Embodied Thinking Reflection

Jumping in the AirFor me, the way I see embodied thinking is that it’s a combination of using our physical and emotional senses to bring abstract concepts to something more concrete. The physical aspect of embodied thinking is also known as kinesthetic thinking, and the emotional part is known as empathising. In my previous post, I created a graphical depiction of the way I use embodied thinking. This method didn’t fully capture the kinesthetic thinking on my part (ie: it didn’t show me walking), but with the thought bubble, I was able to show how I use empathising in my writings. I chose to do digital art as my creative modality because digital art is something I’ve dabbled with in years (and because I didn’t have the right tools and skills to do other mediums . . . )

When it comes to creating fanworks, embodied thinking is a great tool to use. It’s a tool everyone should at least understand the basics of and use when they need to be creative. For an example, if I were to write a fanfic about a character having a knee injury that last a lifetime, I can think about the time when I injured my own knee, think about that moment of extreme pain and the lingering pain long after the incident, and then translate those physical and emotional pain in an artistic way. Another example can be writing about a character who hoards food in their house despite being well off. This is something my mother does, and she does it because she grew up in a poverty-stricken environment. To her, food is a precious commodity, and because she remembers those times of being hungry due to lack of food, she stocks up now. I look at our full pantry, and I imagine the extreme hunger she must have gone through as a child, and thus she didn’t want me and my dad to feel the same way, so she stocks up.

Embodied thinking isn’t limited to just fanfic writers, though. Artists can use this tool to figure out body positions and facial expressions in their art. If they want to capture an expression full of love, they can try to emulate that by looking in a mirror or by studying other people’s expression. Or maybe just study the body language of people, too, which is another aspect they can try and draw or paint — traditionally or digitally — in their work. Even in music, we can bring embodied thinking to create songs that will fit the mood. When we’re happy, how does our body move, as opposed to when we’re feeling sad, anger, and exhaustion? If a story showcases some kind of a major breakthrough, would the music be depressing or energetic?

As a species, humans are physical like other animals (we move, we eat, we sleep, we feel pain . . . ), but we’re also capable of being emotional — emotions we can put into words. Embodied thinking is just something that allows us to both, and when we bring that tool to expand on our creativity, we then add feelings and depths to what we’re trying to create.

The Creative “I” ~ Variations on a Theme

For this second Creative “I” assignment, I chose to rewrite “Danny Boy”.

My revised lyrics are below:

Oh, Mrs Lee, the notes, the notes are playing.
From sea to sea, your love has touched us all.
But now you’re gone, and many hearts are crying.
But your name will be left on a wall.

Because it’s you, who gave us everything you had
We learned from you the music of the heart
So that is why your passing made us very sad.
Oh, Mrs. Lee, your soul’s a work of art.

“Danny Boy” is a ballad that is usually set to the tune called “Londonderry Air”. I chose this song to revise because my beloved high school band teacher, mentor, and friend passed away on October 16, 2013, four months after retiring. One of the last songs she had conducted prior to her retirement is “Irish Tune from County Derry” at the Far East Music Conference in April 2013.

After her untimely passing, I spent two days listening to songs I associated with her. “Irish Tune from County Derry” and “Danny Boy” began to stick in my head, and I was suddenly “inspired” to re-write its lyrics, instead of finishing up a different song I had already started. Doing this re-writing ended up being a very cathartic experience for me, and something I am glad I did as a mini-tribute to Mrs. Lee.

This entire exercise shows how a single song came from multiple sources. “Danny Boy” was written by Frederic Weatherly, and it was combined with an Irish folk tune from County Derry, a song that was later picked up by composer Percy Grainger, who arranged it into the song, “Irish Tune from County Derry”. Meanwhile, “Danny Boy” has been recorded multiple times, with one version being the 1955 Judy Garland version posted above. One song churned out multiple versions and renditions, and even conductors like Mrs. Lee interpreted the song in her own way.

