Scenes of music: Siúil a Rúin

Posted on Mon 07 January 2019 • Tagged with Scenes of music

Song: Siúil a Rúin

I see the woman every day when I pass by on my way home from work. She’s always sitting on the same boulder, next to an ancient oak. Sometimes she’s humming and on some rare days she’s singing a sad song in her clear, beautiful voice. I usually stop to listen. She doesn’t seem to mind. Only very rarely does she look up or even notices someone more than in passing.

The song is so sad that it brings me to tears despite all the things I’ve seen in my life. Her eyes and her soul are far away. I have seen the woman every single day without fail since I moved to this town fifteen years ago. She has aged but her resolve and her devotion has never wavered. I’m never sure whether to pity her or whether to admire her for the way she lives her live.

This one was the most difficult song I tried yet because I was not sure for a long while how to tackle this. Then I gave it some more plays and figured it would make most sense to stick close to the theme and the sad melody. I love the song and tried hard to write something that would live up to the emotion welling up when I listen to it.

Requested by Regin Theradiant.

Scenes of music: Gold and Slaves

Posted on Mon 31 December 2018 • Tagged with Scenes of music

Song: Gold and Slaves

“Quick”, she tells us. We keep to our guide, faces deep in the hoods of our disguises. The sun burns as we hurry along. She leads us across the markets. “You mustn’t let others see how much you detest the slave trade.” She had told us that many times already. We still had trouble not acting, not caring. Slavery goes against so many of Gibraltar’s teachings. But we had a specific goal here. We were on a mission that took priority over our resentment. I take a short look at the people. Almost all of them have resigned to their fate. They all look like they haven’t gotten a single meal for days. I tend to feel little for others but this misery is too much. Ashamed I look away and continue following our local guide as the rest of my team does. I am certain they each have their own thoughts about what they see here. Currently we can’t risk to cause a diplomatic incident though. We are to retrieve a certain object in the possession of a local businessman. Gibraltar had made it clear that it was of the utmost importance that the university was not to be implicated in this. He also stressed that a legal, nonviolent way of retrieval was highly preferred.

Truth be told I shouldn’t even be here. I’m here because I complained about boredom and the university system being useless. So the Administrator decided to teach me a lesson by including me in a mission even though my education was far from finished. How do you even get the idea to send a first year student on a foreign trip, no matter how great the rest of the team?

Two of them made pretty clear how they felt about an absolute beginner joining them. Not so the team lead - but on the other hand I knew Kakysha already. She’s professional and wouldn’t let her feelings influence the potential success of a mission. I was worried and distraught by the thought of going on a mission. I would’ve never even chosen this life, but sometimes you just aren’t given a choice. Kakysha was one of the most commendable fighters at university though. Most of her performance evaluations were amazing. Those things gave me some comfort and made it just a little easier to do this - to go hunting for a relic in a foreign nation.

This one was gathering dust in my drafts folder for a long, long time because I never thought this would fit what I usually write. I am publishing it now since it was a major inspiration for some of the scenes I talk about; the combination of atmospheric music and intense narration going hand in hand.

Scenes of music: You should see me in a crown

Posted on Mon 31 December 2018 • Tagged with Scenes of music

Song: You should see me in a crown

You wonder why it is that they always hurt you. They also make you hurt others. You shut out the pain and cut them down. Puppets. You pretend the other kids are the same as the training puppets earlier. The screams are muted. You only hear the sounds of your blades and their blades. Everyone is dying.

This is what the training is every day, every month, every year since you were taken. You don’t know how long you have been in this place. The only thing that matters is survival. Survival and the crown. The others have made a crown out of scrap metal and glass shards, because that is all you have when you’re not made to fight others. The one who owns the crown is in charge. You only want to be left in peace. When you have the crown, the others will leave you alone. Or be left in pieces.

The crown is symbolic - it cannot be worn without pain, it cannot be gained without pain, it cannot be held without pain. Nobody wants to be a ruler here.

When writing this one, the greatest hints were the recurring metallic sounds that I immediately associated with blades. It was the young sounding voice and the crown in the lyrics that made me think of a horrific death camp for kids.

Requested by Hax Silverstone.

