Fan-Created Music: "7th Son, Movement 1: Descent"

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I want you to meet Brandon Winrich, an undergraduate at the University of Rhode Island majoring in Music Composition and Computer science. Last July, Brandon emailed me and asked for permission to create a piece of orchestral music based on my 7th Son podcast novel trilogy. Flattered, I happily encouraged him to do so. And he did. He sent me the audio yesterday. This is so cool. This is sooooo cool.

Click the play button.

Here are some in-depth notes from the email I received yesterday, from Brandon (Warning: There are Book One spoilers):

7th Son, Movement 1: Decent had its world premiere on November 9th, 2008. Before the first rehearsal, I played [Descent's] prologue for everyone ... to set the mood, and hopefully get some of them interested in the novel. ...

7th Son, Movement 1: Descent is comprised of eight sections:

  • "The President of the United States is Dead.  He was murdered in the morning sunlight by a four year old boy." [0:14]
  • A Former Life [0:49]
  • Send in the Clones [1:38]
  • Descent / The Womb [2:23]
  • Contacting the Outside [3:28]
  • Following Alpha’s Trail / "I Comply" / Hacking the CDC [4:13]
  • Showdown at Folie à Deux [5:28]
  • "It's Never Over" [6:11]

The piece begins with "the chord," that musical interlude that can be heard between sections of the novel.  I asked a friend to help me figure it out, and its essentially a Gb Major chord, possibly with some added tones.

"The President of the United States is Dead" acts as a mourning funeral song for President Griffin.  The Trumpet plays a modified version of the beginning of "Purple" (the song by Ethic that served as the anthem for Book One), as church bells chime in the background.

While slightly out of order from the novel, musically it made more sense to put this section here.  "A Former Life" portrays the early life of John Michael Smith, before the car crash that brought him to the 7th Son facility.

"Send In The Clones" is a march-like section, depicting the Beta Clones being rounded up and taken to the 7th Son facility, as heard in the first chapter.  The melody that the trumpet is playing was created by assigning a note from an A harmonic minor scale to each Beta, based on their number and order of appearance (7, 1, 6, 5, 2, 3, 4; or John,  Michael, Kilroy 2.0, Father Thomas, Jonathan, Dr. Mike, and Jack).

"Descent" refers to the elevator plunge down, represented by a chaotic chromatic 7/8 measure as the Beta Clones plummet down towards "The Womb."  One of the concepts behind cloning is about breaking the rules.  So, in this section, I decided to break the rules of typical classical music.  The melodies have a constantly shifting tonal center, and feature many parallel fifths (which are usually frowned upon).

"Contacting the Outside" refers to the events of chapter 14/15, when the Betas are allowed brief phone called to the people they were dragged away from.  It's a happier moment (in the Lydian mode), almost the calm before the storm, which transitions to…

"Following Alpha’s Trail" depicts the efforts of the Jonathan, Jack, Kilroy 2.0, and John, as they work to find out what John Alpha is up to.  A literal chase is depicted between the 4-bar trombone melody, and the trumpet with a truncated 3-bar version of the same melody, the two instruments getting closer with each repetition.  Kilroy 2.0 calls upon his flock for assistance, and they respond with "I Comply" (represented by a 3 note repeated ostinato played by the xylophone).  Having caught up with Alpha's clues, Kilroy 2.0 hacks the CDC database.…

"Showdown at Folie à Deux" is certainly one of the most exciting things in Book One, and I tried to depict that in the music.  With a tempo of 150, this is the fastest section of the piece.  The meter occasionally changes from 3 to 4, as the trumpet plays an augmented version of the melody from "Send In the Clones" against a trombone ostinato.  The tempo slows down slightly and the music gets softer, now with the upper woodwinds playing chords, depicting Father Thomas' leap of faith (this subsection even ends with a plagal cadence, which is also called the 'amen cadence' due to its association with religious hymns).  The tempo quickly picks back up, modulates up a half step to add excitement, and briefly revisits the theme from the beginning of the section as the Beta Clones gain the upper hand…

"It's Never Over" serves almost as a coda to the movement, a slow finale after all of the excitement.  Mourning the loss of one of their own, the Betas realize that even though John Alpha may be dead, the adventures are just beginning.  The piece ends with a deceptive cadence (possible foreshadowing for Movement 2: Deceit, perhaps?), ending on "the chord" that we started with.