Throughout history, many themes in creative works are shown to be repeated, but with a twist from the creator. Look at Romeo and Juliet and West Side Story. Look at how a melody from Gustav Holst’s “Jupiter: The Bringer of Jollity” was turned into the song, “I Vow to Thee, My Country” and to a Japanese pop song called “Jupiter“. These works are similar with each other, but at the same time are still different because the creator, the artist themselves, put some of their own knowledge and experience in the creative process.

One quote from Henriksen, Mishra, and the Deep-Play Research Group (n.d.) that has struck me is this:

People with a wider range of knowledge and experience have richer concepts to build on, and hence the potential to see more knobs or possibilities than those with narrower foundations.

Tara and her many interests!  Drawn by a dear friend, H.

Tara and her many interests! Drawn by a dear friend, H.

That makes complete sense to me. As a writer, I try to write what I know. What I know are: English literature, classical music, Japanese animes, video games, technology, and many other things that all come into my fanworks creation. When I write about sadness and depression, I think of my own sad memories and put myself into that state, which helps me find the appropriate words. Same thing for happiness — I think of the happiest times of my life, and bring those abstract concepts into words. To me, knowledge and experience are power, and that is why I read and watch what I can because the plot and characters I see in books, video games, and other medium gives me new ideas. I partake in doing new experiences like trying new cuisine and going to new places because what I do only empowers my creative process, and like a tool, it helps me create new stories and ideas mixed with what I know and feel and my perceptions. That’s what my fanfics do, it tells a familiar story using familiar characters, but with a twist of my own contributions.

And I will continue to read new things and go on new adventure. I want to always expand on what I know since there are infinite number of things out in the world I can learn and consume to my own pleasure. Japan is my happy place, but I’ve only been to Tokyo, so I will remedy that one day by visiting other parts of Japan like Osaka and Kyoto. There are plenty of food I’ve been wanting to try and will do so when the opportunity comes. There are always new books, games, movies, and shows for me to consume, and there will always be new stories for me to try and tell. All of this is a neverending cycle, a cycle I will encourage with the children and youth I work with. I enjoy introducing them to new things and encouraging them to try new skills. And as an adult mentor, I will continue to encourage ways to expand on their creativity and will always work on expanding my own creative process, too.

Reference: Henriksen, D., Mishra, P., & The Deep-Play Research Group. (n.d.) Twisting knobs and connecting things: Rethinking technology & creativity in the 21st century. Retrieved from http://punya.educ.msu.edu/cep818/wp-content/uploads/2011/08/TechTrends.Mishra.7.26.2013.pdf

Abstracting Deconstruction

cccdcover cccdtracklist

The two images above are the front cover and the tracklist of a fanmix I made for my fanfic of the same name. Way back in 2006 or so, I had this fanfic idea where I’d invert Ron Weasley and Draco Malfoy’s social standing, and in the next couple of years, I refined that basic premise into a non-magical AU (short for “alternate universe”). Ron is a famous, wealthy model, and Draco is poorer and comes from a single-parent household (his father passing away in a car accident). The two know each other as classmates at Hogwarts University, and despite their opposite social standings, I tried to keep their personalities the same as they are in the original books. Meaning, that Ron is still a hot-headed, brash, but kind and loyal young man, and Draco remains to be prickly, snobby man with a cynical (and witty) outlook on life, and when these two meet, their personalities clash in every possible way. They eventually become friends and lovers through a series of events consisting of classical music, English literature, and tango.

