You rock Mr. Bradbury. So do you, Rachel Bloom.
You rock Mr. Bradbury. So do you, Rachel Bloom.
In 20 years when your kids or grandkids are watching whatever the next generation’s Steven Universe is going to be, you know who’s going to be the showrunner behind that future show of greatness? This girl right here. Animator Veronika Kusalová.
She has storyboarded Annabel Raises The Dead using her own handmade artwork. And it’s awesome. And this is how the great animators of tomorrow are born. Seriously. I am honored that someone of Miss Kusalova’s drive and ability has chosen my piece to be one of her early inspirations. I don’t know who Rebecca Sugar’s early inspirations were, but i bet they’d be thrilled to know it was they the artist in her early period was cutting her chops with.
I love this.
Without further ado…
But seriously, this is the best thing ever.
You’d think since i was doing a weird west cabaret i’d be listening to lots of old timey music and such (and to be fair i played the Hell On Wheels soundtrack non stop on my car for a week) but lately i’m in a really synthy mood. The soundtrack to Stranger Things (it’s so awesome), SVIIB’s School Of Seven Bells, Blond Redhead’s 23 and most of all, 65daysofstatic, in particular their Silent Running soundtrack.
65daysofstatic are a band from Sheffield who get classified as post-rock, a genre i lluuuuUUUURv, so i had checked them out based on that classification. However they are not really post rock as such. They are… an evolution into post rock, post math rock, electronica and glitch. Anyway i adore them. They’re first album The Fall Of Math is a great place to start. However, that album is not why we’re here today. I want to talk about the one that’s playing in my car stereo every other day: their soundtrack to Silent Running.
Silent Running is a 1972 sci fi film about a space ship containing the last remnants of plant life from Earth and the botonist who fights to keep it safe. I saw it years ago when from the ages of 19 to 22 i worked at a video store. It’s a… boring movie. Nice retro early 70s sci fi look. It was directed by Douglas Trumbull, who had previously worked as a special effects supervisor on 2001: A Space Odyssey and The Andromeda Strain. It’s kind of dull though.
Well, in 2011 the Galsgow Film Festival commissioned 65daysofstatic to rescore the movie and perform it live to a screening of the old sci fi classic. They did and afterwards ran an Indiegogo campaign to fund a studio recording.
It is this recording that is currently my album darling of the moment. Here is a track from the actual album which you can check out more of here, followed by some samples of the actual live rescoring (although audio quality is not nearly as fine as the album. I would love to watch a DVD of the album/movie
Psyche Chimère from Psyche Corporation performs the middle section of the 2nd song of Miss Helen’s Weird West Cabaret, Han Mi’s Evil Plot. Psyche is playing Han Mi on the upcoming album.
Every week the cabaret has a loose plotline, usually involving Han Mi planning some dastardly scheme and the sheriff foiling her. This week the scheme is supposed to be a stagecoach robbery, but Han Mi tells Miss Helen that the idea is stupid and cliche and unimaginative and she’s not doing it. Instead, she proposes this week they do an evil plan she came up with herself. This is that evil plan:
Wow! So this 17 year old high school kid in France, Théophile Lecroart, made an animation vid to the first half of the Dieselpunk Opera Overture! And very nicely i might add. Here it is:
A major component of musical storytelling i spend a lot of time contemplating and struggling with is how to deliver the in between song details. In the New Albion Trilogy i used a singing narrator for parts 1 and 3, but experimented with flat out spoken narration in Dieselpunk and the The Room Beneath. I even incorporated bits of dialogue, although spoken dialogue makes me very, very nervous. Still, i was pleased with the results so i continued to push the envelope.
By Slenderman i was confident enough to experiment with more and more spoken dialgue, including a type of recitative in some of the Zoe/Thomas exchanges. There was a lot of this type of exchange in the piece, indeed it was the heart of the piece, but moving forward i would never go quite that far again. And i question whether it worked, or where it worked and where it didn’t.
I have not listened to either The Slenderman Musical or The Atompunk Opera since they were released. I mean to… one day… but i really need to listen to Slenderman because i need to see what lessons i should have learned. I listened to The Hunt finally a few days ago and wanted to ritually kill myself with a samurai sword out of shame of doing a bad job. (Although giving the Slenderman a handjob was still magnificent.) This is nothing new, i’ve felt that way about every single album i’ve done at some point or another. I’ve been ashamed of Dolls, Dieselpunk, everything really at some point. Then i listen again some time much and think “oh, that’s not bad at all.” This is life.
In the Weird West Cabaret there is a significant amount of… stuff, character interaction, plot development, that occurs in between the main songs. This is one of the reasons i decided on a cabaret. Unlike the oddity of characters speaking or sing-interacting in a musical or opera, a cabaret can quite naturally have all sorts of dialogue and recitative devices occurring in between songs.
However, i’m still nervous and it’s still tricky. I worry that i really fucked this aspect up in Slenderman (although i could just listen to it a decide for myself after all this time) and wish to be very, very careful. But i also wish to continue my experiments and to play.
I have some spoken bits that i KNOW work. And they fit the form. And they’re the right quick, cute length. And some sung bits… i question. But if push comes to pull i need to favor sung bits. Because by the end, the interactions need to take place in multi-character epic songs. You know, like The Day They Come, where everybody sings at once. Well there’s a bunch more of that coming, and the piece needs to establish that as how its universe works. Yes, in this world people TOTALLY sing their thoughts back and forth to each other. In Dolls it works perfectly because no one EVER speaks, so this is easy to except.
But if we speak sometimes but not always, will this compromise the moments when we must sing our back and forth emotional dialogue? Do i cut out the speaking altogether? I really like the speaking bits… they work and i’m damn sure of it. If i did , though what the fuck do i do? I hate recitative, although i tried very hard to play with it during the initial Zoe/Thomas exchanges in Slenderman and i’m pretty sure they worked, although i REALLY need to listen to that damn thing. But i don’t want to repeat that, and i’m not going to.
I have a part where two performers are singing to each other in a beautiful melody (not a love song though) and i’m questioning whether it works. Because the lyrics lean towards a conversation. In a formal melody it’s almost… out or place. Still deciding on that, but it got me thinking and looking for solutions.
Then yesterday the concept of Sondheim recitative suddenly occurred to me. Sondheim doesn’t do recitative and yet he does. his characters deliver dialogue-like thoughts in melodic form, using a particular type of Sondheimish melody structure that works fantastically.
Into The Woods is a masterclass in delivering various types of dialogue without breaking the musical world. There IS actual spoken bits, there’s back and forth sung dialogue using melodies that make the cadence feel natural, there’s whatever the hell On The Steps Of The Palace is… a perfect, gorgeous properly sung song that at the same time is EXACTLY like spoken dialogue…
But of course what we are more interested in is delivering a dialogue-like communication in a non spoken form. Sondheim famously hates recitative and as a result creating a new form of it that perhaps i should use as inspiration to solve my quandry.
On the other hand, it is a cabaret, It has a playful quality at times, being a small performance that can deliver spoken bits and shtick quite naturally as an intregal part of the very form itself. But yet it gets serious as it goes on, and that seriousness need reflected in the way the character interactions happen. What works closer to the beginning won’t work exactly the same in the later bits.
So i ponder.