Yes But Why ep 208 Mardi-Ellen Hill on decoding music and technology in her MEND™ universe
In this episode of Yes But Why, we talk to Mardi-Ellen Hill, New York City-based composer, writer and thought leader.
By trade, Mardi-Ellen Hill is a musical composer, college professor, and business analyst. During her career, she won many grants and awards but for most of her life, Mardi-Ellen has been working on the story and the technology of the MEND™ universe.
MEND™ is rooted in a fictional narrative written by Mardi-Ellen and it extends to the business she built around the idea of her interactive story. She and her team created the MEND™ (Music ENcode/Decode) operating system that allows readers to decode the secret languages of the story and to discover clues as the plot unfolds. The MEND™ technology is also an invention within the story that is fought over by the characters. The story follows female protagonist, Lily Barrington, whose family’s checkered past places her in grave danger.
Mardi-Ellen notes that her biggest challenge with the project has been differentiating between MEND™, the work of fiction and MEND™, the real time operating system. Mardi-Ellen is a visionary in the world of business synergy, new media integration, and the mobile world of streaming content. She combines all of her skills with her creation of the MEND™ universe.
In our conversation, Mardi-Ellen shares the inspiration for her story as well as the journey of the piece. We talk about entertainment, education, and family power struggles. We discuss curiosity as the key to success.
Mardi-Ellen talks about the original play she wrote that got her an NEA grant to start the building blocks of the MEND universe. Mardi-Ellen talks about music and its connection to memory.
Mardi-Ellen Hill is an amazingly intelligent woman who has worked so hard to build this universe and she cannot wait to share it with the world! Support Mardi by checking out her website for the MEND Universe ( MENDuniverse.com) and by enjoying the music she composed for the story. Listen here for the main character’s theme song!
Yes But Why Podcast is a proud member of the HC Universal Network family of podcasts. Download the FREE HC Universal Network app for Android and iDevices or visit us at HCUniversalNetwork.com and join the fun.
This episode of Yes But Why podcast is sponsored by audible – get your FREE audiobook download and your 30 day free trial at http://www.audibletrial.com/YESBUTWHY.
(production notes: recorded phone call with Rodecaster at the home studio on 3/2/2020)
TRANSCRIPT by Otter.ai
Hello, yes, but why listeners? This is your host, Amy Jordan. Welcome to Episode 208 of Yes, but why podcast featuring Mardi-Ellen Hill, New York City based composer, writer and thought leader. But first, a bit about our sponsor. This episode of the spy podcast is sponsored by Audible. You can get your free audiobook download and your 30 day free trial at audible trial comm forward slash Yes, but why? In my conversation with Mardi-Ellen Hill, we compared her epic story to Paradise Lost. If you’ve never read it, check it out on Audible. There are multiple versions for you to listen to and enjoy. Audible is available on your iPhone, Android Kindle or mp3 player. Download your free audio book today at audible trial comm forward slash Yes But why? This week’s guest is Mardi-Ellen Hill, musical composer, business analyst and screenwriter.
During our conversation, Mardi-Ellen shares the inspiration for the story and the technology of the Mende universe. mend is rooted in Mardi-Ellen’s fictional narrative of the Barrington family. Mardi-Ellen and her team created an operating system that allows readers to decode the secret languages of the story and to discover clues as the plot unfolds. The mend technology is also an invention within the story. That is the source of much mystery and strife. I now present to you Yes, but why Episode 208 Mardi-Ellen hill on decoding music and technology in her men’s universe. Enjoy.
I’m Amy Jordan, and this is yes, but why podcast
When you were a kid, what was the first like creative project that you did? Or were asked to do? That really made you know that this was a path that you were interested in following for your life?
That’s a big question. Okay. So I can actually, you know, hone in on that. Because the child in the story that I sent you, which we’ll get to later, right, is very much a mirror of my own childhood. So I was very young, and with actually tremendously fabulous grandparents, who were very forward moving. And when I was quite young, I used to walk down the street and say, how can they
So many things that are the same, how much same restaurant, same library, same movie theaters. And I thought, you know, that somehow, and this was a rare thought for three or four year old that I if I was going to stay on this planet, and stay alive, that I had to do something that will interest me and keep me moving forward. And this was not very extreme for my family because my father’s family was in volved. In NASA and in law, they were very preoccupied with intellectual things. And, you know, I was given a lot of license as a young child to imagine a world that I wanted to be in. And I of course, as a child, I mean, most children do this thought every other child was thinking the same thing. Of course, it was a great shock to me.
To realize that was not the case. But luckily, by the time I came to that realization, I had already amassed enough skills to keep moving forward. I had a grandfather who gave me a gorgeous piano when I was five.
