*This is a guest post put together by Christina Amy Guglielmon.
Remember the excitement of listening to a new vinyl or CD album, listening to every track in order, feeling and sensing the flow of one song to the next, and–if you particularly were into CDs–flipping through that music packet to pour over the lyrics and get as much as you can out of just 10 songs? Ha, well I remember this, and maybe you do, too. For me at least, there seems to be something magical that happens when I clear away distractions around me and concentrate solely on the music–its melody, rhythm, lyrics, flow….all of it!
Music is Awesome:
Music is an experience like no other, engaging our imaginations, intellect, feelings and emotions, and even something deeper inside of us. We may call it our souls or our spirits. Whatever it is, we know it’s real and that music activates it.
Ha, maybe I’m the only one who gets this sentimental over music, but I bet there’s at least a few of you who feel that way, too. If that’s you, then this playlist is truly for you, for those of us who often need music to understand life, to understand our stories as well as other people’s stories–both true and fictional.
Come Join My Process:
This music playlist is my way of processing and exploring Julie’s story, Reclaim the Darklands.
I invite you into this listening process! Every song is chosen for a reason, and track order is also chosen with intention. Both Julie and I dialogued about the playlist, so she was a part of the process as well!
(Me – Yeah, you should see the size of the list of songs that didn’t make the list. It was a fun process to go through.)
Everyone comes away from listening to music experiencing something a bit different, and that’s OK and beautiful! We are all different people with different tastes in music. Some of these songs will connect with you, others won’t, and some may take several re-listens to catch the meaning. Don’t feel the need to rush the process–enjoy the music and let it take you on a journey!
Some of the songs I imagined as musical themes for characters, others as score pieces for different scenes in the book or overall themes, and still other songs as linked to certain chapters in the book. A lot of these songs can apply to more than one situation in the book, and maybe you would place the song in a different part of the story or link it up with a different character than I did. Your interpretation of the music and story may differ from mine, and that’s awesome! This is my process! What’s yours? (Feel free to comment below.)
What follows is some of my thoughts on each piece of music as it pertains to the story. Consider this as the CD album packet containing the lyrics. The difference here is that I’m discussing my thoughts on each song and full lyrics won’t be given, but do look them up if you’re interested! You can use this as a resource for the playlist, so scroll through it as you’re listening (or better yet, after you listen!)
This post is part one where the first 13 songs are listed. More parts will follow! Enjoy!
PLAYLIST TABLE OF CONTENTS PART 1
Playlist Link: RECLAIM THE DARKLANDS PLAYLIST
***Contains spoilers if you have not read Reclaim the Darklands***
(Linked titles are Youtube videos I could find.)
Chapter 1 of Reclaim the Darklands opens with the Keris Council forming the Order of the Redeemers. The council aims to restore a sense of unity and hope among the people as the Resolute and dark forces seem to be gaining ground. The lyrics in Bright Ones, “We are Your bright ones / Lit up with Your love / Glowing in darkness” reminds me of the Chosen Redeemers, the people the One selected to be bright ones in dark days. And these ones are indeed, “carriers of promise.” The people of Aeris have long awaited the rising of the Chosen Redeemers, and now that these Redeemers are awakened, they are “alive to be a witness.” In context, this type of witness is not passive, but active; it’s a testifying to those promises foretold. Even though the Chosen Redeemers play a role in pushing back the dark forces and bringing healing to the land, every person in Aeris has their place and role. In this chapter, we see a glimpse of that taking place, and so the bridge in this song is truly where I see the strong tie-ins to chapter 1:
“See us rising from a distance
Your light’s burning bright within us
See us rising from a distance
There’s no darkness that could dim this
(You’re lighting us up)”
These are strong declarations of a community choosing to be the light in a world that’s fallen to destruction and ruin, but they aren’t merely choosing to be a light in the generic sense. The Chosen Redeemers specifically know that they gain their strength and gifts from the One. This is the One’s light that is burning within them. That said, the lyric “your light’s burning bright within us” can also refer to a specific Chosen Redeemer (i.e. Katrina) who burns with a fire inside of her.
This is what I imagine one of Vic’s theme to be. By this point in the series, Vic is confident in the One’s ability to protect her from the Outcast. She has learned how to rely on the One and step into dangerous situations with a confidence not only in her identity as a Chosen Redeemer, but also in the One’s power.
