Guest Post & Excerpt – Anne Barwell: Music Code

Thanks, Charlie, for hosting me today.

When I was studying Music History as part of my degree, one of the things that fascinated me was the use of code in music.  Although it was used in WW2 when my upcoming release Winter Duet was set, it had also been used long before that.

Bach used musical notes to spell out ‘Bach’ in his music, using the fact that modern music notation had developed from modes—in German ‘B flat’ was ‘B’ and ‘B natural’ was H—and phonetics. Later, Schumann used several musical cryptograms in his music, spelling out not just his own name, but that of Clara Wieck, who would later become his wife.  Other codes were based on pitch, motifs (repeated musical phrases) and note lengths. There are many more examples and variations out there across a range of different composers.

And yes, Clara Lehrer, Kristopher’s sister, is named after Clara Schumann.

Kristopher in Winter Duet is a musician, or was before he chose to pursue his passion for science.  He still tends to hum music while thinking through problems. So, when he and Michel need to work out a code to leave messages for each other, music is the logical choice.  Michel is also a musician. He plays the flute, and promised Kristopher, who is a violinist, a duet in the first book Shadowboxing.

He still intends to keep that promise.

One of the set pieces for that same paper that covered the music codes, was Schubert’s Winterreise — a collection of poems by Müller, Schubert had set to music.  In Winter Duet, the Resistance uses lines from one of the poems as code phrases, and Kristopher refers to one of the others later, ‘Der Leiermann’, which is about the wanderer in winter.  Also, given Kristopher’s background and education, it was something he’d recognise, even if the other characters didn’t, which led nicely into the use of music as code between him and Michel, something he’d been thinking about anyway.

I knew that university paper would come in useful somewhere.

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Winter Duet is available from Dreamspinner Press on 6th October.

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TH2014Blurb

Echoes book 2 – Sequel to Shadowboxing

Germany 1944

With Kristopher finally fit enough to travel, he and Michel leave the security of their safe house and continue their journey across Germany toward Switzerland. Caught in a series of Allied bombings, they stop to help civilians and narrowly escape capture by German forces.

While investigating a downed aircraft in the Black Forest, the two men discover an injured RAF pilot.  After they are separated, Kristopher and the pilot are discovered by a German officer who claims he is not who he appears to be. Determined to find Michel again, Kristopher has to trust the stranger and hope he is not connected to those searching for him and the information he carries. Meanwhile Michel is intercepted by one of the Allied soldiers he met in Berlin. His help is needed to save one of their own.

Time quickly runs out. Loyalties are tested and betrayed as the Gestapo closes in. Michel can only hope that they can reach safety before information is revealed that could compromise not only his and Kristopher’s lives, but those of the remaining members of their team—if it is not already too late.

TH2014Excerpt

“Oh.” Kristopher paused, his spoon halfway to his mouth. “I’m sorry. I never thought. I didn’t mean to….” The words trailed off. Telling them he hadn’t meant to embarrass them would only serve to do just that.

“I’d never heard the poems before either,” Michel said. He glanced toward the door, as though suddenly nervous.

“That’s the thing with wars,” Karolina said. “They draw all sorts of different people together, don’t they? It doesn’t matter who you are. Out there on the battlefield everyone’s the same, aren’t they?”

“Yes, they are.” Kristopher swallowed a mouthful of beans while he collected his thoughts. “I was a musician,” he said at last. “It was a long time ago. Sometimes it feels as though it was in another lifetime. I’ve been trying to work out why the code phrase sounded so familiar. I’m sorry. I guess I should have kept it to myself.”

“Nonsense,” Georg said briskly. “Don’t apologize for having a good education, and if it gives you some distraction to get through this terrible time, you should use it.” Karolina placed a hand on his shoulder. He reached up and placed his hand over hers. A sad look crossed her face, and she suddenly appeared a lot older.

Kristopher bit his lip. He lowered his gaze and concentrated on eating. He hadn’t meant to upset either of them. Michel had warned him to keep any conversation brief and focus on very general topics.

Damn it. He wasn’t very good at this at all. For a short time he’d forgotten their situation and been caught up in the moment, remembering his passion for his music and wanting to share it.

“Paul….” Michel spoke Kristopher’s assumed name, and he looked up. “Karolina’s right. This war has drawn people together who normally wouldn’t have even met. Perhaps we should take it as an opportunity to learn new things, hmm? We all have something to offer.”

“Well said, Gabriel.” Karolina squeezed her husband’s hand. “It’s been too long since Georg and I had the company of young people. You said you were a musician, Paul. What instrument did you play?”

“I play the violin, although I haven’t picked it up in years.” Kristopher watched the couple, noticing the way in which they took comfort from each other’s touch. He wanted so badly to be able to just lean over and take Michel’s hand in his and be open in front of others as to how they felt about each other. During the months spent in the attic at St. Gertrud’s, they’d still had to be careful, but they’d been left alone for much of the time. He hadn’t realized just how difficult having to hide their relationship was going to be.

