A Wrong Turn

We all have habits. We all have tendencies. We all lean one way or the other depending on mood or situation or the phase of the moon. I find that these leanings are even more prevalent when doing something that we’re “good” at, or when we’re working in our well practiced field. And that is intrinsically dangerous.

Musically, I lean towards build and growth. Translated this means that the sound gets more complicated, more instruments play, and the volume tends to increase. These are just tendencies and certainly aren’t mandates, but in general my songs tend to take on this form unless I’m careful not to do it.

This isn’t always an issue. Mostly it’s easy enough to break down the over-orchestrated passages in order to make a more linear song appropriate for gameplay looping. However, sometimes it is not that easy.

On my most recent project, Super Secret Project Alpha (not the game’s actual name; just my dry wit), I found myself taking a very lighthearted flute and violin song in 6/8 down a very dark path. The song is in the Key of D and mostly hovers in and around D, so it is bright and fun. The violin and flute whimsically trade melodies and seem to dance about the score.

And halfway through this song, I decided to change the chord progression from D major and harmonious consonances to D minor, D diminished, then to D augmented. The flute drops out and the violin played fast and dissonant runs up and down the changing chords. It sounded like something out of a horror movie and was completely wrong for the track and even the project in general.

Fixing it this time means deleting 64 measures of work, maybe more, probably more, most likely more. 64 measures is about 4-5 hours of work for me, at least it was that day. And it was 6 staves deep, so really I’m deleting 384 measures. Part of me says, “keep it for another project” but I won’t. It wouldn’t be fair to the project that ends up with it so I’ll just delete it.

It’s not the first time I’ve trashed 5 hours of work. Contrarily, 5 hours of fruitless composing is fairly conservative. Sometimes I go through 5 or 6 complete songs before I find the right sound and feel for the game. This time is not much different, but I am shocked at how far off the path I ended up.

I chalk it up to compositional blindness and start again.

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