Take Joy In Your Craft #1

I was recently re-familiarizing myself with the music of Velvet Underground, and “Run Run Run” on YouTube led me to “Run Boy Run” by Woodkid. I’d missed the song in 2013, which isn’t surprising since I was no longer in the music business and I don’t hear a lot of French artists on the radio.

From the tolling bell that opened the song, I knew I was going to like it. But after three-and-a-half minutes, I felt like I’d just watched a video of my childhood fantasies.

If there was any other kid, aside from Luke Skywalker, that I’d pretended to be, it was Max from Where The Wild Things Are. And so this video, showing a kid playing fantasy and running with monsters? Heck yeah – I’ve watched it ten times in the last week.

OK, that was mostly an aside, but the video is too fun not to share.

Anyway, my enjoyment led me to a live version of the song, and this brings me to the point of the post. Near the end of the performance in Montreux (7:00), Woodkid invites the audience to take up the intonation of the chorus. When they begin, there’s a wonderful joy that spreads across his face. I don’t believe it has anything to do with satisfying a need for adulation. To me, it’s because he has made a connection with strangers. He has given them something and they have reciprocated in kind.

Thirty seconds later, he transforms that joy into energy. It’s a contagious thing and immediately spreads throughout the audience. It continues until the song ends. However, to the amazement of Woodkid and the performers on stage with him, the audience spontaneously picks up the chorus again (8:45). And that joy returns.

To me, art is two-way communication. A person is giving something and receiving something in return. Perhaps it’s immediate, such as in this video. Very often, it is never known, as was the tragedy of Vincent Van Gogh.

Nevertheless, people are grateful when art touches them, though they might not think of it that way, or even put it into words. They sing along, they cry, they stand transfixed as their eyes drink in the details of something that inspires them.

I believe this amongst the most important exchanges that humans can have, and that makes it one of the most powerful things in the world.

Everyone who creates something has a goal in mind. This is mine.

Mike


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© Michael Wallevand, September 2019

Music and the Muse

This post is approximately 900 words, most of them song titles and artists.

Writers want to evoke specific emotions within the reader, which sometimes means you have to feel them yourself as you write. On those days when the Muse is with you, and She’s of generous mood, it’s easy. You’re typing as fast as thought, and you laugh or you cry as you experience those terrible, wonderful, breathtaking moments with your characters.

It can be draining. There’s an emotional, and often physical toll. It might even make you reconsider your next venture to the keyboard because you just don’t have the strength.

Sometimes, you need a little help. Or, Muse forgive me, other inspiration. For me, it’s music, although it can also be art, books, or even a stick. Heck, I write about it all the time – click for more posts that discuss inspiration.

But I digress. I often listen to music as I write, generally preferring songs without lyrics (i.e. movie soundtracks). However, when I need a stronger emotional inspiration, I put on some of these songs. I might even listen to one track on repeat, letting my mind drift into the story. Maybe I’m in the car; maybe I’m taking a walk. When I’m finally in the right frame of mind, I start writing. When it works, oh man, it works. When it doesn’t, well, it’s gotten me to the keyboard, and even a bad day of writing is better than one without any writing at all!

Without further preface, here’s a partial list. You’ll find love and loss, sadness and melancholy, anger, hope, and heroism. Maybe you’ll discover some new tunes, too!

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Inspiration: the Star Wars soundtrack

This post is approximately 900 words and focuses on one of my favorite topics: Music. Ooh, and Star Wars.

Star Wars reel-to-reel 1You won’t be surprised that Star Wars has been hugely influential to this 40-something writer. It’s second only to family in that regard. I’ll probably write about that on some future date. A large part of my adoration/zeal/mania is the soundtrack. I’ll get to this in a moment, so please bear with me while I set the stage, sounding like an old man as I do so.

When I was a kid, we didn’t have streaming services that allowed us to watch any movie when we wanted. We didn’t have cable. VCRs were around $1,000 and video tapes were $100.

I grew up twenty miles from the nearest movie theater, which doesn’t sound like much these days, but when you’re on the edge of the North Dakota prairie, you don’t make a lot of trips “to town”. Back then, you saw a movie once, and you might never see it again. If you were lucky, one of your three TV channels might air it, though your rooftop antenna was at the mercy of the elements. Yes, yes, first-world problems.

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Inspiration: Chemistry by Semisonic

This post is approximately 900 words and focuses on one of my favorite topics: Music.

