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Creativity

My Name Is Matt And I’m An Encouragement Junkie…

 

I try to just create because I’m human and that’s what we do, and because I enjoy it and it brings me pleasure, and all of that is true. But sometimes I just want to know that someone else out there, anyone, appreciates what I do. I often feel slightly guilty when I make comments like “If you like this song please leave me a comment, or share it with friends” etc which I fend off by telling myself I’m not asking for money, and I often take time to leave comments for other musicians and artists, telling them how much I appreciate their art. But it’s hard not too feel like some needy, clingy girlfriend or something. Yuk!

But this story made me feel better.

Courtney (Coco) Mault was so taken with the first teaser trailer for Wall.e that she would burst into tears every time the little robot said his name. As this is the modern age she uploaded a film of her bursting into tears on YouTube because it was so stupid and geeky. And a few of the people watching and leaving nice comments were lowly tech guys, wait for it, working for Pixar.

Then she got a Wall.e crew jacket from the producers for Christmas with a nice note saying they like her video.

Then months later she received an invite to fly out to a special end of wrap party and screening at the studios expense. Director Andrew Stanton gave a speech before the film started

“Six months ago, when the first trailer for Wall-E came out, we were only halfway done with the film, and we weren’t exactly sure how we were going to get it done. We were exhausted. And then, one day, a movie showed up on YouTube showing a girl watching the trailer for Wall-E. And every time she watched it, she would cry on cue. When we saw that, we knew we were on the right track.”

Everybody in the theater laughed at this knowingly. 

“Well,” Andrew Stanton said. “We invited Courtney here tonight.” 

[Her boyfriend continues] A gasp went through the theater. I turned and looked at my girlfriend, who was gape-mouthed with astonishment. Andrew Stanton asked her to stand up, and all one-thousand sets of eyes in the theater turned to find her, and thunderous applause broke out. Courtney stood, and, not knowing what to do, blew kisses to the assembled artists andcraftspeople who had made the film. 

It was one of the most moving and astounding things she had ever experienced, and I had ever witnessed, and Pixar had done it for no reason other than that her video had touched them and made them optimistic about the film they were making, and they wanted to repay her.

How much is encouragement worth? It’s worth flying someone out so you can thank them personally (not that I’m in a position to do that anytime soon!). In other words – priceless.

So how about giving some encouragement today? It doesn’t have to be me (pause to make cute puppy eyes) artists are more approachable through twitter/facebook than ever. You may just be the one that helps that next song/film/book get finished.

You Got (Fan) Mail – Paul Williams on ‘heart payments’

My New EP!

 

 

 

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Behind The Song Songwriting

Behind The Song: The Morning After The Day You Saved The World

Download the FREE mp3 or chord sheet here.

Schindler’s Song

I saw Schindler’s List on Feb 16th 1997. That morning I had seen my first child born and my wife immediately wheeled into the operating theatre, so the fact that the film reduced me to tears was no big surprise. But the documentary that followed about the real life Oskar Schindler had a more lasting effect. I was struck by the aimlessness of Schindler’s life after the war, a life that had already had it’s one defining moment and yet still had decades left to run.

In some ways it reminded me of a passage in Bob Geldof’s autobiography where he describes leaving Wembley after the Live Aid concert. He had initiated and performed in one of the biggest media events in history, raising enough money to save thousands of lives. And yet, just like everyone else in the audience, he was going home to see what was in the fridge. How do you make the transition back to ‘normal life’ after something like that?

I saw echoes of Geldof’s story in The Return of the King when Frodo, having saved Middle Earth, finds he cannot re-enter his life in the Shire or escape the pain of the wounds he has received.

The title that wouldn’t go away

By 2005 I was leading a worship team in a growing Church plant and was trying to write nothing but congregational worship songs. But the phrase “The morning after the day you saved the world” got stuck in my head and wouldn’t budge. In the end I decided to write the song just so it would stop bugging me. It came together so quickly that the bundle of various drafts for this song is a fraction of the size of other songs in my folder.

Questions & Echoes

Nearly every line of the song is a question. I wish I was smart enough to have planned it that way, but that’s just how it came out.

What was conscious was a desire to contrast the mundane with echoes of the story of Christ who, as well as saving the world, wasn’t stuck for things to do afterwards. He talked to mother, had breakfast with friends & had people wanting to see his scars.

Although the song is not about Christ, in saving Jews and feeding multitudes Schindler, Geldof and others like them, were pale reflections of Christ – saviours with a small ‘s’.

The ‘Kitten’s Got Claws’ tuning.