The lyric, “There’s a war that’s raging over me / But I know the One who holds the victory” applies to Vic, especially given her name means “victory” (most songs that relate to Vic deal with victory in some way). Vic is a victorious one precisely because she accepts the identity the One gave her and she trusts to the One, who is always protecting her in the midst of the wars raging over her. This whole song is a confident declaration where Vic stands strong in the battles “raging over [her],” knowing that the One is her protection, and because of that “all [her] enemies are paralyzed.”
In chapter 2, we’re reminded that Vic, her friends, and all the people of Aeris are constantly pursued by dark forces, especially the mastermind behind it all–the Dark Man–who indeed masquerades behind many pretenses to lure people into his trap. The people who are not alert to this are easy targets for the Dark Man, and quickly become his prisoners. The people, then, need to stay alert and “watch their backs,” so that they won’t fall prey to the Dark Man and his traps. This phrase “watch your back” is also something we see the Dark Man himself almost telling Vic and her friends as a threat “you better watch your back.”
For me at least, this song communicates the way Vic & Gwynne are connected in their Chosen Redeemer roles as if they were sisters, and Vic is searching to find Gwynne. I can imagine Gwynne almost speaking to Vic, “You know where to find me” and Vic saying to Gwynne, “I know where to find you.” When Vic is searching for Gwynne, I see her being someone who–if she could send a message to Gwynne–would say to Gwynne in order to comfort Gwynne that soon Vic will find Gwynne, “Oh my darling I am getting closer, hold on tight.” I could see both of them saying to each other, “I could be a warrior, yes I am a warrior / There’s no need to worry, love / Look around it’s glorious / Close your eyes and taste the sun,” but I especially see Vic saying this to Gwynne. Gwynne means “white, light, fair” and so many of the songs that relate to Gwynne concern the light and the sun. I see Gwynne as someone who was born to “taste the sun” and when Vic & Adam get rid of the evil spirit attacking Gwynne, it’s as if Gwynne is able to taste the sun again–she’s set free of that evil spirit. She is a pure one with great wisdom and both her and Vic discover what it means to be “inside the light” throughout their adventures. Although each Chosen Redeemer has a different role, they are all warriors in their own ways.
By this point in chapter 4, Vic and Adam find Gwynne, but when Vic sees a shadow pass in Gwynne’s eyes, both Vic and Adam know something’s wrong–an evil spirit is oppressing Gwynne. I can see these lyrics coming from the evil spirit directed at both Adam and Vic as they drive this spirit away.
The beginning 20 seconds of this piece captures–in my opinion–that eerie terror of coming face to face with evil creatures. And then the song morphs into a moment of freedom from those evil creatures. The song builds toward a victory and then becomes sentimental. The very context of this piece is concerning a beautiful moment of friends finding one another after an evil attack. This is what I imagine a score piece might sound like for the scenes in chapter 4 where Vic & Adam fight the evil spirit & it flees, leaving the Chosen Redeemers to finally connect with each one another.
After Gwynne is freed from the evil Spirit these lyrics are what I imagine Vic might say to Gwynne. The theme of light relating to Gwynne is carried through in this song as Frida sings, “We will glow / Oh, this is gold.” This also relates to broader themes in the series of stepping into identity: “We will be kings and queens / Don’t be scared, no.”
This song begins with a musical sound that is very similar to the music in The Return. As much as possible, I like to link themes and characters with a similar musical sound. This song is one of Gwynne’s themes. The lyrics in Blackout contrast the evil spirit’s attack that just happened. In spite of the evil spirit that tried to come against Gwynne, Gwynne is a light, and “you can’t turn out a light shining from the inside.”
This song begins with the lyrics, “I ride the dawn / It’s in the name I was given / Can’t get away from the meaning / I’ll always rise, I’ll always shine…” and , as said before, Gwynne’s name meaning is “white, light, fair,” so it really is the name given to her. The phrase “In a blackout” is a good way of describing how the evil spirit tried to cloud Gwynne’s vision. What Gwynne experienced was like a blackout, but she is already a confident character who knows her Chosen Redeemer role. She’s confident that “I will illuminate the dark / You won’t escape the beaming.”
