Score of the Month #7 - Planet of the Apes (1968) by Jerry Goldsmith

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Score of the Month #7 - Planet of the Apes (1968) by Jerry Goldsmith

Welcome back to #ScoreOfTheMonth... Today we're going way back to an era of serious orchestral sound design and vast experimentation because yep, I'm naming Jerry Goldsmith's score for Planet of the Apes (1968) as my 7th Score of the Month entry!

Let me just start by stating that Jerry Goldsmith is, and always will be in my eyes a legend... I have so much respect for him, he stood his ground when it came to his approach (often causing some contention during spotting sessions from what I have read), but his results were seemingly always highly original (despite there being nods to Stravinsky, Holst and Herrmann in this score); he complimented the films he worked on in a way I am sure many directors, producers and indeed audience members would not have anticipated.  

So a little back story before we start... Planet of the Apes is to me is an absolute classic and while the newer films may be full of loud bombastic scores, high tech special effects and humorous characters, this film for me will always be the number 1. What with the release of the new "War for the Planet of the Apes" film, I found myself browsing Apple Music for the new score and was reminded of this one and well, the rest is history. I first came across it in 2013 while in my final year at University was so impressed, I based the entire "Landmark Score Analysis" module on it. I will be stealing some parts of that work for this blog post, I mean it's mine after all right? ;)

Any composer who starts getting microtonal and instructing his players to perform a one 1/4 tone up has my respect, but for some real scope on what I mean by experimental orchestration sound design, let's just start with the list of instruments Goldsmith introduced into the score...

  • Stainless Steel Kitchen Mixing Bowls
  • Bass slide-whistle (A wind instrument with a tube piston on the bottom to vary pitch
  • Brazilian Cuica - (Used to simulate Ape sounds)
  • Shofar (A Rams Horn traditionally used in Jewish religious ceremony)
  • Boo Bams - (Hollow bamboo stems which sound like tuned congas)
  • Electric Harp
  • Electric Bass Clarinet
  • Bells
  • Water Drop Bars
  • Tibetan Horn
  • Gong
  • Slit drum or ‘log drum’
  • Conch Shell
  • Anvil 
  • Prepared Pianos

What I love about the careful design of his orchestra, is that these instruments are voiced throughout the entire soundtrack, they really are part of the world of the Planet of the Apes which in turn means the score definitely blurs the lines between what is diegetic and non-diegetic;  each of these instruments will at one stage or another take a leading role as both the world and story begins to unfold. These "instruments-as-sound design" elements blend perfectly with what is otherwise a fairly conventional score in terms of musical story telling.... We have action, romance, triumph, creeping "up-to-no-good", loss and anger motifs voiced throughout as you would normally expect, it's the clever execution, blend of timbres and rigorous performance instructions which really make it interesting for me! 

So let's talk about stand out cues... this is really difficult because I almost feel like naming the entire damn soundtrack, but let's be realistic about this and cut it down to 4 cues!

Firstly, for me the opening cue which was very practically named "Main Titles" is without a doubt in the list ; Goldsmith has been very cleaver here as he does not hang around in terms of introducing us to his very bold pallet of sounds and instruments from the very first frames. Not only does this set the tone of the film and introduce the audience to the world they are about to explore, but it's a great way of easing them into hearing these sorts of instruments and sounds, most of which they would not have heard before. We hear the prepared pianos, cuica, slide-whistle, shofar and gongs during this cue for the first time and it has to be said, the use of tape delay on those violin pizzicato notes really take my interest. 

Secondly, both "The Searchers" and "The Search Continues" (I mean it's basically one cue) really stands out for me! Those delayed pizzicato notes start the cue with a little more assertiveness than before and we are introduced to a real sense of mystery as the strings and horns take the audience on a journey of the planet for the first time. It's also the first time the audience is given a sense of dread, like something is not right here! As a side note, I think its worth noting that I really believe Vangelis took a lot of inspiration from these cues for his work on titles such as Blade Runner, while that score is hugely electronic, it is still based on an orchestra. The way Goldsmith has voiced the horns here, particularly during"The Searchers" for example, starting at around 01:32 give me a very similar vibe to what Vangelis replicated some years later. 

Thirdly, how could I not mention "The Hunt", it's probably the most famous cues for a start, but that aside it's just awesome. The piano ostinato is rude and makes absolutely no apology for being son, and I love it when it's doubled with the brass! The cue creates so much tension even listening to it now without those chaotic visuals it gets your blood pumping, the cuica is probably hear the most here ("The Intruders" and "The Forbidden Zone" are also good cues to listen to if you are looking for this sound) as Goldsmith attempts to voice the presence of the apes. 

Finally, and this has been really hard given I limited myself to just 4 cues, it has to be "A Bid for Freedom", simply because I feel it voices the work and way of live of the apes perfectly... It's a real observation cue as we view the apes going about their work and patrolling areas of the camp, the military-eqsue trumpets towards the end of the cue are a perfect example of that.

And that brings us to the end of this months #ScoreOfTheMonth, to finish this post off, I have decided to attach a PDF link to my score analysis, cue sheet and written work from the Landmark Score Uni module I mentioned above!, I got a 1st for it which I was thrilled with at the time... Perhaps a slightly abstract thing to do as it's not in line at all with my other posts, but anyone studying landmark scores may find find it useful or at the very least, interesting! I hope you enjoyed the post and will visit the soundtrack; see you next month folks! 

Film Score Analysis of Jerry Goldsmith's Planet of the Apes + Cue Sheet

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Score of the Month #6 - King Arthur: Legend of the Sword by Daniel Pemberton

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Score of the Month #6 - King Arthur: Legend of the Sword by Daniel Pemberton

Thanks for staying tuned and welcome to #ScoreOfTheMonth #6; this one absolutely had to go to Daniel Pemberton for his work on Guy Ritchie's new film "King Arthur: Legend of the Sword"... If I ever saw this man in a public house, I would send over a pint without a second thought! 1hr 32mins of pure entertainment....

Being a reprobate and breaking my golden rule yet again, I listened to the soundtrack before watching the film and my first thoughts were, wow... This score is for lack of a better word, just rude! It's loud, angsty, bold and totally brutish while making absolutely no apology for being so in any way, shape or form; I just love that!

First of all, let me just clear up any anxieties people may have with regards to the film itself as for some unknown reason (to me at least), it got absolutely slated by the critics. Did Guy (Ritchie) piss some people off in Hollywood or something? I mean the "TOMATOMETER" over at Rotten Tomatoes ranked the film in at just 27%; the "Audience Score" however was much higher at 78%, I know which side I'm on! I guess what I'm trying to say is, go and see the damn film and don't worry too much what's being said about it, it's a film for the big screen without question and it would be a shame to miss it... Okay, okay back to the score...

