Close your Eyes and Just Listen – An Audio Journey

Do you ever just feel like hopping aboard a plane and leaving for destinations unknown to explore? Want to get a feel for the atmosphere of an Irish pub or a Buddhist temple, but can’t afford the air fare? Maybe you should close your eyes and take a sound journey instead.

I heard this really cool thing on NPR today that could be such a great inspiration spring board for writers, musicians, artists of all kinds really, that I just had to share it. Sound Transit is an audio experience where you travel the world through sound. You book a trip, with up to five stops, and it randomly selects your route and the sounds you’ll hear along the way. With over two thousands sounds in its catalog, your trip will be different every time.

You can also use their search feature to look up individual sounds or search for sounds by country. It’s just fascinating.

Here’s a trip I booked:

I departed from Skaftafell, Iceland, and was greeted by the sounds of  “A simple mountain stream, nothing more, which flows down a moss-covered hillside, falls into a small rocky hollow and continues on its way to the sea.”

Grey Lines by antgirl courtesy of cc via Flickr
Grey Lines by antgirl courtesy of cc via Flickr

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

next, via Cabo Ortegal, Galicia, Spain, I experienced a “storm in ‘Cabo Ortegal’, Galicia, Spain. november 2003”.

Nubes amenzantes by David Cornejo courtesy of cc via Flickr
Nubes amenzantes by David Cornejo courtesy of cc via Flickr

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Tilburg, Netherlands, was next with some urban sounds described only as, “This recording is a part of my Tunnelproject. A noise investigation.”

Tilburg Netherlands by  Victhor Viking courtesy cc via Flickr
Tilburg Netherlands by Victhor Viking courtesy of cc via Flickr

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

On to Baracoa, Cuba, where I heard this “insane gathering of crows near a small river, in Alexandro Humbold park on
the lush eastern coast of Cuba, not far from where Cristopher Colombus is
said to have landed in the new world.”

(I love the details given in some of the descriptions. That alone set my imagination wild with ideas.)

A cloud of crows by Vladimir Agafonkin courtesy of cc via Flicker
A cloud of crows by Vladimir Agafonkin courtesy of cc via Flicker

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

At my next stop, halfway around the world in Kefalonia, Greece, there were different birds singing, “A treeful of finches chirp and flap early one morning.”

Assos by PapaPiper courtesy of cc via Flickr
Assos by PapaPiper courtesy of cc via Flickr

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Finally, I arrived in Rio De Janeiro, Brazil, to the sounds of a bustling metropolis, “subway journey underneath copacabana. train drones, whistles, brakes, high pitch, speaker information, automatic doors, ambience. M-Audio microtrack -16bit – 48khz.”

P1000943 by Ed Johnson courtesy of cc via Flickr
P1000943 by Ed Johnson courtesy of cc via Flickr

I played around with this for most of the morning and had many different experiences. One was even unsettling, with bomb sounds in Lebanon. Every trip was unique.

You can listen to my journey described above for yourself here or book your own here.

Have fun with it! Be inspired!

 

Shining a Light in Dark Places – a #writemotivation check in

Spring GrassAh, spring!

It’s only a few days in and already I feel your magic. The trees are budding, the days are warmer, there is more sunlight.

I love springtime.

You saved me from the dreariness of winter in the nick of time.

That’s why I couldn’t believe this story I heard on NPR about this village Rjukan, in Norway that spends half a year in darkness. People living in darkness on purpose.

What?

That country’s first cable car was built in the town for the sole purpose of transporting villagers up to the light for their health. (My first question would be, if you have to do something that drastic, why would you ever, ever live there?)

Finally, one of it’s residents had a brilliant idea (no pun intended) to shed some light on the matter. (Yes, he was an artist.) Many people thought the idea was crazy and a waste of money, but apparently those same people are the ones you’ll find now standing in the town square basking in the warm sun, transported down from above by the fantastic combination of art and engineering. Computer-controlled mirrors now reflect the sun’s light and beam it down to the grateful people below. Brilliant, right?

My point? Just when you think you’re stuck in six months of never-ending darkness, maybe step back and reevaluate your surroundings, your plight. There  could be another way to look at your situation that you just haven’t thought of. I don’t know, I just found it creative as hell and hopeful.  Human beings are amazing, sometimes.

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Now to check on my #writemotivation goals for the week:

  1. Make progress on new YA project (Pretty Vacant) including plotting out new story arc and starting on first draft with word count goal of 30K. Steady progress made. I’m closer to 18K than 30K, which isn’t bad. Might just make this goal.
  2. Submit first YA manuscript to at least 15 agents. I’m behind on this goal, but I do have some potential agents narrowed down. I feel confident that I can meet this goal by next week.
  3. Read at least 6 books this month. (I’m a little behind on my yearly reading goal already!) This one is going well. I have finished five books already. I’m currently TheGraveyardBook_Hardcover_1218248432reading Neil Gaiman’s THE GRAVEYARD BOOK. It has a great opening line: “There was a hand in the darkness, and it held a knife.” And this is accompanied by such an ominous illustration that the mood is perfectly set.
  4. Get back into exercise routine slowly – at least three times week. Meh progress. Two times. Next week comes the dreaded return of the elliptical. I know this helps me have more energy and helps me fight of the depression uglies, so do it I must.

Today I’m also posting over at The Great Noveling Adventure blog. I’m discussing craft books that have helped me stop totally sucking at making amateur mistakes and I’m looking for some more suggestions to stop making the even bigger mistakes. If you have a book on writing that you’ve found invaluable in your quest to be the best writer you can be, hop on over and share it with us.

