FORWARD BASE B

"Pay my troops no mind; they're just on a fact-finding mission."

Category Archives: music

Forward Base B: The Official Soundtrack

I started thinking about an appropriate background music to represent the contents of this blog, my personality, and my personal history and got to work on it.
After all, one commenter set the post I wrote the day before the election to heavy metal music.
The idea is to move towards establishing an aesthetic that gives people and intuitive feel beyond ideas alone.  I see myself as a post-Western barbarian with a culture and values of my own in an age of fracture, a dark age.  I’m not the smash things up kind of barbarian, at least not until the time is right and the rewards of doing so are sufficient and outweigh the risks.  Until then, I prefer to blend in and bide my time.  I can be very passionate but am also patient.  So I had to think about how I might convey that kind of mood and world view with existing music.

As a kid, I was an awkward bookworm that didn’t share interests with other kids and the pop music they loved became a soundtrack of their identity that I developed a strong aversion to. I came to feel viscerally that it was the music of the enemy plus it was repetitive and just didn’t stimulate me.  The only music I heard that really moved me was in movies.  Star Wars and Lawrence of Arabia were among my favorite soundtracks.  A turning point came in my early teens when I got a chance to see Phantom of the Opera.  Finally I heard music that celebrated darkness and a story that was driven by a secretive misanthrope who I identified with.  I had long known myself to be a shadow creature even back then.
From there, I started learning about classical music and never looked back.  I found composers I liked in each period, but I found I liked romantic era Slavic composers, French impressionists, and 20th century Soviet composers the best.
From studying history, I could well understand the stormy moodiness of Slavic music.  I identified with the cultural expressions of people who had always been surrounded by powerful enemies and for whom the fight for the right to survive was just daily life.  That’s how I had felt for as long as I could remember.  I could not relate to the superficially upbeat, carelessly optimistic American culture I had grown up in.
I also thrived on solitude and loved times of peace and contemplation.  This is where the French impressionists spoke to me better than anyone else.

It is raining as I write, just as I like it.  I love cold, grey, misty weather, the tap of raindrops and the whistling of cold winds on the windows with only a dim lamp on, a dark beer or a warming whiskey by my side and perhaps an aged cheese and/or dark chocolate on a small plate.  I count such slow times of leisure among the best joys of life.

Playlist can be put on shuffle if you go to the youtube site.  I also have a couple of other playlists for the fun of it, Silly Catchy and Epic Classic.  I am by the way, potentially open to recommendations for additions to any of these lists.

Somewhat unrelated: One of my favorite league of legends champions is Kassadin.  When you pick him, his line is “The balance of power must be preserved,” most appropriate.
He wanders another dimension called the void on his mission, again it works for me.
His strategy as an assassin champ(Shaco is also a favorite) is an exercise in controlled aggression.  If you jump in at the wrong time, you get vaporized, if you get it right, you can disrupt a fight, kill their highest damage squishy champs and turn the tide.  And with his teleport, he’s excellent for chasing them down when they try to flee.
In real life, I can spend weeks at a time in no hurry to do very much but spring into action when I see something I think will be a decisive objective.  I like thinking decades ahead and often about after I’m dead.  I watch worker bees emotionally investing in jobs where no one really cares about them in the long run and wonder what motivates such loyalty.  If I am to imagine myself as an animal, I used to think a falcon or a crow.  But over time, I’ve come to see myself more like a vulture or a moray eel.  I like to think I am strategically lazy in imitation of the ways of the natural world.

kassadin

Pop Music is Folk Music Elevated Beyond Its Proper Place

There has always been folk music, the everyday music of ordinary people.  This is lower music.  Folk music is spontaneous; its structure is informal but often guided by pre-existing traditions that can be quite rigid.  In implementation, it often relies on lyrics as much as melody.  Its purpose is to communicate sentiment and emotion.  Folk music is universally and eternally fixated on the fickle, youthful passions of falling in love, heartbreak, celebration, motivation, and protest.  In a previous age, it was just as much about coordinating while laboring or passing an evening before electricity and the distractions of modern “entertainment.”  It marks the passage of holidays, wedding days, and funerals.
Its players are typically musicians wedded to one instrument and they tend to play alone or in small bands of no more than 3-4 people with rigidly assigned roles.

