Hans Zimmer and the sound of negative space

I’ve been listening to a lot of Hans Zimmer lately, mostly Dunkirk, Bladerunner 2049, and Interstellar.

 

Zimmer’s music reminds me that my brain is wired, um, differently. I hear and see structure (and lack there of) in the music that other people don’t seem to see or hear, when I try to describe the music, everyone looks at me funny. This is nothing new, and nothing unique to Zimmer: when I was younger I used the excuse of “wires in my brain are crossed”.  Maybe this is synesthesia, maybe I’m just weird. Either way, I wouldn’t trade it for the world, because getting colors, shapes, and physical spaces from sound is hella fun.

 

We were listening to the Dunkirk soundtrack, and before the part where it turns to hornets, my husband asked me why this music made him feel anxious. I’ve been thinking about that for a while. Why does the Dunkirk soundtrack make a listener feel anxious, even if that person has no idea of the life and death situation the music was written for?

 

Here’s what I have come up with:

 

It’s the negative space, and the lack of handholds.

 

That didn’t make any sense, did it?  The music to Dunkirk feels fairly slow, with melodies melting into each other.   There is no marchy snare drum (oh, hai music from Gladiator and Pirates!) to tell you where you are. Out of habit, I assume the Dunkirk music is written in 4/4, but who knows, it could double time, a waltz or some post modern bizarro time.  There are no clues, no handholds to tell you where you are supposed to be tapping your finger.  The architecture of a lot of this music is completely open, there are no rooms, no doorways, nothing to tell you if you are in a hallway or a kitchen or a bathtub. It isn’t empty, not by any means, but it is completely open. There is architecture and structure here, just nothing like what I’m used to.  It is a huge open space, I don’t know where I’m supposed to be going on looking.

 

There is also the slower pace. If you’ve seen Dunkirk, you know it is two hours of solid tension. You really have no idea if anyone will be alive at the end. While you are biting your nails because omgeveryoneisdrowing, the music is going along at its own, slower pace.  Nature doesn’t give a shit that you are in a hurry, and neither does this music.  The water is just there, doing its watery thing, it doesn’t really care if you drown.

 

It’s just you, and the music. No handholds, no signposts, nothing to tell you where you are. This is the kind of music that forces you face yourself, that forces you to be patient. In and endless cavern, whose end you will never reach no matter how fast you run so you might as well slow down and take it all in, you can’t help but feel insignificant. That is why this music makes you anxious.

 

I drunkenly fell asleep to the soundtrack of Dunkirk once.  Very intense dreams, woke up very disturbed and freaked out.  As much as I enjoy napping to instrumental music, that is not a particular experience I would like to repeat.

 

The Interstellar soundtrack has an opposite feel, for me. Instead of the music making me feel anxious, the Interstellar music is full of hope, growth, green, movement, stairs, warmth, invigoration, energy.

 

What I call the “spiral staircase” melody, it’s full of handholds – you always know where you are. This melody, and variations thereof are heard when the ship is leaving earth, and also at the end when he is falling through space and tapping messages on the bookshelf, and lots of other moments of discovery in the movie.  There are handholds everywhere, both musically and visually, you can grab onto them and go wherever the sound takes you.  This is the kind of music that can take you literally, anywhere.  Want incredible dreams while you are sleeping? Listen to Interstellar!

 

The big weird gorgeous trainwreck of a set piece in that movie is the black hole, and it’s this big bad destructive thing. But the music? Sounds like a fucking supernova, the opposite of a black hole.

 

I guess all that makes sense, right? Interstellar is about hope, going up and out, trust, telling a black hole of fear to fuck off because we are made of supernovas of hope.  Books can start getting knocked off my bookshelves any day, I am ready!

 

If you listen to the Interstellar soundtrack, and you like it, I highly recommend finding a recording done by an orchestra. Live music always has differences to studio polished music. When listening to the orchestra recording, I heard different heights of music. The dynamics were completely different, in a good way.

 

The music to Dunkirk sounds like a big open white space with no directions and no handholds, Bladerunner 2049 is similar but it is a dark underground cavern with edges in surprising places, and Interstellar’s music flies me through that giant unknown, and shows that this structureless architecture is what hope sounds likes.

 

So, Thank you Hans Zimmer for writing this amazing music and allowing me to experience it. Everything you write is all that more enjoyable to those of us who have wires crossed in our brains.

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Dear Dr. Ellie Arroway

Last weekend I attended ConFusion, a fan-run science fiction convention in the Detroit suburbs. As always, i had an absolute blast.  I hung out with all my friends, went to some panels, sat on some panels, went to some great parties, made some new friends. The promise I made to myself was that I would let myself stay in social situation I know how to navigate (helping at the Apex table in the vendor room, chilling with my friends, complimenting people on their beautiful outfits), and I wouldn’t push myself into social situations I didn’t want to navigate, such as introducing myself to people I don’t know. For that reason, when it came to asking for authors to autograph stuff, I mostly chickened out. I waltzed into the mass autograph session with not a single book in my hand, and said hello to authors I’m friends with.

