Film and Dance

So, I’ve been watching this on YouTube about every other day since it crossed Sarah’s FaceBook feed, and every time I am still in awe.

I think, sometimes, we get caught up in the grand spectacles of special effects, CGI, and blockbuster budgets.  But sometimes a simple, beautiful, skillful dance can leave all of that stuff in the dust.

Enjoy!

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Gregorian and The Last Unicorn

So, this week I discovered a new band.  It seems to happen to me that I only come upon things after their heyday has ended.  I do this with music, with books, with TV series — give it 2-3 years minimum after a thing was big, and that’s when I stumble across it.

Which, on the one hand, robs me of the chance to share it when it is new and exciting with like-minded people, but, on the other, gives me the opportunity to get to enjoy it all at once when it is finished, or go in knowing it never will be.  For TV series, in particular, this has served me well in protecting me from killer season-ending cliff-hangers.

This time, the discovery is of the band Gregorian.

Basically, take one part stellar choral singers, one part German rock, and one part Gregorian style 7-tone musical scales, and mix with pop songs.  I stumbled onto them through their versions of “The Sound of Silence” and “Hallelujah” and promptly needed to buy all their music, which I’ve pretty much listened to unceasingly since then.

And if they hadn’t won me over by being amazing at what they were already doing, they acquired my loyalty forever by producing this:

The song “The Last Unicorn” comes from the movie of the same name based on the book by Peter S. Beagle and that book, and movie, are one of the cornerstones of my entire life.  It’s one of the secretly greatest fantasy novels of all time, funny and moving and surprising and irreverent and shockingly real all at once.  The movie was a staple of my childhood into my adulthood; it followed me to college and into my first apartment and everywhere else since.  The music had a permanent place in my stereo for a couple of years (when stereos were still a thing).

I met Peter S. Beagle once while he was on tour and came through Minnesota.  (There’s a lot to the story of Mr. Beagle that I’m not going to go into right now — but it’s worth some research on your part if you’re concerned.  You should be.)  He signed my book, and I also bought a poster rendition of The Last Unicorn which he signed for me, too.  But when I was standing there, I just had to tell him.

In many ways, I was a last unicorn myself.  And the story of Mr. Beagle’s unicorn gave me the courage to go on my own journey and find my own people.

(Mr. Beagle told me that a young woman had said the same thing to him once, a woman adopted into a family of a different ethnic background than her own.  That “you can find your people if you are brave,” and that sometimes the people who belong to us, and to whom we belong, are different than the ones we expect or even know to go searching to find.  He also told me he stole that line from a poem he read in his youth and couldn’t remember where he got it from now, but he was glad it had helped me.)

Sometimes I am Molly Grue, fierce and fearless and honest and brash and true, and only the last unicorn in the world would ever come to me when I am this.  Sometimes I am Schmendrick, adrift and trapped in the lostness inside my own skin and foolish and wise at the same time and clever and desperate, and I did not know that I was so empty to be so full.  Sometimes I am Lir, noble and brave and driven by a heart I can scarcely recognize and generous and sorrowful and alone, and bound on all sides by the knowledge that things must happen when it is time for them to happen.

But sometimes I am the unicorn.

When the first breath of winter through the flowers is icing
And you look to the north and a pale moon is rising
And it seems like all is dying and would leave the world to mourn
In the distance hear the laughter of the last unicorn

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CONvergence 2016: Here’s to Us

Halestorm is an AMAZING band and I have all the envious feelings about Lzzy Hale’s voice.  Seriously.  She is a powerhouse of awesome and talent.

Especially the more Sarah and I have gotten into our volunteering with Operations at CONvergence, though, this song has a lot more meaning for us.  Because when it comes to amount of work people put in to make CVG go, the time and effort and stress being shared by a hundred leaders and a thousand volunteers — it is EPIC.  But it isn’t just the volunteers or leaders.  It’s all the geeks and nerds and dorks gathered together, having survived another year in a world of muggles where we are the outsiders and the outcasts and the strange ones.  It’s all of us who get to celebrate our oddities together at CONvergence and, for one weekend, get to be ourselves in a world where that isn’t always easy.  All of us deserve to be toasted, deserve to sing out together about all the mistakes and bad times and good times and awesome moments of triumph and just enjoy having gotten this far together.

Here’s to us, CONvergence.

*Please note that this entry has been backdated.  Basically, the summer got completely away from me AND I lost access to posting on the site from the reliable computer I’d been using — and posting via smartphone is not as elegant as it sounds.  So, to make up for it, I’ve retroactively put this entry here.  Hopefully this won’t become an annual trend!

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CONvergence 2016: CONvergence Races

Every year, CONvergence has a theme which gets worked into the art and panel discussions and such, and for 2016 it was “And how do we get there?”  So I decided to do an appropriate song.  Connie and Mark 2 are some of the mascots of CONvergence, and I thought as space-age robots themselves, they might enjoy a little competition amongst the best in the universe.  The poster Sarah and I created to advertise our show had a bunch of space-faring vessels racing, mostly because I wrote this song.

Here’s the poster:

Funny story about the poster — the person who helped me with it placed the ships randomly.  But she’d never seen Babylon 5, and didn’t know what the Minbari war cruiser was, nor how it worked (it’s the one in the bottom right of the image).  So, originally, she put it on there backwards, turned the other way.  This made me laugh SO HARD because it looked like the Minbari had taken one glance at this ridiculous space race and did the Minbari equivalent of “On second thought, let’s not go to Camelot. It is a silly place.” and left.

Funny story about the song — yes, we reference the end of the movie Serenity.  SPOILER ALERT: WASH DIES.  It’s been 15 years, folks.  But we still got somebody in the back yelling “Too soon!” at that verse.  Oh well.  We also got some serious groaning for our crack at The Doctor’s nose.

I ALMOST put a joke on the end that the prize was “an extra hour in the ball pit.”  Points if you know the reference!

(But you’re here, reading my blog, so you probably do.  Or you’re a bot.  But not as cool as Connie or Mark 2.)

(All hail!)

*Please note that this entry has been backdated.  Basically, the summer got completely away from me AND I lost access to posting on the site from the reliable computer I’d been using — and posting via smartphone is not as elegant as it sounds.  So, to make up for it, I’ve retroactively put this entry here.  Hopefully this won’t become an annual trend!

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CONvergence 2016: Yoru no Uta

This is a song I stole from an anime I absolutely adore and I don’t give even one shit, let alone two, that it’s for little girls under the age of 12.  Nope.  Don’t care.  Just like I don’t care that I love ninja turtles or anything else.  Cardcaptor Sakura has a lot to offer in it, even to a grown up woman.  The characters are outstanding, the character development is superb and subtle and utterly charming, and the life lessons help when sometimes you need to be reminded that you can handle what life throws at you.

I sing a lot of Japanese songs from anime, actually.  Basically any anime that gives me music I like, I’ll eventually learn to sing in full.  And if there’s a dance involved, I learn that, too — notably, I’ve mastered the dance to “Seikan Hikou” from Macross Frontier.  Which I have NOT recorded, thank you very much, but I can dance it!

Part of the reason we programmed this song was that I wanted something gentle to follow “Jagged,” something soothing but that would also give people the chance to think and feel before I asked them to really listen again.  Singing in a foreign language is good for that sort of thing.  Sarah wasn’t overwhelmingly happy that I programmed it because the guitar part didn’t exist anywhere in any form she could use, so she had to make it up off the audio track directly.  But I love what she did with it.  I only wish it weren’t quite so weirdly complicated and she could sing the harmony with me!

This is the basic translation to the Japanese verses:

In the night sky, they twinkle
The far stars of gold
The same color as the small bird
That looked up in my dream last night

In the sleepless night,
I sing this song alone
Together with the blowing wind,
I fly riding on my thoughts

In the night sky, it sparkles
The distant moon of silver
The same color as the wild rose
That was blooming in my dream last night

In the gentle night,
I sing this song alone
Let me sing with you tomorrow
Riding the wings of our dreams

*Please note that this entry has been backdated.  Basically, the summer got completely away from me AND I lost access to posting on the site from the reliable computer I’d been using — and posting via smartphone is not as elegant as it sounds.  So, to make up for it, I’ve retroactively put this entry here.  Hopefully this won’t become an annual trend!