After the fic was written, I made the fanmix, and that was where the abstraction happened. See, I cannot draw worth a hoot — however, I can use Photoshop to manipulate photos into digital art. Ergo, what I really wanted on the fanmix cover was a drawing of Ron and Draco, but that wasn’t going to be an option for me. So I had to stop and think about the story and figure out its true “essence”. Once I figured that out, I went on Google Images to find something that portrays the differences of the two blokes, but also signifies their coming together. And the photo below is what I ended up founding and loving to death, along with an Andy Warhol quote that also fit the essence of the fic.

cccdcover-original

Then came the real fun part of the music compilation. I broke down the fic into scenes, and I picked a song based on the scene’s mood and atmosphere and “renamed” the song to capture the scene. For an example — “The Strife” is a scene where Ron and Draco are first in together, and they are arguing over a literary point of view in their English class. I chose Dark Moor’s rendition of Vivaldi’s “Winter, Movement I” because the song is moody and slowly builds up until its conflict-filled melody burst at the climax. Instead of choosing the original orchestra version, I also went for Dark Moor’s more modern sound since the electric guitar takes over the violin solo, representing the AU-factor of the story. The rest of the fanmix is listed below with my notes from when I was planning it years ago!

“Proem”
Artie Shaw – Begin the Beguine (Opening where Ron strolls through the Campus, waving at people and enjoying the morning sun and the new day. He knows he’s happy, but he feels something is missing from his life and he wasn’t sure what.)

“The Strife”
Antonio Vivaldi – Dark Moor – Winter, Movement I (Ron ends up strolling around too late, walks into his English class late and has to sit next to Draco, the only seat left. The class is having a discussion some literary thing, and the two of them head butt against each other in their theories on Hemingway (whether Hemingway was gay or not?))

“Consonance and Dissonance”
Franz Liszt – La Campanella (Ron hears this in the music hallway, walks towards the source of the sounds, and sees it’s Draco performing it.)

“Whimsicality”
Yiruma – Dream a Little Dream of Me (Ron thinks about ways to get Draco to notice him and realises he likes him. At that moment he is with Pansy having dinner or something.)

“Hopelessly Zany”
Tales of Symphonia – Off-key (Ron tries to gain Draco’s attention and it rather fails.)

“Conniving Strategy”
Chrono Trigger – Delightful Spekkio (Ron goes and talk to Pansy, who’s being difficult, and eventually gives him advices.)

“Deliberation”
Carlos Gardel – Por Una Cabeza (For a tango scene. Pansy reveals that Draco likes Tangoing — while Pansy is a fan of jazz music and swing dancing, which is what influenced Ron into liking jazz.)

“Ruminative”
Kanno Yoko – Memory of Fanelia (Draco invites Ron to his place for dinner, and Ron takes in the poverty that surrounds Draco, but realises that it’s a part of him and embraces Draco’s home and Narcissa’s loving (albeit very snarky and teasing) nature.)

“Lamentation”
Junjou Romantica – Junsui Koigokoro (Have Arthur almost dies and Draco comes to comfort Ron because he lost his father years ago and can sympathise?)

“Tranquil Affair”
Suikoden V – The Night Before the Decisive Battle ~Theme of a Moonlit Night~ (Ron and Draco are walking in the park like the romantics writers did and under the moonlight share their first kiss and yadada.)

“Culmination”
October Sky – Main Theme (The pseudo-ending song for the fic. :) When they realise they do care for each other and blahblahblah.)

“Finis”
Duke Ellington – Take the “A” Train (The real ending theme for the fic . . . it’s more upbeat than the opening theme because now Ron has everything he could ask for.)

This fanfic and fanmix holds a special place in my heart. It’s a story I’ve wanted to write and tell for a long time, so when I finally had the opportunity and the self-motivation to create it, I did. Doing this required a lot of planning and thinking on my part, and for me, abstracting is very handy when one wants to create something.

Perceiving Reflection

The exercise I did a few days ago on perceiving has left me thinking about how it is an important tool that affects creativity and individualistic thinking. Perceiving, to me, is interconnected with re-imaging, and is the ability to use our five senses to “study” an idea or concept that can be re-imaged with our unique perspective. Perceiving can be brief or it can be something that takes some time, depending on the individual and the subject matter; re-imaging comes next, a tool where one can use their imagination to re-create the perceived subject.