You get put into Medieval England pretty quickly from the very first cue "From A King Comes Nothing" in which we hear a loud blast from what may as well be a Carnyx ensemble sounding out a battle cry, this is followed by a short, sweet and beautiful violin melody which also helps to set the scene for us cinema goers. Then it all kicks off, I legitimately started to jig in the cinema to the second album cue, "King Arthur: Legend of the Sword" which we hear as the main titles and credit into to the film are shown, this is Arthur's theme and Pemberton gets us used to it pretty quick! It's rhythmic as hell and 100% like something you would hear on a Pagan Metal album, but just on a huge scale! From here on, any outside thoughts I had lingering around my head were gone as I began to relax and take in the story; here comes cue 3, "Growing Up Londinium" and later "Run Londinium"... I mean what is happening now, we have this heavily distorted drum section and percussion thundering through the cinema accompanied by some seriously heavy rhythmic breathing, guitars and scratching string, I was loving it! These cues work perfectly to voice the fun, youthful and playful side of the film which is portrayed by Arthur and his gang living and grafting in the streets of Londinium.

Cue's such as "The Story of Mordred", "Vortigen and the Syrens" and "Tower & Power" deal with the darker side of the story and voice the dark forces and mystical beings Vortigern is toying with perfectly as they have the right amount of a fear-and-wonder element while maintaining a creepy and eerie core.

And of course, I can't finish this blog without speaking about the "The Power of Excalibur"... For starters, I love that loud Carnyx ensemble sound yet again which kicks off the cue; I love the build in tension as we begin to hear distorted basses and high strings in unison before the addition of a huge percussion section and string runs. I loved being led into that classic heroic feel through the use of the horns as Arthur begins to realise the power of Excalibur, followed by the humble cascade as we are brought back to earth... The cue worked amazingly well to picture!

If you have not already, please go and see the film, listen to the score and I'd love to know your thoughts in the comments below; until next time....

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Score of the Month #5 - Assassin's Creed by Jed Kurzel

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Score of the Month #5 - Assassin's Creed by Jed Kurzel

It's Saturday and another month has flown by; meaning it's time for me to yet again do some writing and give you guys some insight into what I've been listening to this week...

This #ScoreOfTheMonth will probably come as a surprise to some... The hardcore gamer of my youth is currently screaming as I admit this, but I've never played the Assassin's Creed games! (although I have heard the majority of Lorne Balfe & Jesper Kyd's scores). I also don't generally go for move adaptations of games... I think that's something that may change for me as video games are certainly becoming more and more cinematic with every passing year; my buddies are increasingly working to get me back into video games, but without digressing to far, let's return to the subject of the film and why it's taken this week's first pace. 

First and foremost, despite the general criticism I have read online over the past few months, I'd like to take this opportunity to say that I have thoroughly enjoyed Kurzel's score both on the big screen against the picture and alone as a standalone soundtrack album. Perhaps I'm missing something in terms of atmosphere which the scores for the games had (especially given I didn't pay them), as I am kind of puzzled as to why this score seems to have been so disliked. That is in part the reason I chose it this week, I think it deserves some recognition!

Jed Kurzel is a new name to me and I didn't really know what to expect when entering the movie theatre, but I found the opening themes to be interesting, other-worldly and ethereal, emotionally stimulating when needed and voice the action and chaotic nature of the film very well. 

A section of the main theme and general bombastic action of the score is introduced straight away in the first cue "Young Cal" where we hear raspy, staccato brass accents, wood blocks, taikos, snares, metals, bass drums; eerie string sections with sul ponticello performance instructions (which I personally absolutely love) and various organic sound design instruments... I mean it really sets you up for a good show. Similar cues are heard and developed throughout, a good example of this would be "Second Regression", it takes on more of a military stance mid cue as we take in the action, but the core of the cue is the same.

Cues such as "The Execution", "Abstergo", "Columbus" and "Seville" build on the main themes and speak on a more emotional level as we begin to learn about Cal and his families past... As usual, these would seem to be my favourite cues of the score. Kurzel capitalises on the use of drawn out, arco performances across the string section, but leaves room to introduce those deep foreboding basses sections to carry the heaviness of the mood; these are accompanied by subtle synth lines and lush pads. These cues also interested me as the melodies are vaguely reminiscent to Hans Zimmer's work for Interstellar, I don't mean so much in the sense that the melodies have been plagiarised, but more the religious/grandiose sound has been orchestrated and achieved in very similar ways; the sentiment is very much the same!

Another standout cue for me is "The Mutiny", I love the distorted and hybrid electronic approach, it's been popular in the car this week!

What did you thin of the score? Did you like the film? Let me know in the comments box below...

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Score of the Month #4 - Westworld by Ramin Djawadi

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Score of the Month #4 - Westworld by Ramin Djawadi

There has been so much playing in my place this month, it's actually been a tricky decision to make... This week's winner however has to be Ramin Djawadi's score for Westworld!

I almost didn't go for it on the basis that I'm only halfway through the first season and I kind of wanted to complete it before writing about the score, but I decided to just go for it anyway...

With 34 cues and a running time of 1hr 49mins, it's packed full of emotive and provocative ideas which work alongside the show perfectly, but I feel we need to talk about this soundtrack in two parts... The "score" part and the "covers' part...

First off, I've got to say that the Pianola (which performs the bulk of the "covers" part of the soundtrack) in the show is basically my favourite character, I know that probably sounds strange, but I literally feel like that self playing piano is a person as it has so much to say! I first caught it playing Radiohead's No Surprises which totally took me by surprise (no pun intended)... Later I came to find that it would perform more than just Radiohead; The Rolling Stones, Soundgarden, The Animals, The Cure and even Amy Winehouse make an appearance at different times thorough the show. Djawadi must have had so much fun mapping those songs out for the piano, and I love the mechanical approach he achieves through rigid performance quantisation juxtaposed with the slightly out of tune, almost honky tonk tone that the piano outputs; it's a real mechanical perfection meets imperfection approach which in context with the show, is actually very cleaver. 

The "score" parts of the soundtrack really hit me during playback, I truly think this is some of Ramin's best work in terms of his TV scores, and he's worked on a lot of shows! I love upbeat, energetic cues which nod at Ennio Morricone's approach to the classic westerns we have come to know and love; the dark, moody and haunting underscores; the simplistic and gentle emotional approach when it comes the more sombre subjects, the ambient piano beds; and of course those aggressive hybrid cues.

Let's face it, the whole score is amazing, but my three standout cues would have to be "Dr. Ford" for it's lush opening violin performance, gripping ambient beds, relaxing piano sections and overwhelming orchestration of the main theme towards the finale of the cue. This is quickly followed by "Reveries" (yes I love Harmonics), but it's just the way the track builds, the sweeping movement of the strings, the melody told perfectly by the piano and final violin performance which gets me. Finally, "Paint It Black", I mean it's a classic Rolling Stones track anyway, but it's been arranged for orchestra in the style of Ennio Morricone, must I really say any more? 

