Sonic Cinema

Sounds, Visions and Insights by Brian Skutle

Back in 2001, Joss Whedon was a very busy man. He was producing two television shows, “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” and “Angel”, and he was prepping a third one, “Firefly”, for debut in 2002. He was also delving into writing comic books for the first time. That Fall, the first issue of his comic book series, Fray, came out. An eight-issue title, Whedon’s thrilling tale of a future slayer in a world that has forgotten slayers, watchers, and other mystical protectors against the supernatural took a little while to finally hit reader’s hands because of his television schedule, but when it was done, it was another fascinating addition to his Buffyverse.

Contrast that schedule to my own. In May of 2001, I graduated from Georgia State. From that point until early 2004, my own creative output was quite sparse: a couple of (still unrecorded) trombone quartets as well as two little electronic fanfares for the end of commentaries my friends and I were recording for movies and television shows. In 2002, however, the inspiration did hit me to create a piece inspired by Fray, and in late August 2002 I began writing ideas for the piece, which I would title “Calling of a Warrior”. Split up into two movements, “Warrior” was intended as a tone poem, less a piece that hit the story beat-for-beat musically and more inspired by the moods and emotions I felt as I went through the pages of Whedon’s series and the compelling artwork by Karl Moline and Andy Owens. It was an ambitious idea for me at the time, and while I had very vivid ideas for the piece musically, and wrote some outlines for the beginning of the piece, it laid dormant for several years as sketches (not the only piece of mine from that time period to suffer such a fate; “Sonic Contemplation” similarly waited incomplete).

In 2009, it was about time to revisit “Calling of a Warrior”. My third album, “Sonic Visions of a New Old West”, had re-awakened my creative instincts when I began composing again in ’04, and ’09 found me beginning to hit full steam on my fourth (and most ambitious) album yet, “Beyond the Infinite: A Musical Odyssey”. I knew my next album after “Beyond the Infinite” was to be called “Storytelling Through Sound”, and I wanted “Calling of a Warrior” to be a part of that. Again, I began to sketch out the beginning of the piece (using my work from 2002 as a guidline), but this time, music actually got recorded. Using some hand percussion instruments I’d purchased at the Georgia Renaissance Festival in 2008, I improvised what would become the beginning of the piece. It was only 87 seconds of music, but it was an important first step to the piece’s eventual completion in 2011 (delayed as I wanted to complete and release “Beyond the Infinite” 2010).

What is a “tone poem?” In a sense, it is a composition (typically written for orchestra) that reflects scenes, moods, or ideas from source material in another medium (such as a novel or painting, for example). Written in a single movement, it doesn’t follow the traditional musical theory of works like a symphony, and is typically about the length of a symphonic movement. Two of the most well-known to me are ones that are forever linked to the films of Stanley Kubrick: “Also Sprach Zarathustra” by Richard Strauss, inspired by the writings of Friedrich Nietzsche; and “Timesteps” by Wendy Carlos, which was inspired by the novel, A Clockwork Orange, and was later used (partially) in Kubrick’s film of the novel. It is the electronic “Timesteps” that has been most influencial for me in creating “Calling of a Warrior”.

In creating “Calling of a Warrior”, I’ve attempted the take a step back from the film music aesthetic of much of my recent work into a more abstract realm. Whether fans of Fray will find the piece satisfying musically or in keeping with Whedon’s story is almost an afterthought (although I do hope it finds an audience); the more important point for me is whether I’ve coveyed what I read in Fray (as well as the continuation story Whedon told in the anthology book, Tales of the Slayer). I believe I have: the mystery of the ominous first pages of issue #1; the chaos of a life turned upside down; the excitement of the action scenes; the sorrow of lost friends; the surprise of the final pages, and the peace of a realization on the part of the main character that when all is said and done, she may be the only one imbued with her abilities, but she is not alone. I can’t wait for people to be able to hear it. For now, I hope this blog will whet your appetite for the piece itself. You can also hear the introduction to the piece here.

My fifth album, now just titled, “Storytelling”, will be available online this summer. For information and links to my previous albums and more music, you can go to my Music page here.

Thanks for listening,

Brian Skutle
Sonic Cinema Shop
“Creative Beginnings” at CDBaby
“Dark Experiments” at CDBaby
“Sonic Visions of a New Old West” at CDBaby
“Beyond the Infinite: A Musical Odyssey” at CDBaby

Categories: News, News - Music

Leave a Reply