Those who dance are considered insane by those who cannot hear the music.
I just found this indie musician, Christina Grimmie, after she’s been seen by more than 2 million others on YouTube. (Always a follower, never a leader: ho hum.) Anyway, her voice has such texture and range that I HAVE to bring her to your attention. She vocally manipulates a melody as I want to manipulate the storyline in a novel: she haunts, teases, powers up, then floors the listener. Enjoy.
If the video is missing, you can see it on YouTube by going here:
The intelligence and military agencies of the United States are working on automated systems to replace human analysts in intelligence work. The human brain is a masterful “sensemaking” device, but it is subject to the human weaknesses of fatigue, bias or stress. Therefore, the government is going all in to find a machine that can do the work as well as an human, and maybe better.
Until now, the agency points out, the human brain has remained “the only known example of a general-purpose sensemaking system.” Not for long: Iarpa wants a computer that would mimic human strengths, like analytic reasoning or learning from mistakes, but do it without the accompanying weaknesses. The ideal Iarpa system would first process and explain human sensemaking: why an analyst opted for one hypothesis over another. Then, the computer would improve upon it, by determining whether a decision-maker was affected by ambiguous data, deception, or even denial. Finally, the system would offer its own sensemaking hypothesis – without any extenuating influence – instead.
Iarpa suggests that the system would help out “overburdened analysts with routine, low-level analytic tasks.” But a 2001 report from the Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense points out that sensemaking is most often compromised in high-stress situations, and, for that reason, humans are usually the weakest link.
All this gets me wondering, will there come a day when machines are used to write books, create poetry, works of art and music? Will a computer frame a photograph as well as Ansel Adams? Will 3-D copiers create art to rival Michelangelo’s masterpieces using flesh and blood models or mere mathematical formulas derived from analysis of 2-D items? And, if that day comes, who will the audience be?
As I listened to this piece of music, composed in 1948 solely from the sounds a train makes, vivid images came to mind. It surprised me how quickly a story started forming in my head. However, it is weeks earlier than this song prompt will post as I write this. So I’ll have to wait to see what happens when I listen to this “music” again. This may be the most interesting song prompt yet, since its melody is composed from environmental sound.
Title: Etude aux Chemins de Fer
Composer: Pierre Schaeffer
First, this blog writer never assumes that what is espoused here is the be all, end all for all people. On the contrary, I espouse what works for me–for the moment, when I am in the mood and not being lazy.
That said, I thought I’d share how my muse works to spin a tale from music. I use YouTube links for songs because:
- it’s easy to access for everyone
- it’s easy to replay the songs over and over
- lyrics are provided
- the YouTube channel deals with the copyright issues
I listen to a song three or four times in a row. The first couple of times through I read the lyrics as the song plays. Inspiration can come from either tune or lyrics.
If I know the song, I sing, too. The point is to turn off the conscious part of my brain and turn on the subconscious part. I integrate as many senses (hearing, feeling, speaking, dancing) while listening as I can. The more visceral the music experience becomes, the more likely I am to get images in my head.
(This ritual beats soaking my bare feet in a tub of fresh chicken blood under the desk; I read one famous author does that when writing.)
Then the writing starts. More than half the time I get halfway through the story and hit a wall about a conclusion. I repeat the listening ritual, and the end comes. I write it.
As I’ve said innumerable times, I have an active imagination. In my subconscious mind, stories are everywhere, under every leaf, around every door jamb, behind every melody. In any given day, a complete novel floats through my head. The problem is my memory doesn’t hold a candle to my imagination. So in the time it takes me to say, “that’s a cool story,” it’s gone for good.
Oh, well. I guess I can’t have everything.
Right now I am enjoying writing short shorts because I can capture them on paper before the music drifts away.
For those who are curious about what one does with a classical song prompt, you aren’t alone. I was curious, too. I was surprised where my imagination took me. I think I was as much influenced by the name of the Geminiani piece–La Foresta Incantata–as the music itself.
The genre of the story is a departure from anything I have written before. Is it a dream? You decide. So here goes:
An Enchanted Forest Ride
by Fay Moore © 2012
“I’ll be back for dinner,” the master called out to his manservant, as he rode his horse across the courtyard cobblestones, heading for open field. The master saw the servant’s reflection in the rippled glass of the manor house window, in his hand the ledger that he had been reviewing with the master for several hours. The reflection looked like a man dressed in a floating sheet.
From atop his horse, the master admired the finely chiseled ears on the head of his prize stallion; ears forward, the horse attended to the direction the lord of the manor was steering him. The woods loomed ahead. As the master recalled his steward’s ghostly specter in the window reflection, his neck hairs tingled.
