July 16, 2007

Question Time

So I've been doing some thinking, and...I may be getting the urge to return to regular blogging. On the other hand, I may just stop writing entirely and dedicate my time to other things rather than getting everyone's hopes up with sporadic posting.

Therefore, I need some responses to two simple questions:

1. As usual, is anyone still reading this site?

2. If you answered "yes" to the above (and if you answered "no" despite the fact that you had to read the site in order to see the question, then congratulations, you've found a way to defy logic), would you like me to try and make the blog more like it was back in the old days, with commentary on current events, etc. rather than my boring, lonely life and my various music projects?

Please, even if you've never commented before, I would really appreciate a response to this. I do kind of want to return to the blogosphere with the energy I had a while ago, but if nobody will see it, it seems like a complete waste.

I'll leave this up for a few days before making my decision. If I do get back to normal blogging, I will have to address a few things, including an explanation of why I stopped for so long and an update on my view of this fucked up world we live in. I'm warning you right now, it will probably be much more cynical and pessimistic than before, if that's even possible. But again, I'll only bother with that in the event that I still have an audience.

That is all.

Posted by CD at 01:09 AM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

July 10, 2007

Another Music-Related Post

Yep, I'm still alive, and still in the process of figuring out how I'm going to get a job with no previous experience. I'll probably be living in NYC within the next couple months. Holy crap.

Anyway, on to the subject of the post. I recently bought Systematic Chaos, the new album from Dream Theater, and I have to say, it's fucking awesome. Their last album was a little underwhelming, but they've pretty much redeemed themselves now. If you're a fan of metal and long, frighteningly complex instrumental passages (I seriously almost cried during one of the guitar solos in "In the Presence of Enemies Part I" when I realized the amount of practice it would take for me to even begin to imitate it), I highly suggest checking it out.

This post, however, is more to ensure that I can claim credit for a couple discoveries I've made about the album. Guitarist John Petrucci has admitted that he wrote all his lyrics on SC from a fictional viewpoint, and it seems that this means he decided to adapt various literary sources into songs.

For example, this site found that "In the Presence of Enemies" is based on a Korean comic book called "Priest." The song takes various snippets of dialogue from the comic, along with some original lines, in order to fit the tale into 25 minutes of pure awesome.

Based on this, I did a bit of research to see if Petrucci used this strategy for any other songs, and I found that he most definitely did.

"The Dark Eternal Night," for example, is clearly based on Nyarlathotep by H.P. Lovecraft. A few other people on various websites have suggested this, but to my knowledge, nobody has done a direct comparison between the story and the song. I'm going to do that now. If you don't care, don't bother going to the extended entry, but I feel the need to confirm that I was the first person on the entire Internet to do this. Also, if you join me in the second half of the post, I'll reveal my discovery of the inspiration behind another song from the album! Let's begin...

"The Dark Eternal Night" begins as follows:

No one dared to
Speak of the terrible danger
The hideous ancient warnings
Forged in the void of night

While "Nyarlathotep" opens with these lines:

I do not recall distinctly when it began, but it was months ago. The general tension was horrible. To a season of political and social upheaval was added a strange and brooding apprehension of hideous physical danger; a danger widespread and all-embracing, such a danger as may be imagined only in the most terrible phantasms of the night. I recall that the people went about with pale and worried faces, and whispered warnings and prophecies which no one dared consciously repeat or acknowledge to himself that he had heard

Coincidence? Let's look at the next lines of the song:

He is risen up
Out of the blackness
The last of the prophets
A sickening monstrous sight

Compare that to some more lines from the Lovecraft story (note the parts I've bolded):

He said he had risen up out of the blackness of twenty-seven centuries, and that he had heard messages from places not on this planet. Into the lands of civilisation came Nyarlathotep, swarthy, slender, and sinister...
...the crawling chaos...

That's odd, isn't it? Continuing with the song:

Through the stifling heat
Underneath the pale green moon
I burned with a thirst
To seek things not yet seen
Climbing endless stairs
Leading to the choking room
Eager to explore
His most shocking mysteries

Any parallels in the story? Let's find out:

...through the stifling night and up the endless stairs into the choking room
I believe we felt something coming down from the greenish moon...
...I burned with eagerness to explore his uttermost mysteries. My friend said they were horrible and impressive beyond my most fevered imaginings; and what was thrown on a screen in the darkened room prophesied things none but Nyarlathotep dared prophesy, and in the sputter of his sparks there was taken from men that which had never been taken before yet which shewed only in the eyes. And I heard it hinted abroad that those who knew Nyarlathotep looked on sights which others saw not.

Hmm. Fascinating. Let's continue with the song:

Drifting beyond all time
Out of a churning sky
Drawn to the beckoning light
Of the dark eternal night

The Lovecraft story contains references to:

...unlighted chambers beyond Time...

It gets more interesting now. Continuing with the song:

Black forces
Rage in the vortex
Waves of destruction
The echo of the universe

Compare that to this line from the story:

And I saw the world battling against blackness; against the waves of destruction from ultimate space; whirling, churning, struggling around the dimming, cooling sun.