Scenes of music: Soul Surrender

Posted on Mon 31 December 2018 • Tagged with Scenes of music

Song: Soul Surrender

You hear the righteous choirs singing in your head. They sing of glory and destruction. They sing of conquest. You rush ahead, up the stairs, along the castle walls. The guards try to stop you but you dodge some. You attack some others to throw them off balance. You run. You practically fly because you have your sights set on your goal.

This time, this glorious night you will succeed and throw the empress from her throne. You’ll get the justice you wish for, the justice your family deserved ever since it has been driven from these lands. You’ll stop her reign of terror, that’s what you keep repeating to yourself. No locked door can stop you now. The magic in your veins allows you to break them with a single touch of your hand.

Your allies have done their deeds as well. They poisoned the high guard and its numbers are reduced to a handful of soldiers. The rest has come down from food poisoning. Knocked out but not dead. The only death tonight will be her, her life yours to take. That has been your intent ever since she deemed all of you unworthy of continued existence. You feel the steel of your blade in your hand. It sings for blood. Blood of the oppressor.

Spirits high, but blade held higher, you barge into her quarters. No one dares fire an arrow here. She seems to have expected you and draws her sword, a wicked grin on her face.

This was an easier request. I was already familiar with the song from many hours playing Final Fantasy XIV and its grand theme invites an equally grand scene, like a battlefield, or something with a lot of fast action and drama. I believe that political impact is important for this piece, that’s why I had an assassination in mind. Or rather, a noisy coup then a sneaky assassination.

Requested by Anja Kreutz.

Anno 2205: Stories of Possible Futures

Posted on Mon 31 December 2018 • Tagged with Video Games, Stories

I wanted to play Anno 2205 for quite a while because of its setting in the far future, being able to colonize the moon and all that, but I was never entirely sure it is the right kind of game for me. I usually stick to more story based games. However, after giving Surviving Mars a try and finding it overall very enjoyable, my opinion against buying the title wasn’t as strong as before. I consulted a friend who ensured me that if I liked Surviving Mars, there’s a very good chance I’d like Anno 2205 as well. Some time later, I snagged the game as well as all its expansions for €14.

Overall, I immensely enjoy seeing different visions of what our far future could look like, be it The Expanse, Anno 2205 or Surviving Mars, maybe even Deus Ex: Human Revolution. I truly hope we - as the human race - will make it that far without annihilating ourselves over petty conflicts or choking in our self-made garbage problem. Now, what is it that makes these scenarios more interesting? They have visions of what will be better, but the makers of these works of fiction acknowledge that the future will also have its own problems - something that comes up too rarely in “clean” fiction like Star Trek.

  • The Expanse has a myriad problems, from Earth’s overpopulation, to the political climate of Earth versus Mars, to the general suffering of people in what’s called the Belt.
  • Surviving Mars has at least one scenario in which a Third World War is happening on Earth. Leaving Earth for Mars is pictured as dangerous but also very promising, while conflicts on Earth don’t cease. While your Marsian colony is backed by an entity on Earth, you can make it without overly relying on them.
  • Anno 2205 has its own share of political problems with the first wave of colonists on the moon being very unhappy and taking military action against your cooperation back on Earth. The game also acknowledges climate factors, like arctic nights and smog. The further you progress the more you might be horrified by how much of what you ship around the globe are actually not necessary products but consumer goods. It’s a crass reminder of how far consumerism has progressed. I wonder if it might have made sense to include some waste management mechanic to convey a more ecologic perspective for the future.

With that prelude out of the way, let me tell you about a corporation called Abstergo Industries (I usually choose that Assassin’s Creed-inspired name for companies in video games).
Abstergo Industries started out relatively small in a region called Cape Ambar in Earth’s temperate region. It was there that they collaborated with Ibarra-FoxCom when trying to lift an old ark out of the depths of the ocean - a project that is still ongoing.

In trying to face the needs of both its customers and its employees, Abstergo expanded to Kinngait Protectorate, a region in the arctic. The company showed both its resourcefulness in settling the uninviting region as well as its good will towards the Arctic Custodians by helping with repairs and research concerning one of Earth’s Climate Stabilizers.

