Interview No. 135
Interview By: The-Great-One
[ Part 1 | Part 2 ]
Today's guest I have had my eye on for quite sometime now. She has lit up the Audio Portal with her works ranging from Happy Sunday Morning!, A Night in the Attic, and As Stars that Shine (FULL). Her story is one that has taken multiple turns and thankfully brought her skills here for us today. I am pleased to welcome, Troisnyx.
Q: How did you find Newgrounds and why did you join?
A: It was back in 2011 and I had taken part in a competition on a site called Audiodraft. I entered my first NG submission, Westminster Tune ~ Preuve de foi, into said contest and won. Mihai Sorohan (@sorohanro) happened to be there too, and he sent me a message, inviting me to come on to Newgrounds and submit my music there.
Now I had heard of Newgrounds as early as 2009 – a friend from the Kingdom Hearts Wiki used to submit music there, but I do not know what his username is. I used to go there to watch stuff from @TheWeebl, but that was about it. But here I was, in 2011, in this familiar place, and so I decided to join. I never knew what awaited me… what harm could it do? The help it could bring would be immense, I thought.
Q: Newgrounds knows you as a musician, but you also study law at the University of Hertfordshire. What brought you to this university? Why study law? Do you also study music here?
A: I am no longer a student; I graduated from the University of Hertfordshire in 2013. So yes, I did study undergraduate law in Uni Hertfordshire and graduated in 2012, and then furthered my studies with the Legal Practice Course and graduated from that in 2013.
To be honest, I never wanted to read law, ever. My mother used to ask me, when I was a child, if I ever wanted to delve into certain fields. Engineering? Teaching? Law? I kept saying no to engineering because I felt I couldn’t do what my father did – my father was an aircraft engineer, and a skilled one at that, you see – but more importantly, I kept saying no to law. I just felt it wasn’t my field. It never was.
When I was 16 years old and preparing for an examination equivalent to the GCSEs, there was a careers fair in my school. There, I saw booths for companies representing all the typical ‘townie’ jobs: law, engineering, medicine, actuarial science, government departments… Long story short, none of them interested me. I felt so lost. To try and circumvent the problem and find out where I would truly belong, I turned to one teacher in my school whom I felt I could rely on, and I asked her what she honestly thought I could do.
She said to me, “Have you ever considered performing music professionally?”
I let that sink in over the next few days. It struck a chord in me. For the first time, I felt I had a purpose in life – something to aim for! Still, I was scared, because I didn’t know what my parents would say. How they had treated me in the past with regards to my music is something I still grapple with, to this day. It was abuse, plain and simple.
Anyway… I mustered enough courage to sit down and tell them what I felt I needed to do. I want to make music, and I want to make that my profession, I said something along those lines at least. My parents spat at my idea and tore it to shreds, to say the least. They even went so far as to threaten to send me to a place far away, penniless, at the age of sixteen, mind you, if I ever insisted on performing professionally ever again. Knowing just what I had been subjected to in previous years, I had no choice but to keep silent. They refused to pay for a music degree. So my route was all laid out for me, as if my parents had predestined what I was to be. I was to read law – begin with A-Levels in law and other related subjects, and then follow up with a university degree.
As you may have already found out from my descriptions and posts here, my mother died in 2008, while I was still in the midst of doing my A-Levels. I tried to hint to my father several times that my passion for music, and my desire to perform, were still going strong. I did so by singing in the shower, or locking myself up in my room and playing drums. But my father hurled insult after insult at me, determined to tear it further apart, and he once even screamed to my face that I’d never be a good drummer, or a good musician for that matter.
I wound up in Uni Hertfordshire because my law degree had a twinning programme: I would do my first year in this law college where I did my A-Levels, and continue subsequent years in Hertfordshire. Several universities in England and Wales had already offered said twinning programmes – I tried Cardiff, Aberystwyth and Hertfordshire. Hertfordshire got back to me with a letter saying they were ready to admit me. I tried to make some decisions on where I would go next. But ultimately, the main reason why I wound up in Hertfordshire is because I have an aunt and uncle who live in Essex – which is about an hour’s drive away from Hertfordshire altogether. It was thanks to their persuasion that I wound up there.
It is painful, having to remember throughout one’s study period that one is not meant to study music, but instead be forced through the path one’s parents have chosen. In my first year there, I lived in university halls, and my particular flat was just opposite the music faculty. I used to pass by there with so much sorrow in my heart each time, with no means of telling my father or my family just how much it meant to me.