“We’re not that young,” Michel said when Kristopher lapsed into silence again. He’d told Kristopher he’d turned thirty on his last birthday. Kristopher was almost a year younger and had wondered at the time where both of them would be by his next birthday, which was only a few months away.

Georg chuckled. “You’re about the same age as our boy, so to us, that makes you young.” He got out of his chair. “I’m going to make some tea. Do you want some? Here, Karolina, have my chair. You’re not getting any younger.”

“My husband, he thinks he’s funny,” Karolina said. She gave him a light peck on the cheek and went to clip his ear again, but he ducked out of the way and headed toward the kitchen.

“He’s only offering me his chair to keep me away from my knitting. He knows full well I’ll poke him with one of my needles if he gives me too much cheek.”

“How long have you been married?” Michel asked. He seemed amused by their banter. Kristopher wondered if it reminded him of his parents.

“Since just before the last war.” Karolina picked up the cloth bag Kristopher had noticed earlier and settled into the other armchair. She opened the bag and took out yarn and what appeared to be a large knitted square on needles. “We’d met the year before, and I waited for him to come home to me and our newborn son. I didn’t allow myself to think he might not. Tell me, do you have someone waiting for you?”

Kristopher glanced at Michel. Karolina wasn’t exactly following what he’d been told about keeping to safe subjects either.

“I have someone, yes,” Michel said finally. “I want nothing more than this war to finish so we can have a life together, but sometimes I doubt that will ever happen.”

“It will,” Kristopher said firmly. He placed his bowl on his knee, feeling the warmth of it through his trousers. “When you love someone, you wait for however long it takes.”

 

TH2014Author

Anne Barwell lives in Wellington, New Zealand.  She shares her home with two cats who are convinced that the house is run to suit them; this is an ongoing “discussion,” and to date it appears as though the cats may be winning.

In 2008 she completed her conjoint BA in English Literature and Music/Bachelor of Teaching. She has worked as a music teacher, a primary school teacher, and now works in a library. She is a member of the Upper Hutt Science Fiction Club and plays violin for Hutt Valley Orchestra.

She is an avid reader across a wide range of genres and a watcher of far too many TV series and movies, although it can be argued that there is no such thing as “too many.” These, of course, are best enjoyed with a decent cup of tea and further the continuing argument that the concept of “spare time” is really just a myth.

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Special Guest: Anne Barwell – Echoes of War

A big thank you to Charlie for hosting me, and giving me the opportunity to share with you today.

In debating what to write about for the topic of writing historical fiction, I noticed–and it’s been noticed by others–that in my writing I keep coming back to the time periods around the two world wars.  The Echoes series, of which Shadowboxing is book 1, is set during WW2, and other characters I’m writing, or planning to write have their origins just before, during or after either this war or WW1.

Coincidence? I’ve never believed in such things.

About thirty years ago my father became caretaker of his father’s and great-grandfather’s war medals, and with his own passing a few weeks ago these medals have come into my care in turn. I suspect that is, in part, some of the reason for what made me ponder my choice of topic today.  These medals are so much more than pieces of metal on faded ribbons; they are a reminder of men who fought for their country and what they believed in. They have their own stories to tell as do others who were a part of those periods of history.

Wars bring out the best and the worst in people. They make us reconsider what is important, worth fighting for, and often dying for. Friends and lovers meet, and/or are separated, sacrifices are made, and decisions taken, not always for the right reasons or with the expected consequences.

For me writing, and reading, is very character driven. I want to get to know my characters, to put them into different situations to see how they will react, and interact with others. Kristopher, one of the characters in Shadowboxing, begins the story as a German scientist from a very privileged background. He’s buried himself in his work, and brushed off a lot of the stories he’s heard of what is going on around him. Work is a great escape. But, when an old friend–the person who is responsible for Kristopher realising he is attracted to other men–warns him that reality is closing in, he’s forced to re-examine not only his conscience, but who he is. He’s never thought of himself as someone who judges anyone, but that’s the thing with social ideologies; they’re insidious like to the point you don’t realise you’re doing it until it hits you between the eyes. Kristopher himself is in no position to judge what might be perceived as ‘other’. As a homosexual man in Germany in 1943, he is ‘other’.

After meeting Michel, Kristopher can no longer deny that side of himself. He also questions everything he’s held to be true.  In his own words: “I don’t see how the love you and I feel for each other can be [wrong]. It’s beautiful and feels so good.”

This is just the beginning of his journey through this series. He’ll not only find love in the arms of Michel, but also rediscover a side of himself he thought long gone.

Echoes is a story about love, friendship and family, and how all of those things drive people to reassess what they consider right and wrong. War places people in situations they’d normally not find themselves in, and they’re forced to make decisions that will impact not only their life, but that of others.

“There’s always a choice,” Kristopher insisted. “If you kill someone it makes you no better than they are.”

“In an ideal world, maybe, but we’re not in an ideal world.”

“I’m sorry but I’m not a killer.  I couldn’t shoot a man in cold blood.”

“No one is until they have to be.”

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