May 13, 2017

Using music as a world-building tool

My novel's soundtrack orbits around two simple ideas :
- creating soundscapes allows me to travel through my imaginary world, like an explorer.
- rendering the important scenes into musical themes allows me to strengthen the concepts that are behind the story, and to appropriate the emotional and cognitive background of my characters.


I often use music to explore places that challenge my envisioning capacity.
The idea is to get another perception of the said places, through the feelings they inspire to the characters.
"Esmelin" is a pure world-building track. It matches the scene where the heroes enter a narrow pass in the massif of Esmelin, then climb the "impossible stairs" that the almighty Alassirs carved in the rock when they waged war on Angkur in the olden days.
In my novel, the forces of nature are omnipresent. The characters regard their environment as alive, and "spirited". Esmelin has not forgotten the war, and has not forgiven the wounds that were inflicted on her. Therefore, she is hostile to intruders, and demonstrates her anger by rumbling and trembling.
Wrathful rocks, awe-inspiring marks left by the Demiurges, and the unwavering determination of the heroes : blending all that into a soundscape enabled me to see the big picture, then to render it with words.

The song is built upon two musical themes :
- Esmelin, which depicts the broad massif of sandstone rocks, and then the awe-inspiring stairs, as seen through the eyes of the young Glenen.
- Lubnis (to evoke the Alassirs), which enters at 2:38.
Then the two themes merge, and the first part of Esmelin comes back at the end of the song.

Scenes (and associated concepts)

"The Garkhor" is a good example of how I approach a specific scene, while including background knowledge, history, cosmology...

In the olden days, Angkur disrupted the balance that the Anaveth had created, and the world was changed. New forms of life appeared, some fragile, some robust and terryfying. That was the time when Undo, "the Dark Light", was born. Angkur made his Veil out of it, so as to cover the world with Darkness.
Lubnis managed to thrust back the Veil in the depths of the world, but the Dark Light endured, sometimes appearing under other guises.
Its most redoubtable manifestations are the Undoveth, dreadful servants of Angkur, that arise out of nowhere at the behest of their master, and that only the Pahiran, heirs to the Demiurges, can defeat.
The day is dawning when Sindeahn, Asendehl and Garahn halt, at the end of a senseless run in the wild. A gust of wind shakes the big oak near them, and suddenly, he is there : the Garkhor, colossus of shadow, coming out of the void to kill them. The three companions have no choice but fight.
Sindeahn of Aand has spent the past twenty years manipulating the ancient forces to come up with devastating weapons. He lures the Garkhor away from his friends, and smashes it to pieces with a single sling-bullet.

All this is rendered into distinctive themes :

Intro : Dark Light (In this part, it's more about sound than about melodies.)
1:32 => 2:09 : Anaveth
3:05 => 3:41 : Pahiran
4:00 : Dark Light + Sindeahn's Artifices

Cultural elements

I love exploring my civilizations through music. Composing "Funeral" allowed me to look deeper into the Alaendirs' mortuary rites. 

In the beginning of my novel, the House of Ganmor holds the funeral of two members of their elite corpse, who have been killed in an attack at the frontier.
The Alaendir do not die of natural causes, therefore this kind of event seldom happens. It is the first time that Nohindel (Caeniehl's fourteen years old son) is confronted with death.

During the War, cremation was mandatory in the Five Houses, but now that peace reigns again, only the Houses of Aand and Surien carry on with incineration. The House of Ganmor allows people to choose the rites that will be held when they die.
One of the dead has opted for a burial in the forest. At the end of the ceremony, three achenes are planted in the earth, above his body.
The other one has chosen to be exposed to the elements. His body is taken on the heights, for nature to decide what she will do with it.
The day after the funeral, Caeniehl comforts his son. He explains him that death is ineluctable, even for the Alaendirs, and that the dead have rejoined Vaeros. As for their bodies, it is their last gift to the Earth, that has sheltered and cherished them while they were alive.

The theme I have used in this song is the lament that the mourners sing to say farewell to their dead. Basically, it says : "Goodbye, children of Armon. Rise towards Vaeros, in the Great Forest, rise towards the Light, in the infinite skies."

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