Jan 11 2013

VBS 2013 Development Diary: #5: Music

For the past two years Rahne has composed the theme music. For Law of the West, our wild west VBS, I was looking for music that would fit in with a John Ford / John Wayne / Roy Rogers good guy kind of western—not a spaghetti western. When she was working on it, we listened to a lot of music from classic westerns—both what I wanted and what I didn’t want.

The best example of what I didn’t want for our VBS, despite my love for the music, was the theme from For a Few Dollars More. Ennio Morricone’s haunting theme really conveyed the grit and dirt and decay and moral landscape from the movie perfectly—it just didn’t suit the tone of our Bible school skit.

We listened to a number of good pieces, including Red River and Silverado, but the best example of what we did want was Elmer Bernstein’s The Magnificent Seven. It wasn’t that I wanted, ‘Hey, can you rip of The Magnificent Seven, without sounding like you ripped off The Magnificent Seven? What I did want was something that, like The Magnificent Seven, conveyed a sense of good, morality, heroism, and triumph.  A wild west where men are men, women are women, and good guys wear white hats and never cheat or shoot anyone in the back.

And I think she nailed it. When she composed her first theme song in 2011 for Adventure on the High Seas, our pirate themed VBS, her music definitely sounded nice and piratey, but the overall composition was fairly rudimentary. Last year’s theme was more of an overture with four distinct movements, with the fourth movement a variation of the first.

Again, we have spent a lot of time listening to music. We have found some decent traditional music, as well as a lot of stuff that sounds more suited for a Chinese restaurant. One shining star however is Tan Dun, composer for Hero and Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon.

A couple of weeks ago Rahne, Elsa, and I had kind of a jam session–both of the girls on piano and me on djembe drum and pennywhistle. Last Wednesday Rahne and Amelia got together to go over it some more with Rahne on piano and Amelia on violin.

We aren’t there yet, but the music is getting there. I am looking into buying an erhu, aka Chinese fiddle, so that we can get a more authentic sound once composition is complete.

 

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Jan 9 2013

VBS 2013 Development Diary: #4: Immersion

Whenever I start work on a new VBS, I try to immerse myself in in the theme, especially if I feel I am not sufficiently familiar with it to do it justice. Last year when working on our Wild West themed VBS we watched a lot of westerns. Not just any westerns–since we were going for more of a classic, white hat, western we watched a lot of Roy Rogers and an old John Wayne movie where he and a couple other cowboys wore tall hats and big scarves. One of the cowboys was nicknamed ‘Lullaby.’ No-one got hurt on-screen, but in the course of the story an old man and a little girl got killed in a wagon wreck.

This year in order to get a better flavor for he story we want to communicate I have been immersing myself in Chinese culture: I’ve watched a lot of kung fu / wuxia movies, I’m learning to eat with chopsticks, watching documentaries about China, and looked at hundreds of pictures of clothing, hairstyles, armor, architecture, and the Chinese countryside. I’ve also tried to look up some cultural taboos to watch for.

I don’t have any illusions of becoming Ang Lee before August, but I at least don’t want to make something offensive to Chinese people and/or do a sloppy job for having based a VBS story on what i have learned from American pop culture.

I’m really enjoying it. I’ve seen a lot of terrible movies (Butterfly Swords, World of Drunken Master), discovered a couple of excellent ones (Red Cliff, Little Big Soldier), and seen a couple that were kind of a mixed bag (House of Flying Daggers, Wing Chun).

Anyway, one day I discovered wushu, a Chinese sport derived from martial arts. I was watching a video describing the different styles, and saw an athlete perform a demonstration of Drunken Style Kung Fu, and it gave me an idea. I changed the master tinkerer/archer to a swordsman, gave him a motivation, and came up with a character that I believe will be both interesting and humorous.

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