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Score of the Month #3 - Moonlight by Nicholas Britell

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Score of the Month #3 - Moonlight by Nicholas Britell

I'm a little behind on my monthly posts folks, but rest assured, I'm picking up where I left off!  You may have guessed it based on my Tweets over the past few week; but Nicholas Britell's score for Moonlight has definitely taken 1st place this week! It's been on heavy rotation at home, in the car and walking around the street; thus making it my #ScoreoftheMonth

I've always been a sucker for those Vivaldi-esque virtuoso arpeggiated violin performances which can be heard clear as day in the 5th album cue, "The Middle of the World"; and I can't not mention those harmonic arco notes, which just sound emotionally painful as the player slowly performs the notes.

Being a bit of an existentialist, Moonlight spoke to me as it told a very lonely and emotionally complex story of an individual at various stages in his life; all very personal to him and his own life experience. In terms of the score, the use of a simple musical idea and a handful of players captured close miked throughout, I feel Britell voiced this perfectly! As a member of the audience, his score provided enough of an emotional bed to draw me in and observe the scenes without over speaking.

Our main character's theme is heard on various occasions thought the film, but as the story progresses and the character grows older, we hear slight changes, especially in timbre, mood and presentation relevant to the character at that time; the core theme however stays identical throughout! I personally loved this, I'm not sure if it was intentional or not, but to me it was a way of musically stating that this character while now grown up, is still the same at his core... Listen to "Little's Theme", "Chiron's Theme", "Chiron's Theme Chopped & Screwed" and finally "Black's Theme" for a comparison of this!

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Score of the Month #2 - Lego Batman by Lorne Balfe

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Score of the Month #2 - Lego Batman by Lorne Balfe

Fun, that's what life is all about, right? This month I've found Lorne Balfe's awesome work for Lego Batman in the playlist, a lot! 

I saw the film at the cinema just ahead of the release date as Odeon were running advanced showings and loved it. I'm a big fan of pretty much all the Batman films to date and with the more recent Nolan trilogy being on my radar all the way through Uni, it was great to be able to revisit the films in a more tongue and cheek light.

Lorne clearly had a lot of fun with the score, while there is a wealth of new ideas in there, the creative way he took ideas from the previous scores of all three films and reworked them together into cues for Lego Batman was incredible, I found it genuinely entertaining. 

If you only ever list to one cue from this score, make sure it's "Black", as you will hear references and re orchestrated ideas of all three of Hans's scores for the Nolan Batman's reworked into a suite here alongside Balfe's newer ideas for the Lego Batman character in a really cool, bombastic style. 

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Score of the Month #1 - Black Mirror: San Junipero by Clint Mansell

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Score of the Month #1 - Black Mirror: San Junipero by Clint Mansell

Some of you may have guessed it already, but score of the month has to be “Black Mirror: San Junipero” by Clint Mansell. Firstly, I thought the episode was absolutely brilliant, the story really gripped me and the music relaxed me enough to loose track of time… I remember wondering, “who on earth scored this, it works so well”…

When the credits rolled and I saw Mansell’s name, I was pleasantly surprised… I’m not used to hearing him score a TV show and the recent scores I’ve heard from him were just totally different to this. The entire score is full of lush pads, rich textures, catchy melodies and trance inducing atmospheres which I’ve been addicted to all week! I highly recommend it…

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Creative Cribs - The Creative Spaces of Film Composers and Mix Engineers

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Creative Cribs - The Creative Spaces of Film Composers and Mix Engineers

I'm basically in love with Spitfire Audio's samples, the textures and colours they have captured over the years have been essential in reaching my audiences and telling the right stories effectively within my film scores. It was during my usual online scout for new samples for my next projects when I stumbled across a series of videos they had published known as Creative Cribsand I wanted to share it with you guys.

Given their outreach with film composers all over the globe, they (Spitfire Audio) have been able to get an inside look at many composers studios and give us a pretty comprehensive tour. I have embedded my three favorites below and hope you guys will take the time to check them out as well as taking a look at the vast collection Spitfire have posted...

Harry Gregson-Williams gives us an amazing insight into not only his studio and creative workflow, but he gives great advice for us emerging composers and recounts his past discussing his arrival in Los Angeles working with Hans Zimmer. 

It was also interesting for me to hear that he had moved studios!  I knocked on the door of his old Venice Beach, CA situated space last year only to find no one was home, this is why!

 

John Powell just seems like an amazingly interesting guy and his studio is just awesome! I really was not expecting so much technology to be packed into such an intricate building; it just keeps coming and coming as he guides you through his entire working and recording space.

 

 

 

Alan Meyerson is someone I just genuinely have so much respect for! Without him, many of my favorite film score would sound very different indeed! Amazingly, Alan kindly takes us around his mixing space at Remote Control Productions and talks us through his workflow at the blunt end of the process… mixing music for blockbusters. 

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Why I Love Video Blogs

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Why I Love Video Blogs

Communication! We hear that word so often and it really is the most important element of the human condition, yet sometimes we are so utterly useless at it. 

For years the written blog was the "big" thing with everyone having an online blog published via Wordpress, Tumblr, Blogger... The list goes on and on. I always loved the idea of it, but was basically not all that great at keeping up with it and couldn't really organise my thoughts on certain subjects all that well by simply typing. I mean given this is my first post this year, I'd be inclined to say I still suck at it!

So it occurred to me, why not do this via video? I love words, I really do,  but I can ponce around for hours trying to get the terminology right and I'm always trying to find images to back what I'm saying as I don't always feel I can get my point across well enough in words. If you are recording a video, It can (and I'm not saying always), be much easier to get your point across and reach folks in a more multi-dimensional form of communication; I mean if speech is said to only count for around seven percent of our interaction with others, then surely words are open to all sorts of odd interpretation, especially if like me you don't feel all that great about some things you write.

I think with video, it's so much better for an audience to be able to see and hear you as you are explaining something to them, it gets across that full sense of your excitement, determination, disappointment or whatever other emotions you as a content creator might be feeling at the time; not to mention the power of the screen capture software out there now, I can actually show you a Pro Tools or Logic session rather than type about it. Hell, with live streams, you can even ask questions live and be apart of that specific moment with me!

On a personal level, it's been amazing, even funny at times to go back and see what I was up to at certain periods in my life as I continue building my career so to cut a long story short, we're doing this!

I'd love for you all to continue following me on here for sure as I intend to keep a semi regular blog for certain events, but why not head over to my YouTube Channel and hit the subscribe button to keep up with my projects in a more live sense, I'll actually talk over there!

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Visiting Sony Pictures

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Visiting Sony Pictures

I recently took a trip to Los Angeles and had the opportunity to visit the Sony Pictures lot with my buddy in Culver City and wanted to share some of pictures I managed to take (we were prohibited from taking too many) and highlights from my time there.