Dedicated Abstergo security professionals stopped several attempts by terrorists trying to disrupt Abstergo’s supply lines and operations. Its growth progressing smoothly, the company was proud to launch its own space station hosting a wealth of scientific experiments. Furthermore, their expansion onto Luna was a great success, with the first base being situated in Iwamoto Crater. Here, a collaboration with Cassian Industries led to a very profitable operation in mining meteroids. Only a while later, Abstergo would settle in a second lunar region, Novikov Crater, to help with refugee relief efforts.

Using a massive fleet of cargo ships, shuttles and space elevators, Abstergo grew from a small company into a massive MegaCorp and expanded into one more region - Vanha Plains in the Tundra. As the company developed, so did its awareness of logistics and environmental needs, leading to the implementation of several optimizations in its production processes building on scientific breakthroughs from its orbital science team. Fewer transport routes would be needed and more goods could be sourced locally. Additionally, in order to provide a clean environment for its inhabitants, Abstergo started separating sectors into living and production areas, leading to happier and healthier citizens.

With Abstergo drawing a healthy amount of investors, financial options seemed to skyrocket, leading to the company aquiring settlement rights for Walbruck Basin, Greentide Archipelago and Wildwater Bay. Development of these areas is still in progress and reports about local activity are scarce. Rumors have also surfaced about a potential health hazard from Vanha Plains, but the company keeps a tight lid on these issues.

Abstergo Industries has announced it will enter the stock market later this year.

Unused concert ticket

Posted on Sun 09 December 2018 • Tagged with Memories

My mind latches to something that is still on my desk. I only recently took it out of a bag I use for work. It’s a ticket to a show of Apocalyptica in Graz, from 2017.

I remember talking with A about the show during a vacation in Greece. I wasn’t sure I had the time and nerve to go see it. She assured me it would be nice change of pace and might improve my mood. After all, I tremendously liked Apocalyptica and “20 Years of Plays Metallica by four Cellos”, sounded awesome. I still remember the hoops we had to jump through to get the ticket online and pay with card. It felt more complicated than it should, really. The ticket websites usually do. The seat selection was especially awful, as is tradition for this kind of website.

I had enjoyed the Apocalyptica concert in Vienna back in 2010 and decided to splurge the €60 for one of the best seats, a “Logenplatz”. I was looking forward to the concert in that moment. The show was going to be on the Kasemattenbühne, which is the stage at the top of the Schlossberg. Awesome.

Flash forward a few days. We had returned to Austria. I wasn’t well. I had trouble sleeping and on the day of the concert I was feeling particularly unwell which prompted me to take a short nap. Which became… not so short. I woke up in the evening, a bit dizzy. A returned from where ever she had been and asked me why I wasn’t at the concert. I had completely forgotten the show. I could’ve started and tried to catch a last few songs but I couldn’t be bothered. I had totally screwed myself with this ticket and the nap.

I should’ve set an alarm or something. I mean, you would, right? But sometimes your physical condition does strange things to your awareness of reality. Lack of sleep is bad. That’s not all though. I think I may have been in the early stages of depression back then.

I crumble the envelope and throw the ticket into the paper shredder. Maybe I have better luck with 30 years of cellos.

This post was written in back in 2017. It lingered unpublished in my drafts folder. Only now - in 2018 - I reworked it and decided I was confident enough to publish more personal stories.

Scenes of music: Revenge of the Wolves

Posted on Sun 09 December 2018 • Tagged with Scenes of music

Song: Revenge of the Wolves

The moment you open the door of your hut, you have a bad feeling. Your wife is not there, neither are your children. You had asked them to stay inside because of the impending danger of the hordes. You feel a chill run down your spine. Ice flows through your veins. You start running towards the market stalls when you see the state of your rooms - everything is messed up and destroyed, as if a tornado had torn everything inside.

Nobody is at the market and the stalls are broken - splintered wood everywhere, the occasional trampled vegetable. You don’t see any blood but that doesn’t make it better. It seems like no one put up a fight. You run further, to the one friend you’d trust with your live and your family. But she is not at her house. In fact, all the houses along this road are empty, with their front doors wide open and the lights inside still burning.

