5 Random Updates

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I should make all my headers like this…it took me about three minutes. Then again, it’s rather uncreative. But it works in a pinch when you’re tired and want to go to bed.

Well, some of them are random, anyway. They’re less random and more rambly. I should’ve called it 5 Rambly Updates. So, I don’t know what to post about but I decided I should probably post before I leave on hiatus for a little bit.

So randomness/ramblyness (rambliness?) ensues.

#1: Update on Blogging & Hiatus

Okay, this isn’t random, really. But I’m going to be gone next week. *nods* And maybe longer than that because I don’t know what to blog about if I’m not writing regularly. And I haven’t been writing regularly. *hides in shame*

Also, I now have over 100 followers! Thank you, everyone, for reading. It means a lot that you read and (hopefully?) enjoy my blog!

#2: Update on Life

I’ve been thinking a lot about college and stuff and whyyy does it cost so much? Some days it seems so far away and I’m like, “Oh, I’ll just not worry about it,” and other days I’m so overwhelmed and I feel like I’ll never be ready. (I spend a lot of time between two conflicting emotions like that.)

I also don’t want to think about school, so I haven’t started my summer homework. And I have been procrastinating a lot recently. It’s a problem.

I read around 20 books in June…some have yet to see the light of a goodreads review, though. But I’m working on that. Actually, I’m reading rather than writing reviews. Probably not a good thing, but I’ll get around to them sometime.

#3: Update on Self Growth

Hm. Hopefully I’m not getting any taller, but I think I am getting better as a person. More or less. I don’t really know. I’ve been praying to have more charity, and it’s helped, but then I also have days where I get frustrated and take it out on everyone around me.

And I complain way too much. Any ideas? Say two things positive after every complaint?

#4: Update on Musicality

After all, this blog is called The Music of Words. So, what musicking have I been up to? Not much. I’ve been taking voice lessons but I haven’t practiced much since my last one…eep. So I know my voice is probably getting worse as I sit here, not singing.

But I’ve been playing the piano recently, not practicing, but at least playing. Mostly as a form of escapism from the world. I can’t escape through singing…it’s too much of me, I think. I know people hear it and they hear me. But when I play the piano, they hear the music and I hear the music, and I don’t have to worry about improving my voice or how I breathe or that I miss a few notes. I just play.

#5: Update on Writing

*sigh*

Yep, that’s a pretty good description on it’s own. Lots of sighing. Lots of glaring at myself in the mirror (and at my characters if I feel like it). Basically, I haven’t been writing much even though I’ve had time to, and that just makes me feel all guilty inside. Grrrrr.

Plus, Camp NaNo? Ha! Especially since I’m going on hiatus. I’m going to lose again. And it’s because I’m too lazy to write.

But I have made some progress on Battle Song! I’m at a grand total of 8,570 words so far and I’m having a lot of fun exploring the world and some of the magic of the world. (The mers can do magical stuff through singing, which is so fun to play around with. And traumatize Amrya with.)

I want to talk to you about it! Though I’m not entirely sure what to talk about…what do you want to hear about? Characters? Plot? Setting? A Spotlight with an excerpt or snippets? What I’m struggling with? I don’t know, you tell me what you want to hear. I’ll try to oblige, unless inspiration suddenly strikes…


Alrighty, there’s my updates & basically my tired, late night version of a monthly wrap-up post. (What happened to the Dares? I don’t know. I would still like to do them, but the posts took a long time to write, and I never seemed to accomplish much.)

Anyway, how have you been? Any updates you want to share with me? Tell me how your writing is going or what thoughts have been on your mind lately during life. Do you play an instrument or sing? How do you feel about music?

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Progress is Progress (a Music + Writing Post)

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It’s all too easy to get discouraged and down on ourselves when it doesn’t seem like we’re progressing: in writing, music, and life in general. In whatever we do, no matter how old or experienced we are, there are days–or even weeks or months–in which we feel like we’re getting nowhere, despite our hard work.