That is what I did with the “Rune of Punishment” song — for years I had listened to the song, but I had never listened to it in a way that allowed me to analyse the song. My analysis revealed to me a hidden instrument (the viola) and an interlude that emitted a hopeful mood instead of a melancholic one. I took the next step to re-image the song and thought about how the song would be if it were slower, or if the song would sound different if the instrumentation had changed. That led me to remember the second piece that featured the melody, and I also remembered that I had arranged the song on the piano a few years ago.

Rune of Punishment Midi File | Rune of Punishment Sheet Music

My arrangement is really simple because that is the level I can play at. I arranged the piece at a faster tempo because it gives the song a more frantic feel, and because it is a tempo I prefer playing at because the slower tempo would put me to sleep! When I did the perceiving exercise, I came to the realisation that my arrangement of the song is a form of “fanmix”. I also realised that fanmix should not be limited to fan-made soundtracks, but fan-made arrangements could also fall under this category. Music arrangers are taking pieces they know and are “re-creating” the pieces with new elements that make the piece familiar, yet different.

This “epiphany” of mine also reminded me of a very famous video game remix/fanmix site called OverClocked ReMix. This site and community have over 2,000 fan-made remixes from more than 500 fans. Fans who love video game music arranged and remixed their favourite songs to something of their “own” — their own tribute, so to say. For these fans, the music made an impact on them, and it helped their creative juice flow after they perceived these songs.

My own arrangement is nothing on the level of those on OC Remix. I will be the first to say that my piano skills are mediocre. However, that does not stop me from loving music, and there are just some songs that affect me to the point of wanting to learn how to play it on the piano, and figure out how to play it at my own level. My perceived notion of the song is “I love it, love it, love it — must learn it now on the piano so I can play it!”, and I then re-imaged it. Perceiving is a key to the door of creativity; if the individual feels something with their perceiving, they will unlock new ideas and concept that will contribute something similar or new to an existing idea. And that is the essence of fanworks.

Perceiving a Familiar Song

A couple of years ago, one of my online friends couldn’t get into a sad mood for a fanfic she’d decided to write. She asked her LiveJournal friends for some song recommendations. I recommended “Rune of Punishment ~ Meeting the Cursed Rune” from a video game called Suikoden Tactics or Rhapsodia, a song that’s actually remixed from the original version in Suikoden IV.

Later, she told me that this song had her sobbing, and it had done the job of getting her in a very melancholy mood to write her fanfic. It pleased me to know that the song had the right effect on her, and that alone intrigued me because, unlike me, she didn’t know the whole story of the song’s origin, on what the whole “Rune of Punishment” was, and how it was cursed.

I re-listened to the song today, and this time I really “listened” to it, and I picked up a lot of different things this time. Sure, I knew the melody and the harmony, I knew that the piano opened up the song, but I somehow missed the fact all these years on how a viola comes in next, not the violin. I picked up other things like how the viola, the violin, and the piano all play the main melody in different parts of the song, and I picked up how the interlude actually sounds like it is in a major key instead of a minor one.

With these thoughts in mind, I begin to re-image the song differently in mind. I thought about how it’d sound if different instruments played the piece, wondered how much more depth it could have, whether the mood will still be the same or not, or even if the tempo change will affect the piece. I re-image the song where it was a duet with a piano and a cello or a string bass, and I pondered on whether it being too “gravelly” sounding, but still sounds haunting compared to it being played on a flute or a clarinet.

After I re-imaged the song, I then remembered another song on the soundtrack that reuses the melody, and the song’s called “Epilogue for the 108 Stars” from Suikoden IV.

The melody comes in at 3:00, and I listened to it featuring a much slower tempo and a more diverse instrumentation, while still keeping the spirit of the other version, still maintaining its haunted, melancholic mood. I cannot say which version I like better — I like both versions, each with their subtle differences.