Classical Inspiration

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I was listening to some classical music earlier.  I do that a lot these days.  I just can’t get enough of it.  Anyway, as I was listening, a sentence just popped into my mind. 

“Are you ******* kidding me?”

I didn’t react, I just waited to see what would happen next.  A brief conversation exchange went on in my head.

This happens to me fairly often.  Don’t worry, I’m not really crazy.  I don’t think I am, anyway.

I’m a writer. 

Ask any writer and they’ll probably tell you the same thing happens to them.

I hope.

Anyway, what often happens is a sentence, or a piece of description, or, like today, a fragment of conversation will just pop into my head, often when I’m distracted by something entirely unconnected to writing.  The most annoying time it happens is when I’m in the shower.  You might be surprised by how often that happens.  It must be something about the water hitting your head, maybe invigorating the brain.

The snippets usually relate to something I’m working on.  Or sometimes they’ll inspire a whole new story.  Which can be really annoying when you’re already working on something and you suddenly have this sexy new idea knocking on your brain, demanding to be let out.

So far the story seems to center around a young man who’s having a bad week.  He went on two job interviews, missing out on both.  His girlfriend just left him.  He’s behind on the rent and the landlord is making threatening noises about eviction.  So he decides to wallow in misery by playing a depressing piece of classical music.  I googled the most depressing classical music and one piece that came up a lot is Bach’s Come, Sweet Death.  Not only is the title ideal, the music itself definitely fits the bill.  But, hey, if anyone knows of a more depressing piece of classical music then please feel free to suggest it!  So the idea is a rough and ready heavy metal fan who died has been sent to be a guardian angel for someone who’s a classical music buff.  Should be an interesting mix…

I’ve already blogged about how listening to classical music helped me with my editing last week, even leading to a huge breakthrough on chapter one, something that had been bothering me for a long time.  It seems classical music can also inspire me in my general writing and story ideas.

Classical music: It’s not just for listening to.  Apparently.

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What’s Your Classical Obsession?

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Okay, so I’ve been a classical music fanatic for a couple of weeks now.  And I really do mean fanatic.  There is something about this music that speaks to my soul.  But as much as I’m trying to broaden my classical horizons by listening to as many composers as I can, there’s that one piece of music I find I keep coming back to.

Ravel’s Bolero.

There’s just something about this tune that I can’t get out of my head.  I love the constant drumbeat that runs right throughout the whole thing.  I love the way the drumbeat starts very faintly, as though from far away, slowly building in volume.  I love the way the whole thing builds up from gentle to a rousing crescendo.  I love the way each individual instrument gets its moment in the sun.  The flute.  The clarinet.  The trombone.  They all get to add their unique sound and stand out from the rest. 

There are two renditions I find myself returning to on YouTube.  I must watch both of them at least every other day.

This is the first one:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fTd3ZsvqDiQ

For sheer fun and the joy of music it’s hard to beat.  I love that it’s all young people playing it.  And they’re pretty good!  I love watching the faces of the tourists as they listen.  It’s great seeing people enjoy classical music.

Then when I want to hear a more serious version I turn to this one:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AmEJLoawItU

For me, this is the best rendition I’ve ever heard.  I love listening to music conducted by Sergiu Celibidache.  This was the first time I watched him.  Then I watched two videos the same day of Dvorak’s 9th Symphony.  The first one was ok, I liked it enough. I don’t remember who conducted it.  But later on I watched another 9th Symphony video with Sergiu Celibidache conducting and what a difference!  The music just seemed more vivid, more alive.  I loved it.  He seemed to get that extra something out of the performers. 

So this is my go to piece when I want a quick fix of classical.  What’s yours? 

 

 

One Crazy Winter

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It’s been one crazy winter!  I don’t remember much snow in November or December, but so far in 2014 we’ve had over 50 inches of snow!  Most of that in a month and a half.  Now, I love snow.  Usually.  But I think I’m suffering from snow fatigue.  Is there such a word?  If not, then I just made it up.  And it should exist because I think most of the US is feeling it. 

