Here is a video that was recorded one evening while working on the film “No Letting Go”.
This particular melody was for a scene that would not be using the main thematic elements of the film, but would have it’s own melodic element.
So I set to work on the theme and had it written on paper in a matter of 30 minutes, no more than than that. It went very well and contrary to my usual process, I knew I had it! I then set the paper on my desk and proceeded to improvise an arrangement and it flowed so easily! I remember what a pleasure it was to play!
So I did something very uncharacteristic of me and I turned on my webcam and recorded a video of my hands playing.
I was still working out the piece at this point and the video shows me pointing to myself at the entrance of the melody, and of course includes a few flubs or changes of mind, the tempo is a bit faster and more ornate than the final version, but overall the piece is there on what could have been about the fourth time I played it through.
It is still one of my favourite melodies from that film, it is a tender melody that fills me with warmth and hope, and it seems to flow with a certain ease that kind of echoes how it felt to write and play it.
Here is the video of me playing this tune.
And here is a clip from the final version, with me adding a bit of guitar to the performance by the Prague FILMharmonic.
And here it is, my new website! It was long overdue, but while setting up the page to sell the CD and score for “No Letting Go” my old website started falling apart which forced my hand to actually get a new one done.
I’ve been putting it off but it’s something I wanted to do, so I was happy about it. And here it is!
You’ll notice a lot is missing right now, it i s a work in progress. My bio and education pages will be coming up and more detailed music pages and getting my scores back up for sale and a lot more. I am very excited. Just have to clean out my blog a bit, lots of broken links and images need to be redone so it works and looks as it should. It will be done gradually.
This new website has a more solid infrastructure so it will be a pleasure to work with and develop, especially the store section. I am really excited about that.
Speaking of the store…check out the OST release of my score for “No Letting Go”, available as MP3 album, physical CD and also the full orchestral score as used during the recording!
Festival takes place in October. Wish me luck!
I’VE COME TO THINK of my composition process on a film as being similar to an actor’s in some ways. Let me explain by talking a bit about my process for “The Performance”, the film I am scoring starring Nicholas Campbell and Nick Mancuso.
I first analysed the story by using the script (normally I’d use the rough cut, but didn’t have it at the time.)
I had a preliminary talk with the director about his goals, his ideas, his thoughts, his view of the story and the characters. Jotting down key words in my notebook (pictured here) and asking questions along the way.
My first goal was to decide where there would be music and where there wouldn’t. Because this bit of information is obviously the first step in identifying what role music could take.
And then comes the fun part: digging in to the story and the characters to discover the function of the score.
I read the script over and over, watched what scenes I had to view, jotting down thoughts in my notebook (see the picture? That’s my notebook). Words. Sentences. Whittling it down, looking for that POV, looking for the essence. The center.
On the surface, the main character is sad. Sure. Fine. But I refuse to just say “I’ll write sad music”. I want to do more than that.
I want to tell part of this man’s story as we accompany him on this emotional journey. Something that is specific and unique to HIM. Something that tells the audience something about him. Something that only music can bring.
And that is when I become an actor in a way. I ask myself this simple question: “why is he sad.” Understanding his thoughts. His point of view. Trying to think his thoughts. But also to psycho-analyse him. What’s his reasoning, but also what’s behind his actions. Digging deeper until something starts to emerge, words pop out, a POV clarifies. I reach that point where in a few words I can describe what my goal will be for the score and I think “of course”.
Because the right solution should always make you think “of course.”
With the understanding of the character and the function of the score I am then able to get to work and write with a clear target in mind.
I set to work writing my themes knowing exactly what to aim for. No throwing notes at the screen like spaghetti on a wall.
And there you have it, a view into my process and why I consider myself an actor with notes.
Just had my first successful meeting with the director of “The Performance”. Ideas hit the mark and now it’s time to get the actual writing of the cues underway. And I just thought of all the different things I do during those initial days of building a concept for a film score.