I had initially gotten a little frustrated with myself as I was a little unprepared and after knocking on many of the studio doors (including Hans Zimmer's Remote Control Productions) and being told I needed an appointment, I came to realise I really should have reached out to these guys before I left for L.A. - I guess the excitement of finally visiting the United States and particularly California was a little overwhelming for me which lead me to be slightly unorganised about the whole thing; you can imagine my excitement when I was told yes I could visit Sony, and yes, I could take a look at the scoring stage as it was not being used that morning...

Our guide Kelly Newman was just fantastic, totally enthusiastic about Sony, L.A., and all the history surrounding L.A. and the Sony lot which was incredibly insightful. I didn't realise just how many studios had operated on that land; originally the Triangle Film Corporation, then Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (MGM) and now of course Sony, of whom own and operate both Columbia Pictures and TriStar Pictures.

I managed to get a look at all the original Oscars the Sony studios had won over the years in the reception of the executive offices, followed by a stroll through many of the outside filming locations, offices of the likes of Bryan Cranston (Breaking Bad) and Adam Sandler's Happy Madison Productions. We managed to get on some of the sound stages which were currently closed for the season, namely 'The Goldbergs", A Happy Madison produced TV show.

What interested me about this stage (besides the level of detail that went into building the set), was the way in which the lighting could be controlled. Standing on the outside, there were these huge backdrops of a garden, which to be honest, made no sense to me being outside, they just looked too big and out of proportion, but once we were inside the set itself, it made perfect sense. From inside, looking out the window, it looks like night-time and those overly large backdrops really did look like a garden. The amount of lights on the ceiling was just incredible and you could really start to see how shooting any scene and controlling the time of day at any time is possible.

While on the subject of backdrops, I was also shown one of the oldest building on the lot which has pretty much not changed since day one! Before the days of computers and digital image creation, these backdrops had to be painted by hand, the facilities for doing such thing are till very much in tact. Over several floors, the backdrops could be hung up, raised and lowered to all artists to work on such a large scale. For the life of me, I can't recall the name of the company responsible for it, but they had a backlog of original backdrops all folded and archived available for rent.

Onto the Sony scoring stage, or as it is now known "The Barbra Streisand Stage", well what can I say, not to mention the history of amazing film scores captured in that room, but a custom Neve console, pro tools rigs galore, controllers, microphones, instruments, booths, I was pretty much in heaven. The live room itself is huge and but what's more interesting was the natural dynamics of the room. There is hardly and sound dampening present, no movable curtains that can be found in studios such as Abbey Road. It's not exactly full of reverb, but there is a strange echo in the room which clearly adds a unique colour which has now become a favourite among many composers, John Williams being no exception with movies such as Schindler's List being recorded in this very room. It was quite surreal to be standing and chatting in there picturing the many composers, musicians, directors and supervisors who have been there over the years producing the scores we love.

Following the scoring stage, we took another long stroll around the lot, checked out the original car from Ghostbusters and of course the RV from Breaking Bad and took a walk around the sound stage for 'Wheel of Fortune" before saying goodbye and heading off for some lunch.

It was a really amazing experience and if you are ever up in Culver City, give them a bell and try to get yourself in there, well worth a visit!

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Interstellar Live (With Hans Zimmer)

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Interstellar Live (With Hans Zimmer)

I was lucky enough to snap up some tickets to "Interstellar Live" at the Royal Albert Hall in which Hans Zimmer, Chris Nolan, Michael Caine and even Stephen Hawking were present!

I got in early for the pre concert talks which commenced around 90 minutes before the show began in which Chris Nolan gave us an amazing insight into his creative process in varying capacities as a director, screenwriter and of course, producer!

Hans gave us an amusing run down to his process and explained how the theme had all developed from a short piece of music he wrote to a letter Nolan had given to him. This was followed by discussing the recording of the Organ in Temple Church, London.

I really loved the film, of course loved the music and really hope to see more of this in the city soon!

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Francis: A Look Back In Time At My Very First Film Score

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Francis: A Look Back In Time At My Very First Film Score

How much should you give away? How much do you expose yourself? Should you open yourself up for criticism? Should you hide your art away?

Music, and any art come to think of it, is an incredibly personal thing. There is a reason people won’t show you that paining they have been working on for the past two months, why that poem just never seems finished, and why film composers can be late on their deadlines ;).

It’s all about exposure! It’s fairly human to talk your way around things, get yourself out of sticky situations, and let’s be fair, talk utter bullshit at times; but when you play a piece of music to someone, or unveil you latest painting, suddenly you are naked, open to criticism and in many cases, at your most vulnerable as both an artist and as a person.

I’ve listened to loads of music from various fellow composers  and what I find interesting (although never comment), is just how much that specific piece, written at that specific time is actually saying about the person, it’s very personal.

Getting to the point, I’ve wanted to start a video blog for some time now, showing my approach to composing for film and hopefully starting up some interesting conversations with others. There’s a little more to it than that though...I think psychologically, it’s very useful to break down your tracks and talk about their forms and functions as a means to perhaps understand your approach and yourself better, a way to mentally file your creative work through ways of understanding it. If university taught me anything, it’s that in my case, the best part of the theoretical underpinning in my creative work actually happens during the process of composing, it can be very subconscious. 

I chose to go right back to the start, my very first score which is perhaps the most revealing of all given I didn’t really know what the hell I was doing back then (on the quiet, I still feel like that a lot), but I hope it will be helpful perhaps to others just starting out with music and film and it was actually a lot of fun to revisit my initial film score :).

I hope you will enjoy it and please, don’t be too hard on the comments!

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Telltale Games’s “The Wolf Among Us”

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Telltale Games’s “The Wolf Among Us”

thewolfamoungus

As a youngster, I would spend hours and hours playing video games, it was pretty much my entire life during the week as I would always watch movies with my father on the weekends. I mainly played PC games with titles such as Max Payne, Neverwinter Nights, Counter-Strike, Day of Defeat, Age of Empires and Half-Life coming to mind, but as I got older, my attention switched more towards music and my passion for video games became less and less to the point of being literally non-existent.

I love the concept of games and am constantly wowed by what I see and hear from them and I of course have a lot of respect for the studios and creative professionals who put their souls into creating something great, but I just can never seem to get myself into the mindset of sitting down and actually playing them like I once did. 

One of my very best mates is hugely into his games and is constantly telling me I should try the new titles out and I’ve been trying here and there. We started playing Resident Evil 6 together on XBOX live and although it took us a year to get through one chapter (I made no exaggeration when I said I’m useless and playing them) I really did enjoy it when I actually say down and played it. 

So what’s the deal? Have I become so busy that I have simply forgotten how to relax? I think this is possibly the case and it’s something that’s been bothering the hell out of me for some time now so I went and bought myself some surround sound headphones from Turtle Beach in an attempt to channel myself directly into the game and picked up a copy of the new Tomb Raider and of course, The Wolf Among Us at the recommendation of my mate. 