I started taking voice lessons last summer, in June or July, and since then I have learned so many new things. But just a few weeks ago, I felt awful. I didn’t want to practice or sing or do anything with to my voice at all. It felt like I hadn’t progressed at all. We’d been working for weeks and weeks trying to get some vibrato to come into my voice, and it wasn’t coming. I felt like I was trying my best and getting nowhere.

When I went to my voice lesson that next Monday, my voice teacher told me that my mom had talked to her and told her a little bit how I was feeling. For a little bit, I felt a bit betrayed that my mom would tell her something like that, but now, I’m really glad about what she did.

My voice teacher asked what was wrong, and, amidst a lot of tears, I told her how I’d been feeling.

“[Lana], every one of my students comes to me and tells me that they don’t feel like they’re progressing. Especially the students like you, who have been in choirs for years and years, feel like they should be better already, even if they’ve only been with me for a few months. Let me tell you that your voice is amazing and you have come so far.”

She then took out my notebook and listed three columns: what I’d been good at before I started learning with her, what I’d improved on since then, and then what I still needed to work on to improve my voice.

And she was right: I had come far. There was so much that I’d learned and improved on. Of course, there was still more to do, but seeing how far I’d come helped me realize that I had progressed, and that I would continue to progress in the future (and I have).

It’s the same with writing and everything in life. There are days when you stare at the screen and don’t know what to write next. There are days when scenes don’t work and your writing is horrible and, no matter what you do, you can’t seem to figure out that tricky character’s voice. There are even days when you think you’re not cut out to be a writer at all.

But that’s when you’ve got to realize that progress is progress, and you’ve made it. It’s good to realize how far you’ve come, how much you’ve learned, how amazing your voice is. When I think of how much I’ve learned since I started writing…the results are tremendous. About characters and plots and realism…

But, after you’ve realized how far you’ve come, you have to create that third column. It’s no good to realize the progress you’ve made if you don’t do anything about it. Once you find out what you’ve done, you have to decide what you’re going to do–and try to do it. Keep practicing, a little at a time, a tiny fraction every day. And you will progress, but you may not notice unless you take the time to look back on it.

It takes time, but you will progress. You have progressed, and however far you still have to go, that’s amazing.

The Essential Details

I’m in a three part women’s choir at school, though we do split into more parts occasionally. Out of the three parts (1st Soprano, 2nd Soprano, and Alto), I was assigned to be a 2nd Soprano, which means that I sing the note right in the middle of everyone else.

Sure, everyone says 2nd Sopranos are essential, but I was kind of annoyed that I didn’t get to be a 1st. I mean, the melody–usually sung by the 1st Sopranos–is the most important thing in a piece. Plus, singing 2nd Soprano is a lot harder than the other parts, since the outside parts are easier to hear.

But look at this. Here is an example of a basic melody with three part harmony.

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Here’s what it would look like if the 2nd Sopranos suddenly disappeared.

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Since WordPress doesn’t allow me to upload recordings, I know you can’t actually hear it, but you can at least see the empty space that it leaves. And if you listened to both, you could hear that empty space in the second example. It does sound kind of interesting, but it just doesn’t have the full, rich tone the first example does.

You know what? 1st Sopranos really are the most important. Without the melody, all you have are a bunch of random notes strung together…that, or you have a totally different melody than you wanted in the first place. The Altos are important too, covering the bottom of the chord. And the 2nds? Well, they’re pretty important too.

You all know the three most important pieces of a novel: plot, characters, and setting. So, I’ll assign plot to the 1st Soprano part, because that seems to be the most important, and characters can go to the Altos. That leaves the 2nd Sopranos with setting, but I think I’m going to change it a little bit and have it be details instead.

Details are just as essential as 2nd Sopranos are–that is to say, not essential to have a choral song, but essential to have a good one. Without any details, your story happens in a white room with faceless characters and a plot that really doesn’t make sense. Without enough details, your story happens in a vaguely beige colored room with a decent plot and some randomly-featured characters.

With the right amount of details, your setting becomes vibrant, your plot developed, and your characters realistic as well as relatable. In short, your story becomes alive.

Let’s look at some examples.

He stood there, gun in hand, pointing toward Vane, and the realization hit me like a ton of bricks.

“No.” My heart felt cold. “You…you betrayed us.”