I’ve only been living in the US for nine years.  I’m an Englsihman born and raised.  I moved to the US in February 2005. Staten Island, to be precise.  Ironically I landed at JFK airport right in the middle of a snowstorm, where we got anything from 8 inches to a foot!  Welcome to America!  Of course, I loved it.  We don’t see snow like that in England.  Oh it snows, but over there if you get four or five inches that’s a lot.  Maybe in northern England it snows more, but not in the south, which is where I’m from. Since that day I’ve seen 2 foot snowstorms.  A few years ago we had two 17 inch snowstorms sandwich a 3 inch storm all in the same month.  But somehow this year beats them all.  Maybe it’s partly the cold.  January in particular was a bitter month where our temp got down to single digits several times.  Now I’m going to be yelled at by people who’ve experienced frequent below zero temps.  Yes, I’m aware it can and does get colder in other parts of the US.  But five degrees is plenty cold enough for me thank you very much.

So, since I lived here, we’ve  been snowed in twice.  The first time was, I believe, in 2010.  The infamous boxing day blizzard.  Our storm door opens outwards and the snow was piled up so high against the door, I couldn’t push it open.  Luckily I was able to open the storm window and reach out to use the shovel to clear the snow away.  And this past week we’ve been housebound as the snow has piled up so much around our driveway we literally couldn’t get the car out.  I had to go out twice and hack away at ice as solid as granite before I could clear enough away that we could manouevre the car out.  The temp is currently 45 degrees and we’re meant to get up to 50.  Wey hey break out the shorts and t shirts!  It’s going to feel like summer!  We’re currently waiting for a front to bring thundery downpours. It’s knocking on our door as I type.

Sadly, the mild air is not going to last.  Dhe dreaded Polar Vortex, the phrase that became so infamous in January, is set to return for the start of next week, bringing with it at least two weeks of cold and multiple snow chances. 

Boo!

That snow fatigue is going to turn into snow exhaustion before Old Man Winter is done grumping at us.  I don’t know who’s upset him this year but whoever it is, could you please apologise already?  Spring cannot come soon enough.

On the brighter side, the cold and snow gives me an excellent excuse to sit and listen to more classical music.  Yes, I had to mention it again.  In fact I think it’s going to come up in almost all my blogs from now on.  What started as a simple curiousity has become a full blown obsession. I bought mt first classical music cd the other day. A best of Beethoven 3 cd box set. I’ve listened to it twice already. I might make it a third time later.

And as I type, there goes the first rumble of thunder.  See that?  With me you get not only a blog, but a weather report too!

A Muscial Voyage Of Discovery

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I’m continuing my journey of discovery in the world of classical music.  It really is becoming something of an obsession.  I even joined a meetup group today for classical music lovers.  I’m hoping to go to some concerts in the coming months.  I discovered another composer I really like in Dvorak.  Now I’m going to seek out more of his work.  It was suggested that I try his Symphony No 9 and I did.  It was wonderful.  There’s a piece of music in the second movement that a bread company called Hovis used to use in one of their commercials in England, my home country.  I always loved that piece of music but never realized it was classical.  It goes to show, many people actually like classical music without even knowing it.  I’m exploring the music on YouTube as well as the internet radio station, Pandora.  The good thing about Pandora is it plays the music randomly so I get to hear music I might never have heard because I wouldn’t know to go look for it.

I’m still waiting anxiously to get my first classical cd’s.  We’ve been stuck at home since last Wednesday because of snow and ice.  We tried to go out last night but the car kept getting stuck.  I dug out a lot of ice today so tomorrow we’re off out.  Hopefully we’ll get to B&N because I have a B&N card that i’m longing to use.  The upside of this is I have more time to listen to classical music, and more time to work out what cd’s I want.  Working from home is a good thing at times like this. 

Oh, I also heard a piece of music from Strauss today that I really liked.  On The Beautiful Blue Danube.  I knew the tune but hadn’t known the name of it or who composed it.  What a beautiful tune.  That’s another composer I have to check out for more.  And I haven’t started on Brahms, Liszt, Vivaldi, Ravel (though I love Bolero!) and so many others.  I’ve listened to some of Bach’s music and liked what I heard so far.  There’s just so much new music waiting to be discovered.  Well, I meant new to me.  But you knew that, didn’t you? 😉  Now I think I know what it feels like to be a kid locked in a candy store.

