Monday, April 2, 2012

And So Begins the Novel

And So Begins the Novel

(My white-and-black typing assistant is Ansel. He loves to sleep in my lap, especially when the laptop's out. He does tend to drop my typing speed a bit, but I'm getting used to working around him.)

Welcome to my brainstorm.

A few weeks back, I had an idea for a fantasy story. I thought I could probably draw a single short story from the idea, but three days, several false starts and revisions later, I had one seriously messed up short story. The problem was simply that I had way too much material for a five-thousand-word short story. O, I considered stretching the tale to a thirty-thousand-or-so-word novella, but even at that length, I knew I'd be leaving a lot of potential material untapped. I also considered writing a series of interconnected short stories, but I firmly believe short stories should be able to stand alone, and making these short stories standalone entities would entail too much repetition. No matter how I approached this concept, it kept coming back novel.

So, my initial idea was a simple reconsideration of my hometown's favorite nickname. I don't know who bestowed this particular sobriquet, but Austin has long been proud to call itself the "Live Music Capital of the World."  From a realistic point of view, live music is a fascinating phenomenon. Live music aficionados know that live music differs from studio recordings in far more complex ways than simply the type of recording equipment used or the possibility of editing and revision. Sure, studio recordings eliminate all the possible interference from the audience, provide a cleaner acoustic ambience, and allow the artists to repeat, amend, and generally revise their work. On the other hand, studio recordings lose any possible visual components in the artists' performance, and the studio recordings don't have immediate audience feedback telling the artist how well the work is being received. But there's more to the live performance than even a video recording can capture. Live performances—especially in smaller venues—are a communication process. Even a holographic recording that allows a viewer to change perspective, focus, light levels, and control every aspect of the audio component, still takes the performance out of context. You might be able to see and hear the audience responses, but you don't feel yourself a part of that response. Short of virtual reality, no recording of a live performance will ever capture the true experience, the magic, the essence of live. Live music is live in more ways than simply having a live artist play before a live audience.

As I began toying with this idea, the phrase live music kept bouncing around in my mind. I slept on it and dreamstormed the idea of live music. What if it meant something more literal? What if music—some music, anyway—what if live music were truly alive? What if songs could come to life? What would they be? Human? Animals? Fantasy creatures? A combination thereof? And whence the magic? Assuming that, even in the Live Music Capital, not all live music comes to life, what makes the difference? The composer? The performer? The venue? The audience?

Well, that's my starting point. The working title, for now, is Live Music.

In my next entry, I'll outline some of the basic laws of magic as they apply to my alternate Austin reality. Until then, if you have any ideas relative to Live Music—inputs, criticism, points you think I might have overlooked—let me know.


  1. If there is LIVE music that is more than just a live performance, is there also DEAD music? If there is a magic here, can it be used/abused in other ways?

  2. Interesting question and one that relates to one of the principal conflicts I'll be addressing. Clearly, anything that can live can also die, but how do you kill a song or an interpretation of a song? When can you say that a song is truly dead? Songs also age, but how do they age relative to the rest of us? As for abuse, surely any power can be abused. Anyway, keep watching. I'll post another update today or tomorrow, and I'll talk a bit more about death and aging of live music.