Tag Archives: theme songs

Theme Songs For Favourite Things – Quiet

Corrina Repp – I’ll Walk You Out
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Quiet

I spent the better part of the other night intermittently listening to music, then stepping outside for a few minutes and just listening to the night. My brother’s house has an ocean view, which is quite impressive from the right vantage point as it’s not the typical Aussie beachfront I’m used to (flat sand and hundreds of people milling about). From the back garden, all I can see is hills, rocks, rooftops and then the vast expanse of the sea¹. There are wheat ships lined up in a row on the horizon, and they glow like small lanterns after dark.

It’s a quiet area at night (most of the time), and it’s nice to take a moment just to listen to the turn of the world when it’s dark, from a different space and perspective.

It may sound odd, but sometimes the noise of the world  feels like it’s on a frequency I’m not in tune with. Darkness and music each bring a certain quiet² with them, creating a space around and between those things that is necessary for me to feel like I’m in the right space.

I had my headphones plugged into my laptop with my library set to shuffle, and came in from that view, ships and streetlights glowing and metal windchimes ringing faintly, to find this song playing. It struck me as being perfect at that moment.

S4E

1. My camera is in storage so I took several photos with my phone, but none of them turned out very well. Cameras, sometimes unfortunately, don’t look at things the same way people do, and no matter how I positioned it, I couldn’t get the eye of the camera to focus on the same thing I was, thus I ended up with many – blurry – photos of tiny grey patches of sea sandwiched between treetops and cloudy sky, such as the one above (which has been filtered).

2. Which here means calm or still, as opposed to silent.


Theme Songs for Favourite Things – Stories #2

The Swell Season – The Moon

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Lions and Hyenas

When I first started the Theme Songs… series, I did so because I wanted a way to talk about some of the other things in the world that mean something to me and at the same time challenge the way I relate to music a little by trying to find something that somehow matched this other thing that was totally unrelated…and wasn’t me; and of course the musical aspect kept it relevant to what S4E has become – that being a music-focussed blog.

There are two things over in my little bio that reflect what S4E once was – “I write fairy tales“, which I have found myself referencing less and less vaguely, and the stuff that comes after “S4E began as…” I also mention that one of my obsessions is lions, which is in no way an understatement.

Before I get to that, I thought I’d just explain briefly that while it seems a little odd to me to post one of my own pieces of fiction here – at least now and under the heading ‘favourite things’ – it isn’t an ego thing. I do have brief moments when I’m proud of some of the things I’ve written, but most of the time I think it’s terrible (which is intended as a simple fact, and not a thinly veiled request for compliments – those I don’t need ;)). I mentioned here recently that I believe there is an inherent reciprocal quality to all art; that is, in order to receive, one must give; in order to create, you have to take. Music has always been a strong influence on me when I was writing, often enabling me to access certain things I would have otherwise struggled with. I guess what I mean is that while I predominantly write about music now, there is music in everything I have written, and to show the result of that is, for me, part of that reciprocality.

This piece of writing used to be here, which means a very select few out there who read this will have already seen it, although I have edited it a little since then. I chose this not necessarily because it’s a favourite in terms of how good I think it is – my thoughts on that waver constantly – but because writing it was the catalyst for quite a few other things, and without it, S4E wouldn’t be what it is today. Maybe it’ll help give a clearer sense of where I’m coming from with what’s here now, maybe it won’t. It’s not strictly a fairy tale either – most of those either don’t make sense out of context of the series or have inappropriate content.

I called this Lions and Hyenas for reasons other than the more obvious ones. I don’t think I should get too specific with what it’s about, but it was very much inspired by the primal relationship between those two creatures, which exists on what can only be called a battlefield. To quote a documentary I favour, ‘if animals can hate, then this is a blood-feud of hatred‘. Outside of the competition for food, lions and hyenas are savage enemies, tormenting and killing one another purely out of instictive dislike. And yet their survival is actually, in part, dependent on one another, and – in some cases – the hatred they share. At the time I wrote this, I saw that struggle, that ‘blood-feud’ relationship that is ultimately co-dependent, as a  metaphor to a different, human experience – part of the internal self-savagery and destruction that can go on in a person’s thought process, and sometimes acts as a survival or coping mechanism.

