Posts Tagged Arvo Part

The Undercover Soundtrack – Wendy Storer

for logo‘Drumming is my heartbeat’

Once a week I host a writer who uses music as part of their creative environment – perhaps to connect with a character, populate a mysterious place, or hold  a moment still to explore its depths. This week my guest is Mslexia award-winning YA novelist Wendy Storer @WendyStorer

Soundtrack by Metallica, Linkin Park, Papa Roach, Avenged Sevenfold, Rush, Green Day, Razorlight, The Killers, Blink 182, Led Zeppelin, Rolling Stones, Nirvana, The Who, Black Sabbath, Iron Maiden, Sugarcult, Rise Against, Arvo Part, Willie Nelson, Seafood

Bring Me Sunshine is the story of a young musician, Daisy, a wannabe rock drummer thwarted in her ambition by her dad’s resistance to noise. She’s 15 when she realises his bizarre behaviour and increasing number of memory lapses might be due to more than a quirky personality, and as the story unfolds the impact of Dad’s dementia on Daisy’s life is uncovered.

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Hope, direction and power

I couldn’t have written this story without immersing myself in the sort of music Daisy loved and aspired to play.

Drumming is my heartbeat…

she says; it gives her hope, direction and power. When she can no longer play, she is lost.

I listened to hours, days, weeks’ worth of music in order to put myself in Daisy’s shoes. I found myself thinking ‘Daisy would LOVE this’, or ‘this isn’t Daisy at all’. I discovered bands like Linkin Park, Papa Roach, Avenged Sevenfold and Rush, and made myself a playlist of their music. Other bands on the list were Green Day, Razorlight, The Killers, Blink 182, as well as the rock gods of my own teen years: Led Zeppelin, Rolling Stones, Nirvana, The Who, Black Sabbath, Iron Maiden, Metallica…

Daisy’s playlist took me back in time to the memory of what it was like to be a teenager, (messing up at school, falling in love for the first time, wanting something so terribly badly that just didn’t seem possible) and helped me connect to her life now.

Bring Me Sunshine is a sad story, but it’s also a story of hope, of living in the moment and how that sets Daisy free, so the music I chose to listen to was often tinged with sadness, always powerful and at times liberating.

This song for example – Nothing Else Matters by Metallica – never failed to put me in touch with Daisy. I imagined her wrestling with her fears, afraid of the consequences of both truth and lies, then hearing Metallica’s power ballad about the need to trust in ourselves and be true to who we really are, before coming down on the side of truth.

Songs for resonance

Each chapter is a song title, and every single song was chosen deliberately for its emotional resonance. Daisy listens to: Numb by Linkin Park when she first starts to realise something is wrong with Dad; I Miss You by Blink 182 when she’s remembering her mum; Memory by Sugarcult when Dad remembers his brother Ziggy; No Prayer for the Dying by Iron Maiden when Daisy and little brother Sam go out into the stormy night to search for their lost dad. These are all powerful pieces of music with a touch of melancholy, and mean something in the context of Daisy’s experiences in the book. This is Letting Go by Rise Against has a more hopeful vibe and it’s what Daisy (and I) listen to when Daisy finally faces up to her problems and tells someone what’s going on at home.

And so my playlist, my undercover soundtrack, is also Daisy’s. Apart from this one piece of music – Variationen zur Gesundung von Arinuschka by Arvo Pärt. I would often listen to this while out on Kendal Castle with my dogs. It’s a piano solo, which begins with a simple melody and builds into something more complete and rounded. There was something about the quiet minimalism of this tune which always helped me get back to the story. There’s still that hint of melancholy in the beginning, but as the tune builds, the deliberateness and focus somehow takes over. On reflection there is something about this tune which mirrors Daisy’s journey. I did not know until I wrote this post that the title means Variations for the Healing of Arinushka. I couldn’t find anything about the history if this piece but I completely ‘get’ how the healing quality of this piece has always led me back to Daisy’s story.

New Bring Me Sunshine-KindleThe referenced title track of Bring Me Sunshine is an acoustic version of the song by Willie Nelson.  Sunshine (both literally and metaphorically) is what Daisy needs in her life.

If I had to choose one song from Daisy’s playlist to represent the story, I would choose this one – This Is Not An Exit, by Seafood with Caroline Banks on drums. It comes near the end of the story, when Daisy has started to play the drums again and is able to listen to tracks with female drummers once more. This song captures the mood of the book for me. There’s something about the quality of the sound, the chord dynamics and the lyrics also, which resonates with the Daisy in me, in a way that the other songs don’t quite. When I hear this, I can feel Daisy fighting back, finding herself and knowing that whatever has happened in the past, and whatever else happens in the future, she will find a way to be happy.

Wendy Storer is the author of YA stories Bring Me Sunshine and Where Bluebirds Fly. Bring Me Sunshine was a finalist in the Mslexia Children’s Novel Competition 2012. She is interested in stories which tug at the heart strings and the amazing resilience of people who battle through desperate situations to come out the other side, happier. Originally from Essex, Wendy now lives in Cumbria where she teaches creative writing to adults and children, and offers editorial help to writers through Magic Beans literary service. When not writing, Wendy likes to walk her dogs, spend time with her family, and find new and exciting food combinations involving peanut butter. Find her on her website, blog, and on Twitter as @WendyStorer

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The Undercover Soundtrack – Nigel Featherstone

for logo‘How could I make these characters living and lovable people?’

