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This is going to seem incredibly pretentious, but bear with me, it's all for fun and experimentation.

Ever since I started poking around with making music on my netbook, I've felt that the tracks I've composed are somehow related. Sample and production-wise, obviously, but also in terms of general mood and feel. It's kind of like that basic little template urges me in a certain musical direction and tickles my imagination. So since Harren's Hope (see below) I've started thinking about tying the tracks together into a storyline. This is what I have so far.


Chapter I: Harren's Hope

Far to the northwest lies the frontier settlement of Harren's Hope. There lives Tyrin and his two years younger sister, Elyn, along with their mother and father. In Tyrin's 16th year, the crops fail and the cattle are stricken with disease. Facing starvation and death as winter draws near, the family decides to abandon their homestead and return southeast across the sea to Brenland, where they still have relatives that might take them in.

Chapter II: Setting Sail

In the port town of Greenstone, the family boards a merchant vessel destined for their homeland. But only days into their voyage a storm blows the ship off course, driving them far south. 

Chapter III: Corsair Attack / Shipwrecked

Before the captain and his crew have a chance to return to their original course, the ship is attacked by southern corsairs. Tyrin's parents are slain during the attack, Elyn is taken captive, and Tyrin himself falls overboard. Clinging to a floating barrel he watches in helpless horror as the ship is set aflame and the corsairs sail off with his sister.

Chapter IV: The Caravan

On a nameless southern shore, a band of traveling merchants discover an unconscious Tyrin, still roped to the barrel that saved his life. They take him in and tend to his wounds, and he slowly recovers as the caravan makes its way to the fabled city-state of Vaz'Dinah, the Jewel of the South.

Chapter V: The Gates of Vaz'Dinah

When told of Elyn's fate, one of the merchants, Olinnon, informs Tyrin that the corsairs normally sell their captives as slaves in Vaz'Dinah. Feeling sorry for the boy and his sister, Olinnon offers to buy Elyn free, should she turn up at the slaver's market.

Chapter VI: Slaver's Market

Five days into Tyrin's stay in Vaz'Dinah, he and the merchant leaves their caravanserai to visit the slaver's market, same as every day since their arrival. This day, however, luck shines on them, and less than an hour into the auction a shackled Elyn is led up on the dais. Olinnon bids on Elyn, but suddenly a hush falls over the crowd as a man in livery makes his way to the front.

Chapter VII: A Concubine Chosen

The liveried man declares that the Neotarch Zalim, ruler of Vaz'Dinah, has chosen this girl to be his concubine and all bidding will stop. Tyrin attempts to interfere but is held back by Olinnon, who warns him of crossing the Neotarch, who is said to be a tyrant and a decadent madman. Again, the boy is forced to watch as his sister disappears to an unknown fate.

Chapter VIII: The Rebel Hideout

Leaving the slaver's market, the boy and the merchant are approached by a man who says he has overheard their conversation, and there is someone who would like to meet them. The man leads them to a squalid part of the city, where in the secret back room of a tavern they are introduced to Nessah, a former captain of the palace guard who is planning an uprising. In  just a few days time, Nessah and her men will secretly enter the palace through the city's old catacombs and lead an assault on the Neotarch. But she needs more men and asks Tyrin to join their cause, in exchange for which the rebels will help him free his sister. Tyrin agrees, seeing no possible way of rescuing Elyn on his own.

Chapter IX: Parting Ways

Olinnon, who has too much to lose to get involved in such a risky venture, refuses to have anything to do with the rebels. But he promises Tyrin that no matter the outcome of the attempted uprising, he will help them both get back to the north if the boy manages to free his sister and escape with their lives. Wishing him good luck, he bids Tyrin farewell.

Chapter X: Through the Catacombs

Led by Nessah and her second-in-command, the former gladiator Ulos, the band of rebels cautiously make their way through the catacombs. It is an ancient place, shrouded in an eerie stillness, and the air is thick with the smell of damp and decay. Below the palace, Nessah's men have broken down a section of a wall, which leads them into the lower levels of the palace.

Chapter XI: Assault on the Palace / Reunion

As the rebels begin their assault on the palace, Tyrin and Ulos take advantage of the ensuing confusion to make their way to the Concubine's Quarters, where after a brief battle with two eunuch guards, Elyn is finally liberated and reunited with her brother. 

Chapter XII: Betrayal and Sorcery

When Tyrin, Elyn and Ulos attempt to rejoin the others, it suddenly becomes clear that they have walked into a trap. Someone among the rebels has betrayed them and alerted the Neotarch to their plans. A large contingent of soliders have Nessah and the rebels surrounded in the palace gardens. Nessah is captured in the battle that follows, and as she is dragged away she orders the others to flee to fight another day. The two siblings, along with Ulos and a handful of rebel survivors flee down to the catacombs, but they find no safety there. With a rumble and a groan the countless tombs start to break open, and they are attacked by the mummified remains of the ones buried there -- a measure taken by the ruler's High Magi to ensure no one gets away. They fight their way through the undead menace, and Ulos sacrifices his life to allow the others to escape.

