder of lights preciousness and frailty.

Overall I could not recommend this game more. It’s beautiful, addictive and totally unique.

I don’t review games enough to give it a numeric score but this is my final word on LIMBO.

Buy. This. Game. 

LIMBO is available of XBL, PSN and Steam. 

Next Post

What an amazing idea, and the execution is fantastic. Such a melancholy score.

Movie Soundtracks: The Most Emotional Form of Music?

There is a lot of music out there, and a lot of vocalists sing about grief. Yet, I propose that movie soundtracks given the right context can stir something in you other music just can’t. 

I love movie soundtracks.

I think they are fantastic for background music or to listen to in their own right. They never fail to rally, sadden, rouse or move me, I think they are one of the most emotionally strong forms of music you can buy… and this is why.

Movie’s have become such an huge commercial success, that as their production values rise so inevitably do the values of their OST’s (original sound tracks). You get full scores of classical musicians, famous pop artists and a whole range of talent nowadays contributing to the overall effect of a motion picture.

Yeah, there are men like Bon Iver out there who will never escape his cliché of log-cabin abandon to create one the most moving albums ever heard, and I have to admit that I’m a huge fan. As am I of other mediums, most notably classic music which would probably be the main rival to my point. Classical music has the privilege of social pedigree and a medium which can also be purchased to be used on movie soundtracks. But for now I will try and stay focussed on OST’s.

What OST’s benefit from is a context in which to create their music. I’m aware you could say this of any musician who composes his music after loss or other emotions but in most cases they are recorded and to some extent, composed after the film has been edited (an exception I am aware of is Terry Gilliam’s 12 Monkeys) which then puts them in the hands of masterful directors who have knowledge of pacing and prelude. And then it’s not as if these two artists do not collaborate; with the benefit of two industry experts (and not forgetting the talented musicians themselves) we have a genre of music that can make a connection with the listener like no other.

I love movie soundtracks.

Notable Examples:

  • The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford
  • The Fountain
  • Lord of the Rings Trilogy
  • Tron Legacy
  • Star Wars Saga
  • The Skin I Live In
  • Requiem for a Dream

Talented Composers:

Please leave a comment with your favourite soundtracks, or non-soundtracks songs and prove me wrong!

Writing Rule #1: NEVER Write About Yourself.

So my tutor told me today that you shouldn’t write about yourself too often. Which is fine, but don’t forget that no-one but you can feel the details and subtleties of your emotions like you can. I think you should use these experiences to provide context, gravity and passion into whatever you’re writing. 

Hey Guys,

So in one of my writing lectures today my tutor made the point that we as writers often think that we are also interesting to read about. I think that actually, he is very right to say this because I have fallen into this trap many times. But I think he missed a trick when presenting today; he said nothing about how your own experiences can shape the work you make and how (in my opinion) by transplanting your own emotions into your creative writing, you can create a more emotionally strong and convincing piece than you could of otherwise.

Imagination is a virtue of creative writers. Without this creativity we would not be able to sail to the dark recesses of space, fight dragons with a sword or even, find out what happened to Harry potter in year 9. However, one thing imagination cannot convey convincingly is emotion; to write about a feeling you have not felt would not only be truly challenging but perhaps, also insulting to those who have felt it. There are two easy way to combat this then: Do your research. Like I touched on before, people think that they are the most interesting people ever. This means that if you can get them to open up about something they really care about, they will talk well, and touch upon the details you may missed from a distance. And secondly: Transcript how you have felt about any strong emotion, ever. Most of us have been lucky to avoid the drama of fiction and literature; sure, maybe bad things have happened to us but perhaps we have never been so thoroughly cheated as the protagonist in your favourite novel. I think what we should do in these instances, is to relate our own feelings into the situation and transplant the unique subtitles and features that you may have felt at some point into your writing work. You may even have to ham it up a bit, and that’s fine. But your work is going to be all the more credible if you write honestly and from the heart. That may sound cheesy, but there’s a reason some things are cliché, because often, they are the best way to capture a well made point.

I’m no master writer, I’m a wannabe and I admit that. But what I’m trying to say is don’t omit your own feelings in writing because you want to create a world away from your own. It’s the same idea I touched upon in Writing and it’s Relationship with Music; there are so many sources we can take emotional influence from and for me music is one of the richest resources of all. Personally, I’d love to capture the emotion I hear in music and recreate it on the page. So try and find a source from which you take the most influence, be it music, people or yourself.

Take it easy,

Matt :)

Make the Snow Fall [New Photo]

Hey Guys,

So I may not of done a lot of work for my university course today, but that’s because I got sidetracked and have been editing an old photo of mine. I was browsing my photos on my favorite photo sharing site 500px and when I came across the original image I just though I could do a little more with it. So I added a really strong crop and started masking in the largest pieces of snow and lay them over the crop. The smaller bits were a bit more tricky, as I colour keyed most of them, but there was also a lot of white in the background. So what I ended up doing was chroma keying the best part of the photo, that gave me a good area of snowflakes and then duplicated it, re-scaled it, rotated it and moved it around the photo to create a realistic snow pattern. I did my final colour correction in Paint.Net; I actually preferring using it to Photoshop for basic tweaking as it’s way more intuitive, faster and free! I strongly recommend that you download it.

