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Today’s story is a musical meditation on lost history.

save-the-recordsSave The Records
[Slice of Life] [Alternate Universe] • 2,771 words

The world ends, right? Of course it did. But who in the great struggle to survive the end of ponykind remembered to save the music?

A story build around a series of chord changes from the jazz standard “Blue and Sentimental” — in essence, an improvisation.

FROM THE CURATORS: As the description notes — and as readers will immediately notice — this story borrows its unique structure from a musical piece, and within that imaginative framework lies a tale we all agreed was rewarding.  “This is a dense story, even for those with a musical grounding, but it’s still got so much wonderful stuff going on,” said Chris, our resident classically trained musician.  “I could love it just for the passage about the last note Beethoofen ever heard, but that sort of poignancy is all over the place.”  Horizon was similarly impressed: “It’s got enough depth to soak in, but still has a lot to offer on the surface, which is all I can ask for.”

On that surface is a postapocalyptic retrospective of a part of our culture it’s easy to take for granted.  “Save The Records talks about the importance of music, and how easy it is to overlook, and does so in a style that evokes Kerouac,” Present Perfect said.  That unique textual style also drew JohnPerry in.  “The lyrical quality of the writing here practically demands that you read it aloud,” he said, “and it gets even better upon repeated reading.  There’s so many intriguing details packed into these words that each subsequent reading offers something new to be discovered.”

Ultimately, while we found Save The Records’ rich prose its most exemplary feature, it distinguished itself in multiple ways.  “Lord help us, Horizon and Present both liked it, it must be word porn,” Horizon said. “But it’s not just about the lyricism here.  It’s interspersed with meditations on a lot of thought-provoking topics, in as original a framework as you’ll find.”  Chris summed it up: “Save The Records is a thought-provoking, relentlessly clever, attentiveness-rewarding story.”

Read on for our author interview, in which TheBandBrony discusses paradiddles, runner’s highs, and apocalypse commodities.

Give us the standard biography.

I’m a pretty normal guy studying music in scenic Indianapolis, Indiana.

How did you come up with your handle/penname?

I’m a brony who’s in a band.

Who’s your favorite pony?

Pinkie Pie!

What’s your favorite episode?

Sweet and Elite!

What do you get from the show?

An excuse to be a part of the fandom!

What do you want from life?

I’m shooting for a Rarity — good friends, plenty of artistic inspiration, and a surplus of valuable gemstones.

Why do you write?

I like the sense of accomplishment I get when I complete a story — sorta like a runner’s high, only not as sweaty. Also, writing is one of many meaningful ways I can experience places and learn from people I would never otherwise get to see. I’ll never meet a wandering storyteller griffon in a ripped suit — but darn it all if he doesn’t have something important to say.

Zooming out, I write because writing is meaningful. I believe it’s better for my spirit to write for a few hours a day than, say, look at cat pictures and porn. If someone else reads what I wrote and comes to the same conclusion, then that’s even better.

What advice do you have for the authors out there?

Read a lot, write a lot, scooby-doobee-dop boo-wah.

Writing, unlike friendship, is not magic. It’s amazing and wonderful and very deeply special — but it’s not magic. It’s a learned skill. No one is born a good writer. No one wakes up one day to find they’ve written the great American novel by accident. Every good writer past and present started out sucking and worked their way up. It’s perfectly acceptable to be terrible — just look at the first couple of stories I posted, way back in the dark ages of 2012. My second person teen-rated romance story would never make the RCL in a million years — but Save the Records did.

Branching off from that, don’t just write. Practice.

Let me put it this way — let’s say you’re performing a drum solo. You come to a section of the solo where you have to play paradiddles. Let’s say you suck at paradiddles. Completely understandable. Everyone’s gotta suck at something. Let’s say the rest of the drum solo is fine, except for those stupid paradiddles in the middle. What should you do; play the whole solo over and over again, or practice just the five measures of paradiddles?

Here’s what I’m getting at — if you really want to build your writing chops, focus on what you do poorly and practice it until you get good at it. I’m not talking about grammar and spelling either, though you should be proficient at these things too. I’m talking about broader topics — things like keeping your imagery consistent, simplifying complex language, and focusing your tone to be razor-sharp and precise. Practice won’t necessarily help your artistry, but it will help your command of language and form, and that will help your artistry. Even master musicians practice their scales every day. Now, if you’re writing purely for the hell of it, ignore that. Take out the paradiddles. Paradiddles are stupid anyway.

If what you’re doing isn’t working, try another way. Charles Mingus created a whole new form of jazz music to accommodate his awkward angular playing style. Who’s to say a fanfiction writer like you can’t make the next big leap in the way we tell stories? Take risks! it’s just writing. God gave us a backspace key. Cover bands don’t get world tours. Copying someone else’s style leaves you stuck in their shadow. Charles Mingus would have tanked as a traditional jazz player — heck, he wasn’t even that good of a pianist in a technical sense. What made him special was that he dared to try things all the other musicians wouldn’t do. When he found something he liked, he rolled with it. That’s all it took.