Chapter XIII: The Neotarch Triumphant

After the failed uprising, Vaz'Dinah enters a state of martial law. Bent on rooting out all opposition, the Neotarch begins a purge, capturing or killing everyone even remotely suspected of being in league with the rebels. Disguised as lepers in rags, Tyrin and Elyn watch in horror as a series of public mass executions begin. Nessah is among the captured, and it takes her three whole days to die.

Chapter XIV: Escape From Vaz'Dinah

Tyrin and Elyn spend two miserable weeks living in the gutters of Vaz'Dinah, until one day a beggar child seeks them out bringing word from Olinnon, who has also gone into hiding. They meet with the merchant, who is holed up in an abandoned bathhouse in the Temple Quarter. After having expressed his relief at seeing them both alive and well, he informs them that he will be leaving Vaz'Dinah in two days, and urges them to join him. Dressed as pilgrims they will join a group of worshipers on their yearly pilgrimage to the Martyr's Shrine in Jafir to the east.

Chapter XV: The Journey Home

In Jafir, the two siblings bid Olinnon goodbye and board a ship set for the north. After an uneventful voyage they arrive in the town of Alysport in western Brenland. The remainder of the coin provided by Olinnon buys them two seats on a merchant's cart headed north. Despite their joy over seeing the rolling springtime landscape of Brenland, Tyrin can't help but notice that his sister is troubled and somehow distant. After a fortnight they finally arrive in Barwycke, a village by the river Elwyr and home to their uncle Burl.

Chapter XVI: Redemption

Burl, a miller, a widower, and a ageing man of few smiles, takes the siblings in without question, but also without apparent joy. He makes them work hard and sleep little. As spring becomes summer, Tyrin notices that his memories of the south and their lives in Harren's Hope before that grow increasingly distant. But at the same rate he finds hope again, Elyn becomes more silent and reclusive. She waves off his questions and his worries, saying she will be fine. At one point though, when he asks what is wrong, she says "I just want to go home". Three weeks later Tyrin wakes up after a night of restless sleep to find Elyn's cot empty. In the pre-dawn gloom he goes out to look for her. And he finds her, floating face-down in the dam by the mill.


The Neotarch Zalim is pleased. It has been eight months since the purge, and his enemies have been rooted out or has fled the city with their tails between their legs. Life is good. Especially so since his servants will be bringing new flesh from the market to his chambers tonight: A northern youth, just shy of manhood. Zalim has always had a taste for fair hair and skin. He drinks his wine and smokes his Khash, anticipating, while the servants prepare his new toy.

As the boy is brought before him, naked, oiled and shaved, Zalim experiences a tinge of expectation. This youth has an air of defiance about him. While the Neotarch doesn't mind innocence and fear, there is nothing quite like breaking the minds and wills of the strong. As he orders the boy to come forward and kiss him, he reminds himself to reward the slaver handsomely. In a world of cretins, it is important to show capable men the gratitude that they deserve.

To his surprise, the northern youth obliges without hesitation. And as Zalim feels the burnt, bitter taste of Dragon Lotus on his tongue, the boy smiles at him.

"For Elyn", the boy says. "For Elyn."


Like I said, it's pretentious as heck, and I have no idea where this is going to end. There's also not a lot of thematic connection between the pieces as some were composed before this idea had really taken root. But I have a few ideas where I could maybe work some thematic hints into the more complete tracks, just to create a sense of continuity.

(and yeah, I wanted to become a fantasy writer but I don't have the patience for it)
Totally up my alley; I'd like to see this come to fruition. I've really enjoyed your netbook orchestra stuff.
Do it! Smile

I don't think it's pretentious (as in narcissistic). After all, concept albums are fun. If you can make one, by all means do. Smile

As to the sense of continuity, leitmotifs and pieces quoting previous pieces definitely help, but I'm not sure it's something that needs to be done just for the sake of it. Probably depends on the track. Talvikuningas (by CMX), one of my favourite concept albums, does it sparingly. The impression you get as the listener is what matters. Smile
Nayrb, Otto, thanks.

I have now uploaded The Gates of Vaz'Dinah and created a playlist:

(08-15-2016, 02:31 PM)Otto Halmén Wrote: [ -> ]As to the sense of continuity, leitmotifs and pieces quoting previous pieces definitely help, but I'm not sure it's something that needs to be done just for the sake of it. Probably depends on the track. Talvikuningas (by CMX), one of my favourite concept albums, does it sparingly. The impression you get as the listener is what matters. Smile

Yeah, you're probably right. And like I said, these tracks have a feeling of belonging together anyway so going over the top with leitmotifs isn't necessarily a good idea.