Tomb Raider I’m really enjoying, but I find myself becoming frustrated at times when I can’t find where to go in the game, visually and sonically both in terms of music and sound, the game is beautiful and I will complete it within the next month or so but my attention has moved more towards The Wolf Among Us. 

I love the gritty atmosphere In TFAU which is present in the score before you even hit the start button and I find many of the characters both brutal and amusing which interests me. I felt instantly involved with the story and I wanted to know more from the very beginning, so maybe this is my way back into gaming? It’s not exactly a hard game to play and I’m sure for the hardcore gamers out there, they would be recommending something far more complex, but for me, it’s entertaining. It’s almost like watching a movie in which you are the director trailing out new ways in which to portray the story as your actions have an effect on the game itself. 

Let's hope this video gaming rebirth will continue! 

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Film Composer Junkie XL On Film Scoring, Deadlines, Hans Zimmer & His Studio

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Film Composer Junkie XL On Film Scoring, Deadlines, Hans Zimmer & His Studio

Who remembers the opening raining blood scene from the 1998 movie Blade? I certainly do as Blade was an important movie for me as a then youngster at a time when the the big screen was just starting to fascinate me. Until yesterday, I had been totally unaware that the music from that scene was composed by Junkie XL and licensed for the scene; cue his initial interest in becoming a film composer.

Seasoned electronic music producer-turned-film composer Tom Holkenborg aka Junkie XL is being discussed more and more now in the film music world, what with his recent and ongoing collaborations with Hans Zimmer at Remote Control Productions for movies such as Man of Steel and Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice and of course his amazing solo work on Divergent and 300: Rise of an Empire, but it occurred to me that I had never really taken the time to look into his work.

Yesterday while doing my usual scout, I stumbled across a Collider interview with Tom (below) and found myself immersed in hearing about his start as both an electronic music producer and his transformation into a film composer. I found it humbling to hear that for him, at the time of entering the film score production circuit, his tracks were at number one in several countries and despite this, he took up work as an assistant for the likes of Harry Gregson-Williams to gain a better insigne of just how scores are produced in Hollywood, an amazing level of dedication and respect for an industry he clearly admires.

For anyone fighting to get into film and wondering just how you are going to manage working 16 hour days as a film composer, I would recommend watching this interview as he also touches upon productivity, assistants, studio setups, sample synchronisation and the dedication required to move forward in this industry.

Who remembers the opening raining blood scene from the 1998 movie Blade? I certainly do as Blade was an important movie for me as a then youngster at a time when the the big screen was just starting to fascinate me. Until yesterday, I had been totally unaware that the music from that scene was composed by Junkie XL and licensed for the scene; cue his initial interest in becoming a film composer. Seasoned electronic music producer-turned-film composer Tom Holkenborg aka Junkie XL is being discussed more and more now in the film music world, what with his recent and ongoing collaborations with Hans Zimmer at Remote Control Productions for movies such as Man of Steel and Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice and of course his amazing solo work on Divergent and 300: Rise of an Empire, but it occurred to me that I had never really taken the time to look into his work. Yesterday while doing my usual scout, I stumbled across a Collider interview with Tom (below) and found myself immersed in hearing about his start as both an electronic music producer and his transformation into a film composer. I found it humbling to hear that for him, at the time of entering the film score production circuit, his tracks were at number one in several countries and despite this, he took up work as an assistant for the likes of Harry Gregson-Williams to gain a better insigne of just how scores are produced in Hollywood, an amazing level of dedication and respect for an industry he clearly admires. For anyone fighting to get into film and wondering just how you are going to manage working 16 hour days as a film composer, I would recommend watching this interview as he also touches upon productivity, assistants, studio setups, sample synchronisation and the dedication required to move forward in this industry.

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Hans Zimmer Revealed

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Hans Zimmer Revealed

I had heard Zimmer comment in an interview around the time of Chris Nolan’s Inception in 2010 that he had been contemplating taking some time off from movie scoring to take his music around the world with a bunch of his friends and an orchestra.

I had been intrigued by this but after another seeing one move after another being added to his IMDb page, including another Pirates of the Caribbean, Sherlock 2, The Dark Knight RisesMan of Steel12 Years A Slave and Rush to name a few, it seemed this was going to be unlikely.

This is not to say that I wanted to stop hearing Zimmer’s scores in new movies, far from it, I just wanted to see some of his scores performed live and knew I would be interested to study the stage placement and arrangement of the band, not to mention it would simply be an amazing event should it ever actually take place. 

Then I noticed that with the exception of Interstellar (Nolan’s upcoming 2014 feature, and one I’m really looking forward to), his schedule looked fairly light in comparison to the previous years. This was followed by one boring weekday afternoon sitting at my day job bored out of my mind and daydreaming about film as usual, I received an email from one of the many live event websites of which I am partied and they happened to be advertising an event called Hans Zimmer Revealed. I instantly looked into it and excitedly bought the best and most expensive seats I could afford at the time, the gig was finally actually going to happen.

The event page on Eventim (I would later find out that Eventim Apollo is actually the new name for the Hammersmith Apollo) didn’t really give away too much, I could only gather that Zimmer was to perform works spanning his entire career with a handful of musicians, an orchestra and a choir.

As I had booked the tickets so far in advance, I totally forgot about the concert and only remembered when my iPhone notified me around 6 days before the event, I then started to really look forward to it

Arrival (and no, not the intro track to Abigail by King Diamond, metal heads will appreciate this one!)

I arrived alone but was met with hundreds of people waiting outside the venue eagerly trying to get into the concert hall, eventually the doors opened, but they then held us in the foyer with nothing else to do but buy a pint, this was done on purpose I’m sure! So I lined at the bar and began firing up some conversation with some folks and happily shared my program with some students who were too skint to fork out a tenner to get their own; admittedly, I did think I had misread the sign when I glanced over and read “Programs £10”.


Interestingly, I started noting the diversity of the attendees. This is something I have always found interesting about film and film music, somehow your audience is in many ways totally unpredictable and I found myself trying to figure out which of Zimmer’s scores people were most excited to hear just by looking at them, silly I know!  

The Program

Inception is a popular score and as I waiting intently among large groups of revellers, some of which were already on their second drink, I overheard many people comment, mostly with disappointment that there was no mention of the score on the program, I however was not worried…

We were there on the second evening of the two date show and just as I tend to do with the movies and listen to the score in advance of seeing the film (Something I almost always regret doing), I had spend my time on the commute to the venue watching snippets of the previous nights performance on Instagram, I knew Inception would be the encore but decided to keep this to myself.  

The program also revealed that the soloists performing that evening would be amoung others Johnny Marr, Nick Glennie-Smith, Richard Harvey, Andrew Kawczynski, Steve Mazzaro, Satnam Ramgotra, Frank Ricotti, Guthrie Govan, Ann Marie Simpson, Czarina Russell, Aleksey Igudesman, Tristan Schulze, Mary Scully and Yolanda Charles. I was not unimpressed!