- Seeing what’s there in my mind already, always the starting point. I do this multiple times a day after a break, a bit of silence.
- Reacting to the surface elements – my first impulses to the story and the images.
- Foraging & Collecting: my ideas, others, words, thoughts, concepts, anything.
- Finding models – musical and films
- Interpreting…the story, the director’s ideas, my own ideas etc…
- Breaking down the story, understanding it 110%, bringing it down to the essence, for which I often collect key words and sentences
- Figuring out the role of the music in the story, what could it add, how can it help and not just be redundant.
- Juxtaposing – I love that word and it could mean anything. This time I am juxtaposing my three themes.
- Collecting ideas and collecting sounds – as a I build a binder filled with ideas and my DAW template.
- Seeing different angles – digging deeper to make sure
- Finding structure and function in the score so I know what my music should aim to do
- Deciding how many themes and musical ideas I should use for the genre/type of film it is
- Spot the film, looking not only the ins and outs of music but for structure, symmetry, repetition, development, arc
- Spot the film again, once the themes start to form, see where they fit and spot the film again
- Review, rewrite, look at different angles
- Sketch, mockups, improvise, be open, let it happen, think it through
- Over-thinking is good – it is like asking a question…and you need questions in order to find answers
- Take frequent breaks – nothing set in stone. Go with the flow to retain high amounts of focus.
- Don’t get excited about any one idea until the next day
- Play with the image, play away from the image
There is no one order I can put these things in, you need to flow with the process, so I wrote them down, things I do and things I tell myself as working. I didn’t go into very big detail, but it’s important that things that guide you should never bind you either, and if you are too strict in your descriptions of steps you take it may backfire.
So over the years I got to know what works for me and have a pretty good handle on my process at this point which allows me to flow with the demands of the picture and achieve a good momentum and reach my best ideas.
Now back to work!
Still working on the release details, but here is a preview of the cover for the official “No Letting Go” soundtrack!
The score plays better than I anticipated. I mean, it works great in the film of course, but I wasn’t sure about it on CD. Plays great!
Please sign up to my blog in the box to the right here to get news of when this will be released, which will be very soon!
Here’s a little preview of the soundtrack below.
UPDATE: The score is now available on sale here!
Tonight is the cast and crew screening of Elysium and I have been invited! My invitation got lost along the way but I finally got it.
The film is also starting it’s run at 10PM tonight, we all hope it does great.
It was a great experience being part of this and made some great friends in the process. Here’s a little souvenir picture.
I will be in Los Angeles on the 23rd to take part in a panel on the making of the score for Elysium. It’s called Bringing the Elysium score to life: tips from the team. See you there!
Composition started in earnest about two weeks ago and is going very well. The director and I are really in synch and the music is coming along nicely, contributing to the tone and story in a way that feels very satisfying.
I should be done in the next few days to then tackle any rewrites, adjustments, orchestration and score prep. in time for the mix in early August.
And check out the film’s IMDB.
[/frame] This coming Friday May 24th will be the premiere of my new piece “Rift” by the Vancouver Metropolitan Orchestra.
It’s a brutal short piece (ca. 5’00”) for chamber orchestra. Very intense and, well, brutal. This is me returning to what I loved to do and probably do best. To give you a sense of it, it starts with the timpani playing solo with the indication “Like war drums. Fill the hall.” So I am looking forward to it and I hope the orchestra does well with it.
[frame align=”left”] [/frame] “Comforting Skin” has been picked up by Anchor Bay Entertainment and is getting released on DVD May 21st.
I composed the score for this film using a chamber group enhanced with sparse use of samples and electronics. The score is dark and makes much use of dissonance and extended techniques but is also very melodically driven.
The soundtrack was released on Movie Score Media’s Screamworks label.
You can read more about the DVD release of “Comforting Skin’ here. http://www.amberlight.ca/ABEpress_Comforting_Skin