Q: At the age of 3 you were given music lessons after playing with a toy piano. By the ages of 10 and 13 you composed your first songs. Some may say that would make you a prodigy. What do you recall about your music lessons at this age?
A: I wouldn’t call that tendency “prodigious”, really, because where I grew up, it was sort of a thing for people to be trained young in this, that and the other. Having music, art or ballet lessons at that age was commonplace. Now, I genuinely enjoy music, and I certainly did enjoy music as a child, which made matters a lot easier.
My music lessons were a bit of a mixed bag. The earliest ones, I remember very fondly, because it was through these lessons that I discovered that I have a passion for the drums. (This was something I would not speak about to my parents until I was 15.) These were group lessons, with nine or ten more students, mostly at the age of 4. I was one of the youngest, if not outright the youngest, to enrol in said lessons – but it didn’t matter to me. My classmates, I looked to them as my friends, and I was happy to meet them. The teacher I had during my earliest years was kind and gentle, and I always looked forward to learning under her.
Three years later I continued music under my godmother, who is a music teacher herself, and she signed me up for my first graded examinations in piano. I did alright, I suppose. These lessons were individual ones – just me, and her. I enjoyed playing, but there was one part of the lessons I hated with a passion: piano exercises. Anything that involved training one’s fingers until one could play at high speeds.
I switched teachers quite a few times after, and I had good ones, bad ones, snarky ones… and even more piano exercises by Hanon. Uuuugggghhh. Any classically-trained pianist might remember Hanon for all the wrong reasons. The tune for the exercises gets stuck in your head and you want to get it out, desperately, but you just can’t…….
One awful experience I had with one bad teacher was that she gave me a hard shelling for making mistakes in a piece… on my eighth birthday. She had no patience whatsoever, and I found it frightening to learn under her.
I began composing at the age of 10 as part of a mandatory music project. Everyone in my class had to do it. I was the only one who went solo, I think… but at the time, I had so little guidance and I felt it was a drag to come up with my own tunes. The result I got from that project was a mediocre one, but I couldn’t care less at the time.
I think I was 12 or 13 when I switched teachers for the last time, and I stuck with that teacher until the end of my music education. I remember a few of my previous teachers making snarky, sarcastic comments about her, because she was the new teacher in the block and they just couldn’t trust new people. But this new teacher had faith in me, and I had faith in her, and she encouraged any musical endeavour I chose to undertake. Not long after I went under her wing, I regained my interest in composing, and she encouraged that too.
Q: When it comes to writing your music without really much to inspire you, where does it start? Where does the first note come down and where does the song end?
A: If I do not have much to inspire me, I think about messing on a keyboard. For me, when I mess on a keyboard, the first thing I think of would be chords. Groups of notes played together that would sound good. I would try piecing them together, until I found something remotely new.
The song would end as soon as I felt I couldn’t embellish the song anymore, that I’d done everything my mind and body would permit. My earliest audio submission in 2014, Sound of Creation, was done with this sort of thinking.
Q: Who are the Kingdom of Herts?
A: Kingdom of Herts is a little pet project of mine that is currently taking a hiatus. It’s a band that does contemporary Catholic progressive rock. Initially, it started with myself, Christo Tracey (@Merlyne) and Mark Tanner (@mark212). Mark left the band in 2012.
We’ve since had two more members in our ranks, both of whom are not on Newgrounds at the moment – Richard White and Kieran McMahon. We’ve done a few recordings – but just a few. I really hope we can do more over time.
Q: What is Project Chaplaincy?
A: Project Chaplaincy is a fantastical story that @Merlyne and I conceived in late 2011 about a priest finding out that demons are attacking places all over Britain. Determined to find out who or what is causing these attacks, the priest sets off all across the realm with a few friends by his side, and is faced with a lot of death, ruined towns and cities, and disrepair. How does he deal with this? How does he deal with friends betraying him, dying, or even calling him out on his weaknesses in front of a multitude of people? The story was conceived because I wanted to explore the emotions and struggles of a priest, versus the lofty idea of the steel-faced priest that had been propagated for centuries – I write this story with the intention of letting prospective readers/players depart from that idea, and remember that a priest is as human as anyone, but still strives for good, as anyone else does in the bottom of his heart.
