Thank you for joining me in another installment detailing the creative aspects of Phate: The Cosmic Fairytale. This time I’d like to touch upon something a little different, something that takes us “out of the box,” as it were, concerning my book. A novel’s completion entails many facets: some are common amongst most writers, and some are a bit more unconventional. From the very beginning, my mind’s eye was fixed on not only having Phate read, but having it experienced, having it felt. I wanted Phate to draw emotions out of people, make them feel as if they’d actually been to my imagined universe, rather than to just have read about it.
This ambition flourished in ways I never expected years ago…
I’ve written before – Phate was influenced as much by cinema as it was by literature. Movies have the luxury of assaulting all the senses (thought not necessarily all the depth of a book); and one particular element heightens the experience of their storytelling beyond other means. The element I speak of is music. Ah, sweet music! I get chills just thinking of James Horner, or Hans Zimmer, or John Williams and his wonderful themes for the Star Wars movies. There’s emotion behind the scores these men have composed. (These guys and many others.) Music digs into the soul and connects me to a story with its raw power, its feelings of sorrow and joy or despair and dread; therefore I’m more connected to the characters in a sort of primal way. Music speaks without words. It speaks through pure emotion.
I can’t recall a single word of Phate that was penned without some soundtrack playing in the background. Just as I was dragging words and characters from my psyche, I was drawing emotion. Music was my companion throughout the entirety of the creation of Phate. Quite frankly, the book would not have been the same without it.
Where I’m getting at with all of this is – I indulge in music. Oh, I’m no John Williams, that’s for sure, but all my life I’ve been surrounded by talented people; guitarists in particular. (So naturally I couldn’t help but “fiddle” around with friends’ guitars while growing up – yeah, it turned into an unshakable habit.)
I have the great fortune to be involved in a purely instrumental recording project called Mourning’s Hope (the title being a little play on the name Morning’s Hope, a beautiful dragon in Phate – thank you, my friend Denise, for the crafty suggestion of that little play on words). The project involves some good friends of mine who I’ve been involved in myriad projects with over the years. The aim of Mourning’s Hope was to express ourselves purely instrumentally, in the most symphonic way we could, given our backgrounds and tastes. Having played guitar for predominately heavy metal bands, it was inevitable that Mourning’s Hope would inherit that side of ourselves; but we also wanted it to be as melodic as possible, to express our pure feelings with sound, no matter what style of music they most fluidly bled out of.
My fellow guitarist and founder of Mourning’s Hope, Chris Sossong, was really into the idea of incorporating Phate into the project, and creating a sort of musical tapestry for the book with a selection of songs. I wrote and recorded a few songs that in either blatant or subliminal fashion harken back to themes or characters in the book.
But Chris went one further.
He wrote and recorded a song that had me say, “What is that?!” rather excitedly when I first heard it.
He smiled, shrugged, and said, “I dunno, it’s something.” (That’s Chris, a humble talent.)
“It’s more than something, man; I think you just wrote the theme to my book!”
And he had. On some songs we were going for a grand sound, incorporating synthesizers and layered guitars in a way that was unlike anything we had done before. When I first heard the orchestral chorus for what would become “Withered Stars and Cosmic Fairy Tales,” I was immediately taken aback.
“You nailed it, dude,” was my intellectual take upon repeated listenings. “That’s Phate’s theme song.”
I think he came to realize soon after I did what a special tune he had recorded.
The track, “Withered Stars and Cosmic Fairytales,” embodies in music what I wanted the story to imbue in the reader. It embraces the darkness and light, the ups and downs, the quiet moments and the epic revelations of my story. It’s a relatively short but powerful and dynamic song, and I’m very pleased that it’s been attached to Phate. A modern musical take with classical twists, just like the book it represents.
So there you have it: Mourning’s Hope. We’re a few guys who get together on the weekend and record music. We’re not the London Philharmonic Orchestra, we’re a bunch of old school prog rock fans and metalheads who took the opportunity with Chris’ recording skills to lay down some tracks that strode off of our beaten path. In doing so, we managed to create a song that musically encapsulates the overall feelings I hope Phate instills in its readers.