The Soundtrack to Life

The Soundtrack to Life

A world without music is a world not worth living in. It’s a statement that I have repeated countless times as I truly believe that if we, as a species, did not have the capabilities of creating music, then there would be no worth to our lives. We’d just be empty shells roaming space on this cosmic rock lost in the forever forward movement of time. 

Music gives life colour. Music gives life inspiration. Music gives life fantasy. Music gives life emotion. Music gives life meaning. Without it, there would be no magic. Without it, life as we know it would not be. Some of humanities greatest achievements come from a foundation of music. Take for example the most valuable company in the world. Apple Inc. owes its current fortune to music. Without the iPod, Apple would not be the company it is today. 

Music has the power to relieve pain, escape sorrow and enable emotion in a way that nothing else can. The power of music is idyllic. It cannot be measured in any quantifiable way however, it can be felt in every aspect of life’s journey. That is the power of music. 

Music is entrenched in the DNA of life and for that reason, life deserves its very own soundtrack. I recently happened upon a YouTube channel that fills this mammoth task. All I can say is that every piece on this channel is the paragon of perfection. 

The Soundtrack to Life

Tolkien set to have a more productive 2017 than GRRM with release of new book

Tolkien set to have a more productive 2017 than GRRM with release of new book

“Among the tales of sorrow and of ruin that come down to us from the darkness of those days there are yet some in which amid weeping there is joy and under the shadow of death light that endures. And of these histories most fair still in the ears of the Elves is the tale of Beren and Lúthien.” – J.R.R. Tolkien, The Silmarillion

The tale of Beren and Luthien, as laid out in The Silmarillion and throughout the History of Middle Earth, narrates the tale of mortal Beren and elven Luthien as they find each other and their love tested by the ever darkening forces Morgoth. The tale is often considered as Tolkien’s greatest romantic tragedy. 

The tale is said to be inspired by Tolkien’s wife, Edith, who he met, much like Beren had, dancing in a glade seeming to him the paragon of perfection. The tale not only had a profound impact on the future of Middle Earth by setting precedent for the love between Arwen and Aragon at the end of Return of the King but also on the love of Tolkien and his wife as can be noted by the gravestone etching of Tolkien and Edith which read “Beren” and “Luthien” respectively. 

Now, almost an entire century after the tale was first penned, the Tolkien estate will release the story in it’s own standalone novel with accompanying illustration by talented fantasy artist Alan Lee. The book is set for release in May of 2017.  

Harry Potter and the cursed child – the (not really) eighth story in the Harry Potter saga 

Harry Potter and the cursed child – the (not really) eighth story in the Harry Potter saga 

When you start reading the script, you’re immediately hit with this avalanche of nostalgia. Being transported to platform 9 3/4, the Hogwarts express and our famous little trio. You’re excited. You’re ready to go back to Hogwarts. Ready to see what’s become of your beloved characters. Ready for adventure. 

We start off where the epilogue ended and we’re introduced to our new characters. We have Albus Severus (probably the biggest curse he ever got), Rose, James and most importantly, Scorpius Malfoy (who honestly, was the shining light in this script). 

The script then rushes past their first couple years at Hogwarts with Albus being sorted into Slytherin. We’re shown how the two became friends and where our trio has ended up: Hermione as minister for magic, Harry as head of magical law enforcement and Ron (the most underdeveloped and one dimensional character in this scrip) is running Weasley’s Wizard Wheezes. 

And that is where our problems begin. The characterization of so many characters in this script is so incorrect and inconsistent, it’s unforgivable. Ron is portrayed as just a pathetic side character. But he is not a pathetic side character. He has a personality, he has character but no, Thorne (the guy who wrote they play) decided to reduce his character to a one dimensional drunk who makes jokes. And it’s not only Ron, we see it throughout the script, specifically Snape and Dumbledore who are both portrayed as completely different characters from their original counterparts. 

But characterization is only a small part of the problem here. The problem here, and it is not specific to the cursed child in any way, is that when you get an “adaptor” (i.e. not the author) to write a story based in her universe, it comes across as fan fiction. And again, this is not specific to this story but the cursed child, specifically, does have a certain proclivity towards fan fiction. The Snape scene is the quintessential example of this point. The only thing that made that scene really stand out for me was reading it with Alan Rickman’s voice in mind, it gave me chills. 