Now we get to the really fun part:

I am the last
Born of the blood of the pharaohs
The ultimate god of a rotting creation
Sent to unleash this curse

Let's see what Lovecraft has to say:

I am the last...
A sickened, sensitive shadow writhing in hands that are not hands, and whirled blindly past ghastly midnights of rotting creation...
And it was then that Nyarlathotep came out of Egypt. Who he was, none could tell, but he was of the old native blood and looked like a Pharaoh.

The song continues with:

Restless crowds draw near
Nameless hooded forms appear
Amidst falling ruins
Grotesque creatures battle
Shadowed on a screen
Yellow evil faces leer
Vacant monuments
Corpses of dead worlds left behind

While the Lovecraft story contains these lines:

It was in the hot autumn that I went through the night with the restless crowds to see Nyarlathotep...And shadowed on a screen, I saw hooded forms amidst ruins, and yellow evil faces peering from behind fallen monuments.

And later...

...corpses of dead worlds...

Shit, son!

It's basically just choruses after that, but there you have it. John Petrucci is a Lovecraft fan, which just makes him that much cooler. I'm actually in the very early stages of attempting a suite/concept album based on The Shadow Out of Time (I just learned how to play pinch harmonics on guitar, and I want to use them to represent the screaming/whistling of the flying polyps) so I can relate to this kind of work.

Moving on...

Another song on the album written by Petrucci is called "Forsaken." Incidentally, this song has some of the best riffs ever, and it actually inspired me to learn the aforementioned pinch harmonics, but that's not what I'm concerned with at the moment...

According to Petrucci, the song is about someone who is visited in the night by a vampiress and taken away on a mystical journey while unknowingly getting his blood sucked. I decided to investigate any possible inspiration, and surprisingly, by Googling a few key lyrics, I was able to find a story by Ivan Turgenev called Phantoms that has pretty much the same plot and is almost certainly the source of the song. Don't believe me? Let's do another comparison...

The song begins as follows:

For a while I thought I fell asleep
Lying motionless inside a dream

While the Turgenev story contains these lines:

After a little while I fell asleep—or I thought I fell asleep. I had an extraordinary dream.

Weird, isn't it? "Forsaken" continues with these lines:

Then rising suddenly
I felt a chilling breath upon me
She softly whispered in my ear

While "Phantoms" contains the following:

...suddenly I gave an involuntary shudder: there was a chilly breath upon me. And then I was not lying down, but sitting up in my bed...
All at once I felt that some one had tight hold of me from behind, and was whispering in my very ear...

And now, the chorus of the song, which pretty much eliminates all doubt as to the relationship between these two pieces of writing:

I have come for you tonight
Look in my eyes and take my hand
Give yourself up to me

A passage from the Turgenev story seems familiar after this:

‘Give yourself up to me, ‘was whispered me again in reply.

‘Give myself up to you! But you are a phantom; you have no body even.’ A strange animation came upon me. ‘What are you—smoke, air, vapour? Give myself up to you! Answer me first, Who are you? Have you lived upon the earth? Whence have you come?’

‘Give yourself up to me. I will do you no harm. Only say two words: “Take me.”’

Pretty interesting, isn't it? The song continues:

I waited faithfully
For night to fall again
Trying to silence the fear within me

Any parallels in Turgenev's story? Let's see:

The day passed somehow. I tried, I remember, to read, to work ... everything was a failure. The night came. My heart was throbbing within me, as though it expected something. I lay down, and turned with my face to the wall.

Seems like the main character is waiting for night to fall again while trying to silence the fear within him, doesn't it? Moving on in the lyrics:

Out of an ivory mist
I felt a stinging kiss
And saw a crimson stain on her lips

Compare that to these lines from the story:

Her face turned and moved towards my face.... I felt on my lips a strange sensation, like the faintest prick of a soft and delicate sting...
Her eyes were closed, and on her tightly shut lips stood a fleck of crimson stain.

And there's more. Moving on again in the lyrics:

I have to know your name
Where have I seen your face before
My dear one don't you be afraid

And from the story:

What is your name, or, at least, what was it?
‘Don’t be afraid,’ said Alice, ‘don’t be afraid, my dear one!’

Fun stuff. More of the lyrics:

Take me far away
Close your eyes
And hold your breath
To the ends of the earth

Let's see if the story is similar:

‘I am to blame, I take back my word. Take me away, Alice, I beseech you.
‘Very well; only shut your eyes and hold your breath.’
Let us fly till dawn, that is all. I can bear you away wherever you fancy—to the ends of the earth. Give yourself up to me! Say only: “Take me!”’

‘Well ... take me!’

Yeah...I don't think I need to do any more work here. It's obvious that this song was inspired by this story, which kind of makes it less impressive from an originality angle, but more impressive from the perspective that it really captures the feeling of the story in both the music and the words.

The only other song on the album by Petrucci is "The Ministry of Lost Souls," and I haven't been able to figure out whether he based that on anything, but I'll be sure to mention it if something comes up.

I can't believe I just spent so much time on something nobody is going to read. No wonder I don't have a job yet...

Posted by CD at 01:36 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack