Tarot Playlist: Songs to Divine By

I have to say, I’ve never been one for the reading playlist or casting my characters as actors. For me, this is a sidetrack away from the actual writing. But then I started doing it, and I’m hooked. Listed here is the soundtrack to Tarot: The Magician. (Actually it’s only the first half because I can’t say no to a song).

These aren’t songs I write to. I just can’t manage to do that. Things need to be silent. Instead, if I were to lay a soundtrack down through my book, this is what it would be.

Theme Song

This is, of course, the song written by Bradley.

Discovering the Cards

Kassandra discovers the cards in the first chapter, but their full abilities don’t reveal themselves until later in the book. The cards sort of lurk, casting off bits of strangeness here and there until emerging to save Kassandra from ridicule. For this feeling, I imagine “Blue Bell Knoll” but the Cocteau Twins.

Bathroom Scene

This is where Kassandra cuts herself for the first time (at least the first time in the book). Being a big Johnny Cash fan, I had to use “Hurt”.

Luke Rykell Arrives

Of course, everything looks up for Kassandra after Luke arrives. He offers false hope. She hasn’t realized yet his ulterior motives. For this scene, only the Chairman of the Board will do: Frank Sinatra’s “Fly Me to the Moon.”

Dreams of the Garage

During this time, Kassandra dreams of her old garage in Seattle. There she meets her Dad. Later, we learn this is actually the Death card from the Tarot deck. For this scene I’d choose “O Death” from O Brother Where Art Thou.

Confrontation with Luke

The final confrontation with Luke has Kassandra running home and barricading herself in the house. Luke simply strolls up the sidewalk. This song always fills my head for this scene. It’s “Ball and a Biscuit” by the White Stripes.

After this point, Kassandra becomes trapped inside the Tarot cards. To hear those songs, check out the next post.

Tim Kane

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A Theme Song for an eBook

Having grown up seeing images of the Beatles recording at Abbey Road, I’ve always wondered what it was like inside a recording studio. I finally got my chance. Last weekend, my musician friends abducted me to record a theme song to my new ebook: Tarot: The Magician. The results were tremendous.

The “John Lennon” of the group was Bradley Coy. This was a surreal experience for me in many ways, not the least being that I taught this young man back when he was in sixth grade. He was phenomenal musician then and even better now.

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Bradley Coy with Mark C. Jackson in the foreground.

He recycled an old melody he’d written to create the “theme song” for my book. Now I know what you’re thinking: books don’t have theme songs. So true. But book trailers do. I have animated a book trailer. Being that I have only enough knowledge of music to be dangerous, I wanted some sort of professional song to score the 40 seconds of animated trailer.

Given my druthers, I probably would have lifted a song, ran it backward through some filters. It wouldn’t have been good, but serviceable. Fortunately, Bradley materialized form the musical woodwork and transformed his melody into a perfect compliment to the atmosphere of the book.

We visited the recording studio of David Morgan, who has outfitted his room with more guitars and sound equipment than the average Guitar Center. He had recorded plenty of albums there for local artists, but he was curious about scoring music to a video. It turned out to more tricky than you’d think.

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David Morgan suggesting how to match the music to the video.

Bradley would play the melody flawlessly, but the timing to the video eluded him. Or he’d nail it, only to boff a chord near the end. Thankfully we had the guiding presence of Mark C. Jackson, a fellow musician and writer. He knew that the first dozen takes were simply warm up for the real performance. As we neared that “perfect” moment, his energy spiked. He leapt out of his seat to encourage Bradley to create the perfect mixture of melancholy and gloominess (yes, that’s the tone for the book).

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Mark C Jackson suggesting how to line up the music with the video.

Bradley’s whole take on the melody was one of a vintage piano with a vaudevillian touch. He and I both share a yen for the Beats and the Surrealists. It seemed natural that the music for a surrealistic novel be a riff from the 1930s.

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Bradley seriously contemplating the melody.

What was I doing during all this? Not a lot. Mostly I played the documenter, snapping pictures to capture the moment. Bradley finally nailed it, leaving the end of the melody dangling like an unanswered question. It might bug some people, but for me, it was simply perfect.

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There I am, observing all of this. I get writing. But music recording baffles me.

You can listen to the track here. The full trailer will be revealed at the end of May.

Tim Kane

I Used To Think My Right Hand Was Uglier Than My Left (The art of Ken Nordine)

I discovered Ken Nordine I don’t know how long ago. But he’s addicting. You see, he’s not exactly a poet and much more than a musician. He’s a bard working in the realm of jazz. Yet even that doesn’t do him justice. Well here, take a listen.

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Yes, listen. His voice is so soothing, you forget that he’s taking you down a surreal path into the ridiculous and poignant. Most of these (can I really call them songs?) come from a series of albums titled Word Jazz that came out in the late 1950s and early 1960s.