Credits:

  • Geri Muller: Flute
  • Theresa Procopio: Oboe
  • Brandon Winrich: Clarinet
  • Peter Gilli: Alto Saxophone
  • Joshua Sayer: Trumpet
  • Scott W. Benson II and Michael Ottaviano: Trombone
  • Charles Kalajian, Bobby Cavallaro, and Zach Friedland: Percussion
  • Stephen M. Grueb: Conductor

Back to J.C.

I nearly wept when I heard Brandon's piece; my arms were covered in goosebumps. The time he invested not only in researching my book (his synopsis is better than anything I could've written!), but also composing, organizing and preparing the piece for public performance must have been staggering. To me, this is nothing less than awesome. I am humbled, and starstruck, by Brandon's creation.

Thank you, Brandon, and to the team of talented performers you assembled to play 7th Son, Movement 1: Descent. If you choose to compose Movement 2: Deceit, it will most certainly have a home here.

--J.C.

Personal Effects covered on several blogs, podcasts

Hey there! Yesterday was a huge day for Personal Effects: Dark Art (see liveblogging reports here and here; older updates are at the bottom the page), and we kicked some major booty. The adventure's just starting, however. If you're new to JCHutchins.net and want to learn more about Personal Effects, please visit this page. There, you'll get the full skinny on this groundbreaking novel (which I co-authored with game designer Jordan Weisman). Be sure to check out the sidebar on that page for even more goodies and information about the book.

New fans and old can feast thier peepers and ears on these really cool blogs/projects/podcasts that rolled out recently, all covering PE:DA:

If you enjoy this content, and are persuaded to purchase a copy of Personal Effects: Dark Art, the book is now available in North American bookstores, and for immediate purchase online.

Jetpack on! Higher! Higher!

--J.C.

Personal Effects reviewed at the "A Life In The Day" blog

Make no mistake: As an author, I'm tremendously grateful for the positive reviews that industry publications such as Publishers Weekly and The Library Journal have recently given my debut thriller, Personal Effects: Dark Art. Those publications' comments represent invaluable validation of my skills, and bring credibility to the story I've told. But nothing beats the comments of a "real" reader (like this one) -- someone like you and me, an in-the-trenches lover of books who's far removed from the publishing biz. That's why I was delighted to read Greg's comments over at his A Life In The Day blog, in which he reviewed Dark Art. A snippet:

(P)eppered throughout the book and the included papers are websites to visit with background on the characters and on The Brink, phone numbers and voicemail codes .... All these enhance the total experience, and I found myself more invested in how the novel played out. ...

As for the story itself, J.C. Hutchins and Jordan Weisman have crafted a fine horror/thriller that can stand on its own, without the "out of book" experience. Incredibly well-drawn characters ... and an involving story made this a novel that I didn't want to put down. I had to know what happened next to the characters, and some nights begrudgingly set aside the book so I could get some sleep.

You can't beat that review with a stick, peeps. Many thanks to Greg for the killer review. Check it out here -- and if you’d like to support this trailblazing new breed of storytelling, consider pre-ordering a copy of the book.

Welcome to The Brink,

–J.C.

BONUS: J.C.'s family-filled Dragon*Con shout-out

Howdy, faithful Beta Clones! Sorry for the delay in posting new OBSIDIAN content, but as many of you know, I spent the past weekend at Dragon*Con ... and as you'll soon see, I obviously needed a few days to recover from the sleep deprivation. :) While I was in Atlanta, I did shoot a very brief video that delights me to no end. You get to meet a member of my family in this handheld minute-thirty masterpiece! You also get to see what I'm like in person, when in the company of my wonderful sister, Melissa. Enjoy ... and expect OBSIDIAN to resume next week!

--J.C.

Why 7th Son fans rock my effing socks

Words cannot describe how awesome 7th Son listener Helljack is. From a recent blog post: "I've mentioned J.C. Hutchins a couple of times in the past. His three-fucking-book atomic bomb of a tale 7th Son is something that vaults the line well past genius. If you have never tuned into single retinal-dilating, heart-stammering, brain-crushing chapter...then you, my friend, must either have an inner ear condition that inhibits your enjoyment of audio bliss or a serious desire to live your life to only half its enjoyment capabilities. Heh...yeah, it's that good..."

