escapewindow: escape window (escape(window) typewriter)

Last night I laid down basslines while polishing off half a bottle of pinot noir. This is maybe the fifth or eighth time I've sat down and tried to start these remixes, and it's the furthest I've gotten. I had to cheat a little approach it in a new way.

First I looped Mike's vocals in Live and browsed my mp3 collection... finding songs I pictured the remix sounding like, listening to how the vocals lay over the tracks, time stretching when needed. Once I found an appropriate song to guide the overall feel of the remix, I copied it into Live, then improvised complementary lines over it. Once I lay down enough tracks, I'll remove the mp3 and let the remix stand on its own.

Cheating? Sure. But with time stretching and the original songs' structures firmly embedded in my mind, I was having a near impossible time of hearing an idea that would work... and when I did, I lost it before I could successfully recapture it on tape.

Go is on the faster side, with bitter breakup lyrics (courtesy of Battery's NV). I slowed it down and reached straight for a song I've been wanting to copy mimic for a while now that I thought might fit perfectly... and it does. I wasn't able to write a bassline as dangerous-yet-sensuous as the original, slow strip club music for the riveting drop-dead gorgeous feature dancer that no one can tear their eyes away from. Instead I went with something a bit more dancy and will try to recapture part of that sensuousness with a slightly edgy pad, the drums, and other rhythmic elements.

Add a little piano and a ton of guitar wanking and voila. A ton of editing and nitpicking later I'll be done.

Etched was by far the trickier of the two. At 87.5bpm it's in that tempo range where double- or half-timing the tempo results in either the music or vocals sounding too fast or too slow within the acceptable limits of time stretching.

I tried eight or so songs with it, stretching both the mp3 and vocals to try to reach some modicum of rhythmic compatibility. In the end I found it, in a newer song that's just fast enough to be an energetic dance hit. The current vocals don't quite line up, so I'll have to slice it up by phrase if not by word or even syllable.

The mp3 is a very sparse dance track. Not sure if I'll be able to stick to those guidelines or if I'll end up filling in the empty spaces.

All in all I'm glad to be working again. And this particular process is allowing me to intimately study and break down the composition of two [more] tracks that I'm a big fan of. Here's hoping I can finish one or both of these.

escapewindow: escape window (escape(window) typewriter)

Octavia E. Butler is brilliant. If I had half of her storytelling ability, I'd consider myself a master of the craft.

In Bloodchild and Other Stories, she includes two essays on writing. The first, Positive Obsession, is about her need to write. Her absolute inability to not write. And she speaks of escapism and emotions that sound all too familiar.

Shyness is shit.

It isn't cute or feminine or appealing. It's torment, and it's shit.

I spent a lot of my childhood and adolescence staring at the ground. It's a wonder I didn't become a geologist. I whispered. People were always saying, "Speak up! We can't hear you."

I believed I was ugly and stupid, clumsy, and socially helpless. I also thought that everyone would notice these faults if I drew attention to myself. I wanted to disappear. Instead, I grew to be six feet tall. Boys in particular seemed to assume that I had done this growing deliberately and that I should be ridiculed for it as often as possible.

I hid out in a big pink notebook -- one that would hold a whole ream of paper. I made myself a universe in it. There I could be a magic horse, a Martian, a telepath.... There I could be anywhere but here, any time but now, with any people but these.

(excerpt from Positive Obsession)

I read this not long after viewing most of Edvard Munch, in which Peter Watkins attributes many of Munch's breakthroughs to his youthful negative obsession over a woman and his positive obsession with conveying his jealousy and pain through his painting. Artists: are we so predictable?

The second essay, Furor Scribendi, is Butler's advice to aspiring writers, which can also be applied to a great many topics outside of writing.

First forget inspiration. Habit is more dependable. Habit will sustain you whether you're inspired or not. Habit will help you finish and polish your stories. Inspiration won't. Habit is persistence in practice.

Forget talent. If you have it, fine. Use it. If you don't have it, it doesn't matter. As habit is more dependable than inspiration, continued learning is more dependable than talent. Never let pride or laziness prevent you from learning, improving your work, changing its direction when necessary. Persistence is essential to any writer -- the persistence to finish your work, to keep writing in spite of rejection, to keep reading, studying, submitting work for sale. But stubbornness, the refusal to change unproductive behavior or to revise unsalable work can be lethal to your writing hopes.

Finally, don't worry about imagination. You have all the imagination you need, and all the reading, journal writing, and learning you will be doing will stimulate it. Play with your ideas. Have fun with them. Don't worry about being silly or outrageous or wrong. So much of writing is fun. It's first letting your interests and your imagination take you anywhere at all. Once you're able to do that, you'll have more ideas than you can use. Then the real work of fashioning them into a story begins. Stay with it.


(excerpt from Furor Scribendi)

I used to read every how-to book on creative writing that I could get my hands on. These would vary in how much they would emphasize writing over reading and thinking (or vice versa) but none of them put it quite so eloquently. Part of that is how this passage takes your excuse of "but I don't have enough ______________ right now" and turns it on its ear. The other is the acknowledgement that you can't get by on pure talent. Those who work hard and keep at it will pass you by.

This also reminds me of the three virtues of a perl programmer in how it takes three attributes (inspiration, talent, imagination) and inverts their assumed level of desirability or necessity.

I want to live on the waterfront with a gorgeous view of the waves. I want to know exactly what I want in life, now that I've adjusted my expectations. And I want to have those habits, that work ethic of Octavia E. Butler's, that bypasses excuses, doesn't wait for inspiration to strike, doesn't allow for "feel like it".

I suppose I'll see which of those happens first.

July 2014

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