I decided that I didn’t really want to drink anymore so as soon as the doors opened for the stalls, I heading inside to find my seat and studied the venue. I had never been to the Apollo, it was smaller than I expected but intimate which I liked, not too hot and I could see the stage clear enough; that is of course until a very tall couple just had to be seated directly in front of me, a short-arse! While they didn’t seem too bothered, I’m sure the good people seated to the left and right of me were getting a little fed up with me towards the end with my constant leaning left and right to get a better view, but honestly, I was too immerses to care.

Lights. Camera…The First Half
Well, I can tell you now, I think the concert was fantastic and totally different to what I had expected (in a good way of course).

The lights dimmed, people cheered and then a medley of themes kicked the night off. Opening with Driving Miss Daisy, an intimate performance (or at least to begin with) consisting of the memorable synth ostinato which had started before the curtains were even raised, Hans on the piano and just a handful of instrumentalists (notably Richard Harvey on woodwinds and Nick Glennie Smith on keyboards). As the theme built and the music began to swell, a second set of curtains were raised perfectly in time with the music to reveal a string quartet and impressive battery of drums with Satnam Ramgotra at the helm; Hans later revealed that the drummer had put together the entire percussion line-up for the evening. I was excited by this as ever since I saw Satnam perform alongside Hans for the live performance of the Inception score at its Hollywood premier, I have considered him to be the man when it comes to movie/large percussion. Finishing Driving Miss Daisy, these musicians carried the music perfectly into Sherlock which saw Hans switch from piano to banjo and by the time that ended and Madagascar started, a further third layer of musicians at the back of the stage contained behind plastic walls to isolate the drums were revealed. The third layer consisted of a large string and brass section and the Crouch End Festival Chorus. This was the band, I was locked in and realised that evening was going to be every more entertaining than I had originally thought.

Throughout the show in between suites, Hans would add amusing anecdotes and tales surrounding each film, its producers/directors and the musicians he had worked with along the way. It was a great way to break up the night and it gave you enough time to process the majesty of the previous suite before hearing another.

Following the medley, I was particularly locked in yet again to the Crimson Tide performance. The Crouch End Festival Chorus added fantastic voice and once into the cue, it was the first time I heard the bombastic blasting percussion that we all know and love, Hans on the synthesisers and musicians playing at top dynamics, a force not to be reckoned with! This was followed by Angels and Demons and The Da Vinci Code where again I was incredibly impressed with the chorus, warmed by the lush textures of the string and brass ensembles and intrigued by the unique voices of the soloists; Gladiator of course went down a storm with Hans this time on the guitar and although Lisa Garrard could not be present, Miriam Blennerhassett did a fantastic job on the lead vocal.

Now speaking of Gladiator, I found this interesting. I had seen Gladiator at the Royal Albert Hall with the Philharmonia Orchestra & Chorus and Lisa Gerrard live in May, only a few months prior and while I will admit that overall I preferred hearing the score performed by a symphony orchestra, perhaps because it was more befitting to the original arrangement, Hans’s performance in many ways was more touching. It encompassed far more nuances from the solo performances (including Hans’s himself) and portrayed the earthy, organic and emotive atmospheres of the score in a more direct light.

Scores for both The Lion King and Pirates of the Caribbean were to finish the first half of the concert, and they did so on a real high note. Lebo M, the South African singer and composer whose powerful and now ironic vocal is heard in the very first frame of the animation was present and when he casually walked onto the stage and started singing the audience (including myself) went crazy. I love ethnic percussion and singing styles so for me, I was fully on board and the performers were clearly having a lot of fun, that was until that heartbreaking middle cue from ‘This Land’ dropped and knocked us all for six. After some more funny tales from Hans and with it’s swashbuckler feel, loud brass, thundering percussion and sweeping melodies, Zimmer & Friends finished the first half off with a suite from Pirates of the Caribbean. Again lots of fun, lots of jigging and bloody loud. I think both Ann-Marie Simpson and Aleksey Igudesman, Zimmer’s solo violinists for the night appeared to be having the most fun of all as they danced around the stage! In fact, Igudesman was creasing me up for most of the night with his various hats, wigs and masks which he would sport to best suit the score being performed, brilliant!

Way More Lights. Far Less Cameras…The Second Half
After a swift visit to the bar, and a couple of brief conversations and it was time for part two and I found myself even more excited to see what was in store for us.

Cameras…Now, I had planned to get some footage of the concert myself, but I decided not to. Not only were the stewards fairly militant about you doing so, regularly tapping people on the shoulder and wagging their fingers, I decided I was not going to watch the performance through an iPhone screen. Furthermore, because the Apollo is not really on a gradient as you might expect, with the seats cascading up from the front row up, every time someone had their phone or camera up in the air, it would obstruct the view for everyone behind them; this was particularly irritating for me as I was already obstructed by the two giants (well from my perspective anyway) who were seated in front of me. Luckily there was far less filming in the second half which was just as well, as things were about to get dark!

Hans opened the second half in another medley-esque style with performances of True Romance, Rainman and Green Card. Again it was a great opener which settled the audience back into the show and I loved it. The lighting had really stepped up its game, I mean, it was good in the first half, but this was something else. For example, chimes were projected onto the wall on both sides of the auditorium and each time notes were hit in the opening of Rain Man, one of the climes would illuminate in time with the music, very immersive.

From here, things got louder as we were quickly thrown into Man of Steel and The Thin Red Line, both excellent scores and performed with precision, I noted the lighting was becoming more and more intense and spilling around the entire room providing a really cinematic environment perfect for the scores.

Then something unexpected happened; we were preparing to hear the The Amazing Spider-Man 2 score, Johnny Marr had already entered the stage sometime during Man of Steel, but the audience lost their minds, even with stand ovation when Pharrell Williams jolted on and performed his track “Happy” which had been arranged for the entire orchestra. I’m not familiar with William’s solo material, I know him vaguely from the rap/metal band N.E.R.D and I loved his fantastic performance with Daft Punk on their latest highly successful release “Random Access Memories”, but I really did enjoy Happy and have since bought the album. Happy was followed by various cues from Spiderman. I had not seen the Amazing Spiderman movies and had not even listened to the score; it was fantastic! The rock/metal side mixed with harsh electronic transients thundered through the venue (Mel Wesson’s presence was defiantly felt, I didn’t see him come on, but he was now onstage with some large and very impressive looking synths), the lighting was crazy, the volume had increased and Pharrell’s vocals were being frantically panned all around the room as repeated the lyrics “Something’s Happenin, Mind destructing. Agony Inside Of Me. My Pulse Is Raising. Mental Torture. Self Destroyer. Can’t Ignore the Paranoia”. I really should watch the film…

After Hans’s talk post Spiderman and began to introduce Nolan's The Dark Knight/The Dark Knight Rises, I knew we were in for something special. The darkened room suddenly began to shake as the sub octaves from Wesson’s synths bounced around the room, again I loved it and it was the first time I had experienced that amount of bass in a small venue. As the suite developed, the lighting and visual projections were in full swing, the lights circling percussionists as they aggressively hit their drums and focusing in on soloists and ensembles as they thundered out their parts and Dark Knight-esque graphics were on all the walls, it was incredibly immersive and I don’t think I blinked throughout the entire suite. 

