Alternative Composers to Hans Zimmer

Once upon a time, I did interviews for the Bolthole. It was a little site primarily dedicated to Warhammer and 40k stories from the Black Library, and we interviewed many of the authors who did work in those franchises. Early on, one of the questions I tended to ask was simply, “Is there any music you prefer to listen to while writing?”

And unfortunately, the answer was rarely more creative than Hans Zimmer.

Zimmer is a terrific composer, no one can easily deny that. But his name is simply too easy to spurt out because it’s what other people say. And in doing so, authors looking for some great tunes might easily pass up the chance to find composers who produce music that better fits their genres and style.

But of course, not if they’re reading my blog…

Ramin Djawadi

“Why does that name sound a little familiar?” you maybe asking yourself. It’s understandable. I mean, once the credits are on the screen, we usually zone out. So you might have missed his name in the opening titles of HBO’s Game of Thrones or Pacific Rim. Ramin Djawadi is just one of those up and coming types who might someday replace Zimmer as the name most associated with great musical scores. His style is best described as bombastic with a hint of the kind of powerful overtures that sweep us into some grander, often national conflict.

Thomas Bergersen

Funny fact. Just because Hans Zimmer did all the music in a movie doesn’t mean he did all the music for said movie. Enter the amazing work of Thomas Bergersen, who did this tune for one of Interstellar’s trailers. The co-founder of the famous production company Two Steps from Hell, Bergersen has composed some of the most emotionally dramatic pieces you’ll probably ever listen to. For amazing tunes, check out his albums SkyWorld and Sun.

Adrian von Ziegler

Unlike Djawadi, there’s an excellent chance you haven’t heard of Swiss composer, Adrian von Ziegler. In fact, he’s unlike almost everyone else on this list. He hasn’t really been involved on any major movie, game or television scores. Instead, he has achieved famed through sheer, raw talent and use of Youtube which you can check out freely.

Jason Graves

One glance as Graves’ prominent works list on Wikipedia makes it clear that the man has basically been everywhere in the gaming world, with more than a couple of dozens titles under his belt. However, his most significant works are likely for EA’s Dead Space series and the recently rebooted Tomb Raider series. Horror lovers may find a kinship with his work.

Basil Poledouris

But not every composer worth checking out has to be current. Basil Poledouris is a name associated with several unforgettable films in the 80s, including the first two Conan the Barbarian films and the Robocop series. The 90s were not without mentions either, expressing a diverse range of genre matching with Starship Troopers, Hot Shots: Part Deux and Free Willy.

Ennio Morricone

If you know what spaghetti westerns are, then you know who Ennio Morricone is. Made famous alongside movie western star Clint Eastwood, Morricone’s most unforgettable work can be found in The Good, The Bad and the Ugly, in the piece “The Ecstasy of Gold.” His work is so powerful, it has been reused very often in other great films, including five by Quentin Tarantino.

Kenji Kawai

Chances are that only anime lovers would know the unusual and mysterious work of Kenji Kawai. But there’s a haunting, unforgettable element to his style that transcends any cultural barriers or genres. His best works may be in the form of the first two Patlabor movies as well as the Ghost in the Shell titles.

Yoko Kanno

Now while Kenji Kawai maybe known only to anime lovers, there’s a better chance that more people have heard the fantastic pieces of Yoko Kanno. This woman has no limits, and is capable of blending  blues, jazz and pop into an unbelievable and infectious fusion. Notable works include Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex, Macross Plus. But best of all the soundtrack to Cowboy Bebop, which is so critical acclaimed, even people who normally turn up their noses to anime may own it.

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Chaos Music Tributes: Slaanesh

The prince of excess.

The prince of excess.

My friend Dan once asked me what is the real threat of Slaanesh. Pleasure is what humans tend to seek on their own, so what’s the harm in it?

At the time, the easiest answer I could give was good ol’ fashioned STDs. But that treads upon Nurgle’s gifts at bad times. Yeah, STDs can be dangerous, but what else? How can Slaanesh be dangerous of his own volition?

It was a question I’ve quietly watched people over, trying to find the answer.