I bet Stephen King himself doesn't get such killer write-ups from readers. Helljack, you and every other 7th Son fan out there rock my little world.

--J.C.

Cool feedback from a REAL blackout...

The kindest comment an artist can receive is when he's told that the value of his work transcends the media in which his art is being shared. That's a fancy way of saying, "It's really frickin' cool when people think about your stuff long after they listen to it." Take this email I received today from Lorin in Pheonixville, Pennsylvania:

After listening to your "Voices from the Darkness" podcast at work, it really freaked me out when the lights suddenly went out in my apartment later that day. ... The storm that followed was a mighty one -- the wind was blowing, and my husband and I quickly jumped up in search of our flashlights.

After we resettled into seats at our kitchen table, I looked my husband and said I felt like I had steeped into "Voices from the Darkness." He asked what I was talking about, and together we listened to the podcast as police sirens were heard in the distance and someone was cursing up a storm outside. It was really creepy! Too real for us! What a great way to listen to the podcast.

After listening, we sat in the darkness in the quiet, and I wondered what it would be like to live like that for several weeks, or even years! Blackouts never used to make me think about what it might like to be in one for longer than a day or so, until I started listening to the stories told throughout your podcasts. ... Here's hoping that we do not have a nationwide blackout anytime soon, because you are right -- when the lights go out, chaos does reign!

For a guy like me, emails don't get much better than that. According to Lorin, she's in good hands when the lights go out: her husband is a former Eagle Scout, and is prepared for nearly any problem. Dig the photo: hubby whipped up a head-mounted flashlight solution later that evening so they could play Scrabble. How cool!

Thanks for the awesome email, Lorin ... and thanks for reminding me that the best feedback an entertainer can receive is when he's told that his work is being appreciated long after it's been experienced.

--J.C.

John Alpha campaign takes to the blogosphere!

Yes! It appears that the bona-fide's presidential campaign transcends mere bumper stickers. Behold, an excerpt from Robert Romero's blog, in which he proclaims his loyalty to John Alpha in the upcoming U.S. election: John Alpha:  A fitting name for a new beginning that is desperately needed in our country.  John Alpha is a visionary with a grand outlook for our country.  He feels that he can truly bring the United States to a place of respectability and honor.  He is a man of many skills, traits, and dare I say, personalities.  His personality is so powerful that it seems like he is more than one person at the same time.

Rock on! Read the full text of Robert's blog post here. And if YOU want to evangelize Alpha's cause, either visit JohnAlphaForPresident.com to get your free bumper sticker, or just as cool, post a message of loyalty yourself on your blog, Twitter stream, Facebook or Myspace profiles! Be sure to email me your proclamation; I'll be sure to spread the word.

Thanks, Robert, for casting your vote for Alpha. "A" is for America!

--J.C.

So long, Stan.

Stan Winston died yesterday, after a seven-year battle with cancer. He was 62. There are few folks in the entertainment business who I truly, madly, deep-geek over. Stan Winston is one of them. He was the genius who brought Aliens and Terminators out of James Cameron's mind and into the real world, on movie soundstages. He resurrected long-extinct full-size Tyrannosaurus Rexes for Spielberg's "Jurassic Park" films. His Predator did more than kick Schwarzenegger's ass -- it scared me out of my mind. I still weep when I watch "Edward Scissorhands" ... and while much of that can be credited to Johnny Depp's performance (and Danny Elfman's swirling score), that performance was informed by the Scissorhands costume, which Winston helped create.

Stan Winston was a collaborator -- he made that clear in nearly every interview I've watched -- and he wasn't a one-man band: hundreds of brilliant creature creators and puppeteers worked at (or for) his Stan Winston Studio. I had the good fortune to interview one such employee back when Spielberg's "A.I." was in theaters. We spoke at length about the robotic teddy bear Winston's team designed for that film, and we chatted briefly about Stan himself. In the end, this fellow told me Winston's mission was to make the creatures look, act and feel as real as possible. Part of that hailed from performance and puppetry; the rest came from the design of the creatures, at which Stan Winston excelled.