To end the concert, Zimmer gave an emotional speech about the tragedy surrounding the Batman films, beginning with Heath Ledger’s accidental death and then the massacre in Colorado’s Aurora when a gunman walked into a cinema and began shooting people during a screening of The Dark Knight Rises. As he gave his speech, the musicians began to perform Aurora, a composition that Zimmer had recorded and released in tribute following the event.

As the music came to an end, myself and the audience stood up, cheering and clapping away, I laughed as I saw some people attempting to leave as I knew Inception would follow. The curtains once again came up and the intended ending of the show began as “Half Remembered Dream”, “Dream Is Collapsing”, “Mombasa” and of course ended the show with “Time”.

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The Gravity Effect

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The Gravity Effect

So I went down to the IMAX last week to check out Alfonso Cuarón’s Gravity. Like most films, before even getting into the movie theatre I suspected that I may spoilt the film for myself! I always spend far too much time reading about the post-production process and the production of the soundtrack that I usually know far too much about the film. I sometimes feel I should ban myself from the internet for a few weeks before a movie release but I digress.

“The 90-minute picture — unusually short in today’s world — is cited as having just 156 shots in total, with several that are six, eight and ten minutes long”
- Arri Media

What can I say? I thought Gravity was nothing short of awesome! Emmanuel Lubezki’s shots and his editorial team have in my opinion utilised every possible frame of the 70mm IMAX film stock to deliver some truly mesmerising visuals. From the very beginning we have an opening continual 17-minute shot where the camera maneuvers around the characters in space and none of the videos and interviews I had seen with Gravity’s re-recording mixer Skip Lievsay or composer Steven price could prepare me for what the film had in store sonically.

“One of the first things Alfonso was really clear about was the fact that we were operating in a vacuum. The stuff we’re gonna be dealing with – vibrations and those sorts of sounds and low frequency kind of rumbles you might hear within a space suit – all of a sudden, this world opened up, and what could music be in that environment?”
- Steven Price


As we all know, there is no sound is space…Many composers (myself included with my video Roving The Cosmos) seem fascinated with space and synchronising rich textural sound design to spacey videos, but in reality, with no air to transmit sound waves, space just does not sound of anything. It is clear that the Gravity sound team have been very aware of this fact, and have engineered the sound in such as way that during the film’s space scenes only the musical score and sounds astronauts would hear in their suits or the space vehicles are audible. Skip’s ‘less-is-more’ approach to the mix has really worked for this film, for a little insight on this, check out Avid’s YouTube video interview with him below. You can also get inside the mind of film composer Steven Price via the following interview links by Film Music Network and Rolling Stone.

Gravity for me was the first film that I had seen in the cinema which contained scenes of total structured silence, and boy was is effective! What really interested me, was the reaction of the audience during this scene; it was as if the audience had all taken a deep breath and stopped moving or something had somehow vacuumed all possibility of sound from the auditorium. This was something that really resonated with me on a experiential level and it is something I will be looking for in future films.

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Danny Elfman Live @ The Royal Albert Hall

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Danny Elfman Live @ The Royal Albert Hall

I ventured out to the Royal Albert Hall to watch a selection of live Danny Elfman’s cues for his work on the Tim Burton films and thought I’d share some pictures we managed to take on the night.  A really great atmosphere and fantastic to see Mr. Elfman himself performing the role of ‘Jack’ from Nightmare Before Christmas. 

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War & Garbage Into Music: Transducing Negativity With The Post War Orchestra

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War & Garbage Into Music: Transducing Negativity With The Post War Orchestra

It was during the interval of a Ligeti Qaurtet concert in Brighton earlier this year where I was amazed to watch a short introductory trailer for a movement known as the Post War Orchestra screening in the venue.

The Post War Orchestra essentially recycle weaponry turning them into musical instruments. This was the first time I had become aware of such a practice and became fascinated by the acoustics of the different materials used to create the instruments. I was left wondering about the potential of the different timbres that could be created from the weapons.

PWO Intro from Post War Orchestra on Vimeo.

I had spent some after the concert reading into the orchestra as I really wanted to attend a performance, but being busy completing my degree, the orchestra quickly slipped my mind. I was however quickly reminded of this idea of recycling materials into instruments when I saw some pictures posted by Classic FM which showed and briefly discussed an orchestra called the “Landfill Harmonic” in Cateura, Paraguay, who were performing with instruments made entirely from landfill waste! 

After digging deeper and watching the video above, I found a far deeper message behind these pictures than just the creation of instruments and wanted to write a blog post documenting what I had found. Cateura is a poverty-stricken, landfill town which receives more than 1,500 tonnes of waste each day, many young children are forced to work on the landfills and left with little or no hope of a better life. This changed when ecological technician Favio Chávez began using the landfill waste to create instruments that the local children could play, this founded the entire recycled orchestra project!

I think this is a truly amazing project which has given the children in Paraguay something to focus on, it seems to be building a musical community with new music schools being formed where kids are given an opportunity to connect creatively and perform to their relatives and friends.

I further discovered that a successful Kickstarter project has just ended which will not only allow filmmakers to document two of the most vital issues of our times, poverty and waste pollution, but give the children in the orchestra the chance to tour overseas performing with their instruments. This will hopefully inspire other organizations and individuals to join in support the movement. I hope you will read more, follow and support the movement on Facebook, and check out the Kickstarter Project for more information on the documentary.

These videos reminded me that music truly is a human and universal language and it has the power to promote positivity even in the worse of circumstances, if the orchestra are set to perform anywhere near me in the future, I’ll be sure to get a ticket!

To end, I thought I would share another video link i found on Facebook of a man literally ‘playing’ a bed frame producing a flute-like timbre. Enjoy!

https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?v=485913424791574

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Evelyn Glennie: How to truly listen

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Evelyn Glennie: How to truly listen

I have often thought about how we experience music and how this experience must differ from one person to another. Two people might be in the same concert hall, or even just sitting in a living room listening to music, but experience the sound in a totally different way. This could perhaps be down where the person is seated, maybe certain frequencies in the instrumental timbre are accentuated, or frequencies maybe in the bottom end (bass) of the sound example are dampened, therefore altering the persons experience or interpretation of the piece.


Either way, I believe that listening to music and indeed sound is a multi-sensual experience that is not only processed by our ears, but felt throughout our whole body which can influence how we feel about a certain sound or combination of sounds. I am sure many of us have been in a place where loud music is played and have felt the bass literally pumping through us, is this music? Or sound? It is perhaps besides the point, but it is a good example of how a sound is being felt rather than heard. In this soaring demonstration, deaf percussionist Evelyn Glennie illustrates how listening to music involves much more than simply letting sound waves hit your eardrums. Glennie lost nearly all of her hearing by age 12 but rather than that isolating her from music, it gave her a unique connection to sound.