This first song/story, titled “Magenta,” comes from an album I don’t have, yet I love the animation that has been attached to it.

This next listen, “My Baby,” is just plain silly. Many of his song/stories are structured in this way. A sort of confessional as he tells you his secret. He speaks to you as if you’re in the room with him. Look for the twist at the end.

This is one of my all time favorites. It’s called “I Used To Think My Right Hand Was Uglier Than My Left.” Now that’s a title for you. Who wouldn’t be drawn to that?

“Down the Drain” embodies a serene feeling I get when I take a bath. Maybe you get it too. Although I don’t know if my mind travels to all the places Ken’s does.

“The Sound Museum” is just what is sounds like, a museum of modern sound “paintings”. Bizarre, I know, but Ken Nordine pulls it off. Take a listen.

At this point you might be wondering why you recognize his voice. Ken Nordine has such a deep and captivating voice, that he’s done many voice overs and commercials. He was even the coach for Linda Blair in the Exorcist.

When you have a chance, pick up one of his albums, sit back, and let his voice carry you into new realms of thought.

Tim Kane

Change or Perish

I recently watched the flick Bad Teacher which included a short rant by one character about how opera is dying. And he was right. This art from will die out, but not because people aren’t learning to love it. It’s because it refuses to adapt.

Let me step back and explain my own experiences with this art form. My dad, bless his soul, loved opera. And he loved it loud. Every Sunday morning on speakers almost as tall as me. I guess most kids had their parents blast Rolling Stones or AC DC. Me? I got Mozart and Beethoven.

That’s not to say I hated it outright. I did play a supernumerary (think “extra”) in a production of Tosca. There’s this one aria that still haunts me this day. I loved being under the stage and hearing it each night. Yet this opera was written over a hundred years ago. And those by Mozart and Beethoven are even older. My point, maybe opera needs some significant new blood to revitalize it.

Think about it. How many operas can you name? The only ones that come to mind are Barber of Seville and the Ring series by Wagner. It probably doesn’t help that both of these were performed by Bugs Bunny and Elmer Fudd.

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I think the main problem is that opera is seen as pure and elite. I know that’s how my dad viewed it. Those who love it see the art form as superior to others. With that attitude, how are you ever going to adapt? With fewer young folk into it, opera will die out. Plain and simple.

But that’s a good thing.

Once it’s dead, it’s free. People can dive back and lift those wonderful melodies up again. What would opera sound like if mixed with hip hop or electronica, or even good old rock. I know this is sacrilege, but this might be what it takes to bring it back to life. What does it say when the most interesting opera performance I’ve seen in a while came from Fifth Element?

Taking this idea to heart, don’t hold any of your own art forms as sacred. Have a key idea or character in a story? One that seems so vital the writing couldn’t survive with out. Kill the character or idea. Then see what happens. Maybe you’ll bring it back in a new and exciting form.

Tim Kane

Artists Need to Specialize

When I was younger, I delved into all sorts of artistic endeavors: painting, music, poetry. Yet I couldn’t get any traction and create authentic art unless I picked one and committed. The more you spread your time over different projects or media types, the less you can focus on one. For me, it’s writing.

I’m often tempted to jump art forms. Pick up the paintbrush or compose a song. However, I’m well versed enough to understand these distractions for what they are. It’s a subtle form of writer’s block. My brain, forced with creating, would rather sidetrack to another creative venue. It’s the same temptation that makes me want to switch novels rather than complete the one I’m on.

You have to stay firm and commit for the long haul. Finish what you started. If you want to switch to another art form, do it when you’re between projects.

Tim Kane

Mine Your Inner Hurt

It doesn’t matter what sort of art you take up—writing, painting, music, cooking—you need to dig deep into whatever hurt you have. If not, then the art will be false and flimsy.

Salvador Dali pondering how to make himself insane in the office of Dr. Sigmund Freud from the film “The Death of Salvador Dali.”

I was watching the Next Food Network Star. On one episode, a contestant opened up about how he lived his childhood scavenging from garbage cans. This not only moved me, it showed how authentic he was. Another contestant would not open up. She obviously had some sort of hurt in the past. One that had shaped her way of thinking, yet she was afraid of going to that dark place. On that episode she was eliminated. Why? Because she didn’t connect with the viewers.

Be authentic with your art. If it doesn’t hurt, then you’re not doing it right. When you dig into your inner self, it’s like therapy. Only art comes out the other end. If you’re not willing to be brutally honest with yourself, then your work will feel false. It’s like the difference between a museum painting and a hotel painting. They both contain skill, but only one has passion.

Salvador Dali once toured a museum of paintings. After viewing them all, a reporter asked him which one he liked the most. Dali pointed at a door, freshly painted and still wet. He said there was more skill and passion in that door than any of the other paintings.

Tim Kane