I write stuff, but I am not a writer.

I write blog posts, book reviews, interviews, the occasional “essay”.   Last weekend an author friend very politely asked if I’ve tried to write fiction, or if I’d want to.  Well, writing fiction is hard as fuck, so the easy answer is No, I’ll leave that to the professionals, thank you very much!

Here’s the long answer:

I love falling asleep to music of varying intensity.  I used to fall asleep to whatever music was on whatever computer game my husband was playing. I judged his games by if the music was good napping music or not.  My sensory system has a lot of crossed wires to being with (fun!), and this can intensify if I’m half asleep, or if I am experiencing a sound that is new, unconventional, or much higher or lower pitched than I am used to.  You ever get chills up your spine when you hear a particular piece of instrumental music? It’s like that, but times a thousand.

I’ve been listening to a lot of Hans Zimmer lately – Dunkirk soundtrack, Inception soundtrack, Interstellar sountrack, etc.  He breaks a lot of  “rules” with his compositions, and most of his stuff completely freaks out my sensory system, so I dig it.  Listening to it is like chomping on a handful of Szechuan peppercorns.

However long the piece of music is, that is how long my experience is.

Sometimes I try to put words to what I experience.  That a particular actor’s very low voice feels like I’ve fallen to the bottom of the ocean and the atmospheric pressure on my skin feels like the worlds best weighted blanket, that a particular melody from the soundtrack of Interstellar feels like I’m tumbling up a spiral staircase and gravity is messed up and I’m falling up.  That I’m swimming, that I’m flying, that I’m swimming through the Earth, that I’m standing on the edge of the ocean and my feet are slowly sinking into the sand and I want to go out with the surf water, that music can sound like the buzz of a Szechuan peppercorn, that a certain pitch of a man’s voice can pull me under.  Words don’t really work here, because my metaphors (which are not exactly metaphors because in some sense I am being literal) don’t make any sense.   Communication only works if the other person understands what you are saying,  so words are not the right method of communication for what I experience.

When I’ve tried to put words to the experience, I end up with something nonsensical than can be read in maybe 60 seconds. A fully sensory experience that lasted anywhere from 30 seconds to 10 minutes has been distilled into a few paragraphs that don’t make any sense.  Words, language, fail me because they are not the right method of communication for what I am trying to communicate.

You remember the movie Contact, with Jodie Foster? If you haven’t seen it, you should see it, it’s really good. The book is great too,  and even though they took SO MANY liberties with the movie, I actually like the movie more than the book.  Anyways, at the end of the movie, the main character, Dr. Ellie Arroway,  experiences something. She struggles to put it into words that anyone else will understand.  When she’s told that what she experienced (that to her, must have taken a few hours, at least), only lasted a second or so, she doesn’t know how to respond. Her sensory experience was distilled down to a second or so, and what she experienced doesn’t at all match the sensory experience of other people, and words, spoken language, doesn’t work at all for anyone to communicate to anyone else.  The end of the story is actually quite sad.  Words and spoken language quite literally fail humanity.

Dear Ellie, my experiences are completely different than yours, but sister, I hear you.

 

 

 

 

 

 

New Years Resolution? I’ll do you one better.

Twitter will be aflame with New Years Resolutions for the next week or so.

there was a thing on NPR the other day about what people’s regrets for the year were (not waving back to people, not getting a tattoo, not saving a turtle, etc).

When I go back to work on Tuesday I’m sure people will be chatting about their resolutions to eat healthier, go to the gym more often, call their parents more often, be more patient with their kids, have a cleaner house, blah blah blah blah blah blah.

resolutions?

regrets?

Fuck ’em.

no, seriously.  Resolutions are fine, but they can fuck off. Regrets can fuck off even more.

so don’t tell me your resolutions, or your regrets.  Do me one better than telling me what you want to do or what you didn’t do. Tell me your accomplishments, tell me what you did do this year. Fucking BRAG ABOUT THEM!

Did you go on a road trip?

did you get a new pet?

did you volunteer somewhere?

did you help someone learn something?

did you make something creative?

did you learn a new recipe and then make it your own?

did you discover a new tv show and not feel guilty binge watching it?

did you learn how to drive?

did you buy a dress or a shirt or shoes or a purse or something that makes you feel confident?

did you change up the style of your hair?

did you do something that made you feel brave?

did you take good care of yourself?

did you finish reading a series of books?

 

Your accomplishments are as unique as you are. BRAG ABOUT THEM!

 

I love that we all love different things

Everyone has different hobbies.  Everyone is into different stuff.  I love that everyone loves different things.

Whatever you are into, whatever your hobbies are, whatever your fandom is, whichever celebrity you are obsessed with, those are all awesome things to be into.

I may not be into the same things you are into.  I may casually enjoy the things you are really, really into, or I may not be into those things, or I may not have ever heard of those things.  Or I may like a different aspect of the same thing that you like.

I do not want you to be mad, disappointed, or offended that I am not as much in love with the things you are in love with.

