With Progress Comes Change

My workflow over the last few years hasn’t changed much. I’ve always used Logic to compose my music and I’ve always used my EastWest sounds for my orchestra running off my laptop. But as my projects, vision and skill increase in size, I must adapt to those changes. After 3 day test, I wrote that I would slowly be upgrading my music rig over the coming months. It started with the simple addition of my little MOTU Microbook II. Apple has recently released their 27in iMac which will be replacing my current laptop when it becomes available, and I am eagerly awaiting that day. In the meantime, there was some software I wanted to purchase to increase the capabilities of my music. At first, I wanted to wait until I got my new computer, but now that I find myself in between projects, I figured this would be the perfect time to learn new software, as it will be changing the way I write music quite a bit.

First, it has become apparent that even though I primarily write for orchestra, other sounds are often needed to supplement the music. This was most evident in my most recent film, Barlowe Mann. In that score, I used a fair number of synthesized instruments, as well as real instruments that were heavily modified for the ethereal and often whimsical sound I was going for. I knew it was time to invest in some synths, and there’s nothing better to start with than Omnisphere.

Omnisphere is called a Power Synth. Not only does it come with over 8000 preset sounds, it allows for the creation of sounds, so it has nearly unlimited possibilities. This should allow me to create any atmosphere or non-orchestral sound I need for any project. I’m very excited to begin learning this new program. 
During another blog post, I mentioned a piece of software called Vienna Ensemble.
 I was first introduced to Vienna during my time with Mike Post, and its benefits were instantly visible to me. Here’s the nutshell version. Any time you close a track you are working on and load another, your composition software needs to reload all the sounds for that project, even if the sounds are the same. This wastes a lot of time and puts extra strain on your equipment. Vienna (among many other features) loads all your sounds into itself, so you don’t need to reload everything when you switch projects. It’s really useful. 
Both these programs arrived today, and I am installing them as I write. These programs, Vienna especially are going to drastically change how I go about making music, so there’s a lot to learn. I will be using this downtime to get everything in order for the next big thing. 
Speaking of the next big thing, I have received word that Corbin will be filming his next movie in April and it looks as of right now that I will be involved in the music for that one. Details are scarce right now, but I’ll be sure to write in as soon as I know. Stay tuned for more updates as I tackle these new programs!

A Lot Can Happen in a Month

Hello everyone! I finally have time to come up for air and write a blog post. I’ve missed you all. There’s a lot to talk about and show you and I hope I don’t leave anything out.

The last month has been a crazy one. I have been mostly locked inside my apartment working on the score for Barlowe Mann. I’m happy to say, as of last week, the score is finished. This project has been a pleasant challenge and quite a lot of fun to work on. The music is very different from my usual variety and I love doing new things, so this score has been a blast. This was a very tight timeframe, so burning the midnight oil was a must. Thankfully the deadline was met and the sound department is now hard at work mixing my music in with the dialogue and sound effects for the film. I’d like to take this opportunity to give you a sampling of some of the music from the film. I hope you like it.

 

      Escape


 

      Questions


 

      Depression


 

During the final weeks of working on Barlowe Mann, an opportunity came up that I absolutely had to make time for. When you go to a movie theater, before the previews there is usually a short ad for the theater you are in. “Welcome to ______ Cinemas” and it involves something like a roller coaster showing where you can buy popcorn and whatnot. I was asked to do music for a theater chain in Philadelphia for one of those videos. The video is this amazing and quirky little animation of a moviegoer getting thrown through all the different genres of movies before landing in his seat. The music is supposed to parallel the type of movie he is moving through. That kind of exposure was too good to pass up so I pulled a few all nighters and made a sample to send off. Last week I was emailed by the guy who asked me to try out, and he let me know that my piece was chosen to accompany the video! So in a few months, if you find yourself at a Hollywood Cinema in Philly, you’ll be hearing my music before the movie starts. I’ll post the music for it here, and once the final animation is finished, I’ll be sure to put that up here as well.

 

      Hollywood Cinemas Music


 

It has been such an amazing month and everything really seems to be coming together. The strange thing for me has been adapting to these new jobs mentally. What I mean is this: My process and the way I’ve been writing my music hasn’t changed at all since I got my first computer for music. My rig is still in my bedroom, and most days I’ll wake up and write in my PJs (comfort is important when you’re at your keyboard for 10 or more hours a day). But then this music gets put into a feature film bound for television, or into a theater, and I need to put on a suit and go to production meetings. It’s as if part of my music life hasn’t changed at all, and at the same time it is completely different. This became very apparent last saturday. Saturday was the premiere for my first film I scored, 3 Day Test. A red carpet event was held in LA at the Downtown Independent Theater. Cast, crew and guests were invited to see the finished film on the Big Screen.