To play this song you need to tune the g string up to a (EADABE). I’ve never used this tuning before and never heard of anyone else using it. I did purely to make the first chord (C#m7b6) manageable, figuring I’d be able to adapt all the other chord shapes to compensate.

C#m7b6 standard tuning

C#m7b6 in EADABE tuning

Trying to play ‘normal’ chords led to some weird fingerings, but when it came to writing the bridge, normal shapes led to some of the weird chords that I used – Fsus#4 (played like a normal F) and C6/E (like a C).

6 impossible key changes before breakfast

Writing in multiple keys seems to be a besetting sin of mine, but this song is the best/worst yet.

The verses are mostly in C# minor (straying into C# Phrygian at 0:49). The Chorus starts in E mixolydian 1:26 before spending most of it’s time in E minor 1:34, stopping by G minor (2:09) before ending on G major (2:13) which, again more by luck than artistry, lead nicely* back to C# minor for the next verse.

(*The first three notes of the melody “waking up”(G F# E) are part of the C#m blues scale of the verse and the G major that concludes the chorus).

The Bridge (4:03) is broadly in G mixolydian. Changing key to F for the solo (4:41) seemed to give it the lift that it needed, but as the solo is based on a chorus the key is F major/mixolydian to F minor, but then, as I didn’t want to spend the rest of the song in F, I needed the weird chord progression at end of the solo (4:54) to get us back to E (4:59).

Home at last, never more to wander?

Not really.

Apart from all the usual chorus shenanigans we foolishly allow the Dsus4 – D/F# progression (5:15) to lead us smoothly into G (or G major/mixolydian/minor). But then it’s back to E (5:34) for one more hop, skip and a jump through all those boring and predictable chorus transpositions and we collapse exhausted onto a G major, vowing to write a 12 bar blues next time.

With all that chordal craziness it’s a good thing the tempo stays constant.

Apart from when it wanders between 80-112 bpm that is.

Things you may have missed.

  • The child’s voice at 1:24 says “Is that it?” – the title of Geldof’s autobiography
  • After the line “Did you try to speak to God” (5:52) there is a ‘number not recognised’ dial tone
  • The line about the world “staying saved” is a reference to the Pixar film The Incredibles
  • The opening guitar part is an acoustic, a clean electric and an electric transposed up an octave

Things you may like to do.

Download the FREE mp3 or chord sheet here.

Related Posts: Behind the song – The Ballad of NDC
Behind the song – One Three Nine

More Free songs by Matt Blick

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Top 10

Best Of 2009: Books And Films

Books

1)The Case for Life: Equipping Christians to Engage the Culture(Scott Klusendorf) – This book makes a compelling pro-life argument and help us to cut through the many smoke screens and false trails to the one issue behind all others in the abortion debate. In a way the only drawback is that it does this so effectively in the first chapter that it becomes a victim of it’s own success and the following few chapters seem a bit superfluous . However later chapters approach the issues from different angles and are very rewarding. Informing and crystal clear without being any heavier than it needs to.

2) Getting Things Done: How to Achieve Stress-free Productivity (David Allen)– a brilliant life management system – simple, comprehensive and common sense without getting dogmatic. David Allen argues convincingly for running your life from the bottom up rather than top down (against books like 7 habits) and shows you how. I’ve read it twice and am still applying the lessons.

3) Wild Swans: Three Daughters of China (Jung Chang) – a heartbreaking study of the cost of Chinese communism told through the real life stories of three generations of Chinese woman starting with the author’s grandmother – a Chinese warlord’s concubine.



Films

Up– a kids film? Hardly. Out of a ridiculous premise (OAP balloon salesman flies his house to South America) Pixar craft the most profound and moving film of the year. If there is any justice in the film industry this should win best picture Oscar. A moving plot, humour, and better characterisation that 90% of Hollywood films. Even the talking dog is believable!

Man on Wire– a thrilling, dramatised documentary of the illegal wire walking stunt of the century. In 1974 Philippe Petitsmuggled ½ ton of equipment into the twin towers and walked between them, 104 floors up, for three quarters of an hour. Using interviews, original footage and reconstruction the film explores how he did it, who helped him and what it cost them all. 


Frequently Asked Questions About Time Travela quirky and original low budget British sci-fi comedy that pays homage to, and subverts, the genre at the same time. Great fun.
Honourable mentions
Related Posts: Best Music (2009)
Best Music Videos (2009)
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Uncategorized

Pixar’s ‘UP’ – A Review Round Up

Pixar’s Up is undoubtedly the best film (of any type) you are likely to see this year. It’s so good I’m at a bit of a loss to know where to begin, so here’s a few quotes


Not The Usual ‘Disney’ Morality

I always love how Pixar subverts the common kid’s movie morality or storytelling, and this was no exception…How often do we hear, “hang on to your dreams and believe in yourself”? Yet this little Disneyism would define the bad guy in UP, not the good guy.