The thing about lions, they’re scavengers just as much as they are predators.

The theme song was an easy choice this time, because it was the song I was listening to the most when I wrote this. It speaks about some of the same things I was trying to; which is ultimately being disassociated from something that was once a primary connection.

>> Lions and Hyenas

 


Theme Songs For Favourite Things – Stories #1

Tori Amos – Blood Roses

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Hans Christian Anderson’s The Little Mermaid

Before I learned to write, I told stories. I’m sure I’ve mentioned that on more than one occasion, and the “I write fairy tales” line in my bio remains, though I haven’t written one for over a year now.

As the heading should tell you, the above picture is from an adaptation of Hans Christian Anderson‘s classic fairy tale, The Little Mermaid. I’ve had – and treasured – that book around 25 years; in part because of the stunning illustrations by Laszlo Gal, but more because of the story itself.

If you’re not familiar with the original version, when Disney turned it into an animated feature back in the late 80’s, in amongst some fairly prominent religious allegories¹ they took it upon themselves to remove (fair enough), they also removed some of the core plot points, and changed the ending entirely. In doing so, they removed one of the most important messages behind the story.

On the off-chance you require it, here now is a warning that henceforth, plot spoilers abound.

In Anderson’s original version, the key difference lies not just in the ending, but the extent of the sacrifices Ariel made to become human. The deal with the sea witch had further consequence than the removal of her voice – in fact, her voice was not magically captured in a glass bottle, the witch cut her tongue from her mouth.

She warns Ariel that once she is human, she can never again be a mermaid, and that if she fails in her endeavour to win the prince’s heart, her own heart will break, she will die and become sea foam.

The pain she suffered when her form changes from mermaid to human was merely the beginning. Throughout her time with the prince, every step she took felt as though knives were cutting into the soles of her feet, until they actually bled. Yet, of course, she uttered not a sound of complaint, nor even gave any indication whatsoever that she was constantly in an incredible amount of physical pain. What she did was dance for him, with a smile on her face.

In the Disney version, Ariel’s personality shines through her silence, the prince falls in love and they live happily ever after. In Anderson’s version, the prince’s heart belongs to the woman who saved his life. We all know that it was Ariel that brought him to shore, but she watched him from the sea until another woman found him.

While Ariel dances and smiles through her pain, the prince, who has grown fond of his silent little foundling, pines for the other woman. He declares, however, that she must never leave him, for she is so beautiful and dances unlike any other. Here’s the real testement to how the prince feels: he has a bed made up of velvet cushions outside his bedroom door, so there she sleeps, much like a faithful dog.

Ultimately, the other woman is found, and – wouldn’t you know it – she happens to be a beautiful princess. The prince, hopelessly in love, marries the princess and on their wedding night, Ariel dances for them both, knowing that she will cease to exist the following morning.

Her sisters, however, have each sacrificed their own treasures to the sea witch, and in the middle of the night they beseech Ariel to come home. She was implored to take a knife and plunge it into the prince’s heart, letting his blood wash over her feet so that she would once more be a mermaid.

She couldn’t do it, of course, so while the prince lies with his bride, the little mermaid resigns herself to her fate and dives into the sea.

What’s the point of that story?

I like stories.

Aside from the above being one of my favourite quotes from The Simpsons, I do have a point to all this.

Disney’s moral is overly simplistic and ultimately unrealistic – just be yourself, people will recognise you for the beauty you have on the inside and everything will be Ok. Nice sentiment, but it doesn’t even apply to the story they told. Why? Because Ariel wasn’t being herself, she had given away her core essence, her voice, which in this story is supposed to be something of an allegory.

This tale is about silence.

This is a tale about the consequences of sacrificing who you are for another person. The prince has no idea of the sacrifices Ariel made to be with him, he has no idea of the pain she endures. He has no idea who she is, so how can he love her?

I interpret Anderson’s moral as: if you compromise yourself, who you truly are, for another person, it’s not only going to be incredibly painful just to be with them, but they won’t be able to love you because they’ll never know who you are, they’ll love someone completely different and ultimately who you were will become nothing.

I’ll end discussion on the story with a quote from the book, which was re-told by Margeret Crawford Maloney:

“But if you take my voice, what will I have left?”

