25 February 2011

Putting the Fantasy Back in Fantasy

Just re-watched Avatar, which again got me pondering on a topic that has been on my mind a lot in recent years.

The thing is, there's lots of interesting fantasy out there, in a variety of mediums. A lot of it, however, is set in fairly ordinary, medieval (and Tolkien) influenced worlds. That's fine, of course, to an extent. Tolkien is my all time favourite writer, and I love Middle-earth, but when watching many modern movies and playing modern video games, I find myself yearning for something more. Where is the imagination? Where is the exotic? Where are the, well, Pandoras? If you took the aesthetic vision of Avatar, and combined it with perhaps a slightly less cliched plot, you could have something truly wonderful. And that is, of course, only one possible world out of an endless number that could exist if imagination was the only limit.

In movies there is of course the question of expense. A medieval fantasy is obviously easier and cheaper to create than a glowing jungle filled with imaginative creatures. But in video games this should be less of a problem. Games like The Elder Scrolls series are bringing whole fantasy worlds alive, so why not let the imagination really soar while you're at it? Japanese games traditionally have been a little better in this respect, but there have been few really great titles in that scene in recent years.

When I'm designing my own worlds, for my role-playing games etc., I strive to make them in some way imaginative and exotic, even when borrowing elements from a variety of sources. Regretfully, I'm not at all gifted in visual arts, nor am I even particularly good at describing things verbally. The ability to sketch creations would certainly be helpful, both in the design stage and when sharing these creations with others.

23 February 2011

Dead River's Ghost

A motionless scene,
ice covers all but the sound:
a dead river's ghost.

(A blog post just for a single haiku may seem a bit over the top, but I wanted to share this moment from a walk earlier today, before I forget.)

20 February 2011

She Looks Warm

golden she rises
a hint of red about her
peeking, coy, from the midst of trees
she looks warm
while 'round her the night breathes blackness
and sharp shards of crystalline glimmer
sting flesh and pierce hearts
like illusions of endless despair
yet she looks warm
she alone touched by the sun
while 'round her the night breathes blackness
and the living flee that dead world
hide, safe in small havens
let sharp shards of crystalline wishes
sting minds and pierce hearts
with illusions of endless longing
and she looks warm
while down here we breathe blackness

16 February 2011

In Flight Logoistics

In my last blog post I mentioned musing on possible 'band names' or pseudonyms. While this was mostly for a bit of fun, there are deeper underlying issues there. Namely, the question of how I view my own identity as a musician/songwriter. While I like my name, it doesn't really say much about my interests or aesthetic goals. And of course lately I've been much influenced by metal bands, a world where cool names abound (frequently coupled with nice logos).

No really appealing pseudonyms, however, have presented themselves (and I remain a solo artist in any case, and don't really see a band happening in the foreseeable future, as I don't think there are that many suitable people among my friends and I have no interest in working with strangers), so I started thinking that an alternative could be to continue using my own name but design a nice, shiny logo around it. Of course it would have to be something a little gothic or fantastic to reflect my interests.

So I experimented a little last night and came up with one candidate, which is currently up on my music page, with some spiffy effects slapped on, to boot. (Another version, with very different effects, is in this preliminary cover draft for my next recording experiment.) The font is called 'Mincer', on Debian it's part of the package 'ttf-aenigma'. The wing graphic is from openclipart.org. The whole thing was put together in Inkscape.

The logo, at this stage, is primarily aimed for use in connection with my musical projects, both on websites and possible album artwork. Whether I'll stick with it, and for how long, it's too early to say, of course...

Wings and flying are a theme that's been much on my mind of late. They've played a very concrete role in my current RPG campaign (and thus my latest music projects as well), seeing as how it contains both winged creatures and flying machines, but they've also played a part in my more philosophical ponderings of late. In this context I like to see them as a metaphor for imagination and creativity.

11 February 2011

Bainton's Bane and Other Friday Night Musings

I was just wondering, if I ever had a band, or even a nom de plume for a solo project, what might the name be? One of the first ideas that popped into my mind was Bainton's Bane. Nice bit of alliteration there, and there's the LotR allusion of course (but not too overt).

(One idea I've had for some time is Otagek or Otageg, 'I/we make music', but this would be for an exclusively Va'ita-related project, and I'm not 100% sure I would want to commit to only such a project, or have several simultaneous projects...)

In all honesty, I'm not at all sure I'd be a very good band member. For one thing, I'd want to focus a lot on my own ideas. However, I'm also very bad at communicating said ideas to others. The way I work when I'm writing (or recording) music is very unsystematic, just trying out things to see what works, not really writing much down in the way of notation. And since I'm not really a master of any instrument, I wouldn't know the first thing about arranging material for other people to play. So my ideal band mates would be people who at the same time were able to follow me without question and be creative and in charge of their own instruments; and, my confidence being what it is, were constantly supporting and encouraging me... Yeah. Right.

That being said, I'm not sure I can improve the quality of my recordings a whole lot currently, alone, my skills (and resources) being what they are (as I've undoubtedly written before). Something of a dilemma there.

Speaking of recordings, I ran my second ever musical RPG session a week ago. The project now has the title 'This Night of Songs and Flame-Lit Skies'. (Not pompous at all, no.) And no, I haven't done anything about recording the songs yet, although I've been meaning to start fiddling with some drum patterns all week. Last time I pushed myself to record the material in just one week. This time I'd like to try to proceed at a more leisurely pace, taking my time with it, and see if it makes any difference in the quality...

6 February 2011

Gimme Some Sid (With Free Music In!)

I've been listening to some stuff by this Swedish band called Machinae Supremacy recently. They basically combine power metal roots with some video game influence, and prominently feature chip tune sounds (particularly in the form of the SID sound chip, famous from the Commodore 64) in many of their songs.

They have several albums available commercially, but (and here's what makes this blog-worthy) there's also several albums' worth of free tracks they've done over the years available for download at their website. I always appreciate it when artists do stuff like this (imho, there's no marketing better than actually allowing the public to get to know you, without the need to immediately pay lots of money), particularly if they're not quite untalented, and Machinae Supremacy by no means aren't that. Although they haven't instantly made their way into my top favourites, there's some interesting ideas in there. Personally, I'd like to hear even more chip tune stuff, though. And the vocalist isn't necessarily to everyone's liking (though I think he may be slowly growing on me)... Still, for free material this is by no means bad.