Monday, 21 September 2015

Cutting Edge vs Accessibility

I recently read a book on Australian women composers, Women of Note. It didn't list every Aussie sheila composer (because there are a lot of us), but listed some of the more influential ones.

Maybe. There were a few I thought who should be in there, but weren't. Like Elissa Milne.

One thing I did notice was that the later composers were all avante garde, on the cutting edge of style.

For example, fellow Perth composer Cat Hope:

This modern atonal, arhythmic style is very much Not My Thing. As a student of music, i can understand the genius behind it, and have performed similar pieces, but does it appeal to my taste? Not really.

I also got to thinking about modern art--you know, the strange, abstract splattered-paint-on-a-canvas kind of art. Again, I don't get it as much as I think the artist wants me to get it. Even if the artist's main point was to get me to think, I fear she  may have failed with me, when my only thought is, "Huh?"

Nevertheless, all Art and all Music does get me thinking on a certain level, namely, What Do I Like?

I spent most of my musical life playing the violin, either as a solo instrument or in an orchestra of some kind. Like all music students from the U of U, I did pick up some piano skills, and later refined them from the AMEB. I find the piano as one of the more indispensable tools for composition.

It is in learning the piano that I discovered what I love most about  music: harmony. I love how sounds blend together, especially how that blending will sing to the human heart.

I've also discovered I have a taste for music with Romantic-era influences. Most of my elective pieces for the past few grades have been from the Romantic era.

Also, thinking about the music I love to listen to, I discovered that I mostly prefer....


Yep, Soundtracks, as in the music you hear on movies, and the music you hear in video games.

Video games?!?

Absolutely. It's beautiful, evocative stuff that is very reminiscent of the 19th Century Romantic-era compositions. Most working composers today earn their crusts through composing sound tracks.

Soundtracks are specifically designed to portray emotionality. It's like they are telling you how you should feel.  For example, nothing says "ridiculous slapstick" like the Benny Hill theme, aka "Yackety Sax". Another example is the spookily addictive bell-like opening tune to Harry Potter. (I set it as my ringtone for several years.)

As Jazz defined the first half of the 20th Century and Rock'n'Roll the second half, I declare the Soundtrack to be the definitive music of the beginning 21st Century.

Why?  Because it's so highly accessible to the masses. Everyone listens to soundtracks, whether they realise it or not. This is what our descendants will note as the definitive and noteworthy music composition of this time.

John Williams (all hail the master!)
Danny Elfman
Nigel Westlake

Even if you might not recognise their names, you'd certainly recognise their music.

Ultimately, I believe art should reflect the Human Experience in a way that many humans can relate to. For this to truly succeed, I feel it needs to be accessible to them.

Soundtracks certainly do that.

Her Grace would be a career composer if she couldn't be a career author.

Tuesday, 1 September 2015

Passing the Bechdel-Wallace test

When writing heterosexual Romance stories, especially shorter works like a novella, it can be difficult for a story to pass the Bechdel-Wallace test. After all, the plot arc is all about Our Hero and Our Heroine getting together for an HEA. Because of that, most of the conversations that happen in the story tend to revolve around characters and their goals. This means most, if not all conversations in a Romance novella will include or be about Our Hero.

I confess I haven't given it much thought until now, but in "FOR RICHER, FOR POORER" my characters have conversations about:

  • genealogy and family history
  • food
  • flowers
  • property development
  • storage and transportation of antiques
  • history

That alone lifts it a level from the usual conversational topics of a Romance novel.

I'm happy to say that my novella "FOR RICHER, FOR POORER" also passes the Bechdel-Wallace test with this conversation:

Francie turned to Beatrice and changed her tactics. She became soft-spoken, though she never lost the steel behind her voice. "My dear Miss Nottham," she began. "I know how much you love family history, especially something so important as this. I'm sure someone as knowledgeable as you has a preservation room…"

Beatrice gave her a startled look? Preservation room? Of course not. Then she quickly looked away, but too late. Francie must have seen her very thoughts on Beatrice's face, for the Englishwoman's smile eased into smooth triumph.

"…but I do question the conditions on the spaceplane. I doubt they will not be too kind to the poor tapestry. Something so old cannot be subjected to three Gees on takeoff and landing."

Beatrice's heart ached. Was Francie right? A spaceplane journey, which only took three hours instead of the usual nine or ten of an airplane flight, did suffer from an increase in gravitational pull as the plane accelerated up to the troposphere. Then, while at the top of the parabola there was the fun yet sometimes nauseating sense of weightlessness. Then there was the descent where the bottom of the parabola increased to three Gees before settling back to the normal one Gee at ground-level. Would the tapestry survive? Goodness knows the flight made her queasy.

Get FOR RICHER, FOR POORER by Heidi Kneale from The Wild Rose Press or wherever quality ebooks are sold.

Her Grace wonders, how important is topic diversity to you in a Romance novel?