“Your beautiful body, your graceful movement, your eloquent eyes. Surely these can snare a human heart.”

Considering the original ending, I think those two lines incisively convey the importance of the message.

In that regard, the theme song I have chosen for The Little Mermaid is Tori AmosBlood Roses. I do try to keep a little variety in my choices, and briefly thought I should find something else as this is the third nod to Tori in this series, but there really is no other song out there (that I know of) that drives the point home like this one.

Back in 2009, I sat next to someone who had not long before told me they didn’t have the energy to accommodate the weight of my thoughts – not my words, but the things he thought I wasn’t saying – while we watched Tori perform this song live. That concert was one of the most profound events I have ever attended. Maybe one day I’ll tell you about it.

The lyrics to this song can be read over at one of my favourite sites, Here In My Head, along with some quotes from Tori herself explaining the meaning behind certain phrases.

S4E

1: In the revised and published version of The Little Mermaid, we are told that while mermaids live for exactly 300 years, they do not have an immortal soul. When they die they become nothing but white horses (an older term for the white foam that forms on the sea). Ariel’s desire is not just for the prince, but for an immortal soul – to live forever, even in death. Ariel dies but is granted a soul for having sacrificed herself for her true love’s happiness.

This ‘reward’, for me, undoes a little of the work of the story, because in the first version Ariel merely dissolved. which is a much more natural resolution to the preceding narrative, as well as in keeping with the message as I have interpreted it. The religious reference is obvious and was tacked on, to the detriment of the story as far as I’m concerned. So it’s not just Disney that know how to ruin a good story, authors do it to their own work, too.



Theme Songs For Favourite Things – Smileys #2

Basia Bulat – A Secret

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Favourite Ninja Smiley – Gift-Bearing Ninja

In my previous post regarding my fondness for these little critters, I mentioned a particular yen for the Ninja Smiley. While it’s true that I have more than enough smiley-love to go around, I save a little extra for those of the ninja variety. I can’t rightly say why, they’re just one of those things I find inexplicably irresistable. Especially this one.

The iconic ninja tends to represent stealth, evasiveness and ultimately danger. I wonder if a ninja bearing flowers is even more dangerous than one who’s throwing stars at you, perhaps so if you consider love and romance a more torturous thing than a swift, silent execution. Possibly the most telling thing of all is that he’s retained his anonymity and weapon. Honestly I’d be pretty darn scared to reject him. I might even steal his idea – next time I decide I’m going to make any kind of bold declaration, I’m borrowing that outfit  so I don’t feel so conspicuously bare and/or threatened! On the bad side, people may not ever know I was the one that always wanted to say certain things, but on the good side, no one will ever know who to call a chicken. In fact, calling a ninja chicken is probably a bad idea, even if that’s what they are.

To briefly sidetrack… Up until very recently, it was my firm belief that traditionally, Valentines Day was supposed to be for all those secret admirers out there to reveal their true feelings to those they ‘admired’. The romantic fantasist in me refuses to believe this to be a misnomer, despite what Wikipedia says. While realistically and practically, I can appreciate the meaning to have evolved from whatever beginnings and become a day to honour and celebrate all forms of love, the idea of hidden, romantic passion appeals to me at a completely different level (for one thing, it’s been one of the central sources of inspiration and therefore themes in my creative writing; though I should probably point I tend to favour less the romantic side and more the so-called dark side).

Anyway, the theme for my florally-inclined ninja, is the very apt A Secret by Basia Bulat, a sweet little song that belies the underlying sting; and today it’s not just dedicated to him, but to everyone who could never tell.

In either sense of the phrase.

 

S4E

 

 


Theme Songs For Favourite Things – Smileys #1

Grandaddy – Nature Anthem

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Favourite Multi-Purpose Smiley – Build Me Up…

That’s right, I have a thing for smileys. So much so,  that I can’t just have a favourite smiley, I have to break it down into smaller categories so that other favourites don’t miss out.

The truth is, I love these little guys, and both collect and use them relentlessly. Before my old computer gave up the ghost, I had amassed some 400 on my hard drive, and just a smidge under 200 had been uploaded to my Photobucket account so that I could find and use favourites at a moment’s notice. I will even admit I have spent a late night or two trawling the net for variations of my particular favourite, the elusive Ninja Smiley.

