Categories
music process

How To Make Images With Only Sound

A Sound Design Project For Theater

I just started working on creating sound design for Fordham University’s theater department.  It’s a mainstage production of the play Magnolia, by Regina Taylor, which is a re-telling of the Cherry Orchard in 1963 Atlanta, Georgia.  It takes place right in the midst of the civil rights era and the sounds of that time period.

The biggest challenge is creating this sonic montage which is to open the piece.  Taylor, who is also directing, wants to evoke a backwards countdown from present day into the past.  It’s challenging and exciting.  Given all the events in the news lately regarding racial discrimination, it feels very timely.

To start with, I began gathering source audio to sample in this newsreel type audio event.

Here’s some of the sources i gathered:

Watching these videos, I found it impossible not to get caught up in the moment.  Especially the coverage of Bobby Kennedy’s assassination.   I got so choked up.

After exporting some of these audios using an online tool, I had a file folder from which I could import into my digital audio workstation of choice, LogicProX.

Here’s a screenshot of my session today.

How To Make Images With Only Sound

What a crazy mess!  I started by just laying down a basic beat and bass line to give some kind of structure.  Later I’m going to add a tempo map that ramps up to add to the excitement.

As we were listening to these ideas, my assistant engineer (my 14 year old son Alejandro), suggested a possible unifying idea:  to take each President’s oath going backwards in time from present to 1963.  Brilliant!

So that’s where we’re at so far.  I have a terrible first mix that I don’t want to bore you with just yet.  Lots more to do and in the process of updating my sonic palette by updating my Spectrasonics Omnisphere.  That’s a way cool virtual synthesizer.   Ok, more later!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Categories
process Writing

Breaking Writer’s Block By Making Inanimate Objects Come To Life

No Writers BlockA strange story prompt that can really get you outside of a rut, is to write from the point of view of an inanimate object.  Bring it to life.  Anthropomorphize a mailbox, a building, an elevator, or a tourist attraction.  The latter was the prompt that led me to this little story.

The HKF

By Andrew Ingkavet

Hey there!  Welcome aboard.  I got a question for you.  What’s the first thing anyone coming here wants to do?  No answers?  Come on think a little bit.  It’s your first time in the fragrant harbor, what are you going to do?  Give up?

You’re going to ride me.  That’s right, good old HKF.   Yeah sure there’s plenty of fancy shiny buildings, the Giant Buddha, the Peak and stuff.  The airport, that’s not an attraction, you have to go through it to get here.  No, I’m talking about what’s the first thing people thing of.

Tooooooooot!  Sorry, couldn’t help from tooting my own horn.  He he he.  Get it?  Ha ha.

Yeah, you could say I’m not really a destination.  I take anyone who comes on and take them to the other side.  And sure, I’m visited everyday by millions, well, maybe not millions, it’s more like thousands.  But back in the day, I was the only game in town.  You couldn’t reach Kowloon or Hong Kong Island without getting onboard.  And then when cars were starting to get popular, I would take them too.

I do miss them old days.  I got to know everyone.  Literally.  Well, anyone who had to get out and about – the real movers and shakers.  We had lots of Brits back then.  Then, a boatload of “Phillippinas”, just the ladies, only a handful of the gents.  Then we had a bunch of Indians and Pakistanis.  They mostly hung out on the Kowloon side in the Chung King mansions.  But occasionally they made the crossing to get to the court house for some infraction or to register a new corporation.  The Yanks really never came here in any great numbers.   Some of the Brits would say, yeah, most Yanks can’t go without their McDonalds.  But we got a McDonalds right across from me on both sides.  I think they’re just not the worldly types.  Brits, you can put them anywhere and they’ll have tea time ready at 3 on the dot.  They built me ya know, so I got a lot of affinity for them.   Lots of the stuff around here was made by them.  But they got pushed out in ’97.  That was a while back.   Now most of the fancy folks riding speak Mandarin.  How weird.  So polished and proper.  Me?  I like that gut-wrenching steel mouth Cantonese.  It’s like their always arguing even if they’re just talking.  So dramatic.