He glanced over at me, toying with the gun, a smile creeping onto his face. “Of course I did.”

Yep, that looks pretty much like my regular writing. It’s not necessarily “bad”, but it could definitely be better.

The flickering lights played along his face, shadowing each indent darker and colder, drawing my eyes to that ragged scar on his cheek before they fell to the gun in his hand. A pistol, small and black, pointed toward Vane’s exposed back. His finger twitched toward the trigger.

No…

My heart was numb–numb and heavy, holding me where I stood. “No.” My voice came out no more than a whisper, a weak struggling against the tiny, powerful bullet he could release from its cylindrical prison at any moment. “You…you betrayed us.”

He barely looked at me, his eyes flicking over my face before returning to Vane. As he twisted the pistol between his fingers, a deadly smile crept up his face. “Of course I did.”

It’s not perfect, of course, but obviously much better. It’s the same scene, the same melody, but it now has details added in. They give the reader a sense of what’s going on, who the characters are, and an engagement with both the characters and the plot that they wouldn’t have had before.

Even though I don’t describe exactly where they are, adding the details I did allows the reader a chance to imagine the setting that they didn’t have before. The details give the mood, and from the mood grows the reader’s imagination.

Writing with details is hard. Especially for someone like me, who doesn’t write with enough details very often. To write like I did in the second paragraph, I had to mentally focus on writing the details the whole time. It took a lot more time and a lot more effort to write that way.

But, honestly, it was a lot more fun to write that way, and I think it is a lot more fun to read too. The details are what bring something to life, instead of leaving it empty and boring.

Yes, details are essential. And so are 2nd Sopranos.

Melodies and Harmonies in Writing

I realized it’s been a while since I’ve written a music-related post, so I decided to write one, about melodies and harmonies–or rather, plots and subplots.

For example, take this song, All the Pretty Little Horses. It’s a slightly creepy lullaby that I love because my mom used to sing it to me when I was little. I love the melody and the minor tune that makes it interesting.

Or on the other hand, there’s songs like Entreat Me Not to Leave You composed by Dan Forrest. (I shared a song by him in this post.) Based on the story of Ruth and Naomi from the Bible, it’s absolutely beautiful, a cappella, and goes to 8-part harmony at times.

The first song only has one melody, while the second has a melody plus a whole bunch of harmonies. But just because All the Pretty Little Horses doesn’t have the harmonies that Entreat Me Not to Leave You has doesn’t mean it’s bad. They’re both beautiful pieces of music.

But what would be bad is if you had a choir full of beautiful singers who had the capability to sing 8-part a cappella harmonies, and you had them all singing unison throughout the whole song.

If we compare All the Pretty Little Horses to a short story, then having just the melody–the main plot–is just fine. The story is short enough that it would be hard to incorporate more than one plot, just as it’s impossible for one voice to split into multiple parts. (Although, that would be awesome. I wish I could do that.)

And thus, Entreat Me Not to Leave You would be comparative to a novel, with a main plot, as well as a whole bunch of subplots and characters and worldbuilding and all sorts of awesome stuff like that.

But despite that each harmony is different from all the others, they also fit with one another. I could put eight random notes together, but it’s likely that putting those eight together at once would sound…eghhgh.

Yet in Entreat Me Not to Leave You, even though it does often split into eight notes, they go together. They harmonize with each other.

So, how does harmonization of melodies and harmonies go along with writing novels? When writing plots and subplots, they have to, well, fit together somehow. Usually they don’t weave together until the end, but then, suddenly, you realize how everything fits together.

Finding out how everything fits is one of my very, very favorite things about writing.

I guess what I’m trying to say is that when you write a novel, you want all the pieces to sort of fit into the main plot. Not only just the subplots, but also even down to the scenes. Every scene should contribute something to the plot, right? So writing something random about gemstones turning all the characters insane is probably not a good idea. (Yes, I did do that in my first novel.)

Similarly, characters that last for more than one scene/affect the characters/are not “extras” should also play roles in the plot, and at least affect it a little bit. Everything, or nearly everything, that goes into the plot should come out of it at sometime in another place, at a way that can either help or hinder your characters.