But first thing’s first.

That little dude puts a smile on my face every single time I see it. I would totally love to do that and could see myself spending a day doing so (ok, so maybe not a whole day. I have a yen to see real snow and activities – if I ever do – will include more than the above. Plus, I did once visit a  place here called Mt Thebarton Ice Arena, which was an indoor ice skating rink that also had a 120 metre man-made ski slope. In my attempt to ski said slope, after a 10 minute beginner lesson, I think I made it about two of those metres in an upright position, then tumbled the rest of the way down and got completely saturated, thusly also very cold. I stuck to tobogganing after that).

But I adore the way that smiley just never stops loving what it’s doing (play along with me here, I know it’s not real and that it’s just a few frames in a continuous loop). I love the look – ^_^ –  when he goes to jump in, and the look – >_> – after he gets up, checking to make sure no one’s watching, before re-building the snowman and jumping into it again.

So, for my little friend, I’ve chosen a song that is similarly a little random, repetitive and irreverent, but more importantly, a pure indulgence in whimsy and therefore also makes me smile.

 

S4E

 


Theme Songs for Favourite Things – Films #2

Her Name Is Calla – Condor and River

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Favourite HK New Wave Period Action – Once Upon A Time In China

That might seem like a fairly narrow category, but if I simply try ‘favourite Hong Kong action’ the choice becomes impossible, and considering the vast amount of genres within the HKA film industry, this makes things much more simple. (Romance was easy, action was hard – way too many favourites). That being said, this comes pretty close to being my  favourite film of all time (I admit to watching it over 50 times since I first saw it  over 15 years ago), so perhaps the heading of this post is a little irrelevant anyway.

The theme song was a definite challenge, too, but before I get to that…

OUATIC (1991), directed by Tsui Hark and starring Jet Li, is semi-fact and fiction. It tells (part of) the story of Wong Fei Hung, who was something of a real-life Chinese folk hero. I have no idea how many films have been made about him, but let’s just say there’s a hell of a lot – Kwan Tak Hing alone starred in a total of 99 films as Master Wong.

If you watch the trailer above, you’ll hear the theme song for the film. I should note that the piece of music used for that comes from a Ming Dynasty (1368-1644)  folk song called Under the General’s Orders – the adapted version is called A Man Should Better Himself. This song – and the music of it – is not just the theme of the film, but has been long-since adopted as the theme song for the man himself, and decade’s worth of films about Master Wong have used it. It is a piece of music that is instantly recognisable and immediately associated with Wong Fei Hung. Below is an instrumental version.

I actually love that piece of music, and have a version on CD with none other than Jackie Chan providing the vocals.

 

A hero walks alone...Just one of many examples of the stunning cinematography

Before I saw OUATIC, I had seen a handfull of Jackie Chan films and thought they were pretty darn good. After I saw it…a veritable obsession with Hong Kong action cinema was born. Throughout the 90’s, I collected around 400 films on VHS, right up until the introduction of DVDs, after which the release of HK films in Australia virtually screeched to a halt (funnily enough, this happened to coincide with the 1997 handover of Hong Kong to China – a cause for a little unrest in itself within the HK film industry, but that’s a different subject entirely). The film has everything you could possibly want – beautiful cinematography, jaw-droppingly good fight choreography, despite the obvious use of wire-work (thanks to the legendary Yuen Woo-Ping, probably familiar to most others as the choreographer for the Matrix trilogy), drama, romance, tragedy… There’s pretty much nothing it doesn’t give the viewer in an exciting, dynamic, captivating and impressive way.

There’s a bunch more I’d like to say about the film and its history in general, (read: I wrote several other paragraphs and realised this was getting far too long), so on to the theme song I’ve chosen. As mentioned previosuly, this is not an attempt at giving the film itself a new theme song, but an attempt at finding a song that epitomises some other qualities – very difficult in this instance because, like everyone else, the music and film are pretty much inseperable in my head.