For thousands of years there have been those who create higher music.  Today, we call them “composers” in the West.  These are the people who very deliberately craft works of music just as a skilled painter carefully applies multiple elements with a plan in mind.
There is a science to their art, it is not done on a whim drawing mostly on pre-established conventions.  Thus, while the composer’s work has more formal structure, it has far more potential for variation and originality.
Composers might dedicate some works to young love, but it is one small area of experience to which they can apply their talent.
The composer engineers the sound in advance, but is not necessarily one of the musicians nor is he associated with any single instrument.  He will write the parts of 100 different instruments if need be, they are artists’ tools, not an attribute of the artist.  He transcends the role of a single musician or small band of musicians and looks down on their movements from above, outside of time itself.
Composers are often inspired by folk music traditions.  Folk music serves as a deep wellspring of inspiration, it provides vision into the vastness of the cultural subconscious.  The composer is the rational neocortex who takes the raw passions of folk culture and uses the science of his craft to make something greater and higher than before.

Since the 1960s or so, there’s been a term thrown around to describe most music: Pop music.
What does this mean?
Pop music seems to be defined by bands and is focused on youthful passions, so it’s clearly folk music, but we have a sense that it’s different from folk music of the past.
What changed?

A big clue is how successful “pop” musicians are called “stars” or even “idols.”
This word choice shows that people understand on a gut level what the big change is.

Pop music is folk music that has risen above its proper place.

Pop music ceases to be the wellspring and usurps the social role that rightly belongs to higher music.  The result is the dilution and degradation of the culture we live in.
Pop music can’t inspire humanity to its heights, it speaks to our base instincts.    By its nature, its most successful forms never wander far beyond animal impulses such as “party all night long” and “everybody dance.”  It’s confined to the now just as higher music lives in the eternal.
Without the guidance and example of higher music, folk music runs rampant, becoming pop as it breaks down to its most basic elements.  The higher folk music rises above its proper place, the lower in form it becomes.

If Pop is Folk that has risen above its station, what happened then to higher music?

The briefest glance at art tells us that the world wars broke the spirit of the West.  Some of the high music of the late 19th and early 20th century was among the most sublime ever known.  In painting, this impressionism combined the best of abstract and literal representation.  You could clearly see a sunny meadow, but could also see the blurring of motion as grasses swayed in the wind.  In the shades of golden sun, you could feel the artist’s pleasure in simply being alive.
High music of that period created creeping and colorful impressions, the composers experimented with rhythms and scales taken from other cultures.
This culture reflected eager anticipation of the progress of humanity to greater and more beautiful forms.

The Great War and then World War II brutally crushed this old culture with its worship of beauty.
Art in all its forms was stripped down to its most basic elements robbed of purpose and meaning, and degraded into an obsession with harsh lines, stark contrasts, and jarring primary colors.
The 20th century was the high tide of centralization as the world was reduced to just a few major nation-states, each with just a handful of people who controlled mass media, systems of education, all access to information.  Uniform mass culture proliferated, until the greatest cultural success was defined by appeal to the lowest common denominator.

Defeated by the 20th century, high music abdicated its place.  Composers toyed with atonal, degraded, nonsensical music and monstrously, inhumanly chose to distance themselves from beauty and meaning.  By neglecting their sacred duty to culture, the sages of higher music left a yawning vacuum.  With the advent of mass media, this vacuum was rapidly filled by folk music—folk music that was hot-blooded as the new high music was dead and wan.  It picked up where the high music left off like it should, adopting the experimentation with new scales and rhythms and trying out new kinds of instruments in new combinations.  Without a firm guiding hand from the sages, though, the new folk music degenerated into pop music, joining the now defunct high music in its worship of ugliness and the lowest of instinct.

In the present day, the high music certainly remains underground, or rather in the background.  Composers continue to thrive in mediums such as movies and video games  but after a time, one begins to realize:
Dramatic movie music is  all descended from Wagner’s operas.
Sci-fi music comes straight from Holst’s the Planets.
It innovates and does wonderful and beautiful things, but in its very limited scope.  The high tradition lives on here, but like a goldfish, is stunted in growth by its small bowl.

If we are to look for composers who don’t just do music that’s considered “classical” or “orchestral” certain schools of electronic music stand out as possible heirs.
I notice that these kinds of music are composed, not played.  Using computers, hundreds of instruments can be used at once if need be, in any combination desired.  The science and philosophy of composition that leads to high music lives on here, but exists marginally.
High music won’t displace pop music in a culture that’s become mob rule in every sense.
Re-organizing culture will require re-organizing society itself.  To have a correctly aligned culture that effortlessly produces the highest of innovation and beauty at the top, the inherent breeds and strata of humanity must be restored to their rightful places.  First, mob rule of culture must end.
Until then, high music will remain mainly as a 18th-19th century style orchestra, a formidable ghost.  If folk music were the same way we’d never have seen banjoes replaced by electric guitars.

What High School Marching Bands and Joseph Stalin Have In Common

This is a song you’ve probably heard before:

In Hollywood, on TV, in advertisements and previews, from marching bands it signifies pandemonium, imbalance, frenetic energy, catastrophe, albeit in a fun or humorous(to the viewer) way.