I arrived early to pick up my ticket. It felt like any other movie ticket, but this is for a film I know very well.

Outside the theater was the red carpet, a ton of press and a photo wall for press shots.
Corbin giving an interview for a TV network
Primary Cast taking photos in front of the press wall
Lead actor George Newbern giving his interview

This was my first experience with press. Luckily, as this was my first film, nobody knew who I was, so I wasn’t asked any questions . . . until the movie ended. We all make it into the theater, and before the film starts, the owner of our distributing company, Echolight Films makes a small speech about the film. Then Corbin took the stage to talk about what this film meant to him. During that time, he made sure to thank the cast and crew for their contribution to the film. But then he started talking about how he discovered this great,  young composer who wrote a soundtrack that sounded like it costed a million dollars. He made me stand up in the audience, and it was totally overwhelming. The gratitude he showed over my work was one of the best feelings I’ve ever had. He mentioned that he’ll be using me for all his future films. After that, there was no hiding. We watched the film, and it got such a great reaction. It was such a great day.

 

Afterwards there was a short reception. I was able to talk with the cast again and congratulate them on a job well done. Because of the wonderful words Corbin said about me, I was suddenly asked to be in pictures and did an interview for some network about my music for the film.

The team behind the film told me that they will be filming their next movie in march and it’s very likely I’ll be asked to score that one as well. Things are really picking up. I also got to speak to the producer for Barlowe Mann who I had never met before. She told me that because Barlowe Mann tackles some very heavy topics, a lot of changes had to be made to the story of the film. She was worried the film would be hard to follow at that point, and she told me that after she had heard the music, it all came together. She went as far as to say my music saved the film. What a compliment! She’s a screenwriter herself and said that if one of her films gets off the ground soon, she may contact me to score that one as well. It’s amazing the kind of networking opportunities you get when you go to an event like this.

 

So after this crazy event, I’m back at home and have a little downtime until my next big project. I never would have thought that within such a short time, I’d have two movies back to back with more to expect in the future. I’m so grateful for everything that has happened this month, and I can’t wait to see what happens next.

 

IMDB

This will be a quick little update. After the wonderful news of having my first film available for purchase, I got another little surprise today as well. I went on IMDB today to show someone the film I’m currently working on, and discovered that I now have my own little page regarding my composing, and my films are now listed on it! It came a such a shock to see my name on a site that I frequent, and it’s quite an honor. I’m including a link to the page now, where you can also see more information on the films. Stay tuned for the promised music update. It’s coming soon!

The 3 Day Test DVD is Out!

Hey everyone! An update is long overdue, and I promise that I will have a big music update soon. I am in the crunch period for the Barlowe Mann film, hence the long gap between posts. I’ll be sure to make up for it in the upcoming days with some sneak peaks at the music for the movie. In the meantime, I was just given word that the DVDs for 3 Day Test have gone on sale and are available now! I’m so excited to celebrate the release of my first movie I’ve scored. Here’s a link to the page on Amazon.

If you happen to find yourself with a copy of the film, I do hope you enjoy it, and I’ll be sure to keep you all up to date with information on the TV release when I hear word. 

Meet Emma

A couple months ago I met a girl named Sarah Long. Sarah is a writer of the paranormal and science fiction and is exceptionally talented. She has embarked on a very similar adventure to mine. She is at the start of her journey to become a best-selling author, and from what I’ve seen so far, no one deserves it more than she.

I have the honor of being in the middle of reading an advance draft of her first novel, and within two days I find myself to be more than halfway through. Her characters leapt out at me and inspired me to realize them in music. Her lead character is a girl named Emma, growing up in Victorian England. Emma has a lot going on under the surface of her carefully controlled exterior so she makes for an excellent person to base music off of. First I created a piano draft of her theme to make sure I was on the right track with her sound.

 

      Emma Piano


 

Sarah let me know that I really got her personality down in that piece, so I wanted to move forward. After a full day and sleepless night of writing, I had my final version of Emma’s theme. Sarah’s reaction to the music was one of the best I have ever had, so I hope you enjoy it as well.

 

      Emma Orchestral


 

You can read some of Sarah’s short stories, as well as follow her progress towards publishing the novel here.

You can expect to hear more music based on her story soon, as I have an idea to bring back a long-dead idea that I sorely miss.

PS – Thank you all for sticking with this blog as I celebrate my 100th post! I won’t be stopping anytime soon, so onward towards 200!

