Friday, April 23, 2010

Listening to...

I added a new box under my "What I'm Playing" and "What I'm Reading" boxes called "Listening to..." I wanted to call it "What I'm Listening To" to match the format of the others, but it didn't fit, and was getting cut off and looked ridiculous. So, anyway.

This isn't meant to be a twitterish update where I change it every hour or so as I finish listening to one thing and then move on to another. Rather, certain bits of music will have a "faddish" heavy rotation in my schedule for a while, and when that happens, I'll put it on here.

For a few years now, I've been pretty interested in orchestral movie music soundtracks. I've always had an interest in orchestral music, but mostly I listened to classical music when I was in that kind of mood. A few notable movie scores always stood out, but we're talking about Star Wars and Raiders of the Lost Ark here pretty exclusively. I'm not quite sure at what point I really noticed movie music soundtracks again: maybe it was when I got Howard Shore's Lord of the Rings soundtracks on CD?

It occured to me that movie music scores were great background music for when I'm reading, writing or gaming. In the last... oh, five? six? years or so, I'd gone and bought quite a few of them. I hadn't realized how many of them I had until just recently. For gaming, reading and writing all three, it was more convenient to rip the CDs to mp3 and archive them on data CD-Rs so I could fit eight or nine soundtracks on a single CD and listen to them that way. This way I could throw a single CD into any player in the house and get many, many hours of uninterrupted music without repeats. In many cases, I had done this ripping with my soundtracks. In some cases I had only done some of the tracks, not all of them. In other cases, I had subsequently lost or given away the original CD. In others, I hadn't ever ripped them, so I only had them in regular CD audio format. All in all, my music collection was very poorly organized, and it was starting to give me headaches again because my archive CDs didn't make much sense. Why, for instance, did I have Somewhere in Time and Atonement on the same CD-R archive as 10,000 B.C., Conan the Barbarian, Gladiator and Alien vs. Predator?

So, I've spent a few evenings on the PC, re-ripping all my CDs, and copying all the mp3s for which I no longer have the original soundtrack. I removed a few tracks that will actually be distracting if they ever come up. My wife was getting a bit annoyed that I'd been monopolizing the computer every evening for several nights, especially as I just bought myself a netbook and could, in theory, do most of what I wanted to anywhere in the house, not on the main PC. (This was the exception; my netbook, as all netbooks, doesn't have an optical media drive.) When I told her that I was "organizing my music" she opined that I was obsessed with music. I pshawed that notion until I had everything all ready to go and compiled into a folder called Soundtracks in my My Music folder. Each soundtrack was in a unique folder, and all of the other tracks where I only had one, two or three from a given soundtrack where tossed into the main folder.

I had about ninety complete (or nearly so) soundtracks, and bits and pieces of a good two dozen more.

Maybe she was right! I didn't realize I had gotten that carried away in buying them. I blame the internet. Buying mp3 "CDs" is addictive and you don't realize how many you've bought sometimes, because you don't have anything physical to look at and say, "holy crap, I'm starting to get a lot of these..."

So, I've been reorganizing and reburning into more sensible archive CD-Rs that I can throw into the DVD player, or anywhere else, and listen to more easily. So far I've only done a few of them, but that'll keep me busy probably well into next week too.

One thing that also occurred to me is that I had bought so many soundtracks so quickly (I've really only been on this soundtrack buying kick for five or six years) that some of them had kinda fallen through the cracks and I hadn't ever really stopped to appreciate what I had. Some of them I had only listened to all the way through a few times, and it's even possible that I had a few that I had never listened to all the way through!

Another thing that the project brought home to me is that I want to slow down and appreciate what I have a little bit more instead of jump out to buy the next hot thing. There'll be a few exceptions, of course---since I already have all the existing Harry Potter soundtracks, there's no way I'm not going to get the next two as soon as they're available, for instance.

Anyway, now that they're starting to get better organized, I'm having a look at either my most recent purchases, or those that fell through the cracks. The Wolfman is one of the former of course, being a relatively new movie. The score is by Danny Elfman. It's got a perfect baroque, dark, semi-Victorian and semi-Gothic feel to it that's right in line with the kinds of games that I like to run best. Dark fantasy. It actually has a similar sound in many ways to the soundtrack to Bram Stoker's Dracula by Wojciech Kilar except without all the romantic interludes and without the terrible Annie Lennox song. (No offense, Annie. I love your work. But this song really doesn't fit with the rest of the CD here. Great job with "Into the West" from the Return of the King soundtrack, though.) Danny Elfman is a guy who's career has fascinated me for years. I'm a big fan of his work with Oingo Boingo too, and for him to become one of the most sought after film score composers is just astounding to me, frankly. I've got quite a few of his works in this arena, and some of them are among my favorite soundtracks. Probably because he's got that same dark touch that I like; there's a reason Danny Elfman soundtracks and Tim Burton movies go hand in hand, after all. Even his Oingo Boingo work had that same vibe; have you listened to the full CD of Dead Man's Party recently? I have.

Anyway, here's a sample of Danny Elfman's work on The Wolfman:

I'm listening to The Wolfman a lot, and finding it a good match for what I'm reading and writing both. So I put it on the side of my blog here. I have a feeling Sherlock Holmes will be making an appearance soon too.

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