Even long after preposterous computer-generated fakery stole the spotlight from practical creations such as Winston's, he continued to be a player in the business. Most say the best in the business, and I'd be hard-pressed to disagree.

And why? Because Winston's monsters (and sentient robots and dinosaurs and aliens) were real, real, tangible things that actors (and audiences) could see. We could sense these things actually occupied space, and had weight and depth. I'll take a man in a rubber suit over a mess of animated pixels any day, because I can appreciate the craft, the sensibility, the reality inside the fantasy I'm witnessing. That's something Stan Winston probably knew in his heart of hearts. Even in the great creative con that is storytelling and moviemaking, nothing beats the real.

It was this ultra-commitment to detail and a zealous drive for reality that always impressed me most about Winston's work. Stan Winston convinced me that metal skeletons were terrifying, that hand-puppet-powered chestbursters were the ultimate in terror, and that, were I ever pitted against a velociraptor, I would lose. Badly.

Stan Winston made me believe -- and that means he did his job. He was goddamned good at his job.

I wish you were still with us, Stan. I wish you could still wow us with new work for another decade, or two decades. But I've got a shelf of DVDs that will remind me of what you gave us -- what you gave me -- while you were here. It was all an illusion, as all filmmaking is, but you were one of the best illusionists in the world.

--J.C.

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John Alpha supporter spotted in Kentucky -- and it's kin!

Jeepers, all right, I get it! I need to make a gallery for JOHN ALPHA '08 bumper sticker photos! :)

Behold, another John Alpha supporter -- this one is an "Alpha Female," and a very special one at that. This sticker is on my sister's car! She lives in my home state of Kentucky -- a hilly, lush, wonderful place that I miss somethin' fierce.

Recently, Alpha Sis (as we'll call her) upgraded her Internet connection to broadband, and -- after more than two years of hearing about 7th Son (but not hearing the actual podcast) -- has become a 7S geek of the highest order. This is unbelievably awesome for me, as Alpha Sis, in a great many ways, was the inspiration for the book's character binary_fairy. She's one of the most intelligent and driven people I know.

And so, here's the third photo from the field of a JOHN ALPHA '08 public supporter! Rock on, sis! And if you want a free bumper sticker to show your Alpha affinity, visit the bona-fide's campaign website!

(And I should probably start cooking up that photo gallery already...)

--J.C.

Yet another ALPHA '08 sticker spotted!

Methinks I should create a gallery in the "Fan-Created Content" section for these photos, should I receive a few more. Behold: more support for John Alpha's villainous presidential campaign...

This image was provided by David van Sunder, from the terrific "Millionaire Or Bust" podcast. David slapped this bad boy onto his 12" G4 Powerbook (a thing of beauty ... I always wanted one of those), and now proudly finds himself among the psyjacked ranks of the Alpha Males (and Females)!

The sticker, of course, was free -- thanks to John Alpha's wicked campaign website. Do you want to show your support for the bona-fide? Bebop over there today, toss a self-addressed stamped envelope into the mail, and days later, you'll receive your free JOHN ALPHA '08 bumper sticker!

This election, make a nuclear impact with your vote! A Is For America! Vote Alpha!

--J.C.

JOHN ALPHA '08 sticker spotted in the wild!

As mentioned in a recent 7th Son: OBSIDIAN episode, the villainous John Alpha is apparently alive and well, and is a player in this year's U.S. presidential election! The bona-fide already has a campaign website, and is offering FREE promotional bumper stickers to faithful followers. One such sticker was spotted in the wild today: Alpha acolyte DanTheFan (from of the killer Fanboy Hell and Otaku Generation podcasts) sent me this photo of his Macbook. Behold, the Alpha Male loyalty! (And try to ignore that reference to Ssssssigler in the upper right-hand corner of the image). Many thanks to DanTheFan for this contribution.

So how can you get your own free JOHN ALPHA '08 bumper sticker? Easy, friends -- visit JohnAlphaForPresident.com!