Then we have the narrative itself. Using time travel as your driving plot point was always going to be a bad idea but what made this particular choice unforgivable was the inconsistency. If you look at how time travel is used in third book, it’s explained that one cannot change the past (and consequently the future) because you had already time travelled back in the first place. So those events were meant to occur any how (for example Harry conjuring the patronus. It was always going to be him conjuring the patronus). In the cursed child however, the same device (Time Turner) is used again but time travel is now, for some inexplicable reason, treated in a completely different manner. Now the past can be changed at will and the future will, consequently, be affected by said change (aka the butterfly effect). Again, this goes back to the fact that it is not the original author of the work who is writing the story and so facts are changed to fit the story the adaptor has in mind. 

And then we have the fact that the main villain is Voldermort’s daughter by Bellatrix conceived during wartime. I can’t even expand on this because it is just so unfathomable. I just can’t accept that as believable in any way or form. In my eyes, it was just lazy storytelling. 

I believe that there are two types of readers: the hardcore, fandom fanatics who will accept anything an author pushes out and can ignore inconsistencies and plot holes and enjoy the story anyways because it forms part of said universe. And then you have the second type of reader who will look at a story, love the fandom, love the franchise but will not be able to ignore the inconsistencies and plot holes set out like the first reader. This does not mean the second reader hates the franchise, it just means the second reader cannot, or does not, want to ignore these imperfections. I tend to be like the second reader, I love the franchise but I can’t just ignore the many imperfections contained within the cursed child. 

This is all not to say that the script is totally horrible and I hated it. I enjoyed it quite a bit and it was great to be able to travel back to Hogwarts and it was an even greater nostalgia bomb. The scenes between the original characters, especially Draco and Harry, were brilliant in their simplicity and call backs to old times, even if Ginny’s character was all over the place in her motives and intentions (first she’s blaming Harry then she’s apologizing, I don’t understand what they were thinking when they wrote her character). And then, as a I stated at the beginning, Scorpius Malfoy’s character was beautifully written and his relationship with Draco was really well done. 

In the end, I believe the script would have benefited from a better plot. The time travel element should have never been included. Instead, they should’ve created a story around Albus and Scorpius through the years in Slytherin. More of how they interacted with everyone at Hogwarts (being the son of Draco and Harry) and how Albus interacted with James and Lily (who were barely in the script – which I feel was a sad omission. So much could’ve been done with their characters). It would’ve also been a great “redemption” story for Slytherin. Having Harry Potter’s own son in your house is bound to make the label of “Evil House” less believable. 

This all begs the question: will I accept the cursed child as the eight story in the Harry Potter saga? Sadly, no. It was enjoyable and it had some truly great moments but overall, I don’t believe it earned the right to be a part of the original 7.

Season 6 Musing and the Finalè – A Time for Wolves 

Season 6 Musing and the Finalè – A Time for Wolves 

Let’s start off by saying that Game of Thrones’ teleportation game is the strongest it’s ever been. Varys stole Littlefinger’s abilities and spruced them up a bit. These characters have the most amazing skills when it comes to moving around the known world. It’s utterly ridiculous 😒. But more seriously, the finalè, again, proves just how cinematic this show can be. It was another beautifully shot and produced episode. And again, I praise the production team and director for doing such a phenomenal job (not only in the finalè but in season 6 as a whole). And I state again, rather frustratingly, that the writers have just thrown logic to the wind. 
Look, I have been quite vocal about my…disappointment with season 6 overall. It’s been wildly inconsistent. Character motivations seem to be driven in the service of the plot instead of actual character development and there has been little to no narrative logic to many episodes and it seems like a great many plot lines were just added to the narrative for “the fun of it.” Because, honestly, if you were to look at most of the NARRATIVE highlights (not visual) from season 6, most of them come from, GRRM himself. “The Door,” which in my opinion was the most on point episode of the season, came straight from the main man himself. “Promise me Ned” is straight out of ASOIAF lore. The hound returning has long been hinted, and predicted at, in the books. Jamie’s river lands storyline was stripped straight out of the pages of A Feast for Crows and the first half (which, unarguably, is the much better half) of Arya’s Braavos storyline also came out of A Feast for Crows and the Winds of Winter sample chapters. The point being that when the show veers away from the heart of what made GoT great, it doesn’t succeed. 

