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BloodSpell Development Updates

Why The Punk?

BloodSpell Development Updates

Why The Punk?

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So, why the music?

I'm a huge fantasy fan. You might even say obsessive. I've been reading it, watching it, playing it and writing it for the last 23 years or so, and in that time, unsurprisingly, I've developed a few opinions about it.

One of them is that I am sick and fucking tired of what I'm going to call saga fantasy.

JRR Tolkein was an absolute genius, no doubt about it, and his work remains some of the finest fantasy fiction available. But Tolkein was trying to do something very specific with his work - he was attempting to follow the lead of the Norse sagas which he loved, and create a mythology of great heroes and their tale - their saga. And here's the key point about a saga - it happened a long time ago, and the heroes you're lionising are long-dead.

So, these heroes are larger than life, and their story is one of times past, of old glory. Tolkein's been criticised for this in the past. And when you tie that "feel" to Hollywood scoring approaches, it's easy to see that classical music - redolent of epic scenes, of scale, and of age, is entirely appropriate.

But a fantasy story, a story set in a fantastical universe, even if it's a medieval/renaissance society, doesn't *have* to be saga fantasy. And from my point of view, most of the more interesting fantastical work of recent years - I'm thinking Robin Hobb's Assassin series (brilliant writer, in spite of her lunatic views on fanfic), George R R Martin's Game of Thrones, and of course Joss Whedon's Buffy and Angel series (fantasy set in the modern day) - hasn't been so set on Events In Time Past. It's about events happening now. Whenever "now" happens to be.

"But it's a historical setting!". Our heroes don't have MTV or fighter jets, no. But from the point of view of the characters, this isn't history. This story is happening now. And from the storyteller's point of view, I don't have to view these characters as Ancient Heroes Of Old. I can instead view them as people, with flaws and virtues, reacting to events and situations happening, from their point of view, in the modern day. Now.

My biggest inspiration in this is the stonkingly marvellous "Knight's Tale", a tale of a squire in medieval England who rises, through trickery and luck, to become a knight. So far, so trad. The genius of Knight's Tale was to tell the story using contemporary music (there's a particularly marvellous scene set to "The Boys are Back In Town") and contemporary slang and dialogue. Because, after all, for the characters this isn't happening long, long ago. It's happening now.

("Shrek" is another fantastic example of the same idea - arguably even better-executed, but less relevant here because it's partially a parody.)

Hence the punk music. Because BloodSpell is a punk story - it's a story about rebels, people who are fighting the system, people who are going their own way. If our heroes lived in the modern day, they'd be listening to punk, rock and electronica (and hip-hop, but we're not down enough with the kids in the street to know our way around that scene). This is the soundtrack that reflects what they're going through. And the lyrics reflect what's happening in the story at any time - "Rockstar", for example, on the steps, when Jered's going to be initiated as a Black Monk, the best of the best - a superhero, a rockstar. Other times, we're using the lyrics to comment on the action, as you'll see (with any luck) in Episode 4.

BloodSpell isn't about Great Heroes of Long Ago. It's about people fighting for their lives right now - even though it's not the same "now" we're used to. Do you go to clubs to listen to Bach*? Played air guitar to Beethoven? Gotten ready for a tough confrontation with some top-volume Schuman? Then why the hell would we use classical orchestral music to reflect our character's lives? They're living in just as modern a day as us.

*OK - some people out there probably do find classical music modern and fresh to them. If I listened to Bach as the soundtrack of my life, maybe I'd want to use it - but I don't.
  • Re: In defense of serious/art/classical music...

    You're right, but you're missing the point that Hugh was making. One of the main reasons for setting BloodSpell to a punk soundtrack was to suggest that the characters are experiencing the events of the story concurrently with the audience. We're not relating an epic tale that has already occurred here - we want to shove you into Jered's world and lock the door behind you. The music is meant to sound current from the perspective of the audience, not the characters. If we were making BloodSpell during Mozart's lifetime (or Bach's or even Elgar's) we'd use music concurrent with that time. I don't know if Mozart would have released anything under a creative commons license, but if he did we'd have used it.

    You've said that

    the music you've chosen so far tends to be jarring and inappropriate to the scene

    Would Shostakovich's String Quartet No 8 be more appropriate? Really? If you think so, I don't agree. It'd be just as jarring. I think it'd probably be just as effective actually - Shostakovich can kick butt when he wants to. But we're not using Shostakovich. We're using punk.

    You're too harsh on punk. Summing up the entire genre as having simple harmonic formulas and cheap sound effects is a little trite. What's wrong with simple harmonics? The great thing behind punk is not the complex musical articulation - the Sex Pistols never wrote a track in Eb Minor with a 5/4 time signature. Punk is about emotion, anger and anarchy. It's supposed to sound ugly. That doesn't invalidate it. (And, at the risk of starting a flamewar of pedantry, it's formulae not formulas, and Mozart used deliberately simplified harmonic structures in some of his most idolised pieces).

    Punk lyrics aren't trite. Good punk lyrics aren't, anyway - there are always bad examples in any genre (Benjamin Britten, I'm looking at you - Noye's Fludde makes my eyes bleed). Punk lyrics are often (though not always) quite simple, but that's not the same thing.

    I'm not asking you to change your opinion. It's a perfectly valid one, and I do understand what you're saying. I take exception to this , though :I hope someday you'll give real classical music (i.e. not written for some mediocre summer movie) a chance.

    So far, we haven't given any classical music a chance, dire or otherwise. Are you saying that the only reason we haven't got any classical music in the film is because we don't have any knowledge of truly great classical music? I think that the various members of the team, myself included, who are trained classical musicians would object to that. We haven't got any orchestral or classical music in the film for the same reason we haven't got any jazz or rap or maori tribal recital chants - because we're using punk. If you really, really wants to see BloodSpell with a maori soundtrack, go ahead and make it yourself. It's creative commons, after all. We're only too happy for you to slice and dice to make something that you like better.
    • Re: In defense of serious/art/classical music...

      I don't have a problem with the music, personally. I like the pure contrast of the music and the subject matter. The only music/visual match i didn't like was, of course, the "411" segment. I've watched the episode three times and every time I've cringed at the part.

      Forget classical or orchestral, it just doesn't fit Bloodspell. You guys should definitely stick with the punk music that ya got, but I would also suggest maybe going over it a few more times before release and try not to cross that fine line between a narrative film, and a music video.

      Also, one thing I will say in disagreement with the whole "it's happening now, not in the past" stuff is that while it works in terms of that ideology, you're also permanently dating your film by using modern music. True, it may not be as mainstream as pop or hip-hop, but in 5, 10 or even 20 years from now, people will be listening to different styles of music, and the stuff today will seem ancient - thus killing any kind of emotion that the song was supposed to bring to the scene. On the other hand, classical and orchestral music is timeless, the only difference throughout the times being the quality of the recording.

      Imagine watching an epic feature film today, with a soundtrack from the late 80's and early 90's. I just watched the original Batman the other day. Those Prince songs made me want to bash my head on the table. :P Now imagine, instead of Devito's orchestral soundtrack, the entire musical selection was Prince music. It's an extreme example, but you get the idea. :)

      Again that's not to say lose the punk, but just don't make it too obvious.
      • Re: In defense of serious/art/classical music...

        That was me BTW...

        - Executor VI
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