One interesting topic I began to think about while listening to Evelyn speak, is the difference between experiencing music through performance, live at concert, through speakers projecting sound-waves into a room, headphones projecting sound into your ear and ear-buds which emit sound literally straight to your eardrum. This would suggest that the latter two options remove a significant amount of emotive qualities from music. Food-for-thought!

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Personatones Interview

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Personatones Interview

I was recently asked by Ringtone specialists Personatones to answer some questions as part of a 10 question interview surrounding my composition style, influences, approach and management of my time and music, I was more than happy to take part and hope you will find my responses insightful

1. When did you compose/ produce your first piece of music?

Being born in the late 1980s, I grew up with technology. I guess my first experience with music was at around 13 and was really loosely based around ‘arranging‘ than actual composing. I had some software called Dance eJay and we were all using it at school. I can clearly remember rushing home to continue dragging all these coloured panels containing different sample types from different categories; from lead lines to bases and percussion into a basic arrangement page. I guess the samples must have been in the same key or self adjusting as you selected them or something, as I was certainly not aware of such things then.  It’s a great way for kids to get into music!

While in the band I contributed some rhythm riffs but never thought of myself as a songwriter or anything like that in those days. I found the whole process quite scary thinking back on it and mostly just wanted to play and have fun. My first serious composition, I guess, was around three years ago and it was a dark atmospheric electronic piece.

2. What was it that inspired you to begin composing/ producing?

I studied a module on my Music Production course at University which covered music and sound within the moving image and that really opened the door for me and inspired me to get composing.

I think film music has always moved me; I get very into the whole world of a film and the sonic environment is a big part of that. I mean, I’m laughing now, but I can remember hiding behind the sofa as a kid as soon as I heard Mussorgsky’s ‘Night On Bald Mountain’ in Disney’s Fantasia. The visuals were pretty creepy, but I think the music scared me more and those two elements put together was just too much!

My Dad purchased his first home cinema sound system in around 1995; I was just blown away experiencing surround sound for the very first time. I remember being transported from the front room straight into the action on the movie screen and would always look forward to watching a film with him.

3. Is there a philosophical approach that underpins your work?

It really depends on the project I guess. The great thing about composing to film is you are given the gift of the film itself and that is usually a great basis for inspiration; be it from the mood, the movement, the story or even the place, it literally can be anything. My job is to react to the visuals quickly and start to develop the themes and key motifs. I try to ‘become’ the character or event when looking for an emotional voice, but for me, defining the atmosphere and general mood of the picture is usually first on my priority list. This will then dictate the instrumentation and usually things start happening pretty fast.

When composing off picture, I think my inspiration comes from just general observation. If you look hard enough there is so much going on in the world, lets underscore it! Sometimes I come up with a script thatexists in my head and write to that; I think my music is generally very cinematic in approach every time.

4. What drives you to continue to be a composer/ producer?

Music is always surprising me, there is so much content out there I just feel like I’m learning constantly and always looking for new approaches to composition. I don’t think it will ever become boring or static, there is so much room for collaboration and exploration within music and film is a great place for this. I guess that is what drives me to continue composing and getting out there looking for projects.

5. Which composers’/ producers’ work do you particularly admire? and why?

Wow, where to even begin. I have come to admire composers from different angles, either the music itself, the approach to the composition, or a mix of the two I guess. I have recently spent some time exploring Jerry Goldsmith’s work for ‘Planet of the Apes’ and ‘Alien’ which are two very similar scores in terms of approach and function; the level of detail in the orchestration and amount of thought that went into the instrumentation is just unreal; and this is the thing you know, who would get away with releasing ‘Planet of the Apes’ as a commercial musical release on it’s own? I can’t imagine it would do too well, but when synced with Franklin J. Schaffner’s film, it just interlocked so well and was a successful score, film really is the composer’s best friend as it gives the green light for experimentation.

Generally I’m a bit of a mixed bag, I love Zimmer’s bombastic scores for the more contemporary action films; Williams for his romantic work; Steiner for his Mickey Mousing; Herrmann’s haunting, impressionist work for ‘Psycho’ and his Jazzy work in ‘Taxi Driver’ all the way up to Trent Reznor’s more electronic textural approach for ‘The Social Network’ and pretty much everything in-between. I’m pretty open-minded when it comes to music.

6. How do you go about starting a new piece?

It normally starts on the piano while I’m working out the foundations and trying to find my sonic voice then it really depends on the project, I try not to start orchestrating too early on as I consider that to be a separate task and it can create more work for yourself, especially if your core idea changes halfway through. At times however, I do take a linear approach and orchestrate/arrange as I’m composing. Other times, it is literally the timbre and expression of the instrument which I feel speak more than the notes themselves so I will start to play around with sounds and textures rather than ‘music’ itself, I guess this is more where my ‘sound design’ element comes into play. This obviously depends on how you define sound and music; to me there is little difference between the two.

7. What is it you do that defines your style?

I am often asked this question and find it really hard to answer. I feel my music tends to be consistent in mood. This is perhaps created through my use of basses and cellos. I love the drone effect, something I have perhaps picked from listening to eastern music, Indian classical music specifically and in a sense is perhaps intrinsic to film music in its attempt to add atmosphere to a scene. I try to change and add movement to accentuate parts of the music as it develops in my low instruments and I’m always trying to play around with my cellos and bases to create different textures between them. This is then then reversed at times moving the drone to 1st (and 2nd at times) violins and basses should my melodic line move to the cellos and violas. I’m guessing my style may change and develop over time, but for now this seems to be working for me .

8. How do you know when your piece is finished?

I don’t think a piece of music is ever finished as with any art, there is always a couple more things you could do here and there. The deadline I guess will dictate when the music is finished if working to project. I have resorted to completing a piece, saving the files and then archiving them on a separate hard-drive so I can’t open and start fiddling with my completed work.  It’s down to discipline I think, telling yourself “no,” this one is done now. It’s not always the case, but it can be counter-productive agonising over previous works, once they’re done, they’re done and move on.

9. What are you working on at the moment?

I’m working on a few personal projects, nothing exclusively to picture at the moment but I try to keep composing as much as I can. I have an Indian/Western orchestral fusion in the works that I am really excited about and am working on a Mancini-esque big band arrangement as a rescore for the opening credits to the film ‘Catch Me If You Can’.

10. What other other passions do you have, when you’re not composing?

I like to cook, spend time with my girlfriend and socialize with friends and family as much as I can. I enjoy walking, attempting to catch up on TV series such as “Game of Thrones” (which I am still about a series behind on), playing some video games occasionally when I have the time and recently I have started becoming interested in photography and have found my way around Photoshop, but that is another story!

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