The prime example of this point is what has happened in Dorne. If they were going to do the Dorne-Targaeryn alliance, Doran should’ve been the one to carry out his master plan because, you know, beside the fact that he was actually a Martell who had a much more valid and logical reason (not to mention historical reasoning) to buddy up with Danaerys (and then obviously, Quentyn should have been added to the story, but that’s another argument entirely), it could’ve saved the Dorne plot line from the tragedy that it is 😑. 

This is all not to say that Game of Thrones is a bad show and that I hate it and will stop watching it. It doesn’t and I won’t. Even at its worst, it’s still light years better than most other shows on TV today. It’s just sad to see the show runners devolve the story from one of complexity and nuance to one filled with cliches and inaccuracies. 

Now, specifically, the finalè, which I would rank in my top three episodes of season 6 (with 9 and 5 being the other two), was a great 69 minutes of TV. If we were being completely honest, it was 69 minutes of fan service. Everything we, as fans wanted, we got. I loved the way Cersei’s descent into madness has been done and we finally got to see her watch in glee as a building was burnt down with wildfire. It was a great scene in the books. It’s been a long time coming 😃. I just hope that Jaime finally turns to his book persona and let’s go of her. Frey pies was finally confirmed 😁💯. It’s equal parts horrifying and satisfying. Jon being King in the North has been everyone’s dream since the first season started (though personally, I still want Bran to come and be King in the North) but we will see what happens 👀. Sam finally reaching Old Town means he can start his Maester training. It doesn’t look like they’re going to do the book version of it (with the Sphinx and the rest of them) which is a little sad but if they do decide to do it, it’ll be really cool 😃✊🏻. Danny getting out of Mereen and sailing for Westeros was the perfect way to end the season. Kings Landing has no idea what’s coming for them 👀🐉🔥. Fire and Blood forever 💯. And finally…the tower of joy. Six years. Six years I’ve waited for the Tower of Joy scene and even though I felt it was a little rushed I still loved it’s reveal. Lyanna’s “Promise me, Ned” line gave me chills, if only because it was the first hint we ever got in the books that Jon Snow’s parentage was not as it was presented. It was everything we could have ever hope for. I loved it. 

I’m curious to see what’s going to happen in season 7. I believe, and really hope, that it will be better than season 6 was. Dan and David have shown that they are capable of composing some brilliant scenes if they actually put their minds to it and make the right decisions and not just write scenes for the sake of writing them. Now my watch for season 7 begins. 

And just as a side not, I really hope and pray, and I really am praying to every god that exists, that we get the Winds of Winter by then 🙏🏻. 

A second side note, RIP Lady Stoneheart. I really had hope of your return this season but alas, you have, officially been cut. I cannot understand why but you have 😔. 

A quick thought on Season 6

A quick thought on Season 6

Look, #GoT at its worst will still always be better than most other shows around but that doesn’t excuse the shocking (not in the good way) writing and atrocious inconsistencies of this past season. And look, let’s not deny it, episode 9 (Battle of the Bastards) is probably GoT’s best episode to date but the reason it is the shows best episode is not due to the writing (a lot of it still makes no sense and is, quite simply, cringeworthy). What made “Battle of the Bastards” such an amazing episode was its direction, cinematography, acting, VFX and the way they weaved the soundtrack so subtly into the battle scenes. On the other hand, every plot point of episode 9 was predictable. Every beat was, for lack of a better word, obvious. But it was still one of the best episode the show has produced because, while the writing has been losing its quality since, around, halfway through season 5, the direction, VFX and production overall have increased drastically. One has to simply compare S02E09 to S06E09 to see the difference. And, to me, it’s just disappointing that the show has decided, now, at the tail end of its series run, to slack off in the quality of its writing. Logic seems to have been thrown to the winds (*cough* Arya’s plot *cough*). There is a lack of any nuance in its storylines. The plot lines have become shameful Hollywood cliches. None of the characters are truly “grey” anymore and the blame here rests solely on the show runners (Dan and David). Not the directors. Not the producers. Not the actors. No one. They have decided, for some arbitrary reason, to take the brilliant foundation set up by the first four seasons and completely destroy it and devolve the show into a parody of its former self. At the end of the day, I still love this show and it is still, as I said at the beginning, a better show than most out there. It’s just sad because we know it could’ve been a whole lot better than it currently is.