Like every scene should contribute to the story, so should each character, each setting, each piece of the plot. If they don’t come together like that, the tune will become discordant and confusing.

But when they do flow together and change the story, each piece pushing the main plot along, all the notes will harmonize, and you will get a beautiful song.


 

(My apologies if this post is really disjointed or confusing. I was not only distracted while writing it, but also wasn’t sure how to write out my thoughts very well.)

Dissonance and Consonance in Writing

Dissonance and consonance are terms used in music. Dissonance means “notes of unrest”–two notes that rub up against each other and cause tension. Consonance means “notes of rest”–notes that would normally “go together”.

When used correctly in a piece of music, dissonance is held to create tension, then released into a consonant chord, creating this amazing sound that could not be found in music created only with consonance. (This is an absolutely beautiful example of dissonance and consonance used together: Lux Aurumque, composed by Eric Whitacre.)

But have you ever heard a little kid pounding on a piano? It doesn’t sound like music at all–it’s made completely of dissonance. No one wants to listen to that. And in the same way, no one wants to read a story that’s made completely of conflict.

I went to a writing conference about a year ago, and there was one session I went to about writing dramatic scenes that happens to relate to this. Here’s some of the notes that I took:

You can’t write tension all the way through, otherwise, your reader will just be so, so worn out that they can’t stand it anymore. Sometimes you have to give your characters a little bit of hope, give them a breather, and then go back into the tension. There has to be a tension relief.

If the conflict of the story is regular and steady it registers less with us over time, and increasing the conflict can drum us senseless. Give audience time to breathe a little bit and distance yourself from the tension so you can be resensitized so it hurts even more this time. Constant pain stops hurting after a while, but if there’s pain, then calm, then more pain, then calm, it hurts more.

Just like with dissonance and consonance in music, you have to hold the tension, and then release it. Leaving the dissonance for too long–or having too much conflict placed on your characters–just seems wrong. When too many things happen to your character all at once, your story stops being beautiful and instead exhausts your reader, just as slamming random notes on a piano can annoy everyone.

I used to have a problem with this. When I was little, I would play imaginary games with my cousins and friends, and I always insisted on being the one who was hurt. Or I would pretend my stuffed animals had broken legs and I would wrap their leg up with paper towels colored with red marker. Something about the helplessness fascinated me, that they needed someone or something else to get through what they were going through. (This may have come from countless stories of “damsels in distress” and princesses rescuing princes, but I’m not sure.)

While helpless characters still interest me to no end, and I’d read about them all day long, I’ve become much better at limiting that from coming into my own writing and making sure to add consonance as well.

On the other side of the spectrum, however, you can’t have dissonance and then ignore it. When you have dissonance in your music, you have to sing and swell into it, otherwise it just sounds like a mistake.

Likewise, you can’t make a character always be able to defeat the conflicts that come their way, or at least not immediately. They have flaws and they’re imperfect, and sometimes the bad guy almost wins.

You can’t introduce a character to a conflict, or even the main conflict, and then whisk them away before they truly have a chance to get to know it. In the Hero’s Journey, the character has to travel through many steps until they reach the final, most excruciating step, where they face the main conflict, head on, and completely alone.

All the other steps have been building toward this point, just as a song slowly builds to its climax. While there are crescendos and decrescendos in between, they all lead up to a single moment. Without this conflict, there is no story at all.

Our writing should be like the ocean leading up to a storm. The waves slowly get larger and larger until they’re the size of houses , but between every wave, there’s always a lull, a time to breathe, before you dive in again.

Song Lyrics: Carol of Joy

Christmas is one of my favorite times of year. The snow making the ground glitter, lights strung on trees and houses, the feeling of magic and companionship in the air, and the music. I love Christmas music. I love that you can turn on the radio and hear songs about Christ, I love Christmas caroling, and I love that I actually know the words to all of the songs, hehe. And I love beautiful choral music, like “Carol of Joy”.

I absolutely love this song. (I know I’ve used the word “love” way too much in this post already, but I do love it.) I heard it first two years ago, when we sang it in our church choir for our Christmas program. I fell in love with the piece then, and since that time, it’s grown to become one of my very favorite Christmas songs.