Nowadays, there’s the bridge, the metro, and even other water taxis.  I’m kinda pissed about it, but what can you do.  Progress!  It’s lucky that they kept me going out of nostalgia.  My old buddies the junks are pretty much gone.  Once in a while I see one of them and it’s like wow, where you been?  It’s always some billionaire’s wedding or some crazy new company outing that needs to have the old Chinese sailing junk.

I get my share of parties too.  It’s kinda fun.  They usually get some lame Canto-pop singer ruining my ears for awhile.  I really love it when I get to give them a blast on the air horn.  Whoops.  That was a navigational necessity.   It always throws them off because they can’t hear their backing track and they start flubbing the lyrics.  Awful stuff.

Hey there’s one of them hydrofoils. They think they’re so slick racing back and forth to the casinos in Macau.  Bunch of show-offs!

Tooooooooooooot!!

-END

You may recognize the Hong Kong Ferry and some of the details.  Yes, I lived there for about 5 years in the  1990’s.

Here’s a great little film that does a great job personifying some rocks with a great social commentary on man over the eons, Das Rad Rocks.  Enjoy!

Categories
process Writing

Writing Prompts And Stimulating Your Writer Brain

There’s a funny paradox about creativity.  It’s more difficult to create if you have all the options in the world available to you.  You know how they always say think outside the box?  Well if you don’t have a box to start with, then you have no focus.

When I worked in advertising, there was always a “box,” rules to the creativity.  And we hated it!  We were dragged kicking and screaming, art directors, copywriters, designers, animators, all of us, to get back in the box.  But the funny thing is, having a box makes it easier.  The box was created by the client who wanted such and such target market and had to be yellow and used the latest lingo or whatever.  Whatever it was, we pushed the limits of interpreting those rules and usually found a successful and creative solution.

By creating limits, you actually free up your brain to start making choices.  In writing, I like to usually start with a mind map or clustering.  I first came across this concept with Gabriele Lusser Rico’s excellent book Writing The Natural Way.


By writing a core concept in the center and then clustering ideas outward from there, you bypass the judgmental thinking into a more natural non-linear way of thinking.  This used to be called right brain versus left brain, but it’s been discovered it’s a bit more complicated than that.  But there are regions of the brain that are more linear and other more non-linear.

I use mind maps/clusters daily for everything from brainstorms on business problems to planning an event to creating music to writing lyrics to writing stories.

Cluster or mindmap
Example of a cluster/mind map in Writing The Natural Way.

I recently joined a wonderful writer’s workshop run by NY Writer’s Coalition and the whole time is spent using writing prompts.  This is just short timed writing periods about a topic chosen by the facilitator.

One fun prompt was “write from the point of view of a tourist attraction.”   That was a rather unusual topic, but the stories generated were fun and truly unique dependent on the writer’s experience, personality and point of view.

The next time you’re stuck, use a writing prompt.  The prompt is the box.  You need to stay in the lines but really push it to the limits.

There are books of prompts, devices and even writing coaches who you can subscribe to to get a daily writing prompt.

 

Categories
process Writing

Process of Writing A Novel: Keeping A Story Bible

Photo by Joel Montes de Oca
Photo by Joel Montes de Oca

So working on my novel, tentatively titled Akamaea, I’ve come across the idea of a story bible.  This what Orson Scott Card advises in his book Characters & Viewpoint.

“Keeping a bible helps make you aware of the decisions you’re making.  The very fact of jotting down your decision makes you think about it again, allows you a chance to do some wondering, some questioning.  Whether you do it right at the moment, at the end of the day, or the next morning, you have a chance to improve on the decision while the story is still fresh, before you have gone ten or fifty or a hundred pages beyond that moment.”

So what is it?