The owner of the equine settled deep into the curve of the leather seat, relaxing his back, pelvis and legs to float upon the saddle in tune with the motion and gait of his mount. The tension that built up through the hours spent in accounting flowed down through his loosened frame and out the bottom of his stirrup-cradled soles, where breezes carried the bad energy off into space.
The day was magical. A cold front pushed all heat and humidity from the air. Neither man nor horse perspired as the sun beat upon their backs. Zephyrs blew both creatures’ hair, lifting and dropping tresses in waves, the same way ribbons flutter from the end of a lance.
Sensing the tempo playing in the air, man and horse began to move in union with it in a slow, deliberate canter. The rhythmical rocking of the rider crescendoed with the hoof beats of the stallion. By the time the pair entered the cutaway into the forest, they were galloping.
Once inside the shade of the forest canopy, the duo felt the air temperature drop. The freshness of the air and of the horse’s spirit urged the animal faster into a dead run. Birds flushed in droves from the bushes, but the pair ignored the feathered bursts. Dirt clods flew into the air, flung aloft by pounding hooves. The man loosened the reins to give the horse its head. Ahead in the path, a small tree was down. Horse and rider sailed effortlessly over the log in one motion, a union of body and spirit. Off to the left, a herd of deer, thrashing through the understory, scattered like a burst of fireworks. The horse dashed on.
Ahead the lord spied a shaded opening in the trees. He felt drawn toward the space. He slowed the horse to a walk, patting the animal’s powerful neck. The exhilaration of the run caused both man and horse to breathe deeply.
In the opening, the master dismounted. The air glittered, amazing the man. He rubbed his eyes. The horse yawned. Their breath took shape and sparkled in clouds before them. Overtaken with a sudden urge to sleep, the horse folded its legs beneath itself and dropped to the soft, cool earth. It stretched out its neck and rested its jaw bone on a mound of grass. The man followed suit, sitting on the ground and leaning back against the prostrate animal. As if cast under a spell, both were soon snoozing.
Out of fallen hollowed logs and half-standing snags at the edge of the opening, or descending by spider-silk from leafy bowers in the treetops, a troupe of ragtag phantoms and sprites appeared. A shade stood by the head of the horse and a shadow by the head of the man, each casting dream dust when the sleepers’ eyelids fluttered. The others poured over the prone bodies, emptying the man’s pockets of two gold coins and gleaning half-chewed corn from between the horse’s teeth. Six tiny hands grabbed a loose thread in the man’s woven vest and pulled, unwinding the wool. A team of specters wound the thread into skeins and whisked the rolls away. When their work was done, an apparition looking like a fairy waved a wand above the sleeping pair. The magical troupe disappeared in a flash.
The sun was falling fast toward the horizon, and shadows were growing long. The gentleman was confounded that he had slept. What earlier seemed an enchanted space, now grew chilled. He leaped to his feet as the horse surged up from the ground. Wasting no time, he hoisted his toe into the stirrup and pulled himself up into the saddle. Reins in hand, he spun the horse on its heels and spurred the steed. Shaking off its supernatural drowsiness, the animal plunged through the woodlands, racing for its barn.
Feeling cold, the horseman glanced down and spied his vest was missing. Only a wisp or two of the distinctive yarns remained, caught in his belt buckle. As the dusk deepened, there was no time to sound the depths of his confusion. He bent at the waist, tucked himself as close to the body and neck of the horse as he could, and rode for the manor as if ghosts were chasing him.
From Francesco Geminiani, La Foresta Incantata
The music was written in the 1700’s. That alone may inspire an idea or two.
Today –the last day of June– I was driving my car, my radio set to a rock station that was playing selections from four decades. The songs conjured stories. I thought, why not do a month of musically influenced short stories? Each story will be inspired by one song. The inspiration can come from the lyrics, the emotion or simply the sound of the music.
So, for July, that is what I am going to do. Intermixed with my usual advice for writers and other similar stuff, I am going to write a short story, flash fiction or haiku tied to music.
My first song selection is “Black” by Pearl Jam. It is the melody that was playing when the idea hit me. I’ve included a YouTube link below, which includes the lyrics. This anthem expresses the bitterness associated with lost love. A listener doesn’t need to know what the lyrics are to know the vocalist is expressing emotional pain.
If you don’t know the song. listen to it the first time with your eyes closed. Just feel it. Then watch the video so you can read the lyrics.
The story is coming soon to a blog near you.
GREAT music to play in the background as you write. For a sampler, click below.
Author Brad Geagley offers a tip to put you in the mood when writing. It’s a quick read and gives food for thought. Who knows. Maybe this tactic will work for you. A cure for writer’s block.