Barlowe Mann

Last week I was given my second film to score for Corbin Bernsen. The film is called Barlowe Mann. It is the story of a young boy growing up in a very religious town. His family raises him to accept faith and God as the answer to life’s questions, but science makes more sense to him. The movie follows his journey as he struggles to make sense of these two very different concepts, and he is aided by a strange man who arrives in town named Barlowe.

It’s a very interesting film with a great message. Corbin wanted the music to almost serve as another character in the film, not always going along with the scene, but sometimes pushing the actors in one direction or another. Specifically, he wanted 3 distinct themes to represent the main areas of the film. One theme would be for Barlowe. His music should be mysterious and a little childish. The idea of faith should also have it’s own theme. This would be comprised of mostly strings with long, warm tones. Basically it should feel like a blanket. And finally, the idea of science should have a theme. This one should sound more mathematical, cold and predictable.

As I began sketching ideas, I had a thought. The lead character struggles with these ideas throughout the movie, and different ones in different combinations tug at him all the time. I wondered if I could create 3 themes that work on their own, but when put together also create a coherent piece of music. I got to work and a day later, I had a working idea. I sent it to Corbin and he wrote me one of the nicest emails in response. My idea was a go, so I set to work. As of this moment I am a little over 10 minutes into the film, but I hope to get that number up after today. I’d like to show you all the theme ideas I came up with. I hope you enjoy!

 

      Barlowe's Theme


 
      Faith


 
      Science


 
      All Themes Together


 
Even more to come very soon!

The Christmas Spectacular Recording

Last week I had the honor of being invited to a recording at Capitol Records. Disney Tokyo is preparing their Christmas Spectacular show at Disney Seas, and Greg Smith, among other composers had been asked to write the music for the show. Greg invited me so I could see how a live orchestra recording is done, and to introduce me to some people who can help me get live players for my future film scores. The recording was to be broken up into two days. Day one would be percussion and rhythm section instruments, and day two would be strings, brass and woodwinds.

Early monday morning I made the drive up to Hollywood Boulevard to the capitol records building. I was signed in by the security, and it was in the parking lot that I was greeted with my first surprise.

For the two days that I would be there, I had my own parking spot. They sure did a great job of making me feel important. The building itself is such a cool place. 
After getting inside, I had to sign myself in, and I was given a badge as to what my role wold be during the recording. Notice the watermark in the background? After 24 hours, a watermark saying expired will appear so you can’t get back in on a different day!
The recording studios are in the basement. So after a trip down a few long hallways, I found myself in Studio A. The room was beautiful. All of my dream gear was piled everywhere and all the engineers were getting ready for the days recordings. Greg was there, talking to some of the players. He brought me into the recording room, which was incredible. 
Inside the room was everyone who would be involved with the recording. The CEO, musical director and show director of Tokyo Disney were there. Running the show was Dan Savant, who will be the person I speak to whenever I want to use live players for a film. Mike (the man with the hat in the picture) runs the soundboard and positions all the mics, and he’s an absolute genius. Just by listening, he can tell how many inches a mic needs to be moved for a better sound. He was so fast. The ProTools operator was Melissa, and I could not believe how quickly she can start a new session and process recordings. It seemed extra human. Standing in front of the soundboard is Dan Stamper. If it’s music for Disney, it has to go through him. Apart from Greg, some of the other music for the show was being written by Don Harper, who was there, and two other composers who could not attend, so Don would be conducting their pieces. Being in a room full of live players, I knew that it would sound totally different than what I was used to with my digital rig, but I wasn’t prepared for the full sound. It makes all the difference in the world. The emotion the players put in, and the little imperfections are what makes these things sound so good. It was amazing. Here are a few more shots from the day.
Brass are in the foreground. Strings are in the back, separated by a sound wall.
Brass section seen through the recording room window. 
Greg conducting his pieces. 
What can I say about the two days? It was such a great experience and I learned so much. Greg and I spoke on the phone a week after to discuss how the event was for me. He sent me the finished recordings from the session, and it’s amazing to hear the difference. After these raw recordings were processed, they were sent to Disney in Florida where the choirs were waiting. All the vocals were recorded there and the whole thing was mixed there. Hearing a piece of music after being there and seeing it made was very cool. There’s so much more to hear because you’re on the lookout for things you saw or heard during the session.  The next thing Greg wants do is to get me on to one of the big sound stages, either at Warner Brothers or Sony so I can see a film score get recorded to see how it’s different. I don’t think I’ll be complaining about that one. He’s also going to start sending some work my way pretty soon, so I can’t wait for that. Needless to say, these were a couple of days I’ll never forget. I have much more news, but I want to break the posts up, so check back in soon, and there will be more to read….and hear.