Now I just need to figure out where the storyline should go next...
Yeah, I wouldn't worry too much about the motifs and what not. Just do what feels right. This stuff is killer so far! Lots of variety, which keeps it engaging. I'd say there is definitely more continuity in the over all vibe of each track than you yourself might think at first.
Thanks Nayrb!

I have updated the storyline above. I know this is perhaps not the place for discussing stuff like this, but replying to threads is voluntary so what the heck. Wink

Anyway, I see two different roads the story could take from here.

1. T & E manages to get in touch with the merchant, who has also gone into hiding during the purge, and with some help from his contacts in the city, they all escape and begin their journey back north. And they live happily ever after. The end.


2. Scarred by her parents' death, her captivity and the Neotarch's unkind treatment (not to mention the undead in the catacombs and being forced to live in the gutter like rats), Elyn slips deeper and deeper into a state of despair and self-loathing. When Tyrin is away (or asleep), she finally ends up taking her own life. Having lost everything, the boy devises a desperate plan to murder the Neotarch and get his revenge. Exactly how I'm not sure, but he succeeds at the cost of his own life.

Personally I'm leaning more towards the GRRM approach i.e. #2, but there might be other possible endings as well.
(08-14-2016, 10:09 PM)Mattias Westlund Wrote: [ -> ]This is going to seem incredibly pretentious, but bear with me, it's all for fun and experimentation.

Like I said, it's pretentious as heck, and I have no idea where this is going to end....

(and yeah, I wanted to become a fantasy writer but I don't have the patience for it)

I've just had a chance to follow and listen to this post, so I'm a little late to the party, but...

I'm just gonna stop you right there, if I may.  First of all, story plot as a musical device and structure has a long and strong history, dating back to at least the mid 17th century (I'm thinking of operatic librettos here).  It's no more pretentiousness to structure an extended work around a story line than it is to "use violins" (which people have also been doing for at least a little while).  It's at the very least a proud and more importantly practical application of tradition.

Secondly, you're not some wet-behind-the-ears high school geek who's attempting to write far beyond their musical and personal experience, trying to merely "appear brilliant" so they can fool themselves into thinking that have something to say worth saying.  You've put your time in learning the rules of music and expression, and (presumably, I would hope) had enough miserable failures in all aspects of your life to have an informed perspective on what makes a good story and a good musical idea.  You've more than earned the right to structure your music however the **** you think it best communicates whatever you're going after.

Thirdly, in an age where immensely popular cinematic storytelling stretches over decades (and in the case of Star Wars is slated to cover nearly half a century!), I think it's nowhere near asking too much of an audience to pay attention for what will presumably be about 30-45 minutes of music and keep certain visual and emotive plot points in mind.  The reason soap operas (structurally at least) and Homer's Odyssey are so popular historically is that it meets a deep human craving for story, purpose, direction, meaning, conflict and resolution, etc.  What you're doing here is at least as valid as any of that!

Finally, given all the above, I think it's entirely possible you're not being nearly pretentious enough!  What I'd love to see from this is you actually *writing* the story you've outlined above, getting a bunch of friends together to read each of the characters (or narrators, or whatever), recording it, and the using everything you've got here as the soundtrack for an audio book.

Then and only then (and depending on how well you executed it) would you even be close to starting to move the needle towards the pretentious.

So all that to say, I really like it and I think you should continue in the fine direction you've started towards.  

y only technical comment would be that the later pieces seem to be much better mixed than the earlier bits and have a much more shimmery quality to them.  I'd go back and rework the earlier pieces to match when you come the final stages.

Just my two bits...

  -- Kurt
Thanks Kurt, that surely is encouraging. I mean sure, I've been thinking along the same lines myself -- storytelling through music isn't exactly a new thing -- but in the age of disposable, meaningless music one tends to get a bit apologetic when trying to do something more adventurous than that.

Thing is, I love having a storyline (or at least a setting and a general atmosphere) to work with. It makes writing music so much easier. And this is one of the reasons why I'm not composing stuff for fun as much as I would like to. It's difficult to just come up an idea for a single, isolated piece of music in this particular genre. I need a compass bearing to make the ideas come to me. So I kind of figured... why not come up with a storyline to keep my imagination going?

That said, I have a tendency of going overboard with all my personal musical projects, biting off more than I can chew, and I'm far from sure I will be able to see this one through. Still, if I get a few finished and decent pieces out of it, I'm happy. Even if I don't manage to row the whole thing ashore.

As for mixing discrepancies, it's probably because I've been replacing samples here and there along the way, and the early tunes (Setting Sail in particular) need a few tweaks here and there to compensate for this.
I haven't had a chance to fully study your story yet, but I agree that #2 is the more dynamic option and will make the whole thing very engaging. It's also important to note that you don't have to finish the whole thing in one go. You can get to a good stopping point, a cliffhanger perhaps, and then do part 2 later.
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