Basically it’s a notebook or a page or a file in your computer where you store all your pertinent decisions.  It should be scannable and easy to see.  I’ve set up mine where I’ll put the term first such as character name in bold and then a short fact or decision I made.

Here’s an example:

  • Marley (12) –  very insecure, jumpy, awkward, and nervous.
  • Georgia (8) – younger sister of Marley, uber confident, popular, wears red bandana on her head all the time

I’ve started using an Evernote  notebook for this.  It’s an app that I can easily access it at anytime from any device whether it’s my computer, iPad, iPhone or even logging on from a public computer in a library.  This could be useful if I’m struck with an idea to add to it or need to double check a decision I made before.

I’ll also put questions to myself in there which I’m discovering as I go along.  Because I’m creating a fantasy world, there’s so much to keep track of:  things like weather, vegetation, history of the inhabitants.  What do they eat here?I’ll let that marinate in my brain for a while and the next day or two I’ll come back with an answer.

Orson Scott Card is most famous for Ender’s Game and the books in that series.  He says he wrote the whole story in a matter of a couple of weeks!  But, that was after years of thinking about, developing, designing the world of the story and keeping a story bible as he went along.

 

Categories
process Writing

Turning Oneself Into A Writer Fast

Or How To Learn Anything Fast

Last November, I finished the National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo ) challenge successfully with 50,000 words.   I knew it was just a start.  It was a brain dump – a hazy idea of what could later be sculpted and crafted into a novel.

My fast journey to becoming a writer
Writing is easy – just add words! Photo by Jan Willemsen.

 

But what next?

I was a bit lost.   Yes, I’ve read a lot over the years, but haphazardly.  I didn’t have a great books list.  I knew I liked fantastical stories and really resonated with HG Wells, Jules Verne, William Gibson and Kafka.  I also love the magic realists Jorge Luis Borges, Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Salman Rushdie, Italo Calvino.   I also just love the wonder of Ray Bradbury, the adventures of Robinson Crusoe and the characterizations of Dickens.  But I felt like I was trying to write a rock song having never heard Elvis.   Or a symphony without knowing Beethoven.  I didn’t have enough context.

I went to NYU for music and missed out on a lot of the great history and literature courses.  I always felt that was a mistake and am thrilled to finally be correcting that.  So I began searching for the 10,000 foot view.  I usually look for the meta book, the one that will give me the greatest context.

I found a lot about writing mindset and technique which are great.  But for historical context, I’ve found nothing quite matches the  Great Courses (formerly called the Teaching Company).  Thesea are college classes online which you can download to your smartphone or have on DVD, or CD.

So over the last few months, I’ve been inhaling vast quantities of method books, college lectures,  historical overviews and source materials.  Here’s a partial list of my consumption.  I hope you find it helpful.

  • Story by Robert McKee – the classic.  I read it over 10 years ago and recently repurchased as audio book.  McKee is an actor and he really brings to life his sage wisdom.  Highly recommended.
  • Plot and Structure by James Scott Bell – I’ve had this in my collection for over 10 years when I was originally creating a libretto for an original opera.  That project is still gestating.  But what a great book.
  • The Creative Penn podcast by Joanna Penn – Joanna is an inspiration for all writers.  I’ve discovered many great resources on her podcast including Dave Farland – see below.
  • Heroes, Gods and Monsters by Bernard Evslin – A great book that retells the old mythological tales.
  • Greek Tragedy by Professor Elizabeth Vandiver – a little dry at times, but a fast overview.
  • Some short video clips from great writers like  Robert McKee, Salman Rushdie, Paul Auster, Jonathan Safran-Foer, and others.  Good for a quick hit of inspiration.
  • Story Engineering by Larry Brooks – I like how Larry has made this easier to visualize.  You can also see hitpoints in every story, film, novel, whatever,  based on his engineering blueprints.
  • History of the Ancient World:  A Global Perspective – Professor Gregory S. Aldrete – If I’m going to be creating fantastical fictional worlds, I better know what the real history has been.   This course is wonderful and well presented.  48 half hour lectures which you can binge on as you work out or clean the house.
  • Heroes and Legends: The Most Influential Characters of Literature -Professor Thomas A. Shippey – Wow!  Shippey actually went to school with Tolkien and he discusses so many of the great characters of the world from Bilbo Baggins to Sherlock to Beowulf to Harry Potter.  Loved it.
  • Million Dollar Outlines by Dave Farland.  Dave has taught writing to so many successful authors and makes so much sense in this book.  I also heard his podcast interview at the Creative Penn.   I was so impressed, I enrolled in his online course.  See below.

