Writer’s Music: John Carpenter


Let’s try something different.

Let’s try music we never tried before.

Music that has no roots in a film, though its creator does.

John Carpenter has been on my mind these past few days. I’ve been brainstorming up a bit of short fiction I wanted to share here to analyze the relationship between my immediate settings and the stories I create. While I have a sense of what I want to do, the rhythm’s still missing. The piece can’t afford to build too quickly; it’ll need a slow build to grip the readers. I need the readers to see the menace, know it’s coming, shake their fists at the protagonist as they cry, He’s right behind you!”

Aha! Just like Carpenter’s HalloweenThere’s a movie without flash or whimsy: everything’s done on a shoe-string budget while everyone gives their 200%. This is the movie that made Jamie Lee Curtis the Scream Queen, after all. And Carpenter’s score is legendary, as is his method. (“I’m the cheapest, and I know I’ll get it done on time,” He said. Sort of. Look, ask Bo, he’s read all about him.) Carpenter uses his synthesizer to score nearly all his movies. Sure, his melodies are simple, but they cement themselves into the audience’s memory, and fast. The theme for Halloween is nothing short of iconic, right up there with Superman and Batman.

But like John Williams, this can mean that the music lets a writer think of nothing else but Michael Myers walking down a shadowed street.

Enter the Lost Themes.

In the last few years Carpenter has produced two new albums of instrumental music totally unconnected to his films. They still keep his minimal style of percussion, synthesizer, and occasional piano. The result? Desired aural atmosphere without the Pavlovian reaction. Every track smacks of 80s: arcade tournaments and puffy vests, rolled-up denim and disco fries. Occasionally Kurt Russell in an eye patch appears in one’s imagination, but he’s too smart to interrupt the story at hand.

So, over the next week I’m going to see how far these albums can take a character I created years ago. He’s been kicking the table for his own story, but I was never sure what to do for a novel. Well, problem solved now.

We got work to do, Dorjan.

Let’s go.

Writer’s Music: Kristopher Carter

batman_beyond_return_of_the_joker_soundtrackThis one’s a guilty pleasure. Having grown up with a father who adored fiction’s two greatest detectives, it was only natural that, once Batman: the Animated Series hit the air, our family could not go by a week without its viewing. Any offshoot, such as Batman Beyond, was equally welcome.

Now, in my previous “Writer’s Music” posts, I’ve dwelled on some of the more subtle sorts of music, for anticipation, unease, thoughts of the future, and so on. But sometimes, you just need a moment of badass-ness. This is your moment.

Kristopher Carter wrote a good deal of music for the animated Batman shows, but the mix of orchestra and hard rock is positively brilliant, especially when one considers the Batman of Batman Beyond is a teenager who works for an aged Bruce Wayne. It is, I admit, hard not to separate the music from the show, so much so that I have yet to apply the music to a story I’ve written. Considering the wealth of authors I have met online, however, I know there are plenty of writers who have heroes with battles to face—not just the inward ones, but ones requiring swords, guns, and any weapon I have yet to imagine.

The metal and the orchestra balance each other throughout the score, but in this theme youth dominates. Don’t let that fool you—the orchestra swells in the last third of the track to add not only power, but an authority as well. This is the music of transformation: perhaps your hero knows who—or what—s/he is, but has yet to fully become that which your story world needs to be saved. The resolve, the power suit, whatever your hero needs, must come sometime, and there’s no reason for it to come quietly. If your hero must prepare to face the darkness, let him prepare to this.

Click here for more on Kristopher Carter.

Click here for more on BATMAN BEYOND: RETURN OF THE JOKER.