And I had a lot of luxuries to explore the world, through these fabulous grandparents of mine, that’s, that’s sort of sums up
this, you know, my beginnings in terms of exploring the world and being an explorer. And also, I mean, considering that, you know, I’m now well into middle age that and I was not handled as either a woman you know, a boy or girl I was looked at as just me, and I was going about my business. So this also was a shock to me. That when I began
To enter Junior High School in high school that there was some, you know,
there was dissonance around the fact that I was a woman. So, I didn’t, I actually didn’t carry that baggage. Until I absolutely had to be aware of it far later in my life. So in that way, I was very gifted to be, you know, have these people around me to tell you the truth. They were very involved in their own lives, and I was kind of left alone enough to do it. So I hope that
helps parents in involved in science or were your grandparents involved in NASA in science are both
my No, my my father, my father’s cousin, and actually, his sons now are canasa my father’s cousin, actually
He was the head of much Washington intelligence. And his wife was in science My father was in actually in law. So, yeah, my mother was an educator she had, she went to hunter she went to she met my father at Liu. And
they were the typical Jewish, you know, people after the war, who were just beginning to build their lives, and my grandparents, you know, had saw all this for their grandchildren. I was the first grandchild.
I was around people who were very enmeshed in, you know, a very particular kind of intellectual life. Yeah. Sounds like a really interesting crowd to grow up in. Now. Do you have brothers and sisters was it like you and your brothers and sisters or I do and well, this is the crowning glory and part of
The story that I’m telling so it came to an abrupt end when I was about eight or nine.
And that is because my mother decided that she no longer wanted to partake in this slow moving
I’ll skip over some prime details but
She, she, she she found somebody who was on the Broadway stage, quite successful. And he had no background like we had this particular background came from a completely different kind of Italian family.
And he was acting with Orson Welles and Groucho Marx. This was not a small, right. This wasn’t a small view with small Canvas, but he came into our lives and
dramatically change the path of my sister and I
I already was very much involved in the life that I had created for myself and the forward moving ideas, but there was tremendous upheaval with my grandparents who did not accept this situation. And my loyalties were very divided. My mother had me when she was quite young. And, you know, I was the head of the household I have actually one sister and then four half brother, two half brothers and two half sisters from this particular marriage.
And so the pathway became very, very different.
I went in a slightly different direction, one much more around music and
in drama. Were you still playing the piano?
Oh, yes, yes, yes.
Yes, playing the piano, singing I, you know, had quite an early singing career. So this was a completely different direction. I kind of put the science on hold.
And I went to a different type of school I went to Bard College as opposed to MIT. Although the, the MIT influences came back to me later in my life and the team that I have now. So
the work that I have put out there is very much this journey, going from this early life to a completely different life and then back again, to this early life. Basically, that one cannot really strip someone of their life’s talent or their life’s direction that those very early years
are so important to just similarly to the Little Women interview that
The director gave about how our childhood cells are always with us. Hmm. Yeah. I often say that when I teach improv to people, because the idea of playing an improv can be foreign to adults, and you know, I’ll try to bring them back to when they were playful children, so that they can, you know, kind of grasp that part of themselves to us again. So, so yeah, I’m always fascinated by that. The other thing too, is like, especially because when I talked to a lot of my friends in their 30s, and 40s, you know, they kind of hit a wall with stuff. And I’m like, What did you want to do when you were a kid? And you’re like, well, I want to be a fireman. What does that mean? And it’s like, no, but what you wanted can be distilled to something real a you can still become a fireman. Go ahead. Or if it’s not firemen, like what about the firemen that you did you like so much because that essence brings you back to
What you were interested in, and maybe could find you a job that you could thrive in as opposed to like, Oh, I don’t really know what I’m doing, you know? So yeah, I love that the idea that like, we all have within us this, like our you know who we are from the very beginning. I feel that way about my own kid totally, as well. But so this is great. What a like, you’ve been sort of creative since the beginning. And it it birthed this storyline. You know, as you grew up, how did it I read in the, in the research that I did on you, that you came up with this story of for your current project, when you were 14. So you’ve been working on this world building this world for a long time. How did that all start?
Well, you know, it’s interesting that you say it’s tonight as Passover and my grandfather as again, these grandparents.
paid this enormous role in my life,
of guidance of,
of discipline, discipline, I actually went to Hebrew school.
Now I sing in a church and I’m, you know,
I sing the complete church liturgy. But the fact that, you know, once you have the groundwork of this kind of discipline that was given from these grandparents, this kind of homage to them, became part of this story. My grandfather died when I was 14. And I was devastated. Because he was really the father figure to me and the protector of my life and cared about
how I would grow up and you know, who I would marry and my life’s direction. So that was a very big loss to me, then my grandmother, she basically took over in this but
It was it was very different. So I became more and more the kind of the caretaker of their history
and their history and then also my father’s family, his history. So I became very interested in where they came from, how they brought me, you know, to Earth, so to speak.