One last note, I know a lot of writers discuss what music they listen to when writing.  I never really had anything until now.  But with the wealth of incredible classical music out there I should find music to suit whatever mood I want to invoke in my writing. 

And to anyone who thinks classical music is boring or old fashioned, maybe you just haven’t listened to the right ones yet.  There is such a variety of music to choose from.  Light and airy, bold and brassy, tranquil, sad, angry you name it.  There’s a piece of classical music to suit every emotion you can think of.

The Triumph of the Human Spirit

Every now and then you come across something so inspirational it changes your whole mindset.  And since I’ve taken a keen interest in classical music, I’ve seen and heard a lot of inspiring things. But here is a young man who is blind, but plays the piano so beautifully you would never guess it.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wbAoeZZvntk

Videos like this show that the human spirit can not only endure, but can actually thrive in the most trying conditions.  Although he can’t even see the keyboard, Nobuyuki plays the piano faultlessly. 

As a type two diabetic, one of my greatest fears is going blind.  Diabetes is the leading cause of blindness.  Just the idea of not being able to see where I’m going terrifies me.  Not to mention the idea of not being able to read. Yet here is one individual who not only learned to llive with his disability, but he has been able to thrive despite it.

 

Nobuyuki, you are an inspiration to us all.

A Taste For Classical

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Okay, so I now have another obsession.  Like I don’t already have enough, what with writing, Doctor Who and football.  But several days ago I was browsing on YouTube, looking for something fun to listen to.  I saw something about popular classical music and decided to listen,  I was in the mood for something different.  So I listened to pieces such as 1812 Overture, Moonlight Sonata, William Tell Overture and several others.  I was surprised by how much I enjoyed listening to them.  So I decided to take this new interest one step further and seek out individual composers to hear what else they had.  After all, when you go to a foreign country you don’t just stay at the resort, do you?  If you want a true flavour of the country you go off the beaten track.  You take the road less traveled.  Well, just listening to the popular classics is a bit like staying at the resort.  It’s fun, but you can’t help wondering what else you’re missing.

So I did a search on Mozart and spent a couple of hours listening to various pieces he’d created.  I don’t think I heard a single piece I didn’t enjoy.  The following night I tried out Tchaikovski and spent another hour wallowing in the most beautiful sounds ever created.  The next night I checked out Chopin.  And the next night I butted heads with Beethoven.  Those are my top four composers so far.  I also listened to Haydn, Brahms and Bach.  Everything is so good, but those top four I mentioned are my firm favourites.  So far.  I just can’t stop listening to it!

I’ve even taken to listening to classical music at night before I fall asleep.  It’s so relaxing.  Last night I listened to Tchaikovski’s The Nutcracker.  It was wonderful. 

Here’s one of my absolute favourite classical pieces…

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AmEJLoawItU

The music is just amazing.  And I love watching the conductor.  He really gives it everything he’s got.  And he visibly slumps with exhaustion when it’s over.  I remember first hearing this piece when watching Torville and Dean win Olympic gold in 1984.  Has it really been thirty years?  It seems appropriate then that I should develop a taste for classical music on such a great anniversary.  I actually watched their performance on the anniversary of their win.  I didn’t even know at the time of watching it WAS the anniversary.  Synchronisity at its finest.

Last night was another first.  I decided to dust off my work in progress, Psychic Witness, and settle in for some serious editing.  While listening to classical music.  It really seemed to help as the editing just flowed.  For once.  I’m actually starting to believe I can get this novel finished and out there for people to read.

Anyway, I’d love to hear from any other classical music fans out there. Maybe you can point me to composers and music I don’t even know of yet.   

Verity! Extra! – We Wish You a Merry Smith-mas!

One of the best Doctor Who podcasts I’ve found so far.