Once a week I host a writer who uses music as part of their creative process – perhaps to open a secret channel to understand a character, populate a mysterious place, or explore the depths in a pivotal moment. This week my guest is award-winning novelist, short-story writer, creative journalist and online literary journal editor Nigel Featherstone

Soundtrack by Arvo Part, Jonsi, Phil RetroSpector, The Commodores, Turin Brakes, Nick Cave

What would the world be without music? I shudder to think. What would many fictional worlds be without music? Surely the only answer is this: not as rich, not as deep, not as engaging. At least that’s my answer, and it’s one I believe in – very much. No day goes by without music playing an almost unfathomably massive role in my life; it’s a rare 24-hour period when music doesn’t move me. And when I read I hope that I’ll be moved, and when I write I hope that I’ll move readers. What other aim should there be?

Jonny's NF photo 2012 (landscape)Earlier on, years ago now, I would write to music: the Estonian minimalist composer Arvo Part was a favourite, as was Canadian post-rockers Godspeed You! Black Emperor. These days, however, music is all around me but when it’s time for words to go down on the page – my first drafts are written by putting a blue Bic pen to paper – I need silence. Still, at the beginning of 2010, when I ventured out of my little house in regional New South Wales to spend a month as a writer-in-residence in Launceston, Tasmania, I made sure to have a small collection of CDs with me, otherwise I’d be lost, perilously lost.

The novella
I went down to Tasmania to work on short stories, but as is the way with these things I left that peaceful island state with the somewhat sketchy first drafts of three novellas. I’m Ready Now, published recently by Blemish Books, was the first of these novellas to come out onto the page. The story concerns Lynne Gleeson, a wealthy 50-year-old woman whose husband has suddenly died, and her son Gordon, who is coming to the end of his ‘Year of Living Ridiculously’ – both are at the most critical cross-road of their lives, but will they make the right decisions? More importantly to the writing of I’m Ready Now, how could I make these two characters appear is if they are living, loving and lovable people with whom we’d want to spend time?

Finding a mother
Two albums I took to Tasmania were Jonsi’s Go and Phil RetroSpector’s Intro/Version. The former, by the Sigur Ros lead singer, is soft and cute and bubbly and moody and sometimes dark and ominous, the latter, which isn’t available commercially but can be downloaded from RetroSpector’s website, mashes classic artists such as Johnny Cash, David Bowie and New Order with relative newcomers such as REM, Muse and Sia. Somewhere between Jonsi and RetroSpector was the mother in my story. Except I didn’t really find her until I came across Sail On by The Commodores. There she was! Among the bad hair, sequined body-suits and pained musician expressions!

I'm Ready Now (Nigel Featherstone, Blemish Books, 2012)The Hobart-based Lynne Gleeson is a tough cookie, smart, determined, independent, as well as a romantic and maybe even a little naïve, and when we meet her in I’m Ready Now she’s coming to terms with losing her husband Eddie of a heart-attack after a game of golf. Heavy stuff. But Lynne also likes to laugh and I could imagine her as a kid dancing around her bedroom to Sail On, hairbrush in hand as a mic; I could also imagine her now that she’s thoroughly adult dancing around her loungeroom, wine-glass in hand, knowing that there’s a future out there for her – if only she’s brave enough to claim it.

Finding a son
When we meet Gordon he’s recently turned 30, living in Sydney and scratching out a crust as a professional photographer, kind-of-sort-of-maybe partnered with his boyfriend Levi, but really his main occupation – preoccupation – is his Year of Living Ridiculously, which involves spending his weekends enjoying all that Sydney has to offer, illicit and more. I liked Gordon from the beginning, despite his faults – I admired his naked desire to live big no matter what. But as his writer I found it hard to get beneath his skin. Until, that is, in a secondhand record-store in Hobart (I’d been invited to spend a weekend giving a workshop), I found Turin Brakes’s The Optimist LP, which contains a killer track called Underdog (Save Me). Ah yes, that’s it! Gordon is an underdog, that’s exactly what he is: just before his first birthday he was abandoned by his father, Lynne’s enigmatic but ultimately adventure-hungry first love from her high-school days. And Gordon needs saving, but despite all that his mother and boyfriend and his bestfriend are trying to do for him, the person do to the saving really is himself.

Ending
While it would be inappropriate – and downright cruel – of me to reveal what happens to dear old Lynne and her wayward son Gordon, what I can share with you is that ending I’m Ready Now was difficult. Really difficult. Firstly, I didn’t want to leave these people alone, I didn’t want them to leave me. Secondly, I simply didn’t know how to do it – the story builds and builds and then…what should be done? Thankfully Nick Cave stepped in; actually, he jumped up on the page and said, Can I help? He sure could. The Ship Song. The ending of this novella, such that it is – the story is as much about what happens after the last page is turned as it is about what’s on the pages in the first place – was built around those words of Cave’s, because it links so beautifully to Lynne’s Sail On and Gordon’s Underdog (Save Me). Sail on, good people, and be saved.

If music wasn’t in my life, I’m Ready Now wouldn’t be out there in the world at this very moment, doing what it has to do.

Thank Christ for music.

(Author photo by Jonny Lewis)

Nigel Featherstone is an Australian writer of contemporary adult fiction and creative journalism. He is the author of the novellas I’m Ready Now (Blemish Books 2012) and Fall on Me (Blemish Books 2011), which won the 2012 ACT Writing and Publishing Award for Fiction. His novel Remnants (Pandanus Books 2005) was published to considerable acclaim, as was his short-story collection, Joy (Ginninderra Press 2000). Nigel is also the author of 40 short stories published in Australian literary journals, including Meanjin, Island, and Overland, as well as in the US. He is a regular contributor to The Canberra Times and has held numerous writing residencies. He is the founder and editor of online literary journal Verity La, for which he received a Canberra Critics Circle Award for 2012. Nigel lives in Goulburn, New South Wales. Find him at his website

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