And, of course, this this, this cosmic influence, and then, you know, the idea that I was very musically talented, I was singing, I was editor of the high school newspaper, I was friendly, very social friends with all the, you know, all the social sectors that you could be. And it that talent actually brought me a big distance and a lot of that had to do with music. The fact that music could spread the word, spread a message and give, you know, internal information and make an external. So I began to carve out the idea
of how the music
was actually, you know, carrying science secrets and then beginning to build this idea further and further so that I could actually make it some kind of, you know, real time imagery that these characters that I defined could carry with them through time. So that’s you know, I mean in the sense of A Wrinkle in Time where I’m trying to think Westworld, Stranger Things Black Mirror, all of these big stories have that element of travel have taken you far away to something that is very hidden.
That music is where memory is hidden. You know, you hear a song It brings you somewhere or Oh, kinda thing. I one of my favorite movies ever you’re mentioning movies that it is some that your thing is similar to and when I was reading through, it made me think of
This made for TV movie that I loved, which was a book and to the infinite power. And it was a story about them.
They were cloning a doctor, and the doctor had died in a fire like right before she made her like big breakthrough. So they then cloned her and tried to get the new girls to invent the thing. And so they would play a specific song that was like, known to be her song to like, get them in the mindset of the science. So they’d be like, asking them questions and stuff, hey, how could we do this? What should we do here? And it was like playing the music. So I thought of your thing where it was like there’s a song and it’s got information in it. Like they’re trying to unlock her brain of like knowledge of a person she was sharing the DNA with. And it was like, oh, what so it’s like it totally made me think of your story where their music is unlocking a mystery.
So absolutely. And you know, when I first wrote this epic, which was 1997, it took me that long to write the actual game of thrones Bible, if you will. My very first manager said to me,
if I could only figure out where the voice of this girl is coming from, and I said, but that’s the story
that you have to keep following it to till I show you where this lands and the person who decrypts it. And the the the idea that you know, I had written he said to me very pointedly, you know, we have to really notice he goes, boy, he goes, it’s one thing to talk about DNA. He goes, it’s another thing to say that you can clone the personality of somebody. He goes, that’s a whole different thing. And that’s really why I wrote this was to say we’re more than just our DNA, right? We are living in this connected
that people call augmented reality or virtual reality depended upon how, how distant The world is. But really, it’s about consciousness and how we are connected to one another. And how music has this really divine power of doing that? So, you know, one of the hardest things for me, as I wrote, this was all these people would come to me on all kinds of ideas of theology, trying to put me in some parks, right? Whether it was this sector, that sector and as a good writer, I think it’s really important to not go any of those directions. That’s why when I’m writing, I’m not really reading or listening to that kind of stuff. I just keep to the thread of this character’s voice. Yeah.
So the character, the original character that this was built out of was not the protagonist in the opening story, but actually the child that she has to find, which is obviously, you know, going back to my own life,
the child that I was co initiated this science exploration. So tell me you started so you’re writing this in high school, you’re developing this story. You told me you said you went to Bard College. What did you go for? And like what happened after college? Did you like keep writing? were you working in science? So I went to Bard, I majored in music. I was a voice and piano major.
I also took a lot of literature, courses, no science.
I graduated and then I actually started to get a lot of jobs and dance as a
As an accompanist
as ice and singing, yes, and then I, you know, so I was actually hired in a lot of stage capacities where I was the accompanist I taught at NYU. And I wrote a course there called the language of sound in relation to the dance form, very highfalutin, which was changed to sound as language for dance choreography, but it’s still on the books. And
when I was there, I met some fabulous people who took me around the world. I worked at the American Dance Festival, the Cologne festival in Germany, I worked in France, I was hired by people from the Martha Graham company. And because I was very good improviser but also could read classical music and also could sing.
I was in demand until somebody actually threw me out of their class saying I had more control over
With the petite Allegro in the middle of the stage than they did, and running the class, and I actually at that time, this is some trying to think of when this was so this is a good 30 years 25 years ago. I don’t worry, you don’t have to give it a date. I will couldn’t tell you what day today is number 28. Right. But at that at that particular juncture, I, I’m trying to think of how this was, okay, so NYU was very good to me, after I got out of college wasn’t immediately but, and the head of the department that had hired me gave me this is now be making a beeline into how I got back into this.
gave me the auditorium for a few nights
to actually write this
this work of mine. So, um, you know, I was very, very lucky to have
Her. And I did this work called the army amasa Josh DNA.