Raw Emotions 

Raw Emotions 

After the fifth episode of Game of Thrones (The Door) last week, I started pondering what it is that makes us so emotional seeing a beloved character die on screen. After all, we know that when a character dies on TV or in the movies, it’s not real. It’s not like the actor who plays that character actually dies. What then, is it, that makes us so emotional when a beloved character passes away? Now, I’m not a psychologist nor do I have some degree in human behavior but I think I may be able to explain what it is that makes us feel so much for these characters and it comes down to, in my personal understanding, a few fundamental aspects that, when coalesced together, elicits the raw emotion that we experience. 

First being scene composition. Now this arguably works better in visual mediums than it does in books simply because you have both auditory and visual stimuli to help you. The way a scene is shot and executed is vitally important. If the scene was not properly lit, you wouldn’t be able to see anything and the impact of what is trying to be conveyed is lost. If incorrect camera angles are used you may not even understand what is going on and again, the impact of the scene is lost. But when the lighting is spot on, the camera has been placed in the most optimum positions and the music swells up into great crescendos and washes over you like a wave, that is when all the raw emotion is unleashed from inside you and culminates in this wonderful and/or sorrowful moment of exhilaration.

However, none of that matters if there is absolutely no emotional investment by the audience. To explain what I mean by emotional investment, I am going to use Hodor and Game of Thrones as an example. If you have been watching Game Of Thrones since the beginning, you’ve most probably invested roughly six years of your life in this show. That’s a significant amount of time. So, for six years, you watch these characters on screen. You experience their trials and tribulations. You are essentially on a journey with these characters and over time, they become less like characters and more like real, living people. And when something devastating happens to them, it’s as if that devastating act has befallen you as well. As a reader of many books, this effect is compounded as you are now in the head space of the characters (usually when POV chapters are used) and when a tragic act comes to pass, you are experiencing this act first hand and so the emotional impact affects you at exactly the same time and manner as it does the character. And that is the crux of emotional investment. You have spent (read: invested) so much time and learnt so much about these characters that, to you, they are no longer characters. They are living, breathing people that exist and whatever act befalls them, be it negative or positive, will affect you in much the same way as it affects them. 

Now, what I have sort of downplayed so far is the impact that music has in these moments of emotional exhilaration. Because a scene can be composed as perfectly as humanely possible and you could have invested your entire life in this character but without the musical accompaniment, the moment could fall flat on its face. This is not to say that every great emotional scene needs a musical accompaniment, some situations call for dead silence or white noise, however, in most circumstances, the musical accompaniment is not only needed but is a necessity. Again, take the Hodor scene from last weeks episode. Without that mournful Game of Thrones theme playing softly in the background, I’d argue quite vehemently, that the scene would not have had the same level of emotional impact. You may still have been sad but would you have experienced that raw burst of mortifying pain and horror? I’d argue not. 

So far, I’ve based a great amount of this discussion on scenes that brought about emotional devastation and horror but what about scenes that elicit moments of pride or excitement? That exhilaration of adrenaline just before a massive attack, like the one in Lord of the Rings on the Pelennor fields when Theoden and the people of Rohan charge the massive army of orcs that lay siege to Minas Tirith. These are the scenes that give us goosebumps and make us sit on the edge of our seats and cheer the protagonists on. These are the scenes that every person who has ever watched anything in their lives, looks forward to. These are the scenes that make pop culture great. 

So what makes these scenes so emotionally grand? Of course scene composition plays a massive role here, again and emotional investment is needed, to a degree but there has to be a third aspect. One that is able to make us feel this massive exhilaration of emotion and that is, what I believe to be, a primal human desire to see the protagonist in a commanding and powerful position. When Theoden is above the Pelenor fields, he is in a position of power and is about to charge the enemy. When the dwarves and elves charge the goblins and orcs outside Erebor in the Battle of the Five Armies, our protagonists are in power; they are going head first into battle to defeat the enemy. When Goku transforms into a SSJ 3 and attacks Kid Buu, we feel his power within us, we are with him all the way, urging him on in battle to defeat the evil. In all these situations, the soundtrack swells up in massive crescendos and builds up to a climactic crash of symphonic harmony as we see our heroes take on the big bad and, at least initially, attain a sense of victory. And that is when we experience this great burst of unadulterated emotion as we get goosebumps all over our bodies. We experience a rush of adrenaline as we finally see our heroes take on their enemies, full of pride and honour and valor. 

And in the end, that is what is comes down to. As humans, we were designed to feel emotion and even though the characters we see on the screen may not necessarily be real, or are just a charade acted out by another human, we cannot help but get attached and develop feelings for them.