The words are written by Eileen Berry, and put to music by Dan Forrest. (Dan Forrest is exceptional at arranging gorgeous choral music, by the way.) You can listen to it here.

So the lyrics. These really are like poetry. Imagery, repetition, etc., and when it’s combined with music…it’s so powerful. Anyway, let me put them here:

Green leaves all fallen, withered and dry;
Brief sunset fading, dim winter sky.
Lengthening shadows, Dark closing in…
Then, through the stillness, carols begin!

Oh fallen world, to you is the song—
Death holds you fast and night tarries long.
Jesus is born, your curse to destroy!
Sweet to your ears, a carol of Joy!

Pale moon ascending, solemn and slow;
Cold barren hillside, shrouded in snow;
Deep, empty valley veiled by the night;
Hear angel music—hopeful and bright!

Oh fearful world, to you is the song—
Peace with your God, and pardon for wrong!
Tidings for sinners, burdened and bound—
A carol of joy! A Saviour is found!

Earth wrapped in sorrow, lift up your eyes!
Thrill to the chorus filling the skies!
Look up sad hearted—witness God’s love!
Join in the carol swelling above!

Oh friendless world, to you is the song!
All Heaven’s joy to you may belong!
You who are lonely, laden, forlorn—
Now unto you, A Saviour is born!

I love those lyrics. There’s that word “love” again… I think part of what makes them so powerful is that they use description and imagery. They paint a picture of this sad, fallen, lonely world, with the sun going down, covered in snow…and then it’s contrasted with these words about joy, and hope, and really, the message of Christmas.

And it applies to everyone. It may be a Christmas song, but it’s not talking about long ago when Christ was born. It’s talking about now. It’s talking about this earth, covered in pain, death, and loneliness. This earth, filled with evil and sorrow — but it tells us that, yes, there is hope! There is hope for every single one of us, no matter how dark it is, no matter how sad we feel.

That’s what makes these words so beautiful. What use to this world is a poem that doesn’t apply to us? What use is it if we hear the words but don’t understand how they can change us? There’s no point in poetry, in songs, in any sort of writing if it doesn’t affect people. It’s meant to be shared, and it’s meant to make people feel something.

This song makes me feel, and to me, that’s the beauty of it.

A New Adventure

I’ve never blogged before, so this really is a new adventure for me, but I’m quite excited for it. For a long time, I’ve thought the idea of having a blog was really cool, but the cautious side of me never made one until now. But let me tell you, now that I finally have, I can’t wait to get started.

“Lana, do you even know what you’re doing?” you might ask. Honestly, not really, but I’m going to find out, and I’m going to have fun doing it. I have a few ideas for some posts, so if this blog does decide to nosedive and crash into the ground, there’ll at least be a few posts finished before it does.

“Lana, what’s this blog going to be about?” you might also ask. Well, I think the blog’s title is pretty self-explanatory. It’s about music and words, meaning it’ll be about my love of writing and music. Writing may have a few more posts than music, but music will definitely play a role. And then there’ll probably be some random posts.

“Lana, when you say you’ll talk about writing and music, what does that even mean?” Ah. Well, you see, I’m an aspiring author, writing novels, worldbuilding, all that fun stuff. But even though I’m relatively new to writing, I do have a few tricks up my sleeve, and I’m going to share those with you. (Okay, maybe they’re more of opinions than tricks, but I’m still going to share them.) I’m also working on a project or several at all times, so you’ll likely hear a lot about those. I may also share some of my favorite books and authors and talk about what makes them so good in my opinion.

As far as music goes, I like all sorts of music, but I especially love music with lyrics that really mean something. (See how that fits right in with writing?) I’ll share with you some of my favorite songs, along with songs we’re singing in choir, and talk about the lyrics and how they fit the message of the piece. After all, it’s like poetry, and everyone knows that writers analyze poetry.

“Lana, are you ever going to finish this post?” Heh, yes, I am. At the end of this paragraph, I’ll hit that publish button and embark on this new adventure with you. Keep your arms and legs inside the cart at all times (or at least most of the time if you can’t contain yourself) and enjoy the ride!