And really it was about the idea of
very much about this kind of French existentialism, but it gave me the opportunity to write actually writing music. I put a trio on there. And I happen to put on a segment that actually became later. Again, the first section of this story, the screenplay on this whole game of thrones idea that I had. And
I did it because I had a dance company
a person who danced with Londo pavich and she actually loved the first section of this. So I gave her the rights to use it and she gave me some gorgeous choreography. I sent it to the NBA. They told me they absolutely
adored it. And from there, I got a Yale producer who took it to the next level. And that’s how I began to put the building blocks of this storyboard in place. But it was really built out of another work entirely just how many people’s work scope, right? You know, you build one work and you see a seed in there that you think is going to germinate and make a much larger story. So that the first grant that I got from the NBA I was the first woman to win this much money two years in a row. Nui, NEA Papa music musical theater.
And they were very, very kind to me by saying, you know, they saw a huge
Wagnerian work in this. So I took them. I took them literally, in my you know, upcoming Lord of the Rings type story.
I love how you compare yourself to Game of Thrones and Lord of the Rings. I was like, your thing is so I don’t know, like so different and yet so big in such a different way. I’m like, yeah, I’m totally into this. But it’s very it’s very different because it’s much more accessible away. No. Well, it’s also like, sort of more emotional. You know what I mean? Because oh my god nature of the way you’re moving through the story and the way things are happening and like everybody, the the way people deal with things that like leads to the next like, it’s not like this logical decision or like, we needed this thing. Let’s go to the mountain and get it. It’s like, so much more convoluted and like about family stuff and family stuff is so much crazier than everything else. So it’s so it’s fun, because it’s like, oh, man, I know these families. I know people who are like, I don’t like
This guy, I’m gonna take it from that, you know, like, just all the fun stuff, where it’s, thank you. Thank you for saying that because one of the reasons I keep repeating the Lord of the Rings or Game of Thrones is that I had an agent who shall not be named.
conjured, Oh, yes. Oh, yes. who believed that? That was the way to sell this. And I actually, for years pushed back on that meaning until I kind of gave in because I was like, Well, you know, if this is going to get this sold, that’s what happens to you. Right?
I’ll have to, you know, agree to however you want to characterize this, which is really, you know, thank, thank goodness, I’m past that stage.
I can actually say exactly what this is. Exactly. And you just did a marvelous job of talking about this. twisting and turning and surprising the audience with the move. So
The characters because that’s, to my mind, what makes the story of habit forming and people to come back and see what these characters are going to do next. Oh yeah, I mean, I’m whenever I’m talking to people about writing. I was like, if your characters aren’t making the worst decisions they can make in their lives. Why am I reading this? Why am I watching this? Like, I watched so many television shows and like at the end, I’ll say like, the end of the episode, I’ll be like, Oh my God, why can’t they just learn the lesson? And Chris, and my husband is like, because we wouldn’t have more shows to watch, like, let them
I’m like, Oh, yeah, that’s how it works. Like there has to be angsty and like something to go through. And like, in real life, people don’t give it up. So it’s not it’s not like this is a fantasy world. This is like legit family. Correct. And that’s so people who read it recently go, you know, an agent who wants to take it on. It’s like diehard
Somebody told me this was like diehard three. Yes. That’s your next reference. You can throw out Game of Thrones that makes it feel good but then you’re like also just like diehard three that’s no that’s that’s a quote from somebody else. And that’s that’s much more to my taste much more what this is
it’s a procedural it has a lot of programmatic information in it hmm but I twist in turn you with the characters as they come to these, you know, daunting moments.
For one part that I you know, absolutely am hooked into myself in the story, hoping that you will actually play the music of the main theme is that I wrote that thing many many years ago at a particular romantic point in my life. And to me, it’s the you know, the consummate model
of the stars.
You know what she leaves behind this particular tune race theme, and Ray was the name of my grandmother, Rachel. So that’s why I named this this girl, Rachel. And Rachel,
you know, has all these secrets and she holds this information that is so powerful that she does not know has been granted to her. So
being the keeper of this genetic code, and not knowing it, and not knowing her power actually gets her killed.
The point is, you hate the killers at first, until you realize in the next story, that she was just about to give away a sovereign code to the United States. Why? Because I built this whole idea of sovereignty around the city just the way back when way back when information remains in a certain particular way.
musical scale and was not supposed to travel outside of the city. So I started to put in really old, you know, ideas, very classical notions into this pops theme. And I think that’s really what makes it reverberate is that I finally when I did write the tune, I had the skill and the knowledge to be able to bring that kind of, you know, this meshing of the science, the music, the family dynamic into one thing, and that took a lot
because to build these tracks to the CD with the track One was that track that I told you at NYU, I had a chance to premiere and it’s basically I don’t know if you’ve ever seen that movie, the conversation, but it has all of this whispering through this text that is actually beginning to unlock the spirit.
opening where you see this child in Paris sending this other girl, this tune that she thinks she’s writing herself. So it really took for iPads, iPhones to pop in to people to go, Oh, I get it. Now I see how these girls, you know what connecting when Indeed, I was just telling the story through this kind of young game, you know, unconscious connectivity. Yeah. Which is a very different really point of view. So the technology as it evolved, and I can actually send you an article on that.
