When Ordinary Becomes Extraordinary
Sometimes extraordinary things happen from something quite ordinary. The story of how stories2music got started is just such an extraordinary occurrence.
How it Started
I am an online college teacher at several online colleges where I teach various writing courses. At one college, however, I teach educational technology to K-12 teachers who are pursuing their Master’s degrees in teaching. Therefore, I need to continually upgrade my technology skills for professional development. I had been hearing a lot about Audacity, a free sound editing program, so I decided to try it out and add sound editing to my technology skills. I also thought it would help with digital storytelling projects (which are picture slide shows with narration) and/or educational podcasts.
After I downloaded and installed the program, I saw that it consisted of different tracks, which meant different sounds could be recorded or placed on different tracks. I decided to get started by narrating a short story I had written back in the 1990s—“The Boy Who Was Loved by the Wind.” The program was easy to use and had a lot of fun features.
I then decided to lay another track of background music just to see how it would work. I remembered seeing a YouTube video made from one of the lost films of Mitchell and Kenyon depicting everyday people in the late Victorian and Edwardian periods. The video had this hauntingly beautiful background music, so I located the video and found out who had written the music. It was a piece called “Arco Noir” by composer Richard Allen Harvey. I then went to Amazon.com to see if it was available. I found several CDs by Harvey because he was a movie composer, so his short orchestral pieces for movies were compiled on various CDs. I listened to all of the pieces and then purchased four that I thought would work well for my story.
I inserted the four pieces of music on a separate track and then sat back and listened to the narration over the music. I was utterly astonished. The music fit the story so perfectly it could have been written specifically for it. I admit that I did have to repeat a portion of the first piece four times to make it long enough to fit the first part of the story, but that is the only tweaking that was done. Everything else was just extraordinarily perfect—I mean down to exact words or phrases fitting the music perfectly. Note that I did not even know the length of my narration, so the random choice of music pieces of various lengths was just that—random and unplanned. It was just mind-boggling.
I decided to put it online so that my friends and family could hear it. However, I later learned that the music had to be licensed to be online (or sold), so I found the company that licensed Harvey’s music—West One Music in Britain, which was co-founded by Richard Harvey. APM Music handled the U.S. licensing. Each piece of music is called a needle drop, and each one had to be licensed. There were various types of licensing—all very expensive. Bruce Amdur was my representative at APM Music, and he gave me an educational pricing deal so that I could put it on a website for listening but not for selling. (Since that time, West One Music opened U.S. offices, so Harvey’s music is licensed there now.) One good perk was that I had access to ALL of Harvey’s orchestral movie music for experimentation.
Expanding My Skills
I wanted to improve my sound editing skills, so I decided to record an excerpt (Kate’s Dream) from the Edwardian mystery novel I was writing. In addition to the background music, I wanted to insert some sound effects on a third track. I located the sound effects on Amazon and purchased the tracks. I then found another Harvey piece that seemed to fit the story. Again, the music fit the story perfectly just as if it had been written for it. The sound effects worked perfectly as well. It was astonishing. The more I listened to it, the more I was amazed. It was uncanny that “The Boy Who Was Loved by the Wind” story’s three random pieces of Harvey’s music would fit perfectly, but it was beyond coincidental that the second story’s music also matched perfectly.
I became intrigued. Now I had to see if it would happen again. I decided to use my story, “The Shadow Dragon,” which I had written from a vivid dream. Again, I chose another Harvey music piece, and it fit the story perfectly. It was uncanny how this kept happening with every story.
Discovering Flash Fiction
By this time, I had also discovered that short, short stories had now evolved into the current day’s version called Flash Fiction. As a college writing teacher, I was intrigued and began to learn more about this form of writing. I realized that I had been doing it back in the 1990s in a series of stories called “True Love Imagined.” Two of those stories (“The Fire” and “The Secret Room”) worked well for my next projects, and the Harvey music chosen matched them perfectly as well. An excerpt from another period novel of mine (“The Plea”) became a flash fiction story, and the music also matched it perfectly.
Next, I chose another excerpt from my Edwardian novel because the dense, vivid imagery of the cemetery scene really fit the flash fiction model. Again, Harvey’s music piece fit perfectly. This time, I also added some sound effects (a thunder clap and rain, a dirt thud on the casket, a carriage door closing and a carriage moving off) to the sound track, which really enhanced the story, “Aurora’s Secret,” which is licensed and on the website.
The story “Reckless Grief” is an excerpt from my Edwardian Adventures of Katie Browne book. I found this luscious music by Sharron Farber on the West One music website, and it fit the story perfectly. Rain and a thunder clap were also added as sound effects. More recent stories include “The Reluctant Song” and “Tempestuous Dream,” which are licensed and on the website, and use captivating music by Christian Telford & Matthew St Laurent. The latest story, “The Fight,” is from the “True Love Imagined” stories and is now licensed and on the website. Harvey’s music again matches the story perfectly.
As of May 20, 2018, 13 stories have been licensed.
Six stand-alone stories:
- The Boy Who Was Loved by the Wind
- Kate’s Dream
- The Shadow Dragon
- Aurora’s Secret
- Reckless Grief
- The Plea
Five “True Love Imagined” stories:
- An Ordinary Day
- The Dance
- The Surprise
- The Fight
- The Reluctant Song
- Tempestuous Dream
- The Secret Room
There are three”True Love Imagined” stories waiting to be licensed:
- The Fire
- One Life
- A Grateful Heart
Stories Written to the Music
As of 2017, I’ve run out of previously-written stories. I am now trying a new process where the stories are actually written to the music. This is an amazing process. I listen to the music a few times until I get a story line in my imagination. I’m pretty much letting the music drive the story. I then start listening specifically and writing short parts, doing this over and over again until the story is done. The following stories have been written this way:
- An Ordinary Day
- One Life
- The Dance
- A Grateful Heart
As part of my professional development courses at San Diego Mesa College, I took an Adobe In-Design class, so I was able to do an e-book of “The Boy Who Was Loved by the Wind” as my final project for that course. I now have the following e-books available on the website:
- “The Boy Who Was Loved by the Wind”
- “True Love Imagined”
- “Kate’s Dream”
- “The Shadow Dragon”
- The Stories (compilation of the stand-alone stories)
As an experiment, my friend Jean Noah, a Christian poet, allowed me to put one of her poems to music. “Terrible Love” was a success, and the music made the poem a deeper emotional experience. It is awaiting funds for licensing.
The Unexplainable Mystery
I cannot explain the mystery of why my stories match so perfectly to the music, but it has certainly been an astonishing, extraordinary experience. There is something magical about the way the music brings the words to life in a rich, emotional way that narration alone (or music alone) doesn’t produce. I love putting on head phones, closing my eyes and getting lost in the words and music. I still get teary-eyed at the end of “The Boy Who Was Loved by the Wind.” I hope you enjoy listening to them.
Be sure to use headphones or earbuds when listening to the stories because the narration and music doesn’t mix correctly on computer speakers or SmartPhone speakers. You cannot hear the incredible nuances of the music without headphones.
Visit the stories2music website.