Because Redesigning Album Art Is About More Than Procrastination

It’s about productivity.

I have a strange relationship with the music I play and store in iTunes. Working on a PhD has only increased this. What I haven’t mentioned yet, though, is the important role album art plays in my computer deskscape. Yes ‘deskscape’ because I spend more time in this screen environment than anywhere else at present. And you see I’ve got this whole sidebar hobby of editing screenshots from all eight Harry Potter films so they look like my own personal photo album of my years as a Hogwarts student for use as desktop backgrounds and screensavers (that naturally, must match the season). And I also always have iTunes on my desktop as a small square of album art so I can easily see what track is playing (which also means that my desktop images need to accomodate album art placement).

Screen Shot 2016-02-06 at 4.50.54 PM

Hence, bad album art or album art that doesn’t jive with the musical season or Harry Potter desktop imagery it particiaptes in, negatively affects my workspace. I often replace bad or boring (or wrong-color-scheme) album art with visuals that look more to me like what the music sounds like. In those many many cases, however, I never add text; I just let a new image speak for the album content.

HG coversBut James Newton Howard’s Hunger Games score albums disrupted this habit of mine. All four albums are in my Winter Study playlist, and there are 2 reasons they really started to grate on my winter work aesthetic. 1. Too much black, orange and red. If it was fall, we’d be all good, but it’s winter, people. That means cold colors. 2. Except for the first album, the artwork doesn’t really the fit story as it’s told. Instead of the intimacy of Katniss’s experiences–how the books and films are mostly expressed–the album art better fits the propoganda of the Capitol or District 13. That’s not the story, and its definitely not the music, most of which expresses trauma and loss.

Screen Shot 2016-02-06 at 4.30.34 PMSo it started by my changing Catching Fire’s score album, mostly because it looked way too similar to Mockingay Part 1’s album art- all wings and flame and black background. But I stayed simple and just used an image from the album’s ditigal booklet.

But with that image still being too red and non-wintry, it was a slippery slope to me redesigning covers for all four albums. Mockingjay Part 1 was the first time I decided to put text into the new album art- keeping the credits but not trying to recreate the film title. Then I just did them all.**

Design: Yes, it was procrastination/distraction, but I still tried to spend as little time as possible, so all four are just cropped images from screencaps or promotional images. I kept the Mockingjay symbol as the throughline, but chose images that reflect Katniss’s journey and the story’s development, and as a result, the evolving meaning of the Mockingjay symbol.

The Hunger Games_ Original Motion Picture Score

The Hunger Games: The story is about Katniss in the arena for the first time. She’s not a revolutionary or even very conscious of the system she’s stuck in. She’s just trying to stay alive and return to her family. So we see the pin as she wears it into the first Games.

The Hunger Games_ Catching Fire (Original Motion Picture Score)

Catching Fire: The story moves into other Districts as rebellion foments and Katniss begins to understand what is really at stake. So we see the Mockingjay spraypainted in a District 11 train tunnel.

The Hunger Games_ Mockingjay, Pt. 1 (Original Motion Picture Score)

Mockingjay Part 1: Katniss is a refugee, uncomfortable with the militarism of District 13 but willing to be their tool if it means she can help her family and Peeta. So we the Mockingjay in a bleak Distrcit 13 bunker.

The Hunger Games_ Mockingjay, Pt. 2 (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack)

Mockingjay Part 2: The Capitol has become as war zone, and Katniss is no longer a cog, a refugee, or a tool, but is on her own mission to end it all- including herslef if neccesary. So we see a blood-bright dripping Mockingjay emblazoned over destruction.

Aesthetics, narrative, and sound: the better they align the better I write.

**The last album is subtitled “Original Motion Picture Soundtrack” rather than “Score.” Curious? See my upcoming article in the Journal of Relgion and Popular Culture, “Sinners, Saints and Angels on Fire: The Curiously Religious Soundtrack Of The Hunger Gamesโ€™ Secular Dystopia” ๐Ÿ™‚

Posted on Sat, Feb 6th, 2016 at 5:09 pm
Filed under Art, Books, Film, intertextuality, Lists, Music, Pop Culture.

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Comments: 3

  1. 1 | Kate Davis

    February 6th, 2016 at 7:23 pm

    These are SO great! Significantly improved over the originals.

    I wish I was this organized in my music, but I switched to Spotify where I do have seasonal playlists, but can’t control album artwork. A request for your next post: the albums that make up your seasonal study playlists. Please.

  2. 2 | Hillary

    February 7th, 2016 at 4:13 pm

    I hadn’t really thought of the importance of making your desktop aesthetically helpful for work! Really enjoyed this and looking forward to reading your article:)

  3. 3 | Kj

    February 25th, 2016 at 9:35 pm

    Sorry that the above comments got buried for a bit in WordPressLand. Kate, I’ve been thinking of updating my playlist posts, which are years old now. We’ll see how procrastinatory I get ๐Ÿ™‚

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