From 2014, I really began to mimic the things that I was writing about. And that’s when this really began to take off. It took that long because people had to get the technology, the hardware to be
able to understand these, you know, very embedded software concepts that we hold.
In fact, one of my team guys, a fabulous MIT, Apple programmer says that software should be taught the way I am unlocking this information in men’s music and Koji CO, because basically it follows the rules of orchestration. That’s why orchestrators
are the best programmers because they understand this vertical horizontal logic that’s moving through.
Just as you know, like a pilot driving a plane all the time, you have to be aware of the trajectory of the melody and where it’s going, as the orchestration is moving the piece forward.
And so you’re working on all incidents at the same time.
And, you know, I think as I began to put
This of course, then many more really good craftsmen came to me, because they saw the work that went into the mastermind of this inventor, you know, it’s how I give these different characters, very different skills and tools,
to co op through the story. And basically saying that this is not just, you know, a profession that they pick, these characters are carrying this from way back. You know that that was a very big message that I wanted to tell in the story that it’s,
you know, education is very deeply connected.
To drive desire, passion and how you envision the world.
That’s a great comment. Yeah, I mean, you’re right. But not to mention the connectedness to like who you are as a child, like, sort of like each of us being
The true essence of ourselves when we’re children, and then you know, the world and everything that happens to us piles on and on and on, and we forget who it is that we really are. I like it. I like the idea that the people in your story are sort of doing what they’re meant to do because of this, like, deep connectedness to, you know, that flow. That’s really well, that’s an interesting thing, because I once had an editor who said to me,
You can’t tell the story of, you know,
predestination, and we’ll in the same story, right. antithetical, I said, but I am
completely sure Paradise Lost was all about that. So
thank you. Thank you very much, because I really had this. He In fact, it’s a screenplay itself.
You know, it’s about this, this coding thing that I, I put this number system in there, and with layers and layers and layers of information. And by the way, that’s how the technology works, meaning, it’s not going to take anybody more than just having
a keypad to understand how this information system works because the characters themselves are carrying it into story to give to the user.
I don’t know too many other stories that work that way, except if you buy a video game, and it’s giving you instruction books, well, this is a this is this is an instant video game really right out of the story. So So this story, one becomes also in a hidden manual, right for understanding
this workforce of the characters, which I thought was very poignant for now. Meaning we the whole idea of work
is changing, right? It’s Yeah, completely. Uh, what are we here for what gives us meaning? How are we going to spend our time on earth? Right? Yeah.
So Paradise Lost I love that. I’m so glad you brought that up.
I mean, it’s it’s a, you know, a solid journey and there’s definitely both predestination Anwyl. So it tells that and it certainly, I mean, it’s like, well, I could go down a I went to a classic college, I could go down a Paradise Lost road for a while. Let’s bring it back to you though.
Okay, so we have talked about, we got in your personal history to the point where the NBA has inspired you to start developing this story, but this is still early on. You did the first couple, a couple of compositions and you were putting together the story but like what inspired you
to really dig in and make it not just a book, not just a screenplay, but like a full franchise with lots of other elements included in it like what inspired that.
I’m trying to locate the exact point. So I had then, basically it by that time I was managed by trying to thank Columbia artists. And they were very kind to me, they saw that this was a stage play and that I had already even gotten money from works in process at the Guggenheim serious in New York. But I didn’t have major money behind me, meaning I had all the pieces.
And I had four out of six sections of this work. And the work was sort of set up, very akin to the you know, remember Robert Wilson in the civil wars. It was set up in that kind of manner. So this
They were like Lego like parts. This is the beginning of coming to this franchise, this Lego Land of information. So what happened? Oh, so I have a, this this manager, Columbia artist and he said to me, you know, you’ll be lucky to get one performance at the Met, or the bestie has a woman This is when it really crashed in on me. I was really a woman in a man’s world and because I was a little bit like an idiot savant, which did not do me well. In the idea of I had to wake up to the world I was really in. Yeah. So he said to me, take this to Hollywood.
And I’m trying to think what I did is I took the CD which had gotten me so much money and so much renown and wonderful reviews Newsday Boston Herald. So you know,
I had a little bit of hubris, right? Because I had
That kind of success. And that was, I wasn’t, I was surprised at it. So I took that CD, and I sent it to CAA in Hollywood. And surprisingly enough, they opened it. And they said, also make a great video game. And I went nowhere. When
I see something else here, I want to buy it. You know, this is where the film script came in. I wanted to build a roadmap that at that time I all had was the original stage, play the music all I had, and the the epic Bible.
