Only 16 Measures To Go

I’ve spent the last 3 days scoring the first episode of Princess Zolara and all I can say is [EXPLETIVE DELETED] YEAH!

Thanks to Armand for allowing me to stretch myself on his project. He created a film that shouted at me with audio imagery. “PLAY THIS! RIGHT NOW!” it screamed in my head. And I just had to. This score really breathed life into itself. And it is, today, the work I am most proud of.

Not only am I extremely happy with the resulting body of work, but I am also thoroughly satisfied with all the learning I had to do to make this possible. I have never used hit points and the film score plugins in Sibelius before. I have to say that they are pretty slick; easy to learn and powerful. I may have to take a class or ask around on some of the higher functions of these, but for now, I’m pumped to have learned so much in 3 days.

I don’t have a preview of the music, as it’s getting very close to the final project which will debut at Phoenix Comicon in 2 weeks. I don’t want to tip my hand. You’ll just have to come see it!


Movies and Scores

Armand and his ace team of actors and technicians has finished shooting the dailies for Princess Zolara. I’ll start scoring them very soon. Probably today. I’m getting excited all over again.


Sure it’s only been a few days since I’ve cracked open this particular project, but it’s nice to come back to something that is so fresh and new and exciting to me. I loathe to call it “work”, because I’m having such fun on this project. Everyone on the project has such a great attitude and responds so well to each other in terms of support and creativity, that it feels more like just a bunch of buddies doing something fun. Which, I get, was Armand’s intention all along. Well, goal achieved, Good Sir.


I have yet to look at the dailies, but when I do get the chance to see them, I’ll be working on giving emotional depth the the piece. A scene might need loneliness or rage; neither hard to do per se. The problem, if it can be said to be a problem, is in doing it in such a short amount of time, both in the project and on the screen. We only have 2 weeks to complete this short, and the film itself is only 5 minutes.

Having only 2 weeks to work on the project is a curse and a blessing. On one side, it keeps me focused and diligently working every day for the next week, or however long I have before music is due. Longer projects have a tendency to lose momentum; this one won’t. On the other hand, 1 week to score isn’t much time. Sure it’s only 5 minutes (we’ll talk about the issues that raises later), but come 1 week, no matter what I have actually completed and polished, I’m done. That’s it. No time to go back and edit. When it’s “done” it’s done.

Let’s talk about the brevity of the film. 5 minutes seems like a short time, and it is, agreed. But, often times, these quick projects present the toughest challenges. When I have 3 or 5 minutes to convey an emotion i can create music that builds and takes the listener on a journey. But in a film that is 5 minutes in totality, I may only have 30 seconds to do the same thing. Likely I’ll have less.  So every idea has to be condensed into it’s purest form and presented without preamble. This isn’t impossible, but it is definitely a deviation from my typical method of easing the listener into the emotion I want him/her to experience.

Challenges are what make all this worthwhile to me. Perhaps I should say, it’s one of the things. If it were easy, I’d have lost interest some time ago. All I can do is forge ahead on each project, keeping in mind the obstacles, and devise clever solutions around, over, or even right through them.

Heavy Lifting: Complete

Princess Zolara continues to keep me on my toes. I spent most of the morning working on completing the first mix. In my last blog I talked about the intricacies of mixing, ie taking the score from midi to music. The conversion process can be tedious, especially on a score this size, (over 20 instruments). I’m coasting on momentum at this point. 2 full days of clicking, selecting, opening and closing dialogue boxes and folders, tweaking volumes and doing it all over as more instruments add noise pollution. There’s times when it’s been extremely arduous, but this time is not among those dread sessions. I’m having fun still; again!

I feel really rusty, having worked on much smaller musics for the last several months. It is a lot like muscle confusion, only the muscle I’m confusing is my brain. I suppose that’s just plain old confusion. Umm…

Here’s the latest. I hope it makes you smile, too.

Play Me –> Princess Zolara Mix 02.wav

It’s More Than Just Notes

Maybe it’s a mistake to write this before I have my coffee. Forging on.

I made a preliminary pass at mixing Zolara yesterday. I was only able to get from the piccolo to the timpani. Which means, I still have the rest of the percussion including snares, cymbals and metals to mix and all of the strings.

My main focus in this 1st time through converting from my default Sibelius instruments (fairly generic sounding midi instruments) to East West Quantum Leap Symphonic Orchestra is to match the instrument style as closely as possible. What do I mean by this? I’ll talk specifically about the horns, as this was where spent the most time.

The horns are actually a good example anyway, as there is a great many ways to play them. They can be played mellow, bright, staccato or many other. Additionally, as the instrument changes volume the sound quality also changes greatly. Let’s take bright horns and varying them according to loudness.