And since that day, I’ve come across dozens of tiny examples. Slaanesh is not the lord of a thousand temptations for nothing. And none of them could easily take a person over the edge. But when either they start to mingle, or one is pursued to the brink of self destruction, you begin to see the real threat that Slaanesh can be to the soul.

The simple answer is, “Obsession is excess.”

I think if there is any director in Hollywood who understands the threat of Slaanesh’s appeal, it would have to be Darren Aronofsky. From Black Swan, The Wrestler and especially Requiem for a Dream, Aronofsky has repeatedly proven that he understands the dangers of unchecked obsessions and the cliff they can send you flying from. There is an underlying psychology behind what drives many of these poor souls; a taste of the pleasures of considerable excess, followed by the pit of failure and hope to rekindle the fire that was lost, regardless of what the cost would be. And on the screen, he explains that best.

The pleasures of Slaanesh know a fairly wide number of symbols. Art, music, drugs and alcohol, sex, and food to start. What’s surprising is that these things are so mundane. We all need food, are exposed to art and music, we occasionally partake in alcohol and some of us do drugs or sex. The danger comes from overdoing any of these things.

You can drink yourself to death, overdose on drugs or alcohol. When a person pursues the perfection of art and music, it is quite possible that they can forget to do the things necessary to life, hence a twist on the phrase “starving artist.” And when people get bored of plain, ordinary sex, they can find themselves increasingly tempted towards more potentially painful, if not dangerous, acts.

As you might imagine, song writers and musicians have a strong affinity for Slaanesh, so it’s not difficult to find music that really fits the bill. Still, there maybe a few goodies in here you’ve never heard before. As before, a playlist is on the bottom, and songs with asterisks (*) are songs without lyrics.

  1. Bad Romance, by Lady Gaga. (You may also want to check out this cover by Halestorm if you don’t like this version.)
  2. Requiem for a Dream Remix, by Clint Mansell remix by Prince Negaafellaga.*
  3. Running Up That Hill, by Placebo.
  4. Don’t You Ever, by Republica.
  5. The Beginning is the End is the Beginning, by The Smashing Pumpkins.
  6. The Show Must Go On, by Queen.

Bow to the prince of excess.

Chaos Music Tributes: Tzeentch

The changer of ways...

The changer of ways...

Whew. Tzeentch. Mmm.

I have to admit, although Tzeentch is my favorite of the four Chaos gods, he is tricky in more ways than one. Of the four Chaos gods, he is the least tangible. For example, the other three gods have associated bodily fluids, but not Tzeentch. His icons, like birds, books and hour glasses, tend to be vast and many, but never deep or clear.

Even the symbol is open to interpretation; Nurgle’s is a bio-hazard warning, Khorne’s a stylized skull and that of Slaanesh overlapping gender symbols. But Tzeentch’s isn’t so obvious.

Some believe Tzeentch’s emblem is a flaming torch while others see a snake or smoke, or perhaps even some kind of water bird. But, like any god of change, magic, trickery and scheming, it doesn’t want to be easily defined. The less tangible and more shapeless it is, the more easily it can take a new form.

On the plus side, this lack of clarity makes Tzeentch a very versatile god to work with writing wise. Plots, magic, scheming, trickery, change, mutations, hope, psychic powers and secrecy are all his calling cards. Tzeentch and his followers are always playing with a loaded deck, and frequently leave their victims a few cards short of one. It also leaves for very few contradictions, as we get with Khorne.

One thing of interest is that, ultimately, Tzeentch constantly seeks power over others and at all times. This at times sets up conflicts with his brother Nurgle, who is all about letting go, and Slaanesh.

Why Slaanesh? Neil Strauss’ book, The Game: Penetrating the Secret Society of Pickup Artists gives one pretty good example of it. In the book, Style (Strauss’ code name) joins a group of self improvement obsessed men who are trying to get luckier with the ladies. But in the course of the book, he learns that some men are less interested in fun and good times, and more interested in power and domination over their fellow man.