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CONvergence 2016: Jagged

Truthfully, I’m not sure I can talk about this song.  There’s too much in it.  Too much of me and my hurts and Sarah and hers.  Sarah wrote it for me in June 2002, and no matter what, it will always hold truth for both of us.  And I think it is possibly the finest thing she has ever written.  The lyrics still bite down into me and surprise me and I’ve been singing this song for 15 years.

This song is one we dedicate to friends and strangers, depending on the day.  Today, I’m dedicating it to you, if you need it.  I don’t know who you are or what you’re going through or how life has treated you.  I don’t know if these words are imprinted on your soul the way they were or are on mine.

And I’m not trying to be pithy and I’m not trying to be insincere.

But, honestly — if you need it, if you need someone who’s been there…

I give you my love
And hope that it will be enough.

*Please note that this entry has been backdated.  Basically, the summer got completely away from me AND I lost access to posting on the site from the reliable computer I’d been using — and posting via smartphone is not as elegant as it sounds.  So, to make up for it, I’ve retroactively put this entry here.  Hopefully this won’t become an annual trend!

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CONvergence 2016: Binary/Shenandoah

I don’t think I can overstate how meaningful this song is to Sarah and I.  Originally we wrote it for our wedding and just called it “Binary.”  Later, when we were gigging with Beth Kinderman, we wanted to do a cover of Shenandoah and realized they were in the same key and sort of slotted them together.  And that only gave the song more meaning.

There’s a lot in here that just IS my relationship with Sarah.  “The inevitable draw of gravity’s pull” sums things up fairly well.  We met one day and were friends soon after and became thereby inextricably bound.  Sarah is essential to me, to my life, and the pull that is between us is far stronger than any gravity you could name.  And I think we knew, even then at the start, that there was an inevitability to us, that whatever path we took in life or whatever happened, we were going to be there beside each other.

We really are a binary system, in orbit around one another, and the only end for us was to become one stable unit.  You can’t measure me without her, or her without me.  We can’t BE without the other.  And, in the end, if and when we go down, we’ll go down together.  Because I became who I am with her, and she became herself with me.  The me that exists now only exists because of her.

Also, yay for a song where I got to talk about quantum particles!

The line “It is said that we’re all a soul split in two and fallen from space” actually comes from an oversimplification of a story from Plato about the first humans.  The myth was that the first humans were created by splitting a prior being with a whole bunch of extra limbs and bits in half, and that those halves would search for each other in order to find true peace.  And there is something, well, not literal, but something to the idea that I, at least, spent all of my life before Sarah looking for Sarah.  Looking exactly for her, in every way.  She’s exactly 5 weeks and 12 hours older than me, and we joke that because I’m younger I was clearly born into the world already waiting for her to find me.

But it wasn’t always easy.  There were lots of things that made life difficult.  When not at college, we were physically divided by distance.  Either way, we were navigating being with a person of the same gender in a society that was not always friendly (and sometimes was downright hostile), and that was very painful for us.  And we both sometimes suffer with depression or anxiety, in different ways, and that made it feel like we were together, but separated by a great chasm or a pane of glass that kept us from being able to reach one another.

“Shenandoah” started as our song about being parted by the river, about not being together in the same state during school vacations.  But it became about all the things in the world that threatened what we had found.  It was about being pulled apart by forces not under our control, either internal or external.  About inevitably knowing that we would be separated again, that days would come when we couldn’t find one another through the haze of our brains being unkind.  That we would spend our lives sometimes right next to one another, and yet very alone.

But in the end, neither of us is going anywhere.  In the end, “I’ll take my love across your rolling waters.”  In the end, we’ll carry each other through those tough times.  In the end, whatever the future brings, we’ll walk into it together, side by side.

Wherever Sarah is for the rest of her days, I will be standing there.

*Please note that this entry has been backdated.  Basically, the summer got completely away from me AND I lost access to posting on the site from the reliable computer I’d been using — and posting via smartphone is not as elegant as it sounds.  So, to make up for it, I’ve retroactively put this entry here.  Hopefully this won’t become an annual trend!

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CONvergence 2016: Love Shall Not Fail

This was a duet we wrote for a wedding back in 2007.  It was written for the same friend who wrote the lyrics for “The Nerd Song,” Steven Henry.  With the help of someone who knows Lord of the Rings WAY better than I ever could, we pinned down a few lines of dialogue between Eowyn and Faramir as the basis for the lyrics.

