Monday, September 26, 2016

Making of the Blue Lamp Audio Drama 1: A Bright-Eyed Boy and a Cheap Recorder

I was visiting family in Michigan for my niece Alex's graduation. We were on our way to one her clarinet recitals. I was in the back of the SUV with my other niece, Liz, and I think I was telling her about my recent artistic ventures and how I wasn't quite sure what I should do next. For some reason, my mind went way back to when I was twelve years old, to the fond memory of creating an audio drama of an Iron Man comic book. Back then, all I had was a cheap cassette recorder, a cheap RCA microphone, my dad's short wave radio, a couple of walkie talkies, whatever I could find in the house, and, my imagination. I did every voice except Iron Man (my friend did that), even the women. Iron Man pounding on a robot was me pounding on a cake pan. Iron Man breaking through a wall was me smashing a tray of ice. Reverb was created by recording in the shower. Lots of sound effects were created by mouth sounds. It was one of the most fun, fulfilling projects I ever did. No deadline, no grandiose business dreams, no aspirations of praise, fame or money. It was summertime. And that was enough.

As we all stepped out of the vehicle in Michigan, it dawned on me. I said to Liz, "If I could do anything I wanted, without concern for money or anything else, I would do an audio dramatization like that." When I got back to Silver Lake (Los Angeles), I immediately started creating the audio drama for The Blue Lamp, my sword and sorcery story that was published in Heroic Fantasy Quarterly. I knew I had all the skills required to do it (music composer, music and sound producer, mixer and editor, voice actor, illustrator, graphic designer, etc.). I had no idea what I was getting myself into!

Here I am, three months later and still working on it. I now have over seventy five audio tracks! It took about three hours to read the initial manuscript (about 8400 words, or 16 single spaced Microsoft Word pages) and nine hours to edit that down. That was just me reading the story and doing initial edits. The time spent since I would not even try to measure. Searching for and creating sound effects, creating the reverb for different room spaces, finding the right voice talent other than myself, recording the character performances, and most challenging of all, composing music for what amounts to a fifty minute movie! I had only done some limited symphonic arrangement for some of my pop songs (mainly for Seduction Revolution, but a few for Kiss the Girl as well). This was something completely different. Thank god for Vienna Instruments software. It gives me the real symphony sounds I need to compose and produce the music. But the challenge of this much composition, and to produce the sounds so that they sound played the way real musicians would play them, is one of the most challenging things I have ever done.

I am enjoying the results. I hope, come November 1st, that you will too.

The hardest thing is to be patient, and to keep my focus on the love and joy of the work. Because I know, the truth is, in today's fractured, info-overloaded, self-promoting society, all of my wonderful work may only be heard by a few. I hope for some financial and critical success with it, of course. But I am coming to a certain understanding about life that is helping me to release the anxiety of such things. In the end, the present moment, and my state of consciousness, is all that really matters. The world cannot give or take away anything from what I truly am. I only hope that this audio drama will give some people joy, to help them escape from a false world of competition and stress and unnecessary demands, and to escape into a world of adventure, romance, and mystery—a world that reflects the truth of our own world behind the scenes of the illusory one we have created in our fear.

In that world, in the world of the story of The Blue Lamp (the world of Plemora), mystery hides in common objects, adventure awaits behind every door, and even when courage and strength or even love are not enough, something ineffable (call it Lady Luck, God, the Source, whatever you want, it is ineffable and thus cannot really be understood or explained or even named) comes to our aid, if we give ourselves over to that mystery and trust LIFE. I have tried to do that in embarking on this great adventure of the dramatization of The Blue Lamp. I hope I have unlocked a door to Mystery, opened a window to Eternity, created something that is in some way, transparent to transcendence. Or at the very least, I hope I have created a rollicking good adventure that will help make your next bout with traffic a pleasurable one. Sure, all those other people will be stuck bumper to bumper on the freeway, but you? You will be with poet swordsman Dareon Vin and the Indari warrior Blue, exploring the wonders of the city of Merth, and the mystery of The Blue Lamp!

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