Inspirations

 Compliments of Guest Blogger, Kevin Standifer

Neko Case
Since I was a child, I’ve considered myself a writer, but my other loves have always bled through.

One of my earliest memories of something I wrote was a short story assignment for my second grade class. I don’t recall there being a prompt, but at the time, I was obsessed with an early Nintendo game, Dragon Warrior, in which a troupe of heroes vanquishes a constant onslaught of monsters in order to save a kingdom, or something. My story involved giant robots, but otherwise had the tedious prose style of the game. I even described how much damage the heroes of my story were inflicting on the giant robots. My teacher, a gentle older woman, was most likely very confused, but I think she gave me a B+ anyway.

In high school, I was writing more often and with the extreme seriousness of the teenage mindset. One cycle of stories was dramatically titled “Animals” and revolved around the romantic betrayals of a group of youngsters. A piece of music I was obsessed with found its way into a crucial scene, catching one of my innocent characters in a reverie, with disastrous results.

These days, I still feel most inspired by things that aren’t writing: the beauty of a still frame from a beautifully-shot movie, for example, or the implacable emotion triggered by a song. Two albums, in particular, I’m obsessed with somehow translating into writing. Coincidentally I purchased them on the same day, and both without hearing them in advance: Neko Case’s Fox Confessor Brings the Flood and Animal Collective’s Feels.

I don’t think I’d ever succeed in honoring Neko’s artful way with words and melodies, the way she’s able to say so much with few words, but Feels is still in the back of my head. Occasionally, I’ll give it a spin and remember the first time I heard it, and how overcome I was. I immediately wanted to listen again, despite hardly understanding a single word that had been sung thanks to the way the vocals were interwoven with the rest of the mix. True to its name, it’s an album you feel more than hear.

Is it even possible to capture those nameless feelings without sound? Someday I’ll put it on repeat, with pen and paper or at my keyboard, and begin.

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Kevin Standifer lives in Chicago and likes reading, writing, arithmetic, cats, chocolate and, of course, music.

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