Elysium update

Group pic with strings.

Alain Mayrand (orchestrator/conductor), Ryan Amon (composer) and John Rodd (recording engineer) with the London Philharmonia at Abbey Road

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!



New Film: Primary

primary-posterI am currently working on the Vancouver film “Primary” directed by the talented Ross Ferguson.

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.

I have been blogging about film music issues and thoughts related to the work I am doing on “Primary” on my blog “Getting the Score.” Check it out!

And check out the film’s IMDB.


New Piece


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.

Here’s information about the concert. 


Comforting Skin on DVD


 ”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

January Adventure

In December and January I was very fortunate to be orchestrator and conductor for a very large film called “Elysium”, helmed by director Neill Bloomkamp, starring Matt Damon and Jodie Foster.

During December and part of January I was busy orchestrating along with the lovely Penka Kouneva.

In January our wonderfully lean music team of four people flew to London where I was fortunate to conduct the orchestra in the world famous Abbey Road studio.

It was my first time in Abbey Road and  it turned out to be, well, a life-changing experience for me. Here are some pictures from my time there.

Elysium at Abbey Road

Elysium at Abbey Road

Elysium at Abbey Road

Elysium at Abbey Road

Conducting the large string section, 62 players strong. What a sound!

Conducting the large string section, 62 players strong. What a sound!

The strings

The strings

Conducting the score for "Elysium" at Abbey Road.

Conducting the score for “Elysium” at Abbey Road.


Under the Decca Tree.

Under the Decca Tree.

Guild Seminars

I was asked by the Screen Composers Guild of Canada to present an orchestration seminar a few Saturdays back, with the focus being my work on “Elysium” and writing for strings and brass. The participants would then write some music for a recording session that would happen two weeks later. In the time between the seminar and the recording sessions it was my job to spend some time with the participants (usually over Skype) and take a look at their scores to make sure all was ready to go and perhaps offer some suggestions.

This last Friday and Saturday were the recording sessions over at Vancouver’s famed Warehouse Studios, where I was sitting in the booth supervising, producing and guiding the composers as they each had 25 minutes to record their pieces. On Friday was the string quartet and Saturday a near orchestral sizes brass ensemble.

The whole process, from seminar to recording, was very enjoyable and positive and the Guild was generous enough to offer me one session with the brass. So I wrote some short sketches for brass and had a great time conducting a group of very talented musicians.

My thanks to the Guild for this great experience, and thanks to David Ramos for the pictures!


Form that Makes Sense

As I always tell my students that music should come from a real place that relates to our human experience, to how we see the world and experience it.

I really believe that. Music theory should be a manifestation of something that is real and not something forced and artificial, and I live it everyday in my own writing.

For example, I am currently completing a new commission for the Vancouver Metropolitan Orchestra, and I am using some simple ideas of form based on what I think would be a universal human experience: confusion leading to clarity.

Here’s the passage from this piece that led to me writing this blog post.

Screen capture from work in progress

The counterpoint is very tight and overlaps, leading to lots of dissonance and lack of clarity in the lines as they get kind of jumbled together. It’s confusing, it’s messy, it’s nasty and unclear and and filled with tension on its way to a resolution.

I love this simple idea of confusion leading to clarity. I am sure this is something we instinctively understand because it is an intrinsic part of our daily lives. And so it has become one of my most commonly used guides in my writing.


An organic goal

Here’s something that explains in a few words what I aim for in music. It’s just a few words so it’s no thorough by any stretch … but still, putting your m.o. in a few words helps to attain clarity, so here it is.

My goal is to write music that is as organic and natural as the best improvised solo yet as tightly constructed as the best screenplay.

My Workspace

This is my workspace.

Although I use plenty of music technology, my room is set-up to have lots of space for good old-fashioned paper. It is as rich, bright and energetic as possible with my one small window. I used to like it darker but tastes change. I am no longer a fan of dark, gloomy studios for writing music. Now I think the next iteration of my writing space will have lots of windows if possible, as long as there is nothing outside to take my mind away from my writing. Tress, I’d like if it was only trees outside.

If usually sketch on the big board in the back to various degrees of completion then bring it over to the smaller board where I do mockups and fix-ups and whatnots. What I’d like to add next is a writing board on the desk that I can write more easily on. That’s next, will make writing the inevitable changes as I do my mockups more convenient. Right now I use the side of the desk. Works fine, but not as elegant.

Why I Don’t Write “Works”

There is a divide between audiences and concert composers. Orchestras are suffering everywhere. That’s in part because it is a musical museum and also because, perhaps, composers take themselves a wee bit too seriously?

Let’s face it, music is not an essential to life like water, food, air and shelter. It is an extra. But it is those extras that we live for, the extras that make our lives special.


During the Second World War, Winston Churchill’s finance minister said Britain should cut arts funding to support the war effort. Churchill’s response: “Then what are we fighting for?”

In the decade since I graduated with my master’s degree in composition, my perception of my role as composer has gradually changed.

And now, you won’t see me writing numbered symphonies or concerti, or a 30 minute song cycle where people must sit still without clapping through uncomfortable silences as pages are turned. You won’t hear me talk about pitch systems or extended techniques to an audience at a pre-concert talk.

My aim is to write melodic, evocative music that is, fresh, unique, engaging and often fun to play and hear. Music that is an asset to the musicians who plays it and a joy (with a bit of challenge) to the audience who listens.

Because I believe the concert hall can be a place of wonder, excitement, emotion and awe. That concert music can be new. youthful and full of life. Not just a place for a good nap!

So that’s why I say that I will no longer refer to the music I write as “serious music” or “art music” and I will not refer to my pieces as “works”.

They are just pieces of music. No more, and certainly no less.