21 July 2008

Superhero Crisis

I have been developing a commissioned playlist that has been giving me fits. It is a writing soundtrack for someone who is working on a story about a superhero struggling with being a superhero.

A writing soundtrack is different from a TV or film soundtrack. It is designed for the writer to listen to in pieces while working on the corresponding parts of a story. That means the pieces don't have to flow together, but it also means that you can't have the pieces commenting on or reinforcing each other much.

I was determined to track the inner life of the protagonist rather than the external action and I was also determined to not just recycle Big Metal Guitars battles. I settled on using acoustic strings to signal when the protag is in a good emotional state and electric when she is very agitated, with lyrics only on pieces that touch her love life. I also wanted the various strands of the story (love life, relationship with the Heroic Superhero Team, battles, etc.) to have connecting threads.

This became a problem when I realized that had lost access to the ex-partner's classical and jazz collection in the Big Breakup. I listen to classical music online, but I never remember the names of the composers or the pieces. I was searching online, but I wasn't getting anywhere and it was giving me a bit of stress.

But yesterday, Eureka! I ended up working a BBQ grill with a conservatory-trained musician who remembers everything. He pointed me at Shostakovich's String Quartet 8, which is "brutal". Bing! It was a winner and made everything else click right into place.

My last problem was the first piece, to show what the hero was like before she got her powers. What does an ordinary USAn schoolgirl with a happy attitude listen to these days? Beats me. That is way outside my range. I figured it had to be cute guys in their 20s, as is traditional, but other than that ... blank. Then I had another Eureka! That annoying earworm "Hey There Delilah" just fit the spot. Of course, now I have the earworm again, but it's worth it.

I'm going to let it sit a few days to make sure, but I really feel this is it. Of course, the client will probably insist on the Big Metal Guitars battles, but this is the director's cut and you know which one history will get behind.

I so totally rock my awesome super self that my hat hardly fits any more.

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