Sandman - Preludes and Nocturnes (blg2-Vol1Overview)

For the benefit of anyone stumbling onto this or subsequent posts for the first time -

Sandman is a series of 75 comics written by Neil Gaiman. There are 10 volume's/collections/story arcs and I am composing original music to them.

Currently I'm uploading them to Soundcloud and youtube upon completion, and then moving them to Last.fm for archival/sustained availablity. As such some soundcloud links may be dead when this is read - if so, check http://shadowsofbirdsmusic.blogspot.com/ for the current location..

If I can find a better means of distribution I'll utilize it, but for now it's the best I can do.

SO!

Sandman and Preludes and Nocturnes

Because I've started this blog as I'm composing the first parts of The Doll's House, I'll talk about the issues of Preludes and Nocturnes in retrospect.

I'm going to limit this blog to the project as a whole and Preludes and Nocturnes as a whole next week or the following I'll get into Sleep of the Just.

So - Why score Sandman? Why score a comic book at all?

A lot of reasons. I'll give you three for why Sandman:

1 - It's a fantastic book with a lot of interesting ideas.

2 - The stories are incredibly varied.

and 3 - Promotion.

Firstly the idea of The Lord of dreams being in charge of all creative works lends itself perfectly to inspired by works. The character is set up in such a way that any work that even references it, let alone proports to be a parrallel to it lends the character, it's universe, and the suspention of disbelief a certain validity. Not that Gaiman needs me to validify his work, but any fan-fiction or expansion of his universe is immediately cannon and entirely non-destructive just by the fact that a human dreamed it up. It struck me as a fascinating prospect.

Secondly the wide variety of stories. I wouldn't have loved the series in the first place if it didn't jump so freely between genre's and settings and tones. The freedom to explore anything and everything is something that I've always valued in my own work as a composer/songwriter/creative person. So that's already a big draw - BUT, in addition to that I'll let you in on a little secret: I'm using this project as an education. I knew going in that this project would lead me down a lot of alleys in which I'd previously had absolutely no experience. In Preludes and Nocturnes there was the emulation of Bowie for "A Hope in Hell", the Noire sound of "Dream a Little Dream", the Muzak in "24 Hours" and the Romany music in "Sound of Her Wings". (which I was originally going to go French with, but then realized it wasn't set in France) Each of these led me down a path of research and experience that I'd have never gone down on my own, and that I'm a better composer for having gone down.

Of course along with that is the sheer amount of stories and amount of work. Base fact for all things: The more you do something the better at it you become. With every issue I understand my craft a little bit better, and I'm more comfortable with the tools at my disposal. This second reason - the education of it - is the primary reason.

And thirdly is the promotion issue. When I began I thought Neil Gaiman was a bigger name than he is and yes, I was looking to use that name to get some attention. Turns out he's not quite as famous as I thought. Mostly he seems to be big with other creative people - which suits me just fine. It suits me in part because the main goal of the promotion aspect of this is to find work with other creative people. The secondary goal is to build a "portfolio". By the end of this I know I'll have a handful of lemons, but I'll also have some flashy tale feathers to flaunt as well.

So there's a bit of "Why Sandman" - so why comic book music?

I know I said the education was the dominant reason but there IS something that trumps that: I'm a composer. I compose music. There are a billion other.. well, maybe not a billion, but there are a bunch of other composers out there looking for projects to put there music to. The competition is pretty fierce, but I thought it silly to wait someone else to give me permission to do what I do - so off I went and here I am.

I rushed into Preludes an Nocturnes without really thinking much about the scope of Sandman. Doing the math at a week per issue (which is twice as fast as I'm actually managing) it would take a year and a half to conclude the series. I didn't do the math till about a week ago.

Going into it I thought "Okay we need to give Dream a theme" which I did and I quite like and is proving much more malleable than I had planned. (thank goodness). But I didn't consider the rest of the Preludes and Nocturnes story arc until I got to the first Dee foreshadow.. at which point I thought "Oh yeah.. this has to go somewhere." Luckily it turned out that following the already structured story made the full 73 minutes of music feel cohesive enough.

Having the blueprint to have faith in while only really paying attention to the details is a lesson I've take with me as I've begun working on a separate project. (It's a World War I concept record and I'm spending a great deal of energy in the planning - so that once I start actually composing I can forget about the broad strokes)

As for the book itself it's hard to make any broad observations (especially after the fact) other than spending so much time on every page and analyzing the mood, writing, images, and chain of events - it's damn well written. The economy of it is amazing - every image and word is full of subtext but not subtext that's overwhelming.

Next week I'll get into Sleep of the Just itself (depending on weather or not The Doll's House is complete) and maybe pair it up with Imperfect Hosts for the sake of playing catch up.

Preludes and Nocturnes (freely downloadable):

http://www.last.fm/music/Shadows+of+Birds/+albums

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