Another example can be found in questions of money. Money is definitely a source of power to some, but it can also be followed to the point of excess. Gold for example is a constant indication of wealth. But while some might obtain and horde it as a source of power and influence, others wear it out of vanity, such as Xerxes from 300. He hungered for power, but justified it through belief in his inherent divinity. However, he also flirted with excess in the gold he wore, his slaves, his concubines and very potent hubris.

Here’s the music at last, with a focus on mysticism, power and magic. Music without lyrics is marked with an asterisks (*), while the link at the very bottom is to a playlist of all these songs. Oh, and the first one was chosen because of how I feel it relates to the conflicts of Magnus the Red:

  1. A Demon’s Fate, by Within Temptation.
  2. Macross Plus – Information High, by Yoko Kanno.
  3. Fable 2 – Bowerstone Market, by Danny Elfman and Russell Shaw.*
  4. Mind Heist, by Zack Hemsey.*
  5. 300 – Xerxes’ Tent, by Tyler Bates.*
  6. Battlestar Galactica – The Shape of Things to Come, by Bear McCreary.*
  7. Gladiator – Am I Not Merciful?, by Hans Zimmer.*
  8. Two Steps from Hell – Heart of Courage, by Nick Phoenix and Thomas J. Bergersen.*
  9. The Illusionist – The Chase, by Philip Glass.*

All hail the architect of fate with post 99!

Chaos Music Tributes: Nurgle

The lord of all!

The lord of all!

Imagine spending a load of time trying to build a sand castle. You gather wet sand from the beach, pile it up, and pat it down. You shape it, mold it and construct it and after a lot of effort, it’s done. And it looks so good, people stop and watch because of how impressed they are.

But then your little brother comes along and in an act of infantile glee, stomps it all back into sand. He doesn’t understand that the art of creation takes so long, and that the act of destruction take the merest fraction of that time. But emotionally, that doesn’t matter to you in the least because your work is ruined.

Now you know how Tzeentch feels around his brother Nurgle.

The polar opposite of Tzeentch, Nurgle is the deity of disease, rot and decay at the highest tiers of his representation. As you go down the scale, he is also the god of morbidity, nihilism, and despair. Why bother scheming, planning and working so hard for a better life when you’re just going to die anyway?

It’s interesting then that Nurgle’s followers tend to be joyous and unusually happy, as if they perceive the efforts of all their enemies to be in vain. Nurgle’s followers are frequently known for being strangely friendly even to their foes, like some relative who has no sense of personal boundaries. The grand irony, and perhaps source of this good humor, is that while Nurgle’s foes may resist and fight him, they will be his postmortem anyway.

This is why Nurgle goes by the title of ‘Lord of All.’

Who the hell would consciously want to be a follower of Nurgle? Not many, but there are a few. Some homeless, for example, exhibit traits and actions that suggest a lack of hope. They do not bathe or do anything to improve their quality of life. As they gather filth and rot, we often see these people and try to figure some rational explanation, believing that no one would possibly want to live like this. While I won’t venture into the thorny topic of why they can’t or won’t change their life, these folks would be prime fodder for Nurgle’s blessing.

As if that wasn’t controversial enough, another example of that morbid despair lies in the actions of Gaëtan Dugas, a person some theorize to be “patient zero” of the AIDS outbreak. Whether or not Dugas actually was patient zero isn’t the point, but rather his actions. Supposedly, despite knowing of his condition, Dugas continued to sleep with many different partners across the United States despite seemingly knowing of his condition. According to Snopes, he is said to have once stated to one of his partners, “I’ve got gay cancer. I’m going to die and so are you.”

And that is the kind of despair that Nurgle would feed upon.

Nurgle calls upon anything of general horror and creepiness to depression, and the music below reflects that in a manic depressive manner. The link at the end is to a playlist of all these songs. Songs without lyrics are marked with an asterisks (*):

  1. Misery Loves Company Rad Remix, by Emilie Autumn.
  2. Nightmare, by Nox Arcana.*
  3. Silent Hill 2 – Promise (Reprise), by Akira Yamaoka.*
  4. Down with the Sickness, by Disturbed.
  5. 28 Days Later – In a Heartbeat, by London Music Works.*
  6. The Dark Knight – Why So Serious?, by Hans Zimmer and James Newton Howard.*
  7. Diablo 3 – Act I Zombie Music, by Russell Brower.*

Feel Grandpa Nurgle’s love, in playlist form.

