Well, this is taking a while, isn’t it? I never imagined for a second that the last song would be hard to write at all.
But it is.
The first thing was finding a style of music that both me and the director were happy with, something that has a big finale feel to it. A nice big happy party.
I remember this video on Jerry Goldsmith where he talks about spending a week just listening to Native Indian music as he got ready to score a film. Just immersing himself in the sounds and colours before he started writing.
So that is what I am doing now. Not Indian music of course, but rock, rockabilly and funk.
There are a lot of ideas written down right now and piling up fast, but for this song I have to go with the great idea. The great, simple idea.
“Simplicity is the final achievement. After one has played a vast quantity of notes and more notes, it is simplicity that emerges as the crowning reward of art.” – Frederic Chopin
I am looking for that idea that makes me go “aha”,the idea that fits the many criteria required, and I didn’t get that yet, not quite. I feel myself getting closer, though.
And the funny thing is, that once the song is done, it will feel so easy and natural.
I also need to get started on the underscore soon!
Pre-production music was still the goal this week. Having completed the first song with great success things were off to a great start.
As I mentioned in the previous post, I was having trouble with the second song, a big production number for the ending. But I finally completed it and sent it over.
The director (David) didn’t like it as much however. I mean, he liked the song, especially the ending of it, though, but wasn’t sure about the start of it. He was hoping for something a little bit more jazz as well.
There was a little bit of miscommunication with that one, and that is fine, because that will happen, it’s part of the process. It’s how you deal with it that makes a difference and our discussion went very smoothly. David is a great guy.
But then David called me up a few days later saying that the producer and others in his team liked the song a lot and thought it captured the feel of a big ending perfectly. So David was changing his mind about it, although he still felt the beginning to be a little weak, which I agreed that it was.
I’ll get back to that one after a little break from it. I am jotting down ideas in my note book as they come in the meantime as my subconscious keeps working on it.
On Wednesday I recorded a short rock-hero guitar number for a scene in the film at Josh’s place. (Josh Rosario will be mixing the music for the film.)
We recorded the guitar parts and I got to do some fancy shredding on his nice Gibson SG with custom EMG humbuckers. I got a really nice, meaty hard rock sound out of that. Man, I need a new guitar…
I sent it to David and he listened to it while I was on the phone with him. He laughed out loud and that was that, approved on the spot. Easy! So now Josh needs to fix up that mix a little and we move on.
Then I tackled the third and last song for pre-production. I can’t reveal a lot here, but after reading the script and seeing the character designs, I came up with a piece that combines war chants, Chinese war drums and other big drums, surf rock music, hard rock and Chinese traditional. (Does that pique your interest?)
And it rocks! I sketched it out real quick, a fast MIDI sequence in Cubase with rough guitar tracks, and that was enough to get me laughing out loud and dancing like a fool around my studio!
You know you did something right when your own music gives you that kind of reaction.
So I made a better sequence out of it, mixed it and sent it to David who loved it right away! He emailed me saying that is was sooooo cool and that it was the best present he received on his birthday!
Wow, what an overwhelming compliment…
This is why I love writing film music. How often do you get to combine all of these musical elements, have so much fun writing, get paid for it and then be told your music is a gift?
Next week: arranging song #1, completing song #3, thinking about song #2 and hopefully be ready to start the underscore. I got about 100 minutes of music to write, so I need to get going!
Monday I started work on the pre-production music for the animated feature I am scoring. I wrote the first song on Monday, the ballad, which I thought I would have a hard time with. So I approached it with intense effort, brainstormed, and after a day of hard toil I had the whole song written.
And then, an hour before the family was set to return, something hit me and I re-wrote the song completely in about 20 minutes, and I knew that was the one!
I recorded it and sent it off on Tuesday and it got approved. The director, the producer, his team, everyone loved the music, my wife cried while listening to it, what a great start! (This being the first piece of music for the film, it was important to make a good first impression!)
Then it was time for the second song which I thought would be a breeze. I had the idea for the chorus already, you see. It had come to me on Monday during lunch and thankfully I had some manuscript paper (never leave the studio without it!) so I wrote it down right away.
On Tuesday I still remembered the tune perfectly, which indicated to me that it was memorable. So when I sat down to work on it on Wednesday, I thought, I already have the chorus and it’s a killer! I’ll just start with a verse, do the chorus, modulate twice, it’ll be a breeze.
I even woke up and was playing through it in my head while taking a shower and it sounded great! But I sat down at the piano and it started all sounding too… country.
That wasn’t going to fit. How depressing.
But as soon as I detached myself from the idea (and that took a while) I realized what parts worked and what parts needed fixing up, and within a few minutes I had a version that rocked.
Now, the problem I am having is the form. I have goals for the form and it has to work dramatically within the context of this ending.
Sure, this second song is giving me problems, but that’s fine, I embrace them! Bring ’em on.
Because, after all, you can’t have solutions without problems.
Yesterday I officially began work on an animated feature film! I am very excited to begin this and think great things will happen with it. (I can’t say much, but I can say that there is an international star in it.)
I will be keeping a detailed production diary on my site, so check in often.
I am coming in very early on this project since there is a need for some music before animation begins. This means that I do not yet have a film to work with.
So yesterday I started “spotting” the movie with the script. This is important for me so I know how much music there will likely be to write and also to get a sense of the architecture of the film.
Since I don’t have a complete film to work with and react to, building that sense of structure is very important. I mean, I always do that anyway with films I score, but in this case it will be even more helpful for me to plot it out on paper like this.
So this way, when I get the scenes to score, one at a time, I know how they related in the grand scheme of things and I follow my plan!
I had already done some of this to show the director during our meeting. Now I am just going in more detail, and calculating pages as if they were minutes, writing more detailed descriptions, durations and thoughts, just as I would during a spotting session.
I also set up my project binder yesterday in which I will store thoughts, musical ideas and all breakdowns. And I also set up my custom-made Excel workbook, which contains spotting notes, cue list, breakdowns for all cues, session notes and delivery checklist.
I met a mixing engineer named Josh Rosario early this week who will be doing the mixing for this film. That is one load off my back! He has already done a test mix and it sounded great, and it will only get better.
Getting my ducks in a row. Next stop, pre-production music.