Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Musical Inspirations.

I've always been a very musical person.  I started buying CD's when I was seven or eight years old and in the past 25 years I've collected about 700 albums on disc, plus another 800 or so digitally.  Until I got married, the only time I wasn't listening to music was when I was watching a movie.  I've listened to my favorite album, Nine Inch Nails' The Downward Spiral, in excess of 5,000 times.

When I started to think about working on this next book, one of the first things I wanted to do was compile music to go with specific scenes, stories and moods I planned to write.  I envisioned these half-mile tall, beautiful creatures and the man-made cities built on them.  Then I figured if you fast-forwarded 100 years, the natural population growth would necessitate new housing with far fewer resources, so I pictured the most basic of shelters - sheet metal shacks, teepees, adobe houses - on top of these really efficient modern housing units.  I loved this idea of contemporary architecture sandwiched between signs of nature (the leviathan) and early civilization (mud huts and so on), likely all blanketed by a Dustbowl-era beige and brown and pale yellow, and it's inspired my research, my writing and my personal soundtracks.

I've plucked some lonesome guitar tunes from my library to help get me in the mood of the quiet, meandering life my characters live during the downtimes of the book.  German prog-metal act The Ocean have some beautiful instrumentals and their song "Siderian" is a frequent listen in my office.  The solitary guitar, moody New York saxophone and murky percussion are perfect for inspiring the book's culture of equal parts despondence and hope.  The same can be said for the short Radiohead instrumental "Hunting Bears."  Atticus Ross composed the score for the film The Book of Eli, and his piano song "Human" did a great job complementing the barren landscapes of the movie's post-apocalypse.

However, there's been no bigger musical influence on this book than the British musician Tricky.  I've been listening to Tricky for almost 20 years and I've never been more fascinated by one artist's sound than I am by his. He hasn't found as much success as his peers Massive Attack and Portishead, likely since their albums are considerably more radio-friendly, but he's an amazing producer and songwriter.  Tricky's sprechsegang whisper-growl is one of his trademarks, but his musical style is what attracted me to him for this novel.  Tricky often uses very earthen, natural sounds from music around the world like Jamaican ragga singing, acoustic guitar, saxophone and piano.  However, he dresses them up with clearly man-made electronic instruments like drum machines, old synthesizers and vocal samples/loops.  It's a great blend of traditional and modern, like a UFO traveled the planet plucking small elements from all our cultures then laid them down on synthetic, manufactured sounds.

In other words, it's exactly the musical equivalent of how I picture each civilization to live on my colossi.  Contemporary art and design sandwiched between nature and other lifestyles.  One example is his 1995 single "Ponderosa," using classic percussion and jazz singing simultaneously with keyboards and DJ'ing.

Of course there are several other artists I'm listening to to inspire the feel of this next book, but those will have to wait for another day.  Thanks for reading; stay tuned for more regular updates.

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