Script 22, chapter 2

(Read about and listen to chapter 1 here.)

My recording of Script 22’s second chapter is finished! It was a long process of recording, slicing and mixing, realizing half my material was ruined by background noise, and then more recording and slicing and mixing. Working with this chapter’s music was also more technically challenging, because I had to remix the song to make it long enough for the reading.

In the end, I think it turned out a lot better than chapter 1 – the quality is better, and I tried to work on my intonation of the various voices (thanks to Katy for her feedback on the last chapter). Here it is, set in time with the music by Jeehun Hwang (NSFW language):

Once again please let me know your feedback. I’d love to hear what you think is effective and what’s not as I start working on chapter 3.

Script 22, chapter 1

Back in 2010 I wrote a short story called Script 22. It’s one of my few “finished” stories. Here’s my little dust jacket blurb for it:

In a future where society is entirely virtual, the gamer-turned-artist Howl decides to spend his nights cooped up in reality. With the tender help of his caretaker, the console, he sleeps and then recreates his dreams for the enjoyment of his followers. But when Howl can no longer remember his dreams, his purposes are thrown into question.

Intriguing I hope! I’ve decided to try and do some recordings of this story, like I did for Lillian. Script 22 is comprised of four chapters and there’s a paige, or music-inspired idea, for each one. I’ve already finished a recording of chapter one, set in time with the music by Amon Tobin:

Give it a listen and let me know what you think. I’m always interested in how effectively things are conveyed, etc. I’m hoping to record and mix the remaining three chapters soon and I’d love it if I could incorporate people’s feedback.

A brief history of paiges, part 1 (podcast)

One of my first memories is of my dad holding me in his arms, while we listen to a symphony. It’s dark; all I can see is the red power light of the stereo across the room. Does he rock me or hold me still, as I stare at the mysterious red dot in the darkness, and hear music? I don’t remember. He did this with me often, he tells me, moments that have long since condensed into one memory.

Before any song begins there is silence. To me this is darkness. The lights and shapes and emotions emerge out of a void. And at the end, that’s what they relinquish themselves into. Maybe songs aren’t so different from ourselves.

George Winston’s piano was there in the beginning, at the start of my memories. My dad would leave his album December playing after I was tucked into bed. It was a soothing, magical narrative in the dark, carrying me into sleep.

Twenty years later, when I rediscovered December, it was like finding a key to my genesis. When I heard it again for the first time, it sent shivers down my spine. I was transported back to those early moments, long forgotten and left unrevised. I’ve read that every time we access a memory it gets reassembled and thus slightly rewritten. So this was like the discovery of ancient water deep under the Antarctic ice. I heard the magic of music in the ears of a child, and I thought I remembered myself start to imagine.

How much are those early experiences responsible for my musical ideas? Hard to say, without a “control me”. It’s always tempting to write causality into mysterious things. All I know is that when my dad introduced me to music he gave me something beautiful.

[Yo Dad, happy early Father's Day]

A Book of Paiges on Tumblr

I started a Tumblr a while back because I wanted a space for more spontaneity, whereas what I’m doing here is more structured and planned out. Go to abookofpaiges.tumblr.com and check it out! You can see I’m sticking to my musical themes but it’s more centered in current events and whenever inspiration strikes – unlike here where I tend to dwell on the past and the future with grand designs. More to come in both places!

Been a long time…

…too long. Partly it was work, partly life besides. I think things started to get too rigid here, too planned out with high expectations. I’m good at defeating myself like that.

I haven’t fallen off though. Far from it. Last month I started work in earnest on a new story. It’s gonna be called Script 21, a prequel to my short story Script 22. I’m in the “research” phase right now – outlining, collecting notes, reading similar (or radically different) literature.

Besides that I have fresh plans for this blog. I’d like to do more recordings, both podcasts and narrations set to music. How does that sound? Keep your ears perked.

Hip hop, part 1 / Alias (podcast version!)

Well it took me a while but I just finished the podcast version of my last post. I decided to make it after I looked over that entry and felt like it would be more engaging if you could actually hear some of the music I’m talking about. Anyway I think it turned out pretty well and I hope you enjoy:

Up next I’ll be getting into the details of Lillian’s creative process – stay tuned.

Hip hop, part 1 / Alias

[Listen to the podcast version here]

As I get ready to explore the creative process behind Lillian, I thought I’d write a little about how I got into Alias, the rapper-turned-producer behind that song.

I first heard Alias in 2005 when my friend Nate put together a little 2-disc “intro to hip hop” package for me, after I admitted I didn’t listen to any rap and probably should. The first disc was a sampling from the 90’s with names like Nas, Public Enemy, Dr. Dre, and Canibus. The second was Alias’ album The Other Side of the Looking Glass.

Rap was a real paradigm shift for me. The fact that I’d spent my early teenage years growing up in rural Illinois did nothing for my acculturation into the world of hip hop in general. I struggled to listen to a lot of what my friend had burned for me, especially because a lot of the songs he chose were lyrics-focused with no-frills beats. Ironically some of these songs would later be among my favorite music, but it would take me years to acquire the new tastes that let me fully appreciate them.

Part of me wishes I could go back and rewire my brain, make myself listen to these lyrics and hear them like I do now. But it would be naive to think that slow process wasn’t necessary, that it wasn’t part of my growth as a listener. So I’ll just be open about that fact that at the time, the stories these rappers wove and the taunts they unleashed on my ears went largely ignored.

Alias’ The Other Side of the Looking Glass was a different experience. I was immediately attracted to its vivid and melancholy beats, which fixated me enough that I enjoyed listening to somebody rap against them. As someone who’d so far grown up with favorite artists like Radiohead and Massive Attack, Alias’ affinity for an electronic, often sentimental soundscape helped to bridge the gap to my slow appreciation of rap as an artform.

The Other Side of the Looking Glass was obviously not a typical rap album, even to an outsider like me. Looking back on how I first listened to it, I see myself wandering through it like a foreign city, slowly familiarizing myself with its symbols and conventions. The lyrics were brooding and introspective, but for a young me it was the sound that stuck in my mind. It always seemed like it was raining in that album.

It wasn’t until late 2007 that I looked up Alias’ other work. I downloaded his two albums Muted and Lillian and started listening to them together. It was the first time I realized instrumental hiphop could be a genre in its own right, and not limited to the lyric-less versions of rap songs I sometimes found on EPs.

I played those albums consistently throughout my college years. The formulas behind the songs were simple to understand, but their composition resonated. I became familiar enough with each album to appreciate its differences. Muted was pure Alias, with samples of speeches, rants, and his own live introductions rubbed into gritty breakbeats and ambient tones. Lillian added a whole new layer of instrumentation, with Alias’ brother Ehren playing beautifully on the flute, clarinet, and saxophone. With this added element Lillian was a rich experience, as the voices of Ehren’s instruments crooning from the patchwork of Alias’ jagged synth gifted that album with a color and mood that Muted had only hinted at with tracks like “Beginagain” and “Sixes Last”.

Altogether, Alias’ sound was a new flavor and texture that provoked my imagination. Like a lot of my favorite artists’ work, his albums founded a new space in my mind – a distinct world in which each song was its own place and concept. Over time, a few of these ideas would sharpen into detail, becoming paiges. Among them was Lillian.