So I spent a number of years there, right and
I raised money through
this is when I began to get more this is like the last Well, about a decade ago I got I really began to be the behave in the role of an executive producer. And the crossroads.
by the time I had a screenplay from the invested money,
which I had some help from an X Files writer because I wasn’t a screenwriter, but I had a very meaty saga.
It got great coverage. And then it went to where did it go? To some people that were at Fine Line Cinema, at the time, the dark materials with Nate. And they did that they didn’t do mine. And I remember somebody saying, you know, but this is like this, this woman has something to say. Right? So I then I realized, nevermind being a debt opera composer. I was going to be an ill paid
person with a script. So I walked away. I because I thought I’m not sitting here to write 5 million scripts. That wasn’t in my you know, it wasn’t in my wheelhouse. It wasn’t what I wanted to do. Yeah, I had a story to tell about how this
Music was connecting these characters and opening this completely new idea of space and time and content. Long before people were using the word content user, or content aggregator, I was telling them content is going to be a very different thing, words are going to change. It’s not going to just be about books long before
you began to hear that. So
I walked away, and then I built my own team. It took me about the whole time of the blog archive that people will be able to get aboard and see and read. That’s the compilation of everything I did after I left ca and to build this now, to where people are coming to me for this kind of, you know, big franchise, big platform that I hope will give work to
Other people. So that took that took me also teaching a team three guys
becoming very knowledgeable about financing and you know how when they actually builds a business model that’s going to,
you know, give work and also make money. And also, the idea of how the applications of this would, could rise out of, you know, just an entertainment model because actually, even though it’s entertainment underneath I’ma, you know, an educator and I very much cared about the benefit from the, the tail I was telling in terms of the music and the profession and the decision making the strategies that these characters use to keep hold of their power because
You know, I have people come to me and say, Oh, this is better than the matrix. But the matrix has been made already. You see this again, just like you were saying is,
you know, has many more layers upon it.
Right? Yeah. Yeah. Because I’m taking you back very systematically in history, all the way to show you how they build this information system. That took a lot in the last five years. That was hard. Yeah. I had two different editors.
Work on two different business plans and two different pieces of this. So that I actually kept the original stage sequence
in place in each you know, product that I was selling because the stage sequences this kind of factory of information.
I built that over and over and over again, even to the point of building it into a cell phone. So that this mapping system
which actually I can send you two very good pictures of my hand drawing and then the cover of the book
you know, this information system very deep in a very detailed way.
But that that took a lot. That was, that took a whole different part of me
deciding that, you know, I had gone this far, and that if I really wanted to see this in my lifetime, I was gonna have to do some very hard work.
So, this project has been, you know, sort of your main jam for many, many years. How have you stayed with it and stayed excited about it throughout all the ups and downs every person given you, you know,
bad advice. I was I was I way I was. I was a college professor
in three different colleges. And I went through some rough times. Yeah. Yeah, sorry. I went through some very, very difficult times. But somehow I always got to the next step of where I needed to go. And in great heart over the last eight years it had to do with this team that I have.
Because they, it’s a think tank team, meaning they’re like minded individuals and care about the same thing I care about. So it became a different exercise than it was in the beginning. Meaning it was no longer project it really became a business
and a business model. So it went to many different phases meaning, the story that I began with, at NYU with that
Time had absolutely nothing to do with this. I, you know, I did many, many, many projects at that time. It’s when I got those NEA grants and then I was managed by Columbia artists that this began to take a real shape.
Yeah, but many different sections of it so that, in a sense, they were projects onto themselves until I put them in place and it’s kind of Lego Land world. Right? So it’s like now we’re looking back at sort of the journey of how you put this whole story together, but maybe at the time, you weren’t like in 20 years, this is gonna be an epic you were like, I’m gonna write this one song right now, as opposed to like having the
absolute absolutely i i did not write each one of those tracks sections.
For this big thing. They were just very different.
moments that were like time capsules, and then they began to take shape. By the time I went and put them in one CD, and brought them to Hollywood, I had this idea of, you know, this 15 minutes of this girl’s life.
And that’s, that’s how that became that. But when I wrote them that was not for that. They were isolated projects. They were actually they were totally different conditions.
Right. So, so
it’s basically like six tracks or the six different manifestations of self right.
And, you know, that’s true of any person who writes music over time, as their life. You’re going if you’re looking back at it. You began to see you begin to see how
They are, you know, how that work? It advances or doesn’t? I mean, this is why,
you know, composers are very, very solitary people and often put down use it for quite some time and then come back to it maybe, you know, 10 years later. Hmm.