Next weekend is the SCBWI OK spring conference! WOOHOO! I will be tweeting about the conference throughout the weekend at #SCBWIOK14 if you care to follow along. I will, of course, give you all the highlights and my favorite takeaways from the great speakers we have lined up in future posts, so stay tuned!

Hope you are taking command of your goals and bowing them to your will.

Keep writing!

What Music is Supposed to Do – An Inspiring Stories Segment

This is the second in my Inspiring Stories segment. Read the first one here.

This story comes from the Moth Radio Hour and it involves two very unlikely music genres, rap and soft rock, or more personally Darryl “DMC” McDaniels (of Run DMC fame) and Sarah McLachlan.

(How strange that I had mentioned Run DMC on my blog last week and then I hear this story about one of its members a few days later. Sometimes subjects gravitate towards me like that – totally not in my consciousness radar at all, then I see references for the subject everywhere. That’s when I know I should pay attention; usually it’s the universe trying to tell me something important. Other times, it just means Tom Cruise has a new movie coming out.)

So back to the Moth Radio Hour. If you’re not familiar with the format of this particular show, here’s a description:

The Moth Radio Hour features true stories told live on stage without scripts, notes, props or accompaniment.  Moth storytellers stand alone, under a spotlight, with only a microphone and a roomful of strangers.  Each hour mixes humorous, heartbreaking, and poignant tales that captivate, surprise, and delight with their honesty, bravery, and humor. (description from website.)

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Darryl McDaniels telling his story on The Moth Radio Hour

For this episode, Darryl McDaniels steps up to the mike on the empty stage and his voice fills the space with an unexpected story about his struggle with depression in the midst of a successful tour and his yearning to find meaning, to figure out what he’s living for. I listened to him speak while driving in my car. I was mesmerized. When I arrived at my destination, I sat there in awe, still listening to his story. At the end of it, I cried. So beautiful and moving and all about how art can save you. I found it very inspiring and it made me want to write after I heard it.

I recommend you listen for yourself here.

The abbreviated version is that during a very successful overseas tour, McDaniels began feeling suicidal and tried to find reasons not to end his life. He decided that he couldn’t do it right then because it would upset his bandmates. He’d wait till the tour was over. On the drive home after the end of the tour, a song came on the radio that changed his life. It was Angel by Sarah McLachlan. He thought that if something this amazing existed, life was beautiful. He spent the next year listening to every album she ever wrote. Her music saved him. One day, He got the chance to tell her in person. And she said that’s what music’s supposed to do. (Ah! That killed me. What a perfect response. I feel the same way about all different kinds of artistic expression.) He continued to struggle with a feeling emptiness inside, but he kept listening to McLachlan’s music, with a little more hope.

Then, at the age of thirty-five, he found out he was adopted. The void inside made sense. The missing piece was all about where he came from and wondering about whether or not he still had value if his birth parents gave him away?

I’m gonna write a record that’s gonna help that little kid in the foster home or that little adopted kid or the grown up adopted man. Adoption is just my situation. Whatever situation you’re in on this earth, you have a reason.

And with Sarah McLachlan’s help and harmonies he did just that. He worked on a new solo album and one of the tracks was a re-envisioning of Harry Chapin song Cat’s in the Cradle, entitled Just Like Me.

Here’s the video. I hope you find it inspiring.

Inspiring Stories – A New Segment

Sometimes when I’m reading or listening to a news story or looking at a piece of art, I get this overwhelming feeling of inspiration that I can hardly contain and I must drop whatever I’m doing to start writing. I thought sharing some of these moments of inspiration might be a fun element to add to my stable of blog posts, so here’s the first one.

Caroline Shaw recently won the Pulitzer Prize for Music for her piece Partita for 8 Voices.  At 30 years old, she is the youngest composer to win since the inception of the award. She is also one of only a handful of female composers to win this honor. Shaw wrote this piece for the vocal group partita-for-8-voices---shawRoomful of Teeth, “a vocal octet dedicated to re-imagining singing in the 21st century.” (Description from group’s website.) Shaw is also a member of the group.

Sol LeWitt Wall Drawing 305
Sol LeWitt’s Wall Drawing 305 – Inspiration for Shaw’s piece

What I found most intriguing about this interview on NPR was how modern and avant garde her composition was and that she was inspired by a piece of artwork by Sol LeWitt entitled Wall Drawing 305. I love it when one form of artistic expression inspires another. It happens to me all the time.

This particular art piece is one of a series “in which LeWitt experimented with textual instructions that direct the draftsman to construct shapes on the wall. Called ‘location’ drawings, these works are done in black pencil with geometric figures emphasized in crayon, foregrounding the process of drawing as a problem-solving mechanism.” (excerpt from Mass Mo Ca website).

As to how it inspired Shaw, there’s one moment in her music piece  where the lush harmonies give way to a cacophony of vocal noise, like several people talking at once.

“It’s funny, my first thought was, ‘Wow, that’s what the Internet sounds like!’ When you open your computer and everyone’s talking at you suddenly,” Shaw says. “But I was really wanting to hear the sound of jumbled talking, where you can’t understand what’s going on — and then, suddenly, one beautiful, simple chord.”  (excerpt from A Moment With Pulitzer-Winning Composer Caroline Shaw.)

After hearing the interview and this description of what it sounded like, I had to hear it. I found it surprisingly beautiful and haunting. The spoken voice part blended in so well with the whole composition. Click on this link to hear Partita for 8 Voices for yourself.

So that’s my first “Inspiring Stories” post. Be sure to let me know what you think and feel free to share any inspirations you’ve had.