“Comforting Skin” is headed to the Slamdance film festival!!!
Alan Rogers over at Reel Music just posted a very eloquent and insightful review of my “Comforting Skin” soundtrack. I know this soundtrack won’t be for everyone (unless you already love Schnittke, Pendercki and Crumb!) but Alan clearly took the time to listen to the score and really understood it.
One of the stand-out tracks of the album, “The Arrival”, signals the movement of the score away from melody and into dissonance. Scurrying tremolo strings, off-kilter piano chords and other avant garde effects herald the appearance of the tattoo and its true “identity”. It’s a very effective cue that imbues the tattoo with a character of its own and the majority of the remainder of the score wallows in this dissonant soundscape, emphasising just how much of the main character’s world is dominated by the insidious body art.
I invite you to take a minute to read this very smart review.
Randall Larson over at Buysoundtrax.com has written the first review of my score for Comforting Skin. It is very well-written and insightful, a great review.
Mayrand’s score imposes a claustrophobic atmosphere of gloom and despondency, shifting between very poignant melodies and jagged, atonal orchestral colors that reflect the character’s growing sense of despair and self-destruction.
…it’s striking textural depth and interesting orchestration make it a fascinating sonic excursion here on its own.
Read review here.
Buy the Comforting Skin soundtrack over at Screamworks records.
First recording session took place yesterday at Blue Wave studio in Vancouver. Things went smoothly and from what Brian Campbell tells me, we got a good sound! Can’t wait to hear it.
We have a wonderful small bunch of fantastic musicians. I am one lucky composer.
Next session coming next Sunday!
It’s always a strange feeling. After the long road of scoring, adding to the score little by little, to finally be near the end.
I sat down with the director Derek Franson yesterday to go over everything done and yet to be done, and to reassess certain cues that as the score developed it became clear that there had to be less or no music.
And now it is time for the final push of composition. Today I am completing a very, very intense scene. I can’t describe it here, but I’ll just say that it is the hardest thing I have ever had to score by far. And this scene is so strange, deranged really (I think Derek would agree) and unlike anything I have ever seen that I had no frame of reference for it.
There you have it. Time to cross that finish line. Well, for the composition anyway. After that is score and part preparation to get ready for the recording sessions!
I am very busy writing right now, getting ready for the recording sessions and trying hard to complete the score! Lots to do, so this will be a very short update.
The score for “Comforting Skin” is going to rock.
It has crazy and extremely intense aleatoric writing, tender heart-rending moments and deeply disturbing moods.
In the middle of writing it is easy to doubt, to hope that your choices are right but the momentum must continue.
The other day I had to tackle a cue that was a continuation of another which was written a week or so before. So I had to go and listen and reacquaint myself with the previous cue… and I had one of those great moments, one of those “holy crap, did I write that?” moments.
Derek the director is extremely happy with the score, it’s all coming together.
It’s going to rock.
When you see on-screen action (fighting, running etc…) the music tends to follow along in some way. It might hit some of the action or play along with some cool action music.
But when do you not follow the action?
I am currently scoring the feature film “Comforting Skin”, and there is a moment where a short fight occurs that did not need musical emphasis.
Without giving away too much, I can describe the scene this way: the protagonist has just revealed something important to her friend. This is a climactic moment in the film, an important part of the story’s arc, and the music is a part of it.
Then a secondary character attacks the friend from behind and a short and violent struggle ensues. (Only about 4 seconds of screen time.)
I initially tried music that followed along the short fight, a short burst of musical violence, but it was immediately clear that it didn’t work.
So I thought about it for a minute and asked myself some questions:
Q: This climactic moment is about who? What is important? What is this scene about? (All variations of the same question.)
A: The scene is about that climactic revelation between the two main characters who have the central relationship in the film. This moment is an important one in the arc of their relationship. It is not about that secondary character fighting.
Q: How does this fight related to this moment?
A: It ties up that secondary character’s role in the story as she gets almost knocked unconscious, but does not affect the core of that scene.
With that in mind I wrote a cue which responded to the climactic reveal; light, ethereal, surreal music. And I played right through the short fight, completely ignoring it, and it worked wonderfully- because it made dramatic sense!
If music hit the action it would emphasize what was not important to that scene and would take away from the important story element.
So, what is the answer to: When should you not hit the action?
The answer is: When it is not driving the story.
As you know I am currently scoring the feature film “Comforting Skin.”
For this film I am taking a somewhat thematic approach to the score. By “somewhat’ I mean that there are not really any character themes, but more like state-of-mind themes.
Actually, there is a character theme for the only non-human character in the film, which is pretty funny when you think about it. (I won’t say more about that really unusual character, but I will say its not animal or vegetable…)
So you see, leitmotif writing is not just for character, but can also be mood, state-of-mind, place, mood, etc… depends on the movie and the genre.
I am writing a cue today for a pivotal scene and I took great care this morning in making sure I would use the right melodic material by paying close attention to the scenes around it. I don’t want my themes to overstay their welcome or be underplayed. It’s all about balance.
Also, the cue continues after that pivotal moment into something less important. At first I was playing that lesser scene with one of the main themes, but it was too much.
So instead I opted for introducing some other material, less melodic.
I think of this like a secondary theme in a rondo, a bridge in a song, an episode in a fugue or invention. All these elements of musical form create variety and contrast, it is important to get away from home so that the return home has more impact.
So that secondary, passing musical material makes musical sense and dramatic sense.
I am working on Comforting Skin right now, and this is an emotional, dark and unusual story. I am fortunate that I have been given an early start with the music so I have plenty of time, and I have a director who is given me the chance to live with it for a while before I get going.
So for the past couple of weeks I have been alternating between tons of listening, writing and thinking.
I love the chance to listen to things I have not yet had time to listen to.I am digging in the repertoire of Alfred Schnittke, Sofia Gubaidulina, Helmut Lachenmann, Hans Werner Henze, Jacob Druckman, some Ligeti and some Boulez. I am also taking the time to discover composers I had heard of, like George Rochberg, Georg Frederich Haas, Ulrich Leyedencker and Gerard Grisey.
As I listen to these composers my imagination gets stimulated and taken to new places. As a result I have done more than 30 short demos for the director, which has cemented the fact that we are on the same page.
The music in this film plays a very large and important role in the narrative. The film is very emotional and dark and unusual, and the director wished the music to be more avant-garde as well.
So I have spent a lot of time writing down my thoughts on the characters and the story. Just words sprinkled on paper, things like “delicate”, “tragic”, “fragile”, “unhinged”, digging and digging to clarify what the function of the music will be, because the music’s role is not so obvious in this film.
For me, these words are important; they clarify my goals for the score, the concepts I must reach. And once I find those few words that properly define the concept, I can easily write.
But without a clear goal for the concept of the score I would write without a clear purpose, only instinct. Sure, I do rely on my instincts, but I prefer to balance it with clear, identifiable goals.