Yeah, yeah, I think I like the fact that with composers, you know, you have this tangible journey that you can listen to, of what they learned and how they grew over the course of their life. I think everyone has that in their life. They just don’t have this tangible, beautiful thing to listen to, to like, reference back and say is this was the journey of my life, writing this piece to that piece. And not everybody is as creative as you to literally say, all these things that I wrote can be one, like I listened to them again, and they give me new inspiration for a brand new story that comes together.
They’re actually like even honors the fact that they’re part of your own history by being the sort of like history of this family. Like the fact that it’s like so connected to your personal history, I think really like makes it extra fascinating like, not that it isn’t just just in in it’s the story itself and the like music and the technology. Amazing. But I love the idea that a lot of this is like your own journey as a creative artist like and the way that it just comes together.
Yes, it’s very layered in also kept me from jumping off a roof many times meaning, hi, I I was that I’m that curious person
I can go to sleep with one idea and then in the mornings, string it together and place it in a context and of course context is everything.
So you see the music it’s like a capsule that keeps reoccurring. Right? With a certain you know, this this is true of Wagnerian information it’s, you know, a light motif, a little twist, I’m going to send you some more music that you’ll see the proliferation of the race theme that very romantic, diabolical lullaby that turns into a much more complicated
you know, explosive Russian idea. So, you know, that’s like a different side of my genetics. One side was Austria and the other was Russian and you actually see the manifestation. As a matter of fact, one of the things known about composers is, you can really ever tell the weather you know, the gender female male, but you can tell place, place location, location, location,
is very much in the bones of any composer, which is a fascinating thing to me, meaning you can’t get away from that.
If you’re really writing, you know, meaning you’re not just copying music.
However, composers are also very influenced by what’s around them. But there’s a really fine line between copying something and being influenced. And that’s another thing that I explained and you know that
that’s a heavy nuance in this story is this girl thinks she’s written this tune by herself. And then I take you through this time and you know, and in other story, what you have to get back into her life because the first story is really about the protagonists unlocking the whole system, but the the girl who dies, you know, the idea that she could
rose up with these parents who
have these talents. And the grandparents. The grandmother, the matriarch who has this singing studio, which was my homage, actually, to somebody else in my life,
that, you know, she hears all of these composite tunes, oh, for her childhood. So when she goes to write this, she thinks she’s some incredible genius, putting out some pop song that, you know, nobody’s ever heard before. And that’s where I actually show why the audience is so drawn in. Because everything that she’s writing about,
is sort of conferenced in in her head, coming back to her from her childhood, meaning you cannot get away from that mollified that you heard 70 million times. This is why
You know, people with dementia, Alzheimer’s, this is so effective is, you know, getting like, you know, like Pandora, you know, the music streaming service, you know, it’s like getting the DNA of the music is actually places them in a situation that they can recall. And it’s that immediate.
So, I actually wrote this theme based on six different tunes that I used to care all the time. Of course, the final melody is my own. But I have various six different tunes in my head as I was writing that melody, meaning known tunes. Hmm. Yeah. So I mean, it sounds. In fact, people would say to me, why do I like this so much? Because it sounds so much like this, but it’s not.
Well, that’s good, right. And that’s such a nuanced thing. Meaning that takes a lot of
craft and time to do that. It’s not easy. It’s what looks easy. You know, to that point, you’ve put a lot of effort and a lot of work into this project. If you had any advice for people who you know somebody else who is working on a story or is developing an idea, what advice would you give them to help them keep going or stay focused? Or Or maybe, you know, brainstorm out of a rut, like, what advice might you have based on the work that you’ve done?
Well, I think what it was able to keep me going is changing. I it changed as I changed meaning.
I had a different objective originally, right. I was writing for the stage as we talked about, and I wanted to you know, I made in the story, right, it’s the whole city of Paris becomes this stage right for this child.
was a very specific point in my life. We haven’t talked about it here. But
I actually was unlocking this key structure in the text of the story in this poem that this child carries.
So as I was walking, I was actually building the musical keys into the poem in, you know, in these hidden moments of the text. And basically, I was leaving myself instructions like footprints to come back to. So I had all these kinds of tricks
to leave myself with, you know, whenever I was stuck. So when people think, how did you ever you know, follow this? It was because I really wanted to build a campus that would grow with me for my life. I don’t think that a lot of people are interested in doing that I had a very specific reason for that.
And in Part II was because my life took such a very normal
Nasty turn when I was 14 in my teens
that I had to spend my life reconciling. So I would say that was very specific to that. I would say the way to get out of this is to just put it down and move to something else and then go back to it. If one can. I think you need to be eminently you need to be very curious about your subject matter, to be able to stick to it through hard times. That’s for sure. It doesn’t stick by itself.