If you have any suggestions to add, I’d be happy add them to the list.  Write in the comments below.

And, if you find any of these helpful, some of them contain affiliate links so I receive a small commission.  Just so you know.

Thanks for reading!

Andrew

Categories
drawing Fiction and Poetry Hundred Heroes process Writing

One Hundred Heroes – A Daily Creative Practice

Last Friday, friend Tonya came up with an idea to reinvigorate our creative processes.  We’re both creative souls and require daily nurturing, input and output.  The idea was to work on 3 small areas of creativity because, as we discovered together, that the creative flow that comes about from actually doing the work is totally transferrable.  In other words, if you are stuck as a musician, then perhaps work on a painting.  Or if you’re having trouble finishing your Great American Novel, then perhaps it’s a daily doodle or restoring an old chair.

So I chose as my 3 small daily practices drawing, writing and reading fiction (which I never used to give myself permission to do!)

Writing Everyday

For my writing, I’ve been working on short stories – at least 250 words.  I’ve also started coming up with a list of 10 daily ideas for my stories thanks to the inspiration of this article by James Altucher.

Reading Fiction

I read fiction by Dean Koontz, Edward Bloor, Ernest Hemingway, and Daniel Defoe.

Drawing A Hundred Heroes

This past week I did a daily drawing of one of my “hundred heroes.”  I’ve had so many wonderful role models, mentors and teachers over the years, some who I personally knew and others who I’ve only touched from afar.

Here’s who I drew:

Robin Williams Day 1 – Robin Wiliams

The world is still in mourning for his loss.  I’ll never forget how hard and loud I laughed when watching Mork and Mindy as a teenager.  My neighbors must have wondered about the wild cackling coming out of the house.

 

 

 

IMG_2381Day 2 – Gabriel Garcia Marquez

It was as if the world was in black and white before I read One Hundred Years Of Solitude.  Since then I’ve read almost all his books and was led into a world of magic realism and writing of others like Jorge Luis Borges, Italo Calvino, Salman Rushdie and Isabel Allende among others.  It also helps that my late mother-in-law gave me this book and said, “Now that you are dating my daughter, you need to read this.  He is the national treasure of Colombia.”

And what a first line for a novel: “Many years later, as he faced the firing squad, Colonel Aureliano Buendía was to remember that distant afternoon when his father took him to discover ice.”

 

 

Good eeevening...
Good eeevening…

Day 3 – Alfred Hitchcock

I never went to film school, but watching Hitch’s films makes me feel like I should sign up today.  So wonderfully artful and chilling!  I also love the music scores by his many wonderful collaborators like Bernard Hermann and Alex North.  Did you know that Saul Bass (another hero) actually conceived, storyboarded and directed the Psycho shower scenes?

 

 

 

 

Steve Jobs, one if my hundred heroes
Steve Jobs, one if my hundred heroes

Day 4 – Steve Jobs

Without Steve, where would I be?  Where would we all be?  I’ve been using a Mac since 1985 and went to one of the first MacWorld conventions.  I’m an Apple fanboy if there ever was one.  Thank you Steve for all you have done and continue to from somewhere…

I had some trouble with the eyes.  I also realized that I made Steve look a bit like Freddie Mercury (another hero!)

