Inspiration Through Music: Emancipator

Music projects ideas into my head in a very unique way. When I hear something, I usually am able to conjure up a mental image to accommodate the various instruments, rhythms, and harmonies that I’m listening to. Every now and again, I will listen to one particular song and when closing my eyes can completely see everything that happens in the scene behind it. I tend to be able to do this easier with instrumental music. One of my go-to instrumental bands (along with Atra Aeterna and Little People) is Emancipator. Emancipator is actually one artist, Douglas Appling, who specializes in trip-hop, which is arguably one of my favorite music genres. Although I am a huge fan of Portishead, Massive Attack, and Morcheeba, I do enjoy really getting into pieces that aren’t guided by lyrics. I prefer to have the openness of letting whatever story wants to tell itself be told. I remember being introduced to Emancipator from a song that was used in a Banff Mountain Film Festival video that we were showing a few years ago. The song was “Maps” and it changed my life. Up until that point, I hadn’t given much thought to the idea of instrumental trip hop. I’m very glad to have been introduced to Emancipator back then as its one of my principal inspirations while working on my current story, Night Time, Dotted Line. Today, I’ll be sharing five of Emancipator’s songs with you and give you an idea of what I see when I listen to them.

Old Devil: This piece has so much energy, it immediately reminds me of a montage scene for a specific character. It really reminds me a lot of Torrent, one of my main characters in The Monstrum Chronicles. The piece has a really energetic rhythm. The addition of the violins also fits him. When writing the books in The Monstrum Chronicles, I’ve always found it easier to write Torrent while listening to strings whether it be cello, viola, or violin, while Reid has always been more piano. There is also a mischevious, quirky side to this song that I think brings out Torrent’s thirst for knowledge. Torrent loves to be a part of history, and is always striving to be included in the moment. Old Devil really captures Torrent’s rogue nature as well as his bit of love for researching and of course, also captures a bit of his dark side, too. If there’s one thing Torrent is most known for, its that he doesn’t like to play by the rules. This piece shows that.

Bury Them Bones: A lone figure stands in the center of a vast desert, staring up at the night sky and the field of stars blanketing it. He begins thinking about the journey that brought him here, he thinks about the people who allowed him to make it this far, he thinks about the things he’s left buried that he hopes he won’t ever see again. And he thinks about those bones, tiny bones tucked in the little pouch tied at his waist and how he can’t let them go yet, not until he’s made it to his destination. He thinks back to his days in the city when he was younger, visiting the clubs and spending too much money on gambling and women. Nothing about those days could have prepared him for this. Nothing about any of those moments was significant any more. This was real. This place, the grit of sand in his teeth and the fresh chill on the night wind; these were the moments he was meant to live in.

First Snow: Snowflakes drifted before the headlights of the stationary car. It had been parked in the same spot for the last couple hours. Memories of his father slipped through his mind, words from far off and long forgotten conversations. This had been when his father had still been sane. This had been before his father had become obsessed with his work to the brink of insanity. It was no wonder he could barely remember it; it was so long ago. He felt ashamed that not even a chip of his heart had felt sad at hearing about the loss of his father. It had been years since the two of them had spoken. It was as if he were an entirely different person, that they didn’t share blood. As the time had passed it had felt easier somehow to let go. He wasn’t sure why. Maybe because he didn’t have time to feel badly about his father choosing his work over him. Because he shouldn’t focus on it. He had his own family to look after, his own son. He couldn’t and wouldn’t let his failed relationship with his father be the example he made for his son. He wouldn’t. (This is a one-shot from a currently untitled story of mine).

Natural Cause: When the memory invaded his mind, he was already lost in a current of other thoughts, those less troublesome than this one. He’d rather not have remembered. It seemed that the further he tried to bring himself from his ex-wife, the more she seemed to pop up in his subconscious. Everything reminded him of her. Everything he experienced made him reminisce a time when he’d done something similar with her. Those were good memories. And for some reason, they were the only ones he could recall. He didn’t want to accept that everything good had gone with her when she’d left… because it would have been a lie. Surely not everything good had gone with her. He still had his job, still had a place to live, and he was still relatively healthy. It wasn’t the same without her though. It was uncomfortably new, a new he’d have to get used to. It was a new he wasn’t sure he wanted to get used to but knew he’d have to. And every step he thought he took in the right direction to get there felt surprisingly heavy and ill-placed. (This is a one-shot from Night Time, Dotted Line, my upcoming novella.)

All Through The Night: They parked the car just as the sun was beginning to set, gathered their gear from the trunk, and set off up the trail. They’d done this hike plenty of times in the daytime, when their footing was sure and their eyes could detect every inch of the forest around them with confidence. Now, in the slowly waning light, they had to squint more to find where to place their boots, had to trip the rocks and tree trunks a little more firmly to ensure they didn’t lose their footing and tumble. But the same camaraderie that had bound them in the day and the expectation of reaching the top of the mountain infused their muscles and bones with an energy that wasn’t likely to fade. And by the time the sun had sunk so that only the last vestiges of orange light could barely be seen, they reached the climax of the mountain. While two assembled the tent, the others set up a camp fire. In the low radiance emitted, they gathered around, listening to the boiling water from their camp stoves. Their mouths moved, telling stories about their weeks, about the craziness of their lives. And when the stars began blinking into existence in the purple night sky, they pushed down into their sleeping bags and laughed some more.

Next week on Inspiration Through Music, we’ll be looking at the brilliant band Bat for Lashes! One of their songs helped inspire a scene in my book “Aequitas”! Stay tuned!



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