Oh, P.S. I was tempted for a long minute to add The Great Mighty Poo song from Conker’s Bad Fur Day to the playlist. I decided not to in the end because of the grossness of it, but I felt it necessary to mention it at the very least.

Chaos Music Tributes: Khorne

BLOOD FOR THE BLOOD GOD!

BLOOD FOR THE BLOOD GOD!

For the rest of this and next week, I’ll be adding new music selections I call the Chaos Tributes. Again this is with the music for writing series, but these will have lyrics involved. The musical choices reflect great songs and music for writing about certain aspects of Chaos, as well as a little food for thought.

Today’s beast is Khorne, god of war, bloodshed, violence and hatred. Khorne is said to be the most powerful of the Chaos gods, being the oldest and most representative of the Warhammer universe. A quick glance at Khorne makes him appear to be a one dimensional god, as he cares not from whom the blood flows so long as it flows.

It is sometimes said that Khorne overlooks the weak, considering it dishonorable to kill them. But like any theology, this view of Khorne is subject to great personal interpretation or even straight denial.

However, a second and closer glance at Khorne create certain discrepancies and depth that are overlooked. Normally, Khornite followers are considered murderous psychopaths. But there are examples of thought and conviction in some of his followers. In Blood for the Blood God, Khorne followers were coherent and capable warriors. In the Gaunt’s Ghost series, the Blood Pact are a highly disciplined, Khorne worshiping army capable of infiltration tactics. These examples fly in the face of the crazy homicidal maniac stereotype.

What makes it even more difficult is understanding Khorne’s relationship with psykers. Many believe that when the World Eater’s legion turned, they slaughtered all their librarian/sorcerers in a purge out of respect for their new god’s hatred of them. Yet in Blood Pact, the Pact made use of both a witch as well as a powerful summoning ritual. In Space Marine, Nemeroth possessed considerable warp powers, yet made use of Bloodletters in his army. And in Dawn of War II: Retribution, Khorne saw fit to reward Azariah Kyras, the corrupted chief librarian and chapter master of the Blood Ravens, with daemonhood.

So there’s something to think about as you listen to these songs about murder and violence, although some of it focuses on other aspects of Khorne. At the bottom, you will find a link that connects to a playlist of all of these. Bare in mind a lot of this music is somewhat full of screams, so I’ll mark the music without singing and lyrics with an asterisk (*):

  1. Getting Away with Murder, by Papa Roach.
  2. Army Doom and Titans, by X-Ray Dog.*
  3. Ich Tu Dir Weh, by Rammstein.
  4. Let the Bodies Hit the Floor, by Drowning Pool.
  5. Murder, by Within Temptation.
  6. Smell the Witch, by Mortiis.
  7. Dead is the New Alive Remix, by Emilie Autumn, Dope Stars Inc Remix.
  8. Blow Me Away, by Breaking Benjamin.

As for that playlist, skulls for the skull throne!

Last of the Musicians

So it takes a lot of work to research songs for writing that don’t have lyrics and do have original composers and artists. This maybe my last music for writing update for a while.

However, I’m going out with a bang and am adding 11 songs. In truth, I found the 11th today while goofing off and looking at Fallout mods on Youtube. However, it is perfect for the upcoming Halloween season. The theme from 28 Days Later.

And now onto the list.