VerityPodcast.com

VerityExtraMattSmith-300Though it pains us to say it (some more than others), the time of our beloved Matt Smith’s tenure as the Doctor is almost at an end. (By the time you get around to this, it may well be over.) Join ALL of the Verities(!) Deb, Erika, Katrina, Liz, Lynne, and Tansy, as we discuss why we think he’s been so successful in the role and reminisce about our favorite 11th-Doctor stories. We’re all excited about Peter Capaldi, but we can’t help being sad to see such a wonderful Doctor say farewell.

It’s another extra-long Extra! as our holiday gift to you. (Or maybe it’s just that we have a lot to say, and when ALL SIX of us are together it takes even longer to say it!)

^E

Download or listen now (runtime 1:08:54) 

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Doctor Who: An Obsession

So at what point does a show go from being a passion to an obsession.  I’ve loved Doctor Who since I was about five years old.  Back in the day when Tom Baker was just getting started,  I’ve always loved the show.  Barely a week has gone by when I didn’t watch at least one Doctor Who, whether from the Classic series or the new series.

Then came the 50th celebration.

My passion for the show went into overdrive!  During the week leading up to that 50th anniversary episode I watched Doctor Who every single day.  Multiple episodes at that, from both the classic and the new series.  And in fact a day hasn’t gone by SINCE the 50th that I haven’t watched at least one episode.  Even today I watched two.  It’s all I tweet about on Twitter.  I’ve started to blog about it, I’m currently reading a Target novel, and of course I keep watching it.

A mad man who stole a blue box.

What is it about this show that excites so much passion?  I see from people I follow on Twitter that I’m not alone in this.  I was at Gallifrey One convention in LA earlier this year.  The amount of people in cos play was amazing.  People all over the world love this show.  It makes me so proud to be a Whovian.  I’ve been mad about the program since the time when it was a nerdy thing and was considered uncool.  Look at the show run now!

I guess there really is nothing else like it out there.  There are plenty of creative and imaginative shows on our screens.  But nothing, NOTHING like Doctor Who.  Wouldn’t we all love a TARDIS of our own.  On the outside, it’s just a simple blue police box.  But when you see it on your screen you know something magical is happening.  That’s the only way to describe Doctor Who.  Magical.

Right from its humble beginning, as a filler to give families something to watch after the sports and before the prime time shows come on, the show captured the imagination of a nation. Athough there was neither the budget or the technology to match the ambition of the producers, they tried to show us things we had never seen before.  Ok, so the effects were often cheesy.  But the stories weren’t.  Classic Who has given us some unforgettable stories and monsters scary enough to chase us behind the sofa.  Ok, I only hid behind the sofa once as a child, but some of the creatures were frightening.  Daleks.  Cybermen.  Sontarans.  Ice Warriors.  Zygons.

Now the show has caught up with technology enough to be able to produce some amazing effects.  Episodes like Planet of the Ood and the Rings of Akhaten have shown us spectacular alien worlds.  The monsters are scarier still.  The show goes on. And on. And on.

Hopefully for another fifty years.

Day Of The Doctor – a review (spoilers ahead)

This blog is about the Day of the Doctor episode.  There are spoliers so if you haven’t seen the episode please go and watch it before reading on.  I don’t want to ruin the story for anyone!

 

 

 

 

So, now the dust is settling after the geekiest week of my life.  And what a week it was.  With all the build up to the most important episode in the history of Doctor Who, with the wonderful docu-drama, Adventures In Space And Time, with the highly entertaining spoof, Five(ish) Doctors Rebooted,  and of course with the episode itself, it’s been quite a week for Whovians.

I actually watched the episode twice today.  I think you have to.  The first time you watch it you’re all awash with excitement so you miss details.  The second time of watching, you’re not quite so emotional so you pick up things you miss the first time.

I loved the episode overall.  It was huge. It was bold.  It was cinemtaic.  It was hugely entertaining.  But one thing did bother me as I started to digest what I’d seen.  If everything changed, would I still want to watch episodes from the earlier seasons?  After all, what relevance do they have now.  Gallifrey falls no more.  The Doctor didn’t destroy his home planet.  So that renders the previous seasons meaningless.  Right?