Would you guys be interested in seeing a step by step tutorial or how I edited this photo? If so please leave a comment. 

Here is the final photo:

Don’t forget to follow me on 500px and twitter.

Take it easy,

Matt :)

Update [02/08/2011]

Hey Guys,

So it’s been ages since I posted anything here; the official line is that I was working a lot in the summer but really I just devalued the blog for a bit when I was doing a lot of other things. Anyway, I’m back at university now and though I will actually have more work to do than ever I will make sure the blog is among those things. This post has no particular objective so think of this more as an announcement I guess. But while I am writing I will try to get you up to speed with where I am.

I am once again trimming the fat of my website, I realised that in about 8 months I will be looking for full-time work, how weird is that?! I have decided my site should act like a business card and so I will be taking down a lot of the content that doesn’t reflect any particular skill. Instead that stuff will all be going on one page so that it can have some online presence still.

My dissertation project is moving forwards too, I am working on a new media narrative project that requires a lot technical genius by my good friend Harry Finn; he sometimes works on freelance web design projects so check him out if you need something done and he may be able to help out.

I am also working on a couple of manuscripts which is pretty exciting, I have no doubt that no-one would want to publish a media graduate straight of uni, but I am taking a publishing module this year and so I want to take these ideas as far as I can. If you don’t try you can’t succeed right?

That’s pretty much it for now, but I’ll be posting some more interesting articles soon (see below for an example).

Take it easy,

Matt :) 

Don’t Be Creative, Be Passionate

Now, don’t take the title too literally but consider this. Don’t come up with ideas because they are different, nurture them because they matter.

Hey Guys,

I hope everyone is having a good Monday, I wanted to write a post today for people who work in creative fields. Followers of this blog will know I’m a student, and so perhaps speak with a certain sense of optimism, but I feel my point here today is applicable to anyone looking to develop any kind of creative work.

This idea came to me yesterday, when after spending the weekend working on a couple of separate projects, I ditched them. I realised that I didn’t really care about these ideas, and I was developing them as a priority above my other work because I thought they were pretty avant guarde. Except they weren’t, they were crap. One I will admit, just needs a lot more development if I’m ever even to consider picking it up again in the future, but the other one is my primary example for this post.

Flying horses. Nay. Flying Toy Horses. My idea was this: I picked up these plastic model horses about 6 months ago because I thought I could use them for a mini-project. What I eventually tried to do, was animate still images of them with the distortion pin tool on AAE; creating a super slo-mo sequence of them jumping off of stuff. I ran a couple of renders, still not 100% but prepared to keep an open mind. Yesterday I finished two test renders, they had immaculate masks and lighting effects so they look relatively believable. My animation was good too, the motion of the legs, head and neck being key to the movement of a horse. But then I watched them back, and yeah, technically they were ok, but I was hit with two thoughts. What does this mean? And Why am I doing this? 

I was doing it because no-one else had; I’d side-tracked projects that mean a lot to me because I was in a rush to stand out. That’s not how you create art, that’s how you create shite. I took a step back, saw what i was doing and abandoned the project. I’m now refocusing my efforts of two of my large projects. In particular, my dissertation project for my final year at university. It’s sometimes hard to work on because it reflects some personal memories and intimate relationships, but so far it’s coming out well and I have no doubt that when I finish it, it will be a triumph. The project is called ‘3 Hours’ and I will add a link here when I have finished rebuilding the promo page.

This post isn’t for self-promotion though, it’s a thought on how sometimes it is so tempting to try and stand out, we breach our own values of quality. Gimmicks aren’t respected and never deemed as classics. So take your time and create the fantastic, powerful work you’re capable of. Impress yourself.

Take it easy,

Matt  :)

The Most Beautiful Time-Lapse Videos EVER

So I have always loved time-lapse videos, I think they’re stunning and truly reflect that if you have a patience, you can create memorable pieces of art. I actually think I might have done this post before but who cares, the game has been changed by a release this year that blew everyone else out of the water. I’m going to keep this post very short as I am very busy today; but just watch the videos, it’s half and hour well spent.

The Mountain 

The best video online right now; stunning, haunting and moving. The best of the best in my opinion.

Iceland, Eyjafjallajökull

The first video I saw in like this, I love that there is motion in it too; it must have been so hard to calculate!

The Unseen Sea

A fantastic video that focuses on how clouds look during time-lapses; stunning.

Sorry this has been such a short post guys, but I’ve got stuff to do!

Take it easy,

Matt  :)