If you’re familiar with either, the theme song may be looking a bit odd. Along with the reason already mentioned, this was the hardest challenge so far because all of my immediate picks were themes from other films, which I wanted to avoid. What I did want, was something that I could draw certain similarities to. Condor and River, in terms of subject matter, has nothing in common with OUATIC, but it is an epic, breathtaking and thrilling piece of storytelling that is not only one of the band’s finest moments, but a masterpiece of the genre itself. Translate that to the film, and Jet Li, and it’s spot on.

Admittedly, I also wanted to avoid picking a song by someone I never shut-up about, but 4 out of 5 ain’t bad…

 

S4E


Theme Songs For Favourite Things – Films #1

Tori Amos – Here In My Head

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Favourite Romantic Comedy – Amélie

French title: Le Fabuleux Destin d’Amélie Poulain, which translates to The Fabulous Destiny of Amélie Poulain

I’ll start by acknowledging I’ve probably set myself a complicated challenge with this particular notion, as – quite obviously – films generally have dedicated theme songs. With the nature of a theme song being what it is, these things aren’t just loosely associated, but rather the original theme song and film tend to become quite intrinsic to one another. So these can be considered less a theme for the films, and more a theme that summarises something about what they mean to me.

I’m not really a fan of romantic comedies in general, but I suppose the reasons why are applicable to most genres of film – clichés, boring characters, formulaic scriptwriting… All the things that make movies feel like you’ve seen it all before yet they remain instantly forgettable. One of the things that makes this film so special is that it captures what happens to the heart when it loves, rather than doing that thing most other romantic comedies do – make fun of how people react to it. Not to mention that it is probably one of the most charming films ever made, and full of whimsy. And I do like me some whimsy.

As you may have seen in the trailer, Amélie is a French film, starring the gorgeous Audrey Tatou (and please do watch it in its original language, if you decide to see it. Rarely do dubs convey the same level of emotion and/or other necessary things as the actors that spent months getting to know their characters). It’s a little difficult to describe this film in any language other than consistent sighs, particularly as I want to steer clear of spoilers and all the key reasons why I love it would contain exactly that.  In a very vague and over-simplified summary, though, it chronicles Amélie’s attempts at bringing a little magic into the world of those around her, while being afraid to truly venture out into it herself.

The music of the soundtrack was composed by Yann Tiersen, with the signature piece (arguably, maybe) being La Valse D’Amélie; below is a solo piano version that is just beautiful:

Even if it was my intention, it would be nigh on impossible to compete with music that is perfect for the film in every way, so the theme I’ve chosen speaks more to one of the lessons I took from it.  Here In My Head, like most of Tori’s songs, can be interpreted in a few different ways, but I think  the key theme is relevant – namely, the references to what can happen when you live in your head, even though in other ways you can give out so much of yourself. Amélie is a supreme fantasist, and while it means she has a profound effect on those around her, her actions are ultimately of a vicarious nature and she struggles to find a way to connect with the object of her desire in any way other than through a series of contrived, mystery adventures.

 

Amelie fantasises while baking a cake

I think… Sometimes, no matter how little or how well others may know us, we’re the only one up in that mind of ours and for some that can be a retreat. It’s a safe place to go, where imagination, fantasy and thoughts can be driven by – or to – things that we want, love, need… All the things that we yearn to bring close, because there’s not much that’s closer to a person that what goes on in our thoughts, considering it’s the most private, internal emotional process we have. But in that way it can actually have the opposite effect and distance us from those things in real life. Ultimately it can make it that much harder to come out from there and form real connections with people, where they are subject to the flaws of human nature and dangers inherent in real life and circumstance.

There’s a lot of scenes in the film that (to me) shoot straight at the heart. Little things like the bold gesture of inviting him to her then being too afraid to reveal herself, even though he’s sitting there saying ‘I know it’s you…‘, then watching him leave,  literally dissolving into a puddle of water on the floor. While there’s probably countless films that had a scene or two in them that got me a little teary, usually upon a second watch it doesn’t quite have the same impact, but I have to admit that the scene where she’s baking a cake and starts daydreaming about  not a different life, but one that’s simply shared with someone else that knows you well – just a little every day circumstance that makes her laugh and cry –  gets me every single time.

And so does this song.

 

S4E

PS Just in case it doesn’t happen automatically, to ensure the English subtitles appear in the trailer, click the CC button as pictured so that it is highlighted in red: