The soundtracks to my life

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When people ask me what kind of music I like I almost always give a completely different answer every time. Sometimes it depends on how the question is phrased. What kind of music do you listen to? As opposed to what bands/musicians? As opposed to just what music? I like music that is strange, unusual, and interesting. Which usually means stuff that’s not ‘mainstream’ which means sometimes I appear to be a bit ‘indie’ or ‘hipster’-ish. Sure, I like listening to a fair bit of indie music, there’s nothing wrong with that, but I like listening to anything that I think sounds good. Here is where I think my opinion differs from a lot of peoples’. What I think sounds good is quite broad. Jazz, rock, indie, metal, hip hop, rap, classical, punk, there’s a lot of stuff there that’s good. When you start talking about the ‘best ever’ or my ‘absolute favourite’, I generally have a hard time mentioning specifics.

When I first started listening to music I would sit in my room with my headphones on and my new CD in my discman set to loop the album. I would sit there and memorise everything about the album listed on the case. The song names and order, the lyrics, the year it came out, that sort of thing. For years I was pretty much obsessed with remembering the entire discographies of bands I liked. I don’t know precisely when this changed, but I no longer do that. I have albums I haven’t listened to all the way through yet, and I often listen to an album paying no attention to what song is playing or what they’re singing about. To me, it’s all about how it sounds. I guess that’s how come I’ve had no issues with listening to Japanese music lately, or with listening to soundtracks, instrumentals and electronic/dance music. I like different styles for different reasons, and it’s changing all the time, like it changes with my mood, or something like that.

Lately, I’ve been listening to quite a few soundtracks. Sometimes soundtracks really hit me in film, other times it’s not until I listen to the music on its own that I realise how good it is. Here are a few soundtracks I’d like to share because I enjoy them so much.

The Merry-Go-Round of Life: Howl’s Moving Castle, by Joe Hisaishi

Making of A Cyborg: Ghost in the Shell, by Kenji Kawai

Kaneda’s Theme: Akira, by Geinoh Yamashirogumi

Aruarian Dance: Samurai Champloo, by Nujabes

Meditational Field: Paprika, by Susumu Hirasawa

Duel of the Fates: Star Wars Episode I, by John Williams

The Ecstasy of Gold: The Good, The Bad, and the Ugly, by Ennio Morricone

I love these movies (except for Samurai Champloo, which is technically a TV show), and I think part of the reason for this is the stunning music. And some of these composers/musicians have done brilliant stuff in other films and sometimes in a variety of styles. Admittedly, I think Episode I is not the greatest film in the Star Wars saga, and Howl’s Moving Castle is not Hayao Miyazaki’s best film. But from what I’ve heard of the soundtracks from the Star Wars series (all composed by Williams) and Miyazaki’s films (all composed by Hisaishi), the Merry-Go-Round of Life and Duel of the Fates are certainly my favourite songs by those composers. But really, Joe Hisaishi is brilliant, and John Williams is brilliant. They really know how to bring films to life with their music.

Another composer/musician I can’t not mention here is Yoko Kanno. Her work on the Cowboy Bebop series was phenomenal, and she’s also done the soundtrack to the Ghost in the Shell TV series. I get excited when I see her name (as well as the other soundtrack geniuses mentioned above) is mentioned in sequence with a film or tv series I’m watching or considering watching. Hans Zimmer is also a pretty cool composer dude.

And just because I can, I’ll finish with the closing credits song from Kill Bill Vol 2.

Malaguena Salerosa, by Chingon

Love in the Time of Dinosaurs, by Kirsten Alene

Review

At this point in time I have read 6 out of the 7 books in the 2010 New Bizarro Author Series. I’ve read five others before this and enjoyed them thoroughly. Not only do they strive to be entertaining in that unique, bizarro way, but these books are remarkably well thought out, very clever writing. I feel this is not only proof of the authors’ talents, but also of the editor who saw this process all the way through. I feel that these books are a brilliant showcase of a group of seriously talented up and coming authors in the bizarro field. Kevin Donihe has done a brilliant job picking these guys up and ensuring their debut novellas are of a high standard.

Now, on to Kirsten Alene’s title, ‘Love in the Time of Dinosaurs’ is brilliant. What can I say? It’s about a race of monks trying to fight off the dinosaurs and the philosophical implications that occur when one monk starts thinking what if the dinosaurs aren’t all evil? Monks vs Dinosaurs is a pretty awesome concept on the surface, but by introducing the forbidden love angle, Kirsten gets us thinking about love and war and peace. Universal themes that reflect kindly on the human condition.

Often, we find that because we’re so used to the culture that we live in that we don’t question it. We believe in the world being a certain way and it is because it’s the only way we’ve ever known. As much as this book is about forbidden love, it is also about stopping and thinking about the world you live in and the culture that surrounds you. It’s not natural, but because you’ve grown up with people killing dinosaurs and being killed by dinosaurs, you assume the point in life is to kill dinosaurs and, most likely, be eaten by dinosaurs at some point. Just like you buy junk because everyone else buys junk and you want to fit in.

I find comfort in things that go against the grain, that get people to stop and think about the ‘forces that be’, the seemingly invisible god-complex-culture that we aspire to, and think that maybe the dinosaurs are mainly evil because we keep killing them and so they keep killing us, but what if there’s another way?

‘Love in the Time of Dinosaurs’ is well written, entertaining and resonant. It’s the sort of reach I’d like to have in my own writing.

I am definitely excited to see where Kirsten Alene’s writing takes her in the near future.