But then the lyrics change from I to we, indicating Gwynne is joining up with the Chosen Redeemers and now this whole team of Chosen Redeemers (and even the good people of Aeris) stand up in the battles raging around them and declare, “In a blackout / We will illuminate the dark / They won’t escape the beaming.” It’s a slight nuance, but I think an important one. This is a major theme carried throughout the whole series: everyone needs to work together in order to defeat the dark forces. It’s not Vic alone who is left with the task to reclaim these dark lands and overcome the Dark Man’s evil strategies. Vic has to rely on other people who have their own unique gifts and roles. Everyone has a role and they are all stronger if they work together as a team. So it’s not just I will illuminate the dark, but also we as a collective team will illuminate the dark. We are going to bring light to these dark lands.
This song can be like a summary of Gwynne being found and freed from the evil spirit. It also speaks of what Gwynne will eventually do for the Dark Man’s prisoners.
Verse 2 can be understood as Vic saying this to Gwynne, but also as Gwynne saying this to all the Dark Man’s prisoners. It is often that when we’ve personally been set free, we set others free: “Give me the rope that is tied around your neck / I’ll cut it away / I’ll set you free as you should be / No longer must we live under these burdens / Your my beloved, my kin, no more a slave” That last line is key for this whole series as the Chosen Redeemers are helping the people of Aeris to see their fight is not against one another–they are all kin. Their real enemy is the Outcast.
This song I imagined as Gwynne’s theme song.
“I say to my body, you were made for living
I say to my mind, you were made for dreaming
You were made, you were made, you were made for this, for this”
Every Chosen Redeemer has had their moment of coming to the realization that they were made for this. Gwynne is already confident in this, but I like to imagine that these opening lyrics would be her sometime before we meet her coming to this realization and confidence that she is a Chosen Redeemer. My interpretation of Gwynne and what stood out to me is that she’s a character who gives deep wisdom that seems so simple, adults might think it too simple to be true. Adults often overlook the deep wisdom a child can give and will call children “dreamers” with their heads in the clouds or just naive, but it often these very people who offer us great wisdom that should be heeded. It would be wise of all of Aeris to listen to Gwynne’s deep wisdom. Dreams take place in the mind and out of the four different Chosen Redeemers, Gwynne is the mind. The theme of being a dreamer will come up later on in relation to Gwynne, but I wanted to establish that in the beginning for Gwynne so that when we come near the end of the playlist, we see that Gwynne has been a confident character from beginning to end. And I think the things she gives away to others were coming from a grounded place of her own identity–maybe that’s just my interpretation.
This song makes multiple references to light. As I said, almost every song pertaining to Gwynne deals with light in some way given her name meaning and who she is as a pure, fair one with great wisdom.
In chapter 5, the Resolute’s hatred and prejudice toward the Saroth is on display. Any kind of hatred like this will, indeed, eat all of us alive if we succumb to it. I can see Lady Christa (as well as the Chosen Redeemers, the One, the Lady, and anyone who sides with the One) saying these words to the Resolute, “The hate inside will eat you alive.” In this chapter, Lady Christa says to Lady Callista, “[…] I’ve heard enough hatred for one day. The Saroth are a people like us. There are good and bad people among them. You cannot condemn the whole for the actions of a few.” This is one of the major themes in the whole series. On one end, you have a group of people who are bent toward hatred and prejudice of “the other.” The way these people approach life is to find an enemy in “the other.” But on the other end, you have the Chosen Redeemers and those who stand with them. They see the innate value of every people group–of the Saroth, the Arkonai, and the Bereft–and approach life trying to build a family and community among all of the various people, seeing that their only enemy is the Outcast, but among each other, there is no enemy.
Indulging in hatred toward other people is like willingly choosing to be bound by chains. It’s a slavery in and of itself. The whole Redeemer Chronicles series demonstrates this powerfully and the lyrics of this song also communicate this powerfully, especially the first verse: “The walls of freedom / Come crumbling down / The moment you put those chains / Around you now / Like liquid poison / It takes its toll / Black feathered arrows / That pierce your soul.”
Hatred enslaves the Resolute and pierces their souls. Thankfully, though, one particular Chosen Redeemer is especially gifted at restoring souls.