Get passionate about something other than writing. It can be music, or football, or traveling, or video games, or dakimakuras, or whatever the heck you like. Not writing might seem a pretty considerable detriment to your writing, but remember that good writers are first and foremost surveyors of the world. And on the off chance that we don’t all become world famous novelists with seven figure royalty checks, you’ll have another something interesting to talk about at dinner parties once you’ve exhausted the whole brony thing.

I would also like to add a quote from writer Prak, who was recently featured in the RCL: “Don’t regard writing as something you do just for yourself. When a story is in your head, it belongs only to you, so it doesn’t matter what form it’s in. When you write it down and publish it, though, you’re putting it into a form that others are meant to see, so you should do everything possible to make it worth their time. Also, remember that a story is no longer your exclusive property after someone reads it. That story etches itself into the minds of its readers, and you can’t take it back from them.”

It’s easy to connect the dots between the griffons in this story, and African-Americans in US (musical) history.  How important was the racial component of this story, and what were you trying to say with the pony-griffon relations specifically?

I put the racial component into the story to emphasize the self-inflicted nature of the musical drought. I wanted to draw on elements of historical truth to reinforce the idea that denying a man the opportunity to share his voice by barring him from a recording studio has the same effect as blowing up his records with nukes.

What sort of music do you think would be most likely to survive the apocalypse?  What, if anything, would people hold on to through any tribulations?

All music is timeless in that it’s a portrait of the time it was created, so no one form or genre will be survive better than another, though jazz, classical, classic rock — basically anything produced before the dawn of the Walkman — as well as modern hipster music has a greater chance due to the high ratio of sales in vinyl, which is easier to maintain and play than CDs and mp3s.

Moving away from music, I think the most important commodity to hold onto through an apocalypse would be people. Food and water keep us alive, but walking talking real-life people keep us alive, ya know?

To what extend did you try to balance readability for the non-musically-trained with use of technical terminology and chord shorthand?  

If there was no way to explain something without delving into jargon, I made it rhyme. At least that way it would sound cool.

On a related note, could you touch on some of the elements of your story that readers without a music theory background might miss?  Specifically including the chords that you intersperse through the story.

Absolutely! I pay fifty thousand dollars a year for my education, and I’m bringing it to you for free! You can’t get a better deal than that, so listen close!

First and foremost, I have to say that this isn’t a story put to music. Save the Records isn’t an attempt to lyricize the song it derives its chord sequence from. I framed it in my mind as a musical performance, with the griffon being the performer. Once I had that established I typed the chord sequences into a blank document and wrote the story chord by chord. It’s not a story with music–it’s music with a story.

The music works on two levels. On the literal surface it’s the music playing from the storyteller’s gramophone. He gets more impassioned as the music heats up, then resolves his lesson in time with the song. The written story mirrors the music in a technical sense as much as an emotion sense.

Then we get into the more technical interpretation. There’s a fair amount of purely theory-based work going on here in regards to how the chords are notated, so if you’re confused on that read this comment here explaining the basics of classical chord notation.

The story’s main ideas (the physical toll a nuclear war would have on art history, a nifty little dose of existential quandary as to the nature of improvisation and the universe, the physical vessels of music’s salvation — specifically, the Benny Goodmane record — and on and on anon) are all placed under Eb6 chords. In the context of the reference tune, Eb6 is the root chord, the foundation of the song. The Eb6 and their paragraphs share the responsibility of introducing the main themes of the story.

The B7 chords have dominant function, which means that in a purely musical context they create tension, which I wrote into story by using rhymes and run-ons. B7s usually resolve to Eb6s, meaning they wrap up thoughts or foreshadow new ones (or both).

The various chord sequences highlight the written story’s continuum. As the chords progress, so too does the story. Where they lay back, the story slows. Where they pick up, the story follows. I based that ebb and flow on the solo section (Ike Quebec on tenor sax and Grant Green on guitar), so I wound up having to take a bit of artistic licence as to which chords are naturally strong and weak. The one exception to that chord sequence is the ii-V-I patterns. In any standard jazz tune, a ii-V-I pattern (f7-B7-Eb6) resolves ideas.

More abstract passages of text correspond to the crunchier chords — diminished chords notated with a small letter “o” and augmented chords notated with a plus sign. This is where most of the stream of consciousness comes into play.

And of course, sometimes I break my own rules. It’s more a modal story at times, if you get what I mean. That was a jazz joke, god why did I type that.

There’s a fair amount I couldn’t add here for the sake of not bombarding you with two semesters’ worth of music theory and 18 years’ worth of personal memories. If you’re interested in reading deeper, I have the entire story analyzed paragraph by paragraph here.

Is there anything else you’d like to add?

Beggars make pennies, but buskers make bills. Thank you all so much for taking the time to read my story, and have a fantastic day!

You can read Save The Records at FIMFiction.net. Read more interviews right here at the Royal Canterlot Library, or suggest stories for us to feature at our Fimfiction group.