Page 120

February 14, 2017

A little history lesson from Galak.

Sorry for the slightly late update, this page was quite difficult! To make up for it I do have some bonus content that I don’t think I’ve posted on the comic before.

Regular readers will know I like to compose music when I get half a chance, and this one’s fairly relevant to today’s page: The Battle of Seras Daya.

12 Comments

War will do that to a place. It’s a lesson taught over and over again, but for some reason it keeps getting forgotten. Then again, I’d be of a mind to suggest it to Galak and his rebel buddies too…

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I really like the exposition here.
Also liked the music.

However, for some reason, Galak’s description and the accompanying panel makes me think that the war was a destructive, blood soaked hell of an event. Contrary to this, the high tuning of the music suggests some kind of a heroic, “elevated” battle, which is remembered as a triumphant event to at least one side. (Or from the teller’s point of view.) I would appreciate your opinion on this.

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Ah, that’s an interesting interpretation! I’m not sure what you mean by “high tuning” but my intention with the music was to take a single theme (the opening section on the piano) and increasingly “militarise” it – snares, staccato strings, heavy brass – until it compounded upon itself to the point of becoming chaotic, then “broke” to reveal the original theme. Sort of like a fugue, I guess, but not anywhere near as rigorously structured! Mostly I wanted it to have the ebb and flow I imagine a massive struggle like this might.

The main idea was to have a militaristic theme, like the heroic battle you described, coupled with an ominous undercurrent that I had hoped was conveyed through various small things – the minor key, the solo piano parts, certain cadences (the final one in particular) – to suggest that the outcome and aftermath of the battle wasn’t quite so glorious.

From a lore point of view, Ashul “won” the battle but it was such a pyrrhic victory that it marked the end of the war for all three nations, leaving Seras Daya as a husk of its former self and Ashul and Imara as uneasy neighbours. In that sense, I suppose the music is mostly from Ashul’s point of view – history is written by the victors after all.

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Thank you for the reply!
By high tuning I meant that the original theme sounded a little “light hearted” with the piano (playing high keys, also a little quick? Kinda hard to explain without knowing the english musical terms), compared to for example “The Captain (Samara’s theme)”, where the leading instrument (violin? oboe?) is lower and also a little slower (conveys more of a “sad” ambience).
The militaristic theme is achieved perfectly (snares are a sure way, along with those heavy orchestra parts), as well as having some undercurrent, but I think it switched back to the first (lighter) theme right when I could feel “oh no, things will go downhill from now on”. That being said, the various small things you also mentioned are really well placed to change up the tempo and to bridge over the different parts. It’s just never got to that “bad mood” long enough (I think maybe 20, 30 secs longest) to make me think this battle was a tragedy rather than a heroic standoff.

From a political view, the music is correct, no leading politician would say after any battle that it “was not worth it”. Which is of course in contrast to the experience of those few, silent veterans who’d been there… (Just like it shows from the conversation in the comic of the previous pages and this one.)

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That’s fair! Thanks for the interesting discussion, it’s cool to hear what people think about this kind of thing. I especially feel like the music is me just trying things and seeing what sticks (I have no formal musical education beyond high school) so it makes sense that it didn’t necessarily hit quite the feel I was trying to aim for.

Hopefully it still works with the story in some sense! More of a propaganda piece, as you suggested.

On the plus side, I’m glad to hear your take on Samara’s theme (correct on the lead instruments, oboe and violin) as I composed that much more recently, and definitely see Samara as a more melancholic character.

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Beautiful page and beautiful music! It was also really interesting to read your thoughts about it, since this comic is usually not full of exposition. I didn’t know that Imara was involved in that war in the first place, but now I realize something: when the rebels first met Adriana they made it look like everything is Ashul’s fault, but when talking to Ezius, Galak blames Imara…
Now I want to hear what someone from Ashul thinks about it!
By the way, the low amount of exposition makes the world more mysterious and that’s a good thing in my opinion :) Do you have a lot of background details that don’t make it into the story?

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Yes! Tons and tons of background details, I’ve spent a lot of time on the worldbuilding for Red Moon Rising. It’s been tricky learning what to reveal, and also then how to reveal it through the comic, as exposition dumps were always one of my least favourite things about any kind of fiction. On the other hand, too little and the reader becomes confused and uninterested, and I’ve found it a very tricky line to tread. I think I tend towards telling less and hoping the reader will come along with me, though I understand that’s not always to everyone’s taste.

As for Galak blaming Imara when with Ezius, and Ashul when with Adrianna… well, the truth is a bit more ambiguous. Who was really to blame? Who is easy to blame? And who’s it convenient to blame in the end? Galak’s not stupid and they needed Adrianna’s help after all, but whether that was a calculated move on their part, I’ll leave for the rest of the story.

And regarding hearing someone from Ashul’s side, older characters such as Danil and Samara were actually present for this battle, so… we’ll see. Thanks for reading, and for the interesting questions!

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A little late because I missed the posting of the music the first time around. One of the best things about music is that many people can listen to it and all come away with something different from the same score.

I don’t really think I would consider this a song composed by/for either Ashul or Imara or a heroic theme by any means. To me, I just hear…well…sadness, especially there in the beginning. It then builds from that sadness into something that has uneasiness etched through it, which meshes very well with the idea of a city that was caught in the middle of two huge warring powers. The part where the flute (at least I think that’s what it is) begins feels more representative of the city itself, and it gradually gets more and more frantic as the other instruments (sounds like brass…trumpets/tuba/trombone?) kick in.

But throughout, there’s this strong sense of both simultaneous hope and hopelessness. It almost feels like the military pieces are intruding on the more melodic pieces, and I REALLY like the idea of the theme capturing a small city minding its own business and doing its own thing before being caught in the cross-hairs by figurative giants.

Honestly though, listening to it reminded me of Elei from Catalyst. I don’t know why; I’m sure there are infinite other characters, themes and places it would suit better, but for some reason that’s what came to mind. Maybe it’s because your art and Crystal’s art are reminiscent of each other (I think I actually started reading your work because of comments on hers if I’m remembering correctly).

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