Of course, the effect IS somewhat ruined by opening with the word “Precious” but…uh…

Nope.  I’m still not sorry.  That was too good a fix for the gendered bit not to use.

Funnily enough, this is one song in my high register that I think DOES work over a microphone, but it’s because I’m not trying to sing folk or pop — I’m using my classical tone.

I think it’s weird that a lot of people really like this song and I find it kind of meh.  Maybe that’s just me not being overly happy with the girl’s part.  Eowyn is a great character, but the whole “now I’mma go be a healer when I used to be a badass” just isn’t a choice I could make for myself.  The womanly arts are boring.  Nobody wants to say it, but I’ll tell it like it is.  Being a champion is more fun.

I do like the musical lines of this one, though, and I LOVE Sarah’s part.

*Please note that this entry has been backdated.  Basically, the summer got completely away from me AND I lost access to posting on the site from the reliable computer I’d been using — and posting via smartphone is not as elegant as it sounds.  So, to make up for it, I’ve retroactively put this entry here.  Hopefully this won’t become an annual trend!

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CONvergence 2016: Waltz of the Wallflowers

This is one of my favorite cover songs to perform with Sarah.  Absolutely, positively, hands down, even when she’s not a dragon.  The back-and-forth is super hard to master, but it is SO WORTH IT.  The original was by a pair called Small Potatoes and I will be forever grateful to them for writing this gem and putting it out into the world.

When Sarah and I practice this one, I try REALLY hard to crack her up.  Sometimes it works.

Also, since I haven’t made note of it yet — the Nausicaa cosplay was AMAZING to wear, but very, very warm.  And slightly awkward to move in because it kept riding up and I kept thinking people were going to be able to see my butt.  I worry about things like that.  (Sarah was not nearly as warm being Haku, in spite of wearing about 6 layers.  Hers was entirely linen.  I was not so fortunate.)

There is a part of this song we swap and I take the harder part and add it to my character just because I’m not also playing guitar and trying to keep track of things.  It just means I get to spout EVEN MORE WORDS going REALLY FAST!

*Please note that this entry has been backdated.  Basically, the summer got completely away from me AND I lost access to posting on the site from the reliable computer I’d been using — and posting via smartphone is not as elegant as it sounds.  So, to make up for it, I’ve retroactively put this entry here.  Hopefully this won’t become an annual trend!

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CONvergence 2016: Fairytale

This was one of the very first songs Sarah and I ever recorded for YouTube.  “Fairytale” came about because Sarah’s sister asked us to perform a song for her wedding in the summer of 2012.  She basically told us she wanted a love song that had some fantasy or nerdy elements to it, and described relationships like Han and Leia or Harry and Ginny.  Well, we certainly weren’t going to let her down, which led to the pop-iest of our pop love songs.

I’m actually really fond of this one — except when Sarah starts it too fast and I can’t breathe in the last chorus.  I like that we wrote a love song that’s about laughter and in-jokes and the awe of being together.  There’s a lot of Sarah-and-I in this one, which, okay, was probably inevitable.  We only really know one love story and that’s the one we’re IN, so…

When we wrote this one for Melissa and Matt, we put some gendered terms in like “king and queen” or “prince and princess” which made it slightly problematic for us in this set.  Especially at CONvergence, being gender-inclusive is really important, and that includes non-binary gender.  What’s funny to me is that if you asked me to choose between being a “king” or a “queen” just given how they are perceived, the stereotypes, etc, I’d rather be a king.  Similarly I’d rather be the courageous prince doing the rescuing than the princess being rescued.

(Yes, we’re getting more movies about badass princesses rescuing themselves or, shockingly, not needing to be rescued at all, and YAY, but stereotypes are stereotypes and they’re not changing any time soon.)

Anyway.  Here’s our happily-ever-after love song, written for the real-life story of my sister-in-law and my now brother-in-law, who really are heroes every single day.

*Please note that this entry has been backdated.  Basically, the summer got completely away from me AND I lost access to posting on the site from the reliable computer I’d been using — and posting via smartphone is not as elegant as it sounds.  So, to make up for it, I’ve retroactively put this entry here.  Hopefully this won’t become an annual trend!

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