  1. Master Works, by Akira Ifukube.
    I’m sure you’re familiar with Godzilla and perhaps some of the crazy, giant lizard induced apocalypse music.
  2. Peter and the Wolf March, by Serge Prokofiev.
    Sounds like Peter is off to some mischief.
  3. Space Marine – A Hero’s Legacy, by Cris Velasco and Sascha Dikiciyan.
    Space Marine has some incredible music too. The gent who put this up also added much of the rest of the soundtrack if not all of it.
  4. Symphony No. 5, by Mahler.
    A heavenly piece.
  5. Chaos Legion – Solemn Voice, by Fukasawa Hideyuki.
    I’ve never played Chaos Legion, only heard the strange techno gothic songs. Runes and circuits.
  6. Ico – Entity Extended, by Michiru Oshima.
    An evil entity at that.
  7. Killzone 2 – Birth of War Retribution, by Joris de Man.
    Chorus and gunfights. Warfare tragedy. Aw yeah.
  8. Gears of War – Main Theme, by Kevin Riepl.
    Kind of like a futuristic version of Vagrant Story‘s music here.
  9. Rygar: The Legendary Adventure – Colosseo, by Takayasu Sodeoka.
    Greco-roman adventuring at its finest.
  10. Machinarium – The Castle, by Tomas Dvorak.
    I have never heard of this game, and when I found out about it, I was stunned. People still make point and click puzzle adventures? Odd…

The Writing Jukebox

"To answer your question, it's about this big."

"To answer your question, it's about this big."

Today, I’m breaking a cardinal rule.

In the past, almost all of my music for writing entries have centered around a “no lyrics” approach. Now I’m breaking the rule this one time. Sometimes, certain songs lyrics just fit a circumstance so well that it’s worth the distraction.

Now the big thing about music of this kind is that it’s better for listening to in order to get ideas, rather than something to occupy your mind. You may want to let yourself feel whatever you’re going to get from the music, and then get to writing first.

  1. Homeward, by VNV Nation.
    I used to listen to VNV Nation all the time, and despite being somewhat depressive in some songs, it help me through some break ups way in the past. Homeward tends to be one of the more hopeful pieces.
  2. Vida la Vida, by Coldplay.
    I am not a Coldplay fan. Not by a long shot. But they got this particular song right. It discusses the ups and downs of politics, useful if you want to look at civilization as a whole.
  3. Casino Royale – You Know My Name, by Chris Cornell.
    I’ve never been a fan of the 007 movie series. Even Daniel Craig, an action actor worthy of a respectable nod could not draw me into the series.  But Chris Cornell absolutely floored me this with song.
  4. Don’t Stop Me Now, by Queen.
    This song made a recent come back thanks to Simon Pegg and Nick Frost‘s amazing, amazing take on zombie movies. This song makes you fly. If you’re looking to create a scene that oozes of fast, high good times. Whether or not you’re a Team Fortress 2 fan, you may want to check out the alternative music video ‘Don’t Stab Me Now’ because the song quality is better, although there are a few voice drops.
  5. I Don’t Wanna, by Within Temptation.
    I love Within Temptation. I’ve been a fan for a very long time. This particular song just takes off and sets you up for some incredible vocals by Sharon den Adel. Try it. You’ll like it.
  6. Macross Plus – Information High, by Yoko Kanno.
    Macross makes me nostalgic because it was my favorite show growing up. American fans better know it as Robotech, but Macross Plus was there when I turned into a teenager, and kept the tradition going. Information High, by Yoko Kanno, hits a pulse pounding high of techno and lyrics. I recommend this for futuristic stuff and yes, dog fighting.
  7. Ages old. But still beautiful to look at.

    Ages old. But still beautiful to look at.

    Terra’s Theme (Orchestral with Lyrics), Final Fantasy VI.
    Final Fantasy VI. Some say it was the last real Final Fantasy. Others say it was merely the last of a generation before taking off into something new. But regardless of which camp you belong too (if either), you will probably enjoy this beautiful piece. Even despite it being in Japanese. If not because of it.

  8. Dance in the Dark, by Lady Gaga.
    In case this video confuses you, that isn’t actually Gaga. That is Lizalo Galama, who created this video as a fan project. The reason it’s confusing is because of how much it actually looks like something Gaga would make. There’s something a little depressing to this song despite how upbeat it is. You may find it useful.
  9. Story, by Lene Marlin.
    This is a slow and sorrowful piece. Like looking over a tragic life. My favorite part is just around 3:05.
  10. Somebody Save Me, by Krypteria.
    I think of travel on this one. I like the vocals and lyrics despite how depressing it can be.