Posts Tagged ‘dramatic structure’

The Writer’s Journey Inspires a Symphony

September 21, 2014
HJ Cover

A new symphonic poem by Luigi Maiello inspired by The Writer’s Journey

As I write this, I am listening to a new piece of music, a symphonic poem. Discovering a new composition is always enjoyable, but there is a special joy in this one, because it was inspired by my book THE WRITER’S JOURNEY, and the 12-stage Hero’s Journey model that I describe there.

HJ Diagram2

Titled “The Hero’s Journey”, this symphonic poem is the work of Italian composer Luigi Maiello who contacted me recently to tell me how he was inspired by the structure of my book to write twelve compositions expressing the different energies of the 12 Stages. He writes music for movies, TV series and computer games, and says “The Hero’s Journey” music is already being selected by directors as theme music for their productions.

You can buy and hear the music yourself at https://itunes.apple.com/it/album/the-heros-journey/id871342884.

I’m very excited about this development, because I have always dreamed of influencing and inspiring other artists to create works that express the spirit of the Hero’s Journey.  I get a lot of pleasure out of collaborating with creative people, and have had quite a few good experiences of it in my years of association with Disney Animation.  I also had the joy of working with graphic artists Michele Montez and Fritz Springmeyer on the third edition illustrations for THE WRITER’S JOURNEY; with comics illustrator Elmer Damaso on RAVENSKULL, my manga spin-off of IVANHOE; and with a great team of European and American animators on my animated feature JESTER TILL.

Stageswebsize

“Stages of the Journey” illustration by Michele Montez from THE WRITER’S JOURNEY 3rd Edition

And now someone has been inspired all on his own to create a stunning musical work from the skeleton of my Hero’s Journey outline. I am all the more thrilled because it sounds like epic movie music I would write myself if I had the training and talent. In my mind’s eye as I listen to these pieces I see vast clouds parting to reveal the palaces of the gods, lands of wonder and enchantment, and the mighty deeds of giants and heroes. Here are depths of danger, pinnacles of triumph and tragedy, and glimpses of sublime mystery. It’s perfect soundtrack music for the writing projects I’m doing now.  The composer describes it as a kind of “universal soundtrack” for the eternal story of the Hero’s Journey.

It’s fascinating to listen to the different tracks and how they express the varied aspects of the Journey.  Like the 12 stages themselves, each composition projects a distinct energy, sometimes menacing and full of portent, sometimes racing along with all the excitement of a movie chase, and then again surging with hope and aspiration to reach higher planes.

 

 

A page from RAVENSKULL illus. by Elmer Damaso

A page from RAVENSKULL illus. by Elmer Damaso

Please support the artist, all artists, for we certainly need them and their healing power and inspiration. It’s all about inspiration — the storytellers and musicmakers of old were inspired by the power and beauty of nature, people like Joseph Campbell and Vladimir Propp were inspired by them to write their theories, people like me were inspired to reinterpret them for modern media, and people like Luigi Maiello are inspired again to create new works. And doubtless others will be inspired by Luigi’s soaring, epic music to express visions of their own.

Advertisements

Weak drama makes me mad

September 29, 2009

I’m glad a couple of people have commented on my first entry.  By coincidence, I guess, two people wrote comments over the last two days.  Rishi Kumar writes about another emotion triggered by movies, specifically anger that he felt at one of the characters in “The Fellowship of the Ring” who was behaving foolishly.   I feel that anger sometimes, too, Rishi.  I want to shout at the screen when characters walk into danger or don’t take good advice.  That’s a good sign, I think, that you are involved in the fate of the characters.  Even if it’s infuriating, the filmmakers have done a good job of getting you hooked into the story.  You care enough to be mad.

I sometimes feel a different kind of anger when movies let me down or defy my expectations.  I had a taste of this let-down recently watching “Julie and Julia”.  I enjoyed the movie for the most part but was disappointed by what I felt was a structural failure.  The movie is what we call a “two-hander” meaning that the dramatic interest is almost equally divided between two characters, so that you have two protagonists on parallel journeys.  The journey for the Julia character (Meryl Streep playing the famous chef Julia Child) is fairly satisfying, dramatizing the obstacles she faced in writing and publishing her masterwork, “Mastering the Art of French Cooking”, and suggesting that she suffered emotionally from being unable to conceive children.  But the journey of the other protagonist, blogger Julie Powell (played by Amy Adams) is rather weak by comparison, and its weakness was infuriating.  The Powell character is trying to enter into spiritual communication with Child by cooking all of the five hundred or so recipes in her book in the course of a year, and blogging daily about it.  Although the character faces mild difficulties in mastering the skills called for by this effort, the only real dramatic problem she encounters is a slight disturbance in her marriage.  Her husband feels neglected and unappreciated because of her obsession with her blogging and cooking project, and after an argument, he moves out for a brief time.  Julie suffers alone for an evening or so, but DOES NOTHING to heal the wound.  Her mate simply gets over his fit of frustration and comes back to her FOR NO REASON.  Nothing is earned and therefore nothing can be learned, and there is no growth.  This was presented as the major crisis in the young blogger’s life, the major emotional consequence of her choice to pursue her dream, but it’s a flimsy peg on which to hang her half of the story, and when I realized that was all we were going to get on that score, I felt angry, disappointed, and ripped off.

Julie is challenged in a couple of other ways (her mother belittles her project in a series of phone calls, and the cooking project creates minor ripples in her day job)  but these are slight threats to her sense of well-being and once more she doesn’t really confront these obstacles with definite action.

Late in the movie Julie wonders how Julia Child is reacting to her blog, and is disappointed when she hears that Julia said something negative about her project.  However, this setback doesn’t rise to the level of a real dramatic crisis.  It wasn’t put forward as a strong wish or need for Julie early in the script, and it’s too late to introduce it as a heart-breaking defeat, or to put it in the language of my Writer’s Journey/Hero’s Journey model, a transformative Ordeal or Death and Resurrection moment .

Instead, the script tells us her hard work and dedication to her dream finally paid off and she is recognized by the same world of culture that earlier had embraced Julia Child’s work.  She is given the magic blessing of being noticed and endorsed by the New York Times, which like the fairy godmother’s magic wand instantly grants her wishes for fame and recognition.  Her mother now approves of her efforts.  Offers of book contracts and interview requests flow into her phone answering machine.  This is every struggling writer’s dream, but I could have enjoyed her victory so much more if her emotional subplot, the disagreement with her husband, had possessed more gravity, more real danger to the marriage, and if she had DONE SOMETHING or CHANGED in some way in order to win back his love.  Instead it played as an empty dramatic distraction, a weak, boneless gesture in the direction of a real emotional crisis.  Maybe, in the real life of Julie Powell, that brief separation seemed like the end of the world, but on screen it failed to fulfill the basic dramatic contract, and it made me mad at an otherwise enjoyable movie.

Best to Rishi and Frankie, film student from Hungary!