I intended for it to be a bullet hell shooter, and I still hope that one day, anyone may work with us to make this dream come true. (Some of you may have noticed that I’ve even written a few pieces of background music for the purposes of this bullet hell shooter, and even conceived a few enemies.) Until then, I’m working on a novelisation of this story, exploring plot, environments and the extent of the desolation that could be wrought, rather than focusing on the characters too much.
Q: You once stated that two of your goals with music were to get your sung music on a big stage and get your background game music tracks sighted by a game company. Have you succeeded with these goals recently? Are these still your goals? Why these as you goals?
A: I don’t think I can say I’ve fully succeeded yet. I’ve gotten my music in games – indie games are always a good start, especially good indie games. I have announced that I’m writing music for @CartoonCoffee’s game Eden, and I hope we can see this project to fruition – this might just lead me somewhere. I’m also one of two people doing scoring for @Hoeloe’s game, Song of the Firefly.
If this dream comes true, I hope and pray that I do not become complacent as to think I could do without the humble, but brilliant artistry of the indie game developer.
As for my sung music going onto a stage at all…. well, no, it’s still an unrealised dream. Sometimes, I fight towards it with vigour in my heart, sometimes, I don’t know if anyone really wants what I do. I try to fight towards this dream, but the more I do, the more it slips out of my grasp. Recently, I’ve taken to presenting people around me with demo CDs (don’t worry, to the few people who have asked me for them on Newgrounds, you’ll get them, I promise you – things just have been a bit haywire lately). I have received a bit of feedback on said CDs from some people, but I’m still anxious to know if people really appreciate the sort of music I do, and whether it’s stage-worthy at all.
I’ve aimed for these dreams, quite frankly, because I yearn to share my music with as many people as I possibly can. I’d imagined stage performances and I sometimes have choreography and music in my head. And I’ve been inspired by video game composers to make background music of my own. Honestly, when we were children we believed that anything is possible, and did not hesitate to act upon this belief – however hard it is for me to believe that now, I still hang on to that belief for dear life.
Q: When learning about music what would you say is the different between learning through music theory and mechanical learning? What are the pros and cons of both?
A: Music theory, especially if you’re taking exams for music theory, not only explores how music sounds at the present time, but also goes and explores sounds from centuries back. I’ve had the privilege of exploring Renaissance, Baroque, Classical, Romantic and 20th century harmonies and instrumentation during various points of my study.
Theory gives written form to the sounds that we produce – notes, numbers with piano fingering and chords, performance directions (i.e. should it be performed slowly? Quickly? With vigour? In the style of a cakewalk?), all of which can be written on sheet. While it is not essential to be able to read or write sheet to make music, theory gives a person an understanding of why something sounds good and why something doesn’t, and allows a person to be able to write it for performance by a group of people, or maybe an individual. I could see sheet being important when it comes to a vast group of people performing a piece.
Personally, I find that theory has helped with my appreciation of music. When I listen to a piece from a particular period, I find myself transported back to the concert hall where it was performed, I hear the applause, and sometimes, the crowds attempting to mob the performers. I find myself transported back to the cathedral or church in which a particular Mass setting is performed, and I begin to imagine just what others would have felt when they heard it for the first time.
Mechanical learning, i.e. learning by sight and by ear, can be a faster way of picking up an instrument. A lot of my piano and percussion is done by ear (as is a lot of my instrumentation in general). Picking up something by ear is also advantageous in the sense that you get to hear the expression with which something is played, instead of relying solely on the guidance of the sheet. You can hear the loud and soft, the slow and fast. A lot of contemporary pieces are best picked up by this method, and it is also likely the method by which music is passed on from generation to generation. It’s just… natural, I suppose?
I hold equal respect to anyone who learns through theory, and anyone who doesn’t – these are two different methods of learning, after all. However, I would be very, very impressed with someone who manages to combine both methods of learning, and uses it to his advantage.
Q: Your first song here on Newgrounds is entitled Westminster Tune - Preuve de foi. In French that means "proof of faith". What can you tell us about the inspiration behind this song?
A: The idea for this song came to me when I was in Westminster Cathedral in early 2011. The new English translation of the Mass had been released and came into use in 2010, and so, there were new sung parts for it – and various musicians across Hertfordshire and the northern half of London gathered at Westminster Cathedral to go through these new sung parts together. I had also heard, from the volunteer instructor who led us, that new Mass settings would be written by people who could, in order to accommodate the changes in the words.