Oddly there was a sabre dance in real life and there was nothing funny about it.
To use this piece as a sound track would be even worse than the cliche of playing “It’s a Wonderful World” while the characters are subjected to tragedy and physical anguish in a slow motion montage.

We can make an additional leap if we consider that F-100 Sabres were used to combat MiGs.

MiG is short for Mikoyan Gurevitch.
The Gurevitch part was dropped but the planes made by Mikoyan aerospace were forever after known as MiGs nonetheless.

Artem Mikoyan was an Armenian, brother of Anastas Mikoyan who was among Stalin’s top ministers.

Khachaturian as it turns out was a Soviet(yes one of the best known pieces of all time in American popular entertainment came from the USSR) composer who happened to be prominent while Stalin was in power and he also happened to be Armenian.
As it happened, Anastas Mikoyan would have seen Khachaturian’s ballets premiere at the Bolshoi theatre. He would almost certainly have seen Sabre Dance, part of a ballet, Gayane, first performed in 1942.(While the USSR was being invaded by Nazi Germany.)

Indeed while google gives me no definite answer, we must consider it very likely that the two men must have known each other.

Indeed, Stalin, Mikoyan’s boss paid lavish attention to his artists and sure enough, Khachaturian was forced to compose odes to Stalin’s greatness.
The ballet, Gayane, that contains Sabre Dance was awarded with the Stalin Prize 1st Class in 1943.

Small world isn’t it?

Inspirations of Nobuo’s Final Fantasy Music?

Many of you may have heard the opening theme to Final Fantasy X known as To Zanarkand.

Perhaps not so many have heard Humoresque No. 7 By Antonin Dvorak a Czech composer who lived in the 19th century.
You’ll know what I’m talking about about 1:20 into the song.

Dvorak is one of my favorite composers period. It shouldn’t surprise me to discover that Nobuo Uematsu got some ideas from him.

This is the original fight music from the very first final fantasy game.

Now compare to Tchaikovsky’s Slavonic March

Adventures in Computer Game Music: Heroes of Might and Magic V

Paul Anthony Romero is easily one of my favorite computer game composers.

He’s been composing scores for Heroes of Might and Magic games for over a decade now.

He has an uncanny ability to take musical styles from throughout the history of orchestral music and make them his own.
He’s done variations of a human, demon, or necromancer town at least half a dozen times now and still comes up with something new each time.

Here he uses an epic Wagnerian style to great effect with similar but contrasting themes.

I’ve always liked this sort of juxtaposition. Even when I was a little kid, I remember watching the Sound of Music and hearing how the evil Nazi theme was something of a minor key version of Good Night, Farewell.

First for the good guys:

Then for the bad guys:

Sound Frequencies That Heal DNA?

“an earlier musical scale now referred to as the “Solfeggio Frequencies“. This is a six note scale that bears some resemblance to our modern seven note musical scale. When related to music, ‘Solfeggio’ is referred to as the “ability to sight read music and sing the notes accurately (pitch wise) without the use of a musical instrument’.
The solfeggio frequencies are reputed to be the original frequencies used by the Gregorian Monks when they chanted.”

LINK – with embedded youtube examples of the six frequencies.

How much of this is new-age nonsense? There’s plenty of people on the internet who vehemently dismiss any claims made about this tuning system as purest charlatanry.

What I know for sure is this kind of stuff is a hell of a lot of fun to play with.
As with a tuning fork, these pitches have a certain resonance that passes right through you.
With some, I can feel it in my sinuses, nose, or jawbone when listening to them with my earphones.

I found still another way to play around with tones:

Download tone generator software and simply experiment how different pitches feel.

Since certain vibrations clearly resonate through bone and tendon, it really makes me wonder what I would do to me if I sat in a room with the appropriate frequency being blasted through the entire chamber instead of just listening through my headphones.
Could it actually help with certain problems then?

A couple more fun things to try:
-Hum to match the pitch.
-Go to sleep with one of solfeggio meditation videos playing.(I find 741 hz makes me instantly sleepy)

World Music: The Belorussian Bagpipe

Erik Satie: Gnossiene No. 1

I love impressionist music and this is one of my favorites out of a good era; one of the last before the world wars hit and ‘high’ art and culture began to degenerate.

Cavernously haunting, bittersweet melancholy, trackless wandering through a misty maze, inviting contemplation. Simple and elegant compared to crowded baroque and classical period pieces.

Here’s a visual version played slow that allows you to see all of the melody, chords, and sustains.

Reconstructing Ancient Irish Musical Instruments

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