Example 1 is 6 bright horns repeating a short melody and growing progressiveness louder. Notice how the sound gets sharper as the instrument is played louder. You can begin to hear the shape of the bell and and the musicians lips pressing hard against the mouthpiece. The resonance changes and the notes begin to mingle together a bit. This is only a good digital reproduction of a recording session; a live performance would have these elements occurring in a much less controlled and more natural way.

Example 1

Example 2 is again 6 horns, but this time we’ll keep the loudness constant and change up the articulation, or style of play. The first is a sort of default method, nothing fancy or too specific. Next is staccato, which is a very short and precise method and lastly is accented or sforzando, similar to the first but with much more energy behind it.

Example 2

As I said earlier, I spent a lot of time working specifically on the horns in this draft of the mix. And I will spend more time getting them just right. Mathematically, with only the options I explained above, I can combine them to give every note 1 of 12 unique expressive states. There are 302 separate notes each with the possibility to be played 1 of 12 different ways, means that there is 3,624 possibilities out there from which to choose. Of course, there is more than just 12 different possibilities, there are dozens making the expression of any piece of music nearly limitless. There are varying degrees of everything from which music consists. I’ve often heard of the paradox of music which goes something like this:

There are 8 notes in an octave. And there are only 2 types of notes; duplets and triplets, notes that exist as 2 to a beat and those and consist of 3 per beat. How then do we create infinite works of music? Shouldn’t there only be 16 ways to combine these elements?

My brief study in this post is my modest contribution to the question, which is admittedly simplified. One can argue that there are  notes in a western scale, some may say that there are actually 12 notes, etc etc. The point is, that even with the same melody which stays unaltered by even a single note, one can create infinite versions of a song based solely on how the notes are played, interpreted, harmonized, orchestrated, counterpoint, and a lifetime of other variations.

Princess Zolara Mix 1

I hope you enjoyed it. I’ll be working more on this mix today, tomorrow, the day after…

Princess Zolara – Main Theme

It’s amazing what a little excitement can do to get you back on track. This movie project really has me in a creative mood. It isn’t easy, and it’s not the enemy (inspiration). It’s work, but it’s the kind of work that I remember. Fun. I’m creating something that I know I’ll be proud of. I’m already very fond of the work, and not just in the “I fall in love with my current projects” way. I really think it’s some of my  best work.

I have had very little source material. Armand has talked with me often about the direction and vision, but visuals and script haven’t been a part of my process this time. Armand has given me the style and musical concept that he wants the score to represent, and my first draft confirmed that we are completely on the same wavelength. He unabashedly liked it. He shouted (via FB Messenger) accolades for the song.

His excitement fuels my creativity and I work more everyday to finish and polish. I’m barely finishing the first draft of orchestrations, and already I love it. There will be further edits once I put release my 1.0 version of the song, I’m sure. And as I continue to score the first, (and on to the remain 4-5 episodes), I will be working with more variations and explore more deeply the world in which the music lives. For now though, I really like the concept and the spirit of adventure that lies within.

I’ve included the first 3 drafts in this post, kind of as a continuation, albeit a tangential one, of my recent exploration of process posts. I am not going to say much about each one in this post, perhaps later. The music itself gives a clear enough picture of my process. The way I flesh out and develop elements, how I create dissonance and resonance and even the supportive and supplemental pieces can be heard being developed from one part to the next. Keep listening until the final chord on v.03 for a surprise. Foreshadowing, one might say.


Princess Zolara v0.1

Princess Zolara v0.2

Princess Zolara v0.3

*mixing to come soon! Forgive the midi for now.

Plans are Funny

Things never turn out the way you expect. And that’s from day to day. Imagine how different our lives will end up being? I can’t predict from yesterday what will happen today. Why do we think we can make 5-year-plans? Or even 5 months plans. Every day is different from the last and different from our imperfect predictions. Plans.

Obviously, I missed a few days with the last song. I didn’t get to it. I was going to come on today and say, “I took the weekend off and now I’m back…” But who am I lying to, if not myself. Ah well. I didn’t follow through on my own project. Figures. I’m the easiest person in the world for me to lie to. And it looks like I did it again. But all isn’t lost.

Sure, I didn’t finish my piano piece. I can use that disappointment to derail me. it would be easy enough. But instead, I used it to get busy elsewhere. After talking with my friend and colleague, Armand Villavert, we reached a decision to bring me on board as official composer. And I’m extremely excited about it. The style, purpose and scale of the work is perfect for what I want to do musically right now. Armand is a brilliant artist and I wait with eager anticipation to see it translated to video. And I get to a apart of the journey! I don’t now much about the project, other than it is a space-age short. And there’s the poster to the left. Now you know about as much as I know.

I’