This led me to want to write a Mass setting myself. Westminster Tune started off as a poor attempt to try and put the English words of Gloria in excelsis Deo to music. The title came from the time I had spent with the many other musicians in Westminster Cathedral. For the uninitiated, the first few lines of the Gloria go like this:
Glory to God in the highest
And on earth peace to people of good will.
We praise you
We bless you
We adore you
We glorify you
We give you thanks for your great glory.
The opening piano line of Westminster Tune was meant to have been sung to “We praise you, we bless you…” but then it all fell apart. I just couldn’t fit the words to the music, and then grew frustrated and decided to keep this tune as an instrumental piece. Then as I developed it, I began to imagine an internal clash between light and darkness, or an external one representing a hero of light and a prince of darkness. This visual picture stayed with me until I finished the piece.
Q: I normally have to dig through a musicians songs to find some vocals from them, but I get them from you right in your second song Exec_symphoric/. Was this an experimentation or is there something I'm missing?
A: This was partly an experimentation, and partly a favour for a friend who likes Hymmnos songs – songs from the Ar tonelico video game series. Fans of these games have written fan lyrics of imaginary Hymmnos songs, and this friend did her own with the help of another friend of mine. To demonstrate to her that I was capable of layering my vocals the way Akiko Shikata did, I decided to record a fragment of EXEC_SYMPHORIC/. so I could show her. SYMPHORIC was very well received by her, and I had indeed intended to finish it, but I just weaned myself off Hymmnos a year or so later, and this became one of my rejected titles.
(By the way, it is Hymmnos convention to write song titles in capital letters. The correct way of writing the title is EXEC_SYMPHORIC/. and not Exec_symphoric/. as Newgrounds formatting dictates.)
Q: Anyone who visits the Video Game Forum knows I am a fan of Mario Paint and the Mario Paint compositions not only from the game, but from the expanded program you can download. You give us a taste with Bataille Royale (SNES) and then hit us with your prowess in Bataille Royale (Piano). When did you become introduced to Mario Paint and why the inspiration to make music with it?
A: I got introduced to Mario Paint in 2010. I wanted a means to make music and share it with everyone online, and at the time, I had no knowledge whatsoever of digital audio workstations. I was drawn to Mario Paint because it relies on one’s knowledge of sheet music, and because there was a strong community making songs with it at the time.
It became my primary means of making music, especially instrumental music, because for a time, when I went to university, I had no instruments to my name except my voice. Mario Paint was quick, it was easy to record, and I could show the progression of notes to everyone. And I could correct some awful versions of video game tunes made with Mario Paint….. a certain version of the Hollow Bastion theme from Kingdom Hearts comes to mind…..
Q: One of my favorites by you is entitled Whispers in the Rain [NSJ]. What is the National Service Journal and what can you elaborate more on this challenge given to you by your friend?
A: The National Service Journal was intended to be a fictionalised version of the events of my conscription period – I grew up in a place where people at the age of 18 were picked at random as if from a lottery, and drafted. Conscientious objection was disallowed, and you had to go or be imprisoned. In addition to being singled out for my ethnicity (being the only female trainee of Indian descent), I had suffered racial bullying, and inhumane and degrading treatment throughout the stint, and the Malaysian authorities did not lift a finger to these and many other abuses that took place in the National Service training camps. I wanted to be able to write about it, but criticising the Malaysian authorities would land anyone in jail under the Sedition Act 1948, no matter how many times people try to circumvent this. Regardless, I persisted, and imagined it taking the form of a film or a game – a video game would be ideal – and so I went on to write music for it. Mind you, I had gone about the National Service Journal as a typical teenager did – immaturely, and overly focused on the characters and not on the plot, or the significance of things. I do intend to revisit it, but I will probably do so when I’m living with more peace and simplicity – recalling the events of my conscription has led me to panic attacks and other traumatising recollections.
This little project of mine received its title from two actual journals that I had kept during the course of my National Service stint in 2009, detailing what happened, day by day, and what I felt, and what I witnessed.
In 2011 @AlbertStClare gave me a challenge to write a theme based on a title he had given me, “Resounding Chime of Ice.” We spoke about this over Windows Live Messenger, as was the thing at the time, and I went on to compose, based on this challenge. The opening turned out to match the title, but as it progressed, it became a whole piece of its own. He provided the title, Whispers in the Rain, and it still sticks today.
[ Part 1 | Part 2 ]