When you ask me “omg, don’t you just totally LOVE such and such?” and I either don’t love it, or maybe I like it but don’t love it, or maybe I’ve never heard of it, or maybe I tried it but it wasn’t my thing, how would you like me to respond?  What is the most polite way I can say “I love that you love such and such! but I’m not into it and/or I have no idea what you’re talking about!” without you thinking that I’m a freak who lives under a rock?

Because I want us to still be friends.

I dreamed of Turtles

I love weird dreams.  I usually have very weird, very intense, very detailed dreams.  I don’t know if this is normal or not?

Anyway,  in my dream last night, our apartment didn’t look like our apartment, and our bathroom didn’t look like our bathroom. In the dream, our bathroom was long and skinny, with the shower against the far wall. I went in to take a shower, and there were weird dark spots on the shower enclosure. I thought at first it was dirt or mold? I got closer, to see the specs were moving.  The smallest ones were tiny beetles, and about half of the larger ones were beetles, and the other half of the large ones were baby turtles.  In the dream, I call my husband into the bathroom to help me.  We need to figure out which are beetles and which are turtles, so we can put the beetles outside and save the baby turtles (how are we going to save the turtles? I have no idea. The dream didn’t get that far).

 

The beetles carapaces and the baby turtle’s shells are nearly identical, the only way to tell them apart is the beetles can flutter their wings and have 6 legs, and the turtles move a little slower and only have four legs.  So we’re standing in the shower, admiring beautiful carapaces and turtle shells, and letting the little critters walk on our hands.  it was a nice dream.

 

Today, I told my husband about the dream. He asked what in the world caused me to dream about turtles? (the beetles make sense, as we just got through our living room being infested with stink beetles)  I thought about what I’d been doing the last few days, and figured it out.

“I watched Blade Runner yesterday! It’s from the opening scene!”

“What?”

“In the opening scene, the guy is questioning the not so smart replicant, giving him the test. One of the questions starts that he’s walking through a desert, they get into an argument about if it’s important or not to know which desert he’s walking through. Anyway, the questioner says he comes across a tortoise (what’s a tortoise? you know what a turtle is? yeah. same thing.) and he flips the tortoise over, and as it’s belly bakes in the sun the man isn’t helping it.”

“ok…..”

“In my dream, we were helping the turtles.  Proves I’m not a replicant”.

Ocean and Sky

I’m very slowly re-learning Torah and Haftarah tropes.   LOL, now I know why they teach these to pre-teens, when you are that age they are much easier to learn!   I’m learning as I go, and it mostly involves listening to recordings over and over and over again. and So. Much. Practice.

there is a woman at my congregation who chants the most beautiful Haftarah trope you ever heard.   I finally figured out what her voice sounds like:

Have you ever stood on the beach, where the waves hit the sand, and your bare feet are slowly sinking into the sand? You’ve got to stand right where the surf just hits the shore.  As the waves go in and out, the sand under your feet slowly gives way.  First, just the tips of your toes are covered. Then your toes are fully covered. Then your feet slowly sink a little further, and more of your foot is covered. You can pull your feet out at any moment, but why would you want to?  as the water is pulled back out, you feel a pull on your feet. A pull to go with the water. But you can’t go with the water, because your feet are locked in the sand.  Also, you can’t go with the water because you are a person, and we can’t go where the water is.

That is what her voice sounds like – the waves trying to pull you out to the deeper waters, but you know you can’t go there.

Haftarah tropes sounds like the ocean as heard from the beach.  You’re in it.

Torah tropes sounds like flying through the sky, where you can see everything – clouds, mountains, herds of animals, cities.  You’re flying above it.

I am hoping those concepts will be a little mnemonic trick for me, to help me remember what the  different notations sound like. They look the same, but sound different!  LOL, this is how I know i’m getting older – new things are a struggle to learn/relearn.

 

Checking for Monsters under the Bed

I hate spiders.

I am terrified of spiders and I hate them. Yes, I know that every spider I have ever found inside my home is harmless and that it is more afraid of me than I am of it. they eat other bugs. I know all of this.  I have a phobia of spiders.

My husband hates spiders and is afraid of them slightly less than I am.

There was a big fat black spider in the bathtub the other day. And by big and fat I mean it was maybe the size of a dime. Probably smaller.  I woke my husband up to kill it. Told him he’d probably need the vacuum cleaner for this cthonic creature from the depths of hell.  He smushed it and flushed it down the toilet.

I asked him to look around the bathroom, make sure there weren’t any more.  He said spiders of that size are usually cannibals, so there probably weren’t any more.

I stood in the hallway, hoping from one foot to the other. Me, a thirty eight year old woman, was doing what looked like a potty dance. I told him that him looking around the bathroom for spiders would give me the comfort that a young child gets from their parent checking under the bed for monsters, even though the parents (and maybe the kid) KNOWS there isn’t a monster under the bed.

He made a huge showing of looking in all the corners of the bathroom, under the toilet, in the sinks, behind the door.  He made sure that I saw him look under the bed and not see any monsters. Even though we both knew there weren’t any.  He took my irrational fear and gave it rationality, made it an OK thing. Not a fear, or a weakness, just a thing.

he gets all the husband points.