 

 

 

 

Being peace
Being peace

Day 5 – Thich Nhat Hanh

I was trying to sign up for an acting class in the early 1990’s with a famous teacher in NYC.  She had every prospective student come in and meet with her first and then gave us a required reading list.  I thought, “how weird and presumptuous!”  On this list were many books about self-growth, identity, new age stuff and The Miracle of Mindfulness by Thich Nhat Hanh.  This book changed my life and continues to blossom within me.  Years ago, my wife and I had the opportunity to go on a silent retreat with “Thay” (which is what we call him – it means teacher.)

By the way, I never took the acting class and can’t even remember her name.  I thank you wherever you are!

 

I’m a self taught artist so I know there are some technical issues in these drawings such as proportion and balance.  Anyway, it’s a daily practice and I think I’m getting better!

What practices do you do to keep your creative edge honed?  I’d love to know.  Share them in the comments below.

Categories
drawing Hundred Heroes

Gabriel Garcia-Marquez

One of my all time favorite opening lines in literature.

“Many years later, as he faced the firing squad, Colonel Aureliano Buendia was to remember that distant afternoon when his father took him to discover ice.

Part of my daily drawing therapy/practice.

 

Gabo, aka Gabriel Garcia Marquez
Gabo
Categories
growth joyful living musings photography recommended reading

Summer Is A Time For Renewal – Inspirational Input for Creativity

A glass of rose on the roof in Brooklyn, NY
Time for wine – rosé on the roof

Life is good.  I’ve been having an excellent summer.  Why?  Mostly because we planned some great recreation like a trip away to Puerto Rico, time on the beach, visit to the vineyards and just time to think and read.  Summer is a time for renewal, re-creation and getting inputs to creativity.  You can’t create if you’re empty!

Here’s some of what I’ve been thinking and reading lately.

Categories
music process

Woman Parts and Composing a Fugue

The play that I wrote music for, actually variations on a theme in the public domain, opens this weekend.  It’s part of a night of two one acts by women, Sex & God by Linda McClean and Lamentations of the Pelvis by Sibyl O’Malley.  The production is by the award-winning and always interesting Son of Semele Ensemble in Los Angeles. Get tickets here.

 

Woman Parts Poster In working on the music which were all variations on the Coulters Candy theme, also known as Ally Bally Bee, the director Barbara Kallir was describing to me a need for some thicker more complex textures and perhaps an interweaving of melodies.

“Do you mean like a fugue?” I asked.

 

Definition of Fugue from onMusic dictionary.

form of composition popular in, but not restricted to, the Baroque era, in which a theme or subject is introduced by one voice, and is imitated by other voices in succession. Usually only the first few notes of the subject are imitated exactly, then each voice deviates slightly until the next time it enters again with the subject. Generally the voices overlap and weave in and out of each other forming a continuous, tapestry-like texture.

 

Whoa, I’ve never written a fugue I thought to myself.   Isn’t Bach only allowed to write that intricate stuff?

 

 

“Sure, a fugue.  I’ll get right on it Barbara.” I said half-jokingly.

Since the melody was already written and was a very simple jingle, perhaps I could do something like this.  It’s funny because I spent a few years composing jingles and music for advertising and now I was creating a musical score based on a jingle! The original song was to sell candy, but because it was so hummable and infectious, the melody has lasted for generations to the point that all Scottish elders know the tune.

So, I thought about it a little bit, doodled on the piano and guitar and then went to sleep.  I find that my best work comes from connecting to the source, the muse, the great GoogaMooga in the sky, a.k.a. God while I’m sleeping.

At 5 am on a Saturday I awoke, went to the computer and started writing out this fugue in Sibelius.  Now I don’t claim to come close to being Bach, but I thought it came out pretty good for a first fugue.

My composition teacher at Juilliard would probably have some things to say… Screenshot 2014-04-24 12.59.39

 

Download PDF Ally Bally Bee fugue sheet music

 

 

 

 

 

Here’s the final result.  I didn’t have time to record acoustically so these are actually generated right out of Sibelius 7.5 – a pretty nice upgrade from my previous version of 6.0.