VIDEO: The Beta Clone Army

7th Son fans are amazing people. They're supportive, evangelistic, dedicated and creative. It's that those last two words -- dedicated and creative -- that I marvel at the most. The 100+ pieces of 7th Son-inspired artwork, music and photos I've received during the past two years amazes and humbles me. And now ... this.

U.K.-based 7th Son fan Richard Read spent hours compiling photos from my Beta Clone Army page, and assembling them at Animoto.com to create this brilliant music video starring YOU, the proud folk who've purchased 7S shirts at Geeklabel.com and sent me photos. Set to Book Two's anthem (Celldweller's "Switchback"), this is an amazing showcase of Richard's creativity and the Animoto service. This video effin' rocks.

Richard is a photographer and artist. Find his Flickr page here.

Check out the awesome video below, and share it with your friends. My only regret is that I have a few Beta Clone Army photos yet to post on the site, and they're not seen here. Those faithful fans will be showcased in their own blog post in the days ahead.

Richard, thanks so much for the awesome contribution to the 7th Son Experience. This video is jaw-droppingly cool!

--J.C.

VIDEO: Unboxing Keith Burtis' Gift

Welcome to the first-ever 7th Son Vidcast! In this 5-minute video, J.C. documents the "unboxing" of an incredible work of art created by 7th Son listener Keith Burtis. Keith hand-crafted an unbelievably cool, stylized rendition of "The Womb" cloning chamber, described in the J.C.'s novels.

The piece is made from Osage orange, Australian Burl and blood-red Paddauk woods. Forgive J.C. for getting a bit emotional in the video ... but the time, effort and artistry that Keith invested in this stunning project is remarkable. A big thank-you to Keith for creating this amazing work of art, and sending it to J.C.

Find out more about Keith Burtis' work at MagicWoodWorks.com.

J.C. Hutchins is an SOB...

While at least one podcaster I know has gone on record as calling me a "sonuvabitch," I am supremely proud to be officially knighted as a true SOB by superblogger Liz Strauss at her site, Successful Blog. This is an honor, and I'm grateful to Liz for the recognition.

In Liz Strauss' world, the mischievous acronym stands for "Successful and Outstanding Blogger." There are bazillions of blogs in the 'sphere, but only a select few are awarded this distinction. According to Liz, SOBs:

(T)ake the conversation to their readers, contribute great ideas, challenge us, make us better, and make our businesses stronger. ... Good conversation shared can only improve the blogging community.

I had the great pleasure to chat at length with Liz at SXSW earlier this month, and will soon have her on the UltraCreatives Interview Series to share her perspectives on social media ... and more important, success. I'll also be helping her spread the word in the podosphere about SOBcon 2008, a brilliant conference designed to empower people to embrace their creative passions, and launch online businesses. It's a remarkable venture, and I'm honored to help Liz evangelize the cause.

I've been an avid reader of Liz's Successful Blog for months now, and highly recommend it for practical (and philosophical) tips on how to be a better contributor to the online community. Check it out ... and thanks again to Liz for this prized distinction!

7th Son fans "give back" with amazing reviews, art, audio

Transient

While the 7th Son podcast novel trilogy has concluded -- and if you haven't listened to the audiobooks, you should; subscribe for free and join nearly 40,000 worldwide listeners by visiting my Podcasting Primer page -- the story and experience still resonates with me. More important, it's made an impact on 7th Son listeners, and recently, several have been moved to "give something back" to me, and the 7S community.

Listener Gemini recently reviewed all three audionovels on her blog, Time Well Wasted. I was thrilled to learn that she enjoyed 7th Son from beginning to end: "J.C. Hutchins has created a story so amazing, and so full of conspiracy, that you have to stop yourself from wondering if he’s really got more information that he’s letting on," she wrote in her review of Book One: Descent. "His grasp of technology during the weaving of this book almost puts Michael Crichton to shame."

Mentioning me in the same paragraph as Crichton is humbling beyond measure. But then Gemini followed up with this comment in her review of Book Two: Deceit: "Last week, I said the man was as good as Michael Crichton. This week, I’m saying he’s better." I'm stunned and thrilled to know that 7S made such a positive impact on Gemini.

Find her reviews here:

These accolades alone made my month, but then woodcarving maestro Keith Burtis blew me right out of my Asics (and my socks) this week when he emailed me this remarkable blog post. Keith was so inspired by 7th Son that he hand-crafted an unbelievably cool, stylized rendition of "The Womb" cloning chamber, described in the novels.