FREE One of my personal favorites…)
My interpretation of this is that this song relates to the Saroth/Arkonai divisions, especially seen in chapters 5 & 8. In chapter 8, we see that Galeric spreads lies concerning the Saroth in order to enslave them and justify his prejudice and hatred of them. In a way, the Saroth are “known by the sin of [their] fathers…” and those sins are actually lies that were spread about them. They didn’t do anything wrong, but they’re still known as ones who have done wrong things. So from the Saroth’s perspective, they might say to one another, all of these lies about us are gonna be brought to light and the truth will be known about us, and we’ll finally be free! This lyric “hard evidence is power” reminds me of how in chapter 8, the truth that the Saroth didn’t spread the disease is brought to light. Hard evidence is brought up and that (with Gwynne’s help) makes the people realize that Galeric is lying. The lyrics, “Secrets tell a million lies / To build the walls they hide behind” describe what Galeric and the Resolute are doing to exclude the Saroth. Galeric & the Resolute are indeed building walls against the Saroth.
On a more broad note, however, this whole song can be understood in terms of the Dark Man lying to the people of Aeris and the Chosen Redeemers saying that truth will come to light so that all of the prisoners bound to the Dark Man may be free if they so choose to leave the Dark Man’s lies.
As we consider the themes in the previous song (and so in the story), something is probably rising up in us that says we will no longer stand by and watch injustices happening. We will no longer stand by and watch lies being spread. We will no longer stand by and watch hatred and violence ravage our streets and lands. We must stand and not remain quiet any longer. And that is exactly what the Chosen Redeemers do; they take a stand for the sake of the peoples of Aeris and the land that it would be free of hatred, free of lies, free of the Dark Man’s slavery. The One and the Lady awaken them to stand up and be the leaders they are called to be. In the first book, we see Vic awaken to her Chosen Redeemer role. At first, she’s hesitant and timid, more of a witness to the evils plaguing Aeris than a participant in opposing these evils. In book two, however, Vic is beginning to understand she is meant to restore and heal to her land and lead the people to fight the real enemy–the Outcast. In book three, Vic has embraced her role as a Chosen Redeemer and she no longer can stand to “just be a witness.” Her natural response is to stand up to see the people of Aeris be free of the Outcast’s grip and be healed from their brokenness and battle wounds. This theme of standing up and not merely being a witness is woven throughout the series.
The lyric, “So if you wanna watch the war break out / If you wanna let your silence shout / You can, but I won’t just be a witness, I’ll stand” ties back in the theme of “the war raging over [Vic].” Vic chooses to stand with the One at her side.
This can be related to many of the other characters as well. But there are others who are too afraid and overcome by the Dark Man, so they do not stand, and because of this, they are easy prey for the Dark Man and become his captives without much of a fight. People like Dina would probably be just as powerful as Vic if only she took a stand, but instead she chose not to and became a slave to the Dark Man’s plans. It’s powerful for me to see the contrast between characters like Sara, Tellen, Katrina, Gwynne, Vic… and characters like Jordan, Dina, Emilio. Every person has a choice of whether to stand up against the Dark Man or to give in to apathy and do nothing about it (which inevitably leads to becoming a slave to the Dark Man). People like Dina essentially say that the Dark Man is far too powerful to overcome, so they might as well join him rather than fight him. But the truth is demonstrated by characters such as Vic or Sara who trust to the One regardless of how great and terrible the Dark Man seems. They resist the evil forces and always believe that there is hope for overcoming the Dark Man’s plans. They choose to take a stand rather than remain complacent toward these evils. And they succeed.
This is a powerful theme for me to take away: we can choose to take that stand and fight for the good things in this world. As Tellen, Vic, and Katrina all say–there is much that is still worth fighting for. So why not take a stand? Why only remain a witness when we could rise up to be the redeemers, the healers, the restorers that we were born to be?
The verse and chorus sung by multiple voices gives that sense of working together and being a collective and a community who will stand against the evils destroying the people and land. They stand for the change that will bring freedom. This collective can be all the people of Aeris, but also the Chosen Redeemers. The different lines can apply to many characters, but can also refer to specific Chosen Redeemers (hint: one of the lines uses the word “dream.”)
“We’re gonna take the streets
Marchin’ for a bigger dream
Shout til the blind can see
It’s time for us to be free
We’re gonna bring the rain
We’re gonna light the flame
Stand till we see the change
Human we’re all the same […]
But I can’t just be a witness”
Ya’ll are amazing! If you made it this far, thanks for coming along on the journey!
Will be back soon with part 2!
Associate links to follow…