Friday, 15 November 2013

The sound of inspiration

I have only been a fan of Mike Oldfield's music for the past few months. Prior to that time I was aware only of his arguably most famous work, Tubular Bells, more commonly known as the theme to the 1973 horror movie The Exorcist. It had never occurred to me to research the man behind the music.

The motivations that started me on his trail escape my present memory but needless to say once discovered I found his range of music quite unexpected. Oldfield's latest album Music of the Spheres (released way back in 2008) is a particularly fine piece of work and easily one of my favourite albums. I'd even go so far as to say it could be our modern day answer to Holst's own suite, The Planets.

But the one single track that has ensnared my senses is Mont St Michel from the 1996 album Voyager. The entire album is unabashedly Celtic with melancholic strings and wavering wind instruments galore. But the final track is a veritable tour de force and if I were to choose a sound for my own world this would be it.

A link to the track is provided for your listening pleasure.

Several key timestamps in this track remind me very strongly of certain points in my story. So perfectly do they fit that I have not even had to struggle to match them up. This track is an absolutely brilliant resource for helping me to picture my scenes in vivid detail. I don't just see them now; I feel them.

00:00 - 01:22 - Nasrin steps into a whole new world. The endless plains stretch out in semi-darkness before her as an orange sun peeks above the horizon casting the sky in cloud lined streaks of blue and gold. She sees the village ahead of her.

01:22 - 06:23 - Nasrin arrives at the village just in time to see it awaken. A solitary figure steps forth from a small thatched hut, places a flute-like instrument to her lips and plays a sombre but beautiful tune. As the sun rises higher in the sky many more people appear from their homes, quietly and serenely they go about their daily business.

06:23 - 08:25 - We cut to the fox, Dexderidas, as he races through a forest of thin, tall trees. His nimble frame darts between the trees as if they are nothing. Close to his heels runs a dog; the hunter and his faithful pet in hot pursuit. As the forest grows dense branches whip at the fox. He flees desperately, running for his life.

08:25 - 09:43 -Nasrin sits beside a glowing camp fire, all about her is darkness. Close by sits a hunched figure, the silhouette of Reinhart, a ranger of Mera Skova. He is a man of few words, a man whos reputation is viewed with great disdain. Yet he shows Nasrin kindness. This can also be used for a later Reinhart scene... which I will not spoil.

09:43 - 12:16 - The triumphant return. I think this section explains itself, after all it would ruin everything to simply explain the ending here.

I am very excited for Oldfield's new album Man on the Rocks, due for release in January next year.

Friday, 1 November 2013

Assignment One

I have just sent the first assignment of my Writer's Bureau novel and short story writing course on for marking.

The majority of the first assignment is just basic busywork so the tutor can get a feel for the level their student is currently at. One of the tasks was to pick a location or event, take notes on what I saw/felt/experienced and then write between 300 and 500 words to describe it. I chose fairfield church and the surrounding area. I came in just under the 500 words. Self editing is hard!

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An  endless  patchwork  of  faded  fields  lay  before  me,  a  featureless  landscape  largely  devoid  of  settlement  or  civilisation.  The  sea  once  laid  claim  to  these  lands  until  man  wrested  it  from  nature’s  hard  grasp.  Now  it  appears  that  the  Romney  Marshes  have  been  long  forgotten  by  tide  and  time.  It  remains  a  wetland,  rubbed  raw  by  the  unrelenting  fury  of  salt  infused  winds  that  hail  from  the  coast;  a  bitter  maw  that  nips  spitefully  at  the  exposed  skin  of  the  world.  Life  cannot  be  said  to  thrive  here  but  it  certainly  endures; sharpened  blackthorn  stems  and  parched  wildgrass.

The  sound  of  distant  machinery  finds  passage  on  the  wind;  a  tractor  works  a  nearby  field.  White  gulls  gather  and  form  lines  about  the  vehicle.  They  flock  and  flee  with  the  movement  of  the  plough,  eager  for  the  spoils  of  turned  earth.  Twenty  six  gleaming  turbines  turn  steadily  against  the  skyline.  So  metered  is  their  methodical  motion  that  their  very  presence  is  rendered  all  the  more  alien;  they  are  too  mechanical  for  this  landscape.

In  the  ghost  parish  of  Fairfield  St.  Thomas  à  Becket  church  stands  at  the  centre  of  an  isolated  field  amidst  stagnant  water  courses  and  deep  trenches.  Many  of  the  area’s  tiny  communities  have  vanished  now,  their  previous  inhabitants  having  long  ago  perished  of  the  fevers  and  plagues  that  once  swept  this  area  with  indiscriminate  fervour.  There  are  no  headstones  here  to  mark  their  passing.  So  prone  was  the  area  to  flood  that  naught  but  a  waterlogged  consecration  would  await  those  interred  beneath  the  surface.

The  church  is  remarkable  perhaps  not  in  design  but  for  its  age  and  endurance.  Once  nothing  more  than  a  simple  wooden  chapel  the  brittle  thirteenth  century  remains  now  lie  entombed  within  a  sturdy  brick  casing;  an  effective  eighteenth  century  method  of  preservation.  Over  time  the  wood  surfaces  have  suffered  and  warped;  deep  exposed  veins  run  through  dry  shrunken  skin.  Weather-worn  bricks  made  pocked  and  uneven  are  smothered  by  the  slow  suffocating  presence  of  lichens  born  from  the  damp,  sterile  air.  At  the  tower’s  apex  a  weathervane  in  the  image  of  a  cockerel  quivers  against  the  wind,  fluttering  ruefully  against  its  fastenings. 

The  silence  is  abruptly  pierced  by  the  banshee  screech  of  a  nearby  level  crossing  and  the  mechanical  whine  of  an  approaching  train.  A  blade  of  Southern  green  and  white  carves  a  passage  through  the  frozen  air,  gliding  on  shining-topped  lines  of  rusted  steel.  And  then,  as  soon  as  it  came,  it  was  gone;  just  another  transient  journeyman.

My  own  thoughts  have  faded  now,  having  departed  on  a  train  of  their  own.  I  find  my  gaze  returning  to  the  sky  where  I  witness  once  more  the  tireless  persistence  of  turbine  motion.  I  recall  musing  previously  on  their  ill  fitting  presence  in  this  landscape.  Perhaps  I  was  wrong.  There  may  yet  be  a  place  for  them  in  this  cold,  indifferent  land.

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Frisk, signing off.