Despair has you firmly in its grasp.

This was a little easier to write than the first scene, given that it was both an instrumental piece and from the soundtrack of a game I have played extensively. The theme here is the urge to hurry, to do something, anything not to go mad from inaction.

Requested by Waran.

Red Lipstick on White Fabric

Posted on Sun 11 November 2018 • Tagged with Memories

I let my thoughts drift. My mind wanders to an old memory. It is a piece of white cloth with a red stain on it. The stain is not fresh but slightly faded, someone has tried to remove it with washing powder but it didn’t entirely work.

It was the day before carnival at school and I spent the evening chatting with M who had been a friend for 2-3 years at this point. We exchanged messages via ICQ - which was the messaging service of choice in my circle of friends back then. I didn’t like the thought of dressing up and was generally grumpy. I have not been a fan of costumes since elementary school but I don’t remember what soured the fun in dressing up. Bets are either the feeling of carnival being childish and immature or the dislike of the drunk masses during the gatherings in town.

M mentioned that she would be going as a vampire. Truth be told I was probably into her back then. I certainly remember making advances towards her and being rejected at some point; but I cannot figure out if that was the same year. As much as it pains me to admit, the years from school are blurry and I’m having trouble remembering whom exactly I liked at which moment. It’s not always so clean cut during puberty, as you might have experienced yourself.

I sensed the opportunity to blend in a little easier with folks in school while not being entirely dressed up and suggest that, should she go as vampire I might be the victim of her bite, with some blood, stains and all.

I’m not sure whether I asked M to wear red lipstick that day. My mind might have added that detail in hindsight to make the memory livelier. I asked my mother in the morning to help me with some of her makeup, to make a more convincing vampire victim - the usual things but not going over the top. So we stick to the kiss mouth painted on with lipstick and use a little bit of eyeliner for a different colored red. We could’ve gone for some ghoulish smokey eyes effect, I realize now.

M and I had a lot of fun parading around at school, with all the usual jokes you do on carnival. At least that’s what I prefer to think, given that I lack any detailed memories here. I would be willing to bet there were krapfen at some point and I believe I messed up my white hoodie with the jam from the krapfen. When undressing I smeared some of the lipstick to the collar of the white hoodie. Mum was never able to get it perfectly white again and asked me multiple times to give it away or discard it but I kept it for years, the stain a reminder of a nice memory.

Scenes of music: Only My Railgun (Original Version)

Posted on Tue 30 October 2018 • Tagged with Scenes of music

Song: Only My Railgun

You arrive late to the concert. It’s not really your style, but nevertheless you look forward to enjoying it, having been handed free tickets from a friend. You enter the club located near the exterior hull of the space station, where rent is cheap and gravitation is low enough for many to feel uneasy. The unfamiliar music with synths and Japanese voiceovers is already playing. When you open the door, bright neon lights flash and you see the mob jumping in ecstasy. They cheer to the music filling their lives with joy apart from the dreary daily life. You’re a bit sad that the voice is from an android proxy performer. Certainly you didn’t expect them to show up personally on a mining station that remote?

You ease into the beat of the music and move with the rest of the crowd, forgetting your calling for the moment and focus on the beat driving you forward. You haven’t felt this energetic for the whole week and hope it lasts to get you through the rest of this assignment so you can return to your clan where you’ll be surrounded by familiar faces once more.

This is the first scene that I wrote to accompany a piece of music. The idea came up during a session of writing music recommendations that didn’t go as well as they usually do, so I tried to mix things up a bit. I asked the participants to give me one song each and I wrote a little flavor text to go with them. This one was inspired by The Expanse, both the novels and the TV series.

Requested by Xeha North.

Reading recommendations (2018-09-29)

Posted on Sat 29 September 2018 • Tagged with Reading recommendations

I’m writing this while I’m still on sick leave, so not terribly talkative or inspired. I played a lot more Assassin’s Creed 3 since I blew through the most interesting content in the latest Final Fantasy XIV patch in just two evenings. I even got around to reading the next book from The Expanse, which - I now know thanks to iOS 12’s “Screen Time”, took me about 14 hours.