Semisonic 1Oh man, I’ve been meaning to write a post like this for awhile. Ideas have been churning in my head for years. Years! I’m excited to finally get to it, and I hope this comes through in my writing! It will be the first in a series that covers storytelling in lyrics and what writers can learn (similar posts can be found here: Influencers). The hardest part, aside from finally taking the time, was choosing which song to cover first. Honestly, in two minutes I could list a hundred songs to write about, but as I listened to a playlist tonight, it came down to two: Prince’s “Starfish and Coffee” and Semisonic’s “Chemistry“.

A friend and former colleague one told me that Dan Wilson was “finest singer/songwriter ever.” As is common with people in the music biz, he said it with a fervor that would suffer no debate. And while I’m not overly familiar with Dan’s solo work, I do know a fair number of Semisonic songs. I find it hard to disagree. Because of that, this is not the only Semisonic track I’ll write about, though for the sake of diversity, I’ll probably write about a number of other songs before I get back to them. Continue reading

Writing Exercise: Discovering Chris Cornell

This post is approximately 500 words. Occasionally, I write about artists who inspire me. I should probably do that more.

chris-cornell-3Today is a day much like one twenty-five years ago. I’m in blue jeans and flannel, and outside it feels like Autumn is being carried away by the harbinger winds of Winter. I’m listening to Soundgarden’s magnificent Badmotorfinger, though unlike today, in 1992 it was my first play-through, I was sitting in my freshman dorm room, and Chris Cornell was still alive.

I was fortunate to have a roommate who brought a large CD collection to college, and I recall pawing through discs to satisfy my ravenous appetite for music. I discovered three albums that I distinctly remember to this day: Steve Miller Band’s Greatest Hits (74-78), Metallica’s Master of Puppets, and Badmotorfinger.

 

 

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The Prince Influence 2 Me

This post is about 700 words.

I love the process of creating art. For me, it’s writing. I love hearing successful people talk about their own trials and influences. I could watch Inside The Actor’s Studio, Behind The Music, and the audio commentaries of movies for days. I’ve read Stephen King’s On Writing a dozen times. But I also love talking with fellow hopefuls about our own struggles.

Prince

It is in this spirit that I share a piece of myself tonight. I lost an idol today. A one-way friendship with a person unaware of my existence, although his music spoke to me as though he did.

Prince.

A single word that needs a million other words in definition. Fortunately for you, I’ll only use about 700 tonight. The words come slowly, but they come (heh, that sounds like a sentence Prince would approve of, so I’ll allow it).

He’s been one of my biggest influences and I’m staggered by his death today. I’m not a musician anymore, but consider myself a kindred creative spirit (albeit distantly related). When I say he was an inspiration, this isn’t an exaggeration or a lame attempt to connect my blog to the flood of news following his death. It’s a simple truth. Aside from family and Star Wars, I can’t think of anything else in my life that’s been as present or influential as Prince.

As I sat in stunned silence at work today, recalling fond music memories and trying to keep the void at bay, my writer’s brain started organizing thoughts. It occurred to me that I learned four very important things from him.

Prince2401141. Create limitless art. Man, he was fearless. His life seemed to be a constant experiment with music that resulted in beautiful, crazy, innovative, inspirational art. But it wasn’t only music. Look at his fashion over the years. The album covers for Dirty Mind and Lovesexy. He assembled musical groups. Created movies. He absorbed and synthesized musical styles, the results of which were distinctly Prince. His life was art and it knew no bounds.

2. Don’t compromise your beliefs. Whether the symbol-shaped middle finger he gave to Warner Music or his ongoing fight against digital music piracy, Prince stood strong for what he believed in, even if it cost him money. Perhaps more importantly, he knew who he was, what he needed to be, and when he needed to change. He reinvented the word reinvention. Despite this, we never questioned who Prince was – it was obvious. We might not have known what we’d see next, but we knew it would be 100% Prince.

3. Strive to master many different disciplines and styles. I just mentioned his style reinvention, so I’ll speak to his talent with instruments. It’s said that he sometimes showed a musician how he wanted them to play his song, the result of which would be the musician’s realization that he could play better than they could. I heard Tommy Barbarella of NPG say something similar on the radio today. He wasn’t just a brilliant lyricist with an incredible fashion sense. He was a multi-talented musician who was never restrained by the confines of definition or convention.

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