Greg@RabbitRoom.Com

Two of the three central characters are cranky old men, which is a wonder in this era…”Up” doesn’t think all heroes must be young or sweet, although the third important character is a nervy kid…who, for once, isn’t smarter than all the adults.

That’ Opening Sequence

The opening montage of the man and his wife was one of the most well created bits of film-making I have ever seen, I think– at least as far as animation is concerned. I honestly can’t think of anything that comes close to touching that. In the span of what couldn’t be more than five minutes, you walk through an entire marriage, it’s up’s and downs– real stuff too, not corny. And they do it all without saying a single word.

Russ Ramsey@RabbitRoom.Com




The wordless ten-minute (ten!?) montage of Carl Fredricksen’s life at the beginning of the movie is a far more touching, beautiful, and real love story than any romance movie you’ll see this year.

Dave@BannaneryPublic.Com

I hadn’t heard or seen anything about the opening 15 minutes (keeps getting longer folks!) which included the “silent movie” life flashing past your eyes. It was like getting knocked over by a ton of bricks…even though you only saw Carl’s wife for a few minutes…she was someone you came to love. And that made her passing that much more sad…Boy did I bawl.

Jim A.@RabbitRoom.Com


The Trust Of An Audience

I watched the crowd filter in and find their seats and I wondered at what an eclectic pilgrimage they were. Young boys and girls came hand in hand all covered in blushes, laughter and delight. They came in families, by the dozens, herding children with candy and eyes peeled wide. Groups of young men sauntered in adorned with attitudes like costume jewelry, their pants slung low and clattering with chains. Elderly couples stepped down the aisles deliberate and slow to settle themselves patiently into their seats. The middle-aged, the old-aged, and the barely aged at all filled the theater and hushed to hear the whisper when the lights went low. What a privilege it is to have the trust of your audience. Such is Pixar’s legacy that people who would otherwise turn up their nose at a mere ‘cartoon’ came in droves to fill the house based on the trust of a studio’s name alone. It’s a precious and delicate thing.

Pete Peterson@RabbitRoom.Com

What thrilled me about the movie…was the obvious care taken in producing it. The people at Pixar are like potters…They obviously love what they do…I thought it was a beautiful piece, indeed”.

Marcus Hong@RabbitRoom.Com


I’ll leave the (almost) last word to Dave@BannaneryPublic.Com

Here’s my frustration with Pixar: they’ve ruined so many movies for me. Not their own movies—other studios’ movies. They keep pumping out one great animated movie after another, so by now I’ve foolishly begun to associated computer animation with high-quality movies. Naturally, then, when I watch a movie like Monsters vs. Aliens, it ends up being pretty disappointing, because there’s no depth or maturity or plot behind the formulaic humor and self-empowerment follow-your-dreams schmaltz.

Up is a computer-generated movie about an old man flying to an imaginary land in a totally impractical vessel—a house suspended under thousands of helium-filled balloons. Yet it feels much more real than nearly any adventure movie you’ve ever seen…

…What all this means is that I am now a slave to Pixar for life. From now on, I will have to go see every movie of theirs in theaters as soon as it is released…

here’s my recommendation for Disney: hand Pixar two bags full of money with dollar signs on the side, and tell them to make whatever movies they want to make.

And finally – 3D or 2D?

The 3D is overrated and adds nothing to the film
Dave and Roger agree with me.

Some more links

podcast interview

Related Posts: Then Pete said, “let us make Carl in our own image”.

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Uncategorized

Then Pete Said, “Let Us Make Carl In Our Own Image”

Pete Docter, creator of Pixar’s ‘Up’, is a Christian. Here he tells World Magazine how his faith informs his art

It is a story’s ability to draw people into common experience that Docter, who is like his Pixar colleague Andrew Stanton a Christian, says best allows him to exercise his faith in his work.

” In making these worlds I feel closer to God through working out the details of my creation as He must have worked out the details of His creation. Before I wrote out the character of Carl, I thought about his life story—where he came from and what went into to making him who he is so he would feel as rich and real as he possibly could. And that seems a bit like God with us—I know everything about him, and took great joy in making him.”
Meg Basham World Magazine.Com


You can listen to a very interesting podcast with Pete here –

podcast interview with Pete Docter (NPR.org)

Related Posts: Loud, Louder, Loudest