Thursday, February 10, 2011

The novelist and the composer

by Kate

The production of our next machinima project, The Gift, has taken off nicely and been steadily gaining altitude. This project is especially dear to me, although one may argue you feel just the same way for each and every project during the production.

Initially, the protagonist of The Gift was an aspiring novelist. Eventually, in a major revision, Phil (named after Philip Carey from Of Human Bondage) was re-born as a classical music composer.

I think changing Phil's medium of expression led to a great improvement. For one, I think it made the story more cinematically appealing by allowing music to take a more central role. It also helped me keep the script more compact. But one thing that strikes me after the fact is how music makes a perfect element of this story.

At this point, I would like to present excerpts from two poems by W. H. Auden, published right next to each other in a collection: The Novelist, and The Composer.

In the first poem, Auden says a novelist should:

among the Just

Be just, among the Filthy filthy too,

And in his own weak person, if he can,

Must suffer dully all the wrongs of Man.

I cannot claim I know exactly what Auden meant, but these lines resonate in me quite profoundly. The truth is I suspect I write because life is imperfect. In writing, I deal with all the injustice and filthiness of human existence, just as I do in life. In writing, however, I deal with them not as the object or as the agent but as a student and observer, and this enables me to cope with "all the wrongs of Man," or the wrongness of existence.

On the other hand, music can be, in my mind, a purer form of art. Music, at its best moment, completely transcends the human world and puts you in a radically different mode of being. Yes, music can tell a story, and music can mimic life, but music can also induce an experience of the purest joy, the highest pleasure, an aesthetic ecstasy, like a lightning that strikes directly at a mysterious spot in the brain without ever touching an earthly object.

Anyway, here is how Auden put it more accurately than I ever could:

Only your notes are pure contraption,

Only your song is an absolute gift.


You, alone, alone, O imaginary song,

Are unable to say an existence is wrong,

And pour out your forgiveness like a wine.


Richard Grove said...

Wonderful post. So proud to be a part of this production. Thank you.

Gnasche said...

Kind of sidetracking off your subject - It's easy to be envious of other mediums. There's been many times that I've gotten frustrated with a story because of the setup required to make a point. In poetry, I could say the same thing, and more eloquently, with a single verse. It's the same for conveying emotion with prose/film versus music. Music is just more efficient in making the audience feel a certain emotion. Luckily, it's standard convention to use music in combination with film. The main advantage of film, though, is efficiency in creating characters, so there's plenty to envy about filmmaking as well. I just wish we were allowed to have poetic dialogue without being sneered at.

Chat Noir Studios said...


Thank you, Ricky. :) We are thrilled to have an opportunity to work with you on this project.


Re: "I just wish we were allowed to have poetic dialogue without being sneered at."

Ha ha, I think I know what you mean. :) As wary of (and weary of) over-written dialogs as I am, I sometimes adopt this sneer-at-me-if-you-will attitude when I write. (Is this bad?) Sometimes I come back to these lines later and cross them out with extreme prejudice. Other times I make a conscious decision that the script is better with these lines than it is without them (and, yes, get sneered at).