His art -- made from Osage orange, Australian Burl and blood-red Paddauk woods -- is nothing short of miraculous. I nearly wept when I saw his photos of the project ... and I know I will weep when I receive it from Keith in the mail very soon.

Keith, thank you for this priceless piece. I'll do more than cherish it -- I'll be displaying it proudly in my living room for years to come.

Finally, 7S fan "Dan the Demented" recently interviewed me on his podcast, the Polyschizmatic Reprobates Hour. It was a treat chatting with him, and the episode -- which also features podnovelist Seth Harwood -- is a hoot-and-a-half. Find the interview here.

I am deeply touched to know that the 7th Son trilogy continues to move and inspire people ... and I'm doubly thrilled to know that fans can enjoy its forthcoming supplemental short story anthology 7th Son: OBSIDIAN in May, and the release of 7th Son: Descent in print in 2009.

Have you created artwork or a blog post inspired by 7th Son? I'd love to know about it. Please give a shout-out in the comments!

--J.C.

Recent interviews in the podosphere

While I've been fortunate to interview many amazing personalities in the social media scene for my UltraCreatives Interview Series, I also enjoy appearing as the interviewee on other podcasts. This week, two excellent podcasters released episodes featuring me on their programs.

I had a great discussion with Chris Moody for the season opener of his PodioMedia Chat podcast. The interview is filled with 7th Son spoilers (be careful, 7th Son newcomers!), and lots of hints of things I have planned for 2008. Find the episode here.

I also had a great interview with Tee Morris on his Survival Guide to Writing Fantasy podcast. Tee and I discussed the creative challenges a writer faces after concluding a large project like 7th Son, and a lot more. Find the episode here.

Both shows feature high-quality content in every episode. Be sure to check them out!

--J.C.

Tantalizing hints of new 7S project in SciFiDimensions podcast

Last week, I chatted with John C. Snider, editor of SF online magazine SciFiDimensions.com, for his site's new podcast. I had a great time -- John is an excellent interviewer -- and in addition to doing my best to attract new listeners to 7th Son by promoting the trilogy, I also dropped a few delicious details about the new 7S project to be released in May. I even hinted at dangerous things to come in my secret CODE PHANTOM novel project. You can't miss this interview, folks!

Find the interview here.

If you're a fan of sci-fi, subscribe to John's podcast ... and be sure to check out his online magazine, too! Excellent stuff!

--J.C.

Incredible review of 7th Son

I was flattered beyond words at Lorthyne's amazing review of the 7th Son trilogy, which was recently posted on Gamegrene. Gamegrene is a brilliant site covering the RPG industry, featuring well-written reviews, news and more. Just dig this excerpt from the site's mission statement: "Gamegrene is not your typical gaming website. We're not here to give you lists of equipment or announcements about the next release of Magic: The Gathering. ... Gamegrene. For the gamer who's sick of the typical."

Check out Lorthyne's 7th Son review here, and be sure to leave him a comment of appreciation on the page!

More cool artwork inspired by 7th Son!

Listener Michael Bekemeyer recently sent me this cool image. To hear Michael tell the tale, creative inspiration struck while he should've been working on his own podcast. Thanks for the picture, man! I hope it didn't put you too far behind on your own work!

Another 7th Son superfan!

Need further evidence that 7th Son listeners are the coolest, most generous folk around? Take Brian, a listener in Kansas. Brian enjoyed the special "7th Son/Getting A Leg Up" collaboration podcast so much that he got creative ... and wanted to share the fruits of his labor with me (and you!). Brian took the single MP3 file of 7S/GLU and chopped it up, allowing each song (and corresponding intro) to have its own track. The end result is a CD- (and MP3 playlist-) friendly presentation. Extremely generous of Brian ... and extremely cool. Thanks, Brian!

You'll find a link to this hefty download at this new "7th Son Download Center" web page.

And while you're enjoying this new presentation of the 7S/GLU episode, be sure to visit the JCHutchins.net wallpapers page, where you can download cover art (and a track listing) created by uberfan Michael.

7th Son fans RAWK!