Wrong.  I picked it up on the second viewing.  Hurt’s Doctor comments to Smith’s Doctor that when he goes back to his own timeline, he won’t remember that he saved Gallifrey instead of destroying it.  Which means Ecclestone’s Doctor won’t be aware that he didn’t destroy his homeworld.  He’ll go around talking about it, believing he did it, but we’ll know the truth.  That somehow seems more tragic when you think about it.  Imagine carrying around all that guilt for something you didn’t even do.  But in essence, as far as Ecclestone’s concerned, nothing has changed.  Ecclestone carries all the guilt and anger.  Tennant starts to wonder as he’ll be aware they tried to save Gallifrey.  And Smith finds out for sure. 

Time travel.  It’s a complicated business.  It’s probably a good thing it’s not possible to go backwards and forwards in time.  Or as far as we currently know, it isn’t.  But imagine what the world would be like if we could freely roam around in time.  History would be constantly changing.  How messed up would that be?  One of the things I like about Moffat is he does like to explore big ideas.  Sometimes I think his ideas are bigger than he can perhaps handle, but Doctor Who sure isn’t dull with him at the helm.  Frustrating, yes.  Dull, no.  I can follow his logic in this story.  Imagine if you’d done something so terrible that the guilt would be a huge weight on your shoulders for the rest of your life.  If someone came up with a way you can change that who wouldn’t take a risk.  Never mind that the Timelords have their rules about interfering in timelines.  Especially your own.  If you could undo your actions, ease that burden of guilt, you’d do whatever it takes.  I’ve always had a bit of a problem with the Doctor destroying Gallifrey anyway.  It goes so far against everything the Doctor has ever stood for.  The man who abhors violence, who won’t even carry a gun despite the constant dangers he faces, commits mass genocide.  On his own people, no less.  I just couldn’t see it.  I didn’t want to see it.  So I was happy to see that he was able to undo his most terrible act.  And who knows what repurcussions will result from this.  It was heavily inferred that the Timelords were changed by the Time War.  That they’d become almost as bad as the Daleks.  So when Gallifrey is finally found and released from being frozen in time, it remains to be seen whether they will be benevolent or hostile.  Time will tell.

But with the emergence of John Hurt’s War Doctor, other problems arise.  Like the numbering of the Doctors.  We’re all geeks really, right?  It’s not just me?  We like to know the order they run in. You’ll notice I used the names rather than numbers for the Doctors.  That’s because there’s some confusion now of the exact order.  We were calling Hurt’s Doctor eight and a half because he didn’t count.  He was the abomination. The Oncoming Storm.  Destroyer of Worlds.  Except…well, he isn’t, now.  It looks like he’s got his Doctor status back.  So shouldn’t he count as Doctor nine?  I wonder if there will be some official statement to that effect in the coming days.  Imagine the consternation among people who make a living over this sort of detail.  People who write books in which the Doctors are all neatly labelled and numbered.  I can imagine Moffat had a big grin on his face as he wrote this story….

So for the story itself…wasn’t it fun?  Zygons.  THREE Doctors, lots of wibbly wobbly timey wimey, and then the surprise at the end.  Tom Baker!  That was a huge treat for me.  Tom has always been my Doctor.  He was my first.  And you never forget your first Doctor.  I should know. I have a t-shirt that says it!  That was a lovely touch at the end.  And then there was that blink-and-you’ll-miss-it glimse of Peter Capaldi.  Well, his eyes anyway.  And doesn’t he look ferocious?  I think it’s going to be very interesting to see how he plays the role.

The only problem I have with the story is how abruptly we switch tracks.  One minute we’re in a story with Zygons, the next we’re off to the Time War.  It doesn’t really seem the Zygons storyline has been fully resolved.  When we last saw them they were deep in negotiations.  Maybe we’re just supposed to infer it all went well.  Or maybe we’ll return to them at Christmas….

Ahh, Christmas.  So much still to come.  The fall of the Eleventh.  Or is it the Twelth now?  Damn you, Moffat! *Shakes fist*  And, of course, that first glimpse of our new Doctor, Peter Capaldi  Let the good times roll!.