Monthly Archives: May 2012

Barsoom Like No Other

I listen to a lot of soundtracks. And I mean a lot. Alongside speculative fiction, soundtracks (for movies, games, television shows, etc) are my drug of choice. It’s hard to imagine a world without those two things. When I read, I have a score playing in the background. When I write fiction, invariably, I’ll have my headphones plugged into my computer, obscuring the world around me, enveloping me in the world that my brain has built around the sound. And at work, it’s what helps me get through the entirety of the day.

I love me soundtracks. And I love thinking about them. And one of the things that’s caught my attention over the past few years is the move away from any sort of recognisable usage of leitmotifs or even hummable melodies. I could list any number of soundtracks (for major movies and shows) that eschew identifiable cues in favour of music that compliments the action on screen but never quite enhances it.

As a result, I was dreadfully worried about what was going to happen to John Carter of Mars, upon its arrival in cinemas. Here was a score that demanded the composer take it seriously, and give it the treatment it deserves. And when it was announced that Michael Giacchino would be composing the score, my trepidation increased. Whilst his work on Star Trek was passably acceptable, his previous work (Medal of Honour aside) felt unfocused and dissonant.

And yet with John Carter of Mars, somehow he managed to surprise the hell out of me. Here is a score that doesn’t just feature sweeping, grand themes, reminiscent of John Williams filtered through Maurice-Alexis Jarre, oh no. It also features moments of tenderness, wonder, even – dare I say? – tranquility. And of course, a fair amount of his famous love of shivering violins.

And yet, 20 seconds into track 2 (‘Get Carter’) there is comes: a sweeping, majestic theme that hasn’t been heard in popular film scores since David Arnold’s Stargate. Or consider track 8: ‘The Blue Light Special’. A haunting choir, featured as an ever-so-slight counter-point to the strings, before fading out and letting Giacchino unleash a melody that takes a highly unexpected cue romantic cue that could have come from Mussorgsky himself, had he been at the helm of the orchestra.

From beginning to end, this is an excellent score. It accomplishes most if not all of what it set out to do. Of all the film scores I’ve heard in the last year, this is the one that’s stood out the most thus far. And not many popular filmscores are content to do that anymore. Here’s one that does.

Leave a comment

Filed under Listen to some music, Science-fiction!

A Foxtrot Around My Feet

Oftentimes, being an alien is terribly wonderful. Me? I find it relaxing. It never stops being invigorating. It reminds me that I’m somewhere that isn’t home. Which is problematic, because my “home” doesn’t exist. The Soviet Union hasn’t existed since I was nearly a teenager. So it’s rather liberating to realise that there will never be a place in this world where I won’t be an ‘alien’. Knowing that makes life somehow more interesting. More colourful. It very definitely makes it much funnier, as was the case this past Saturday.

Why, you ask? Well, let me tell you why.

I went to a charity on Saturday evening, to help a friend’s aunt out. She had an operation, and now is walking, talking and strutting about as though she never had any problems. It was marvellous to see. But her operation was quite expensive, even by Australian standards. So of course, her family put together a charity and invited me to come.

Now, charities are usually far from fun. They’re usually quite the dour affair, serious and mature. And I just cannot do mature. Not for very long, at least. And when I am, it’s at events such as company meetings. Or my first meeting with the parents of the girl I’m dating. But I thought “this is clearly one of those serious, adult things that I’ve heard so much about”, so I wore my suit (which wikipedia tells me is ‘smart casual’, but which everyone else in the world seems to think is ‘business casual’). Yet wikipedia had images differentiating between the different kinds of ‘casual’, just to drive the point home firmly.

I showed up with my friend Noni, and realised all too quickly that I may have over-dressed. After being flattered by an older couple, and being told that I looked quite sharp, we settled in, after doing the obligatory rounds of hellos, how are yous, shaking hands, and of course, giving my boss the booklets that she left at work. I’m hoping she’ll remember that when the time comes to revue my salary grade.

Now, I love me my trivia, but what made the night stand out wasn’t the trivia (nor the all-too-easy Bond query) but rather, the events. In particular: dummy spitting. Now, you see, I can spit. I can spit quite well. When you’re a kid, you develop some truly fascinating skill sets to cope with the fact that you have to put up with adults and all their strange rules. So I learned how to spit really well. And so I thought “Yeah, this competition has my name written all over it!” So up to the stage I went. And got handed a pacifier.

I stared at it a minute. Clearly, someone had written the word ‘confusion’ on my face without my noticing, because the organiser of the competition asked what was wrong. “Well, why did you give me a pacifier?’

He tilted his head ever so slightly to one side. “What, you don’t call them dummies wherever you’re from?”

“Well, no. I’m accustomed to calling them pacifiers. I thought that, y’know, I was the dummy. A dummy who’d be spitting.”

Laughter followed, because the alien hadn’t known that the pacifier was called a dummy in Australia. Well no, I didn’t. Which is how I found myself on stage, in front of well over 100 people, pacifier in my mouth, attempting to spit it as far as possible. For charity.

Leave a comment

Filed under My relentlessly fascinating life, Telling stories