Like that curiosity is key. That’s excellent. I feel like that even brings us back to the idea of childhood that we talked about up top this like connection to a childlike wonder. I mean, people are, you know, will shun curiosity. When you get older, it’s like, just do what you know, you know, as opposed to like, well, let’s find out something new. So I really like that. I think that that’s the
That’s an excellent idea to connect to for sure. And I also think I’m a problem solver. So just like my characters, so that’s why we’re the diehard three, or law and order kind of mentality would come into this,
that you’re given a set of problems, and you have to solve them within a timeframe. That’s always been with me. So that, you know, it’s how I function and keep myself very sane in life period. So that’s very mirrored in the way I have my characters solve their problems to write. Yeah, when I came to the business of building a team, I had a whole bunch of other problems, meaning you have to teach talent and then you have to become really a good director, and I really wasn’t a director. Now I am.
I had to learn how to talk to them and how to talk
to people’s different needs, and to get the most out of each one of them, so they would help me. That was another skill entirely.
But that’s because I had something that I wanted to share with other people
through the, you know, this music talent that I have to tell you the truth
back when again with that same person, that same agent to try to tell me about Lord of the Rings,
Game of Thrones. She said to me, you know, you don’t understand you talk to the people who you’re selling to the same way you talk to your audience. Now, she was furious at me for that. And right on the heels of that, she also was furious at me for how do I say this? How I
basically she said to me, Well, how do you you know, get into this dynasty anyway.
Sort of like Twilight, right? So he’s very, the Hunger Games. You just have to be born in. Now, how did I just listen to her?
I would have said yes, just to make it easier on myself. And it really would have been much easier. But I really had another story to tell, which was that I that I wanted to show the learning curve in the way the characters co opted these tools that would take their innate intelligence, the born in stuff and bring it to the audience. And that really went against her grain. It actually was the reason we parted was because I was telling really another story than she wanted to hear.
to my mind, that learning curve outside of the innate intelligence, comes to this big moment even now, is what is genetic right. What’s carried
And what’s environment and basically, in my story, they’re one in the same. I’m basically saying to you these characters carry this environment with them. Right? It’s like COVID-19. We’re here. How does this stuff primed in certain people and not in others?
This is a big, big science question, huh? You know yet to be framed yet again and again, as we move through this pandemic about how things spread and how environments you know, more or less shape
somebody’s already genetic predisposition. Very fine lines, lots of nuance, lots of information. And that’s why I really put it to the out of the level of this is just a story of a decent eight characters and you have to be born in to me that was like a Dracula story. Great.
Right vampire story great. But that’s not the story I was telling.
So this, I made my life hard.
I mean, don’t we all when you choose to live a creative career, you’re kind of making the choice to have a difficult life, but that’s okay. Or maybe, you know, maybe it won’t be difficult anymore. We’re talking about how, you know, people look at work and people look at who knows how they’ll even look at art, you know, the consuming of it, how that will change as the culture changes. But, uh, you know, thank you so much, Mardi-Ellen Hill for being on the podcast. It has been an absolute pleasure to talk to you. I really, really enjoy talking to you and hearing about your story and I’m really excited for you know, when this story comes out, and I can consume it in its entirety. So, thank you so much for being on the podcast and sharing your story. Thank you so much. You at us.
Marvelous questions and questions, thank goodness,
some of the means to answer. I mean, you know, where does this stuff you know, creativity comes from who knows, you know, that’s the born in learn it, you know, environment question, right? It’s, it’s this very delicate balance
of, you know, consciousness. And I think it’s a very it’s a very interesting one and I think it evolves throughout somebody’s whole entire life. That’s the reason I wanted to write a legacy story right? To leave something behind.
The one part I wanted to say before you sign off is the, you see the code, the information system, is actually built into the characters names. That’s how much they’re carrying this transportation system. So that their names are like
Everything from your past code to your you know, your driver’s license can be thought of as an address. And this idea of a concrete address, you know, like the domain address, and also, you know, a
nuts and bolts address was very important to me in terms of the inner world and the world of, you know, life. And basically, that’s what we are now with this idea of a protein that’s not alive and comes alive with inside a human. So we’re actually right up against this idea of animate and inanimate information and the construction of life. And that’s really what fascinates me to go forward, you know, that
that we need to be really cognizant of, you know, life in the 21st century, right.
That’s, that’s what makes us stay alive is you know how things are carried and carried with us in both good and not such good ways.
Yeah. Right. Can you see? Yeah, the musical information in the name is so important to me. Because in the very beginning of the story it opens with, that’s really not her name. And that’s supposed to keep you moving through the story in terms of what really is this girl’s name?
And why is it hidden?
I love it. So cool. off. Okay, how much thank you so much for being on the show. So interesting. The mystery involved in your story is so fascinating. Thank you so much for chatting with me. And for chatting with me during this wild time. You’re the first person like I said, who truly inspired me out of my little quarantine depression. So thank you.
You’re welcome likewise. Likewise.
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