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Telling A Story With Other People's Music


Article Team
Lately, I've been thinking a lot about using music to tell stories.

Listening to music evokes feelings and images - at least for me. There's no reason it shouldn't be possible to use music to tell stories through these feelings and images.
I also have a past as a DJ. When I still played out it was mostly chart music at the campus club at uni, but I have also played at a lot of goth/industrial parties and at a handful of forest-raves (if you've somehow lost two fingers). I've got a lot of technical experience with mixing music together, but I don't have that much experience with crafting a fully fledged journey through dance music.

I'm trying to rectify that now.

Not playing live means I can take a lot more time to pick out the music I want to use in a set and I can rearrange the tracks until I get them in the right order. Using DJ:ing software I can stitch the tracks together until they transition almost seamlessly from one to the other.
It doesn't have very much to do with getting a crowd to wave their hands in the air like they just don't care, but it has a lot to do with building a narrative - or so I'd like to think.

For my latests set I started with one track:

It's got this nice mysterious middle-eastern feel to it that I quite like and I tried to pick out other tracks with a similar feel and a similar sound. Initially, I wanted the above track to be the climax of the seat and for the other songs to work up towards it, but in the end that didn't happen (it's the fourth track).

I'm really quite happy with how the set turned out. I managed to find music that fit with the theme and I managed to arrange the tracks in a way that sort of matches a story progression.

You can listen to the set via this link:

For the best experience, I'd recommend listening in a pair of good headphones, while lying or sitting comfortably, and with the lights out. I understand most people won't have the time or patience for it, but I've done it four or five times while tweaking the set and it's been a great experience all times (though obviously best once I finally got everything right). Focusing on listening really makes a difference to just having the music on in the background while doing something else.

I guess it kind of requires you to appreciate this kind of music though. If you don't, you probably won't enjoy it at all. ;)

Throughout the listening sessions I did, the story of the set grew on me. I didn't pick the music to fit a pre-determined story, but let the music tell me the tale. You can either do the same, or you can read my notes about the story I'm seeing here:
It all begins with a space ship landing on a desert planet. During the second track you can hear announcements made over the PA at the space port (Horus, by Phoebus and Seamless Beat).

After this comes a long journey through deserts and over mountains. Stops are made at oases and watering holes (Shadow of the Desert, by Vansam). Caves give shelter from the howling mountain winds (Legend of Ararat, by Deng & Slavak). Through it all, the spirits of the land and the ghosts of the long dead can be heard whispering in the night (The Silk Road, by Stanisha (and pretty much all other tracks too)).

At long last, the journey reaches its destination: an excavation at the site of an ancient temple somewhere deep in the mountains. Something has gone terrible wrong, and far below the mountain, an evil older than time itself stirs (Annie’s Theme, by Andrez).

Finally, deep within the temple, a horror unimaginable is fought. The science and technology that takes mankind across galaxies stand against a being holding grudges since before the stars were even born (Wild Soul, by JWM).

In the end, the sun still rises over the mountain, and a new day dawns (Sacred Emotion221, by Soulfinder).

As you see, it's a very loosely defined story, more just a set of keywords to go along with the music and to trigger certain emotions/images.

This may potentially be the most pretentious drivel I've ever spouted, but even so, I've had a very good time putting the set together and trying to discern the story hidden in the music. It doesn't have very much to do with writing, but it's got a lot to do with tickling your imagination and with creating a fantastical story experience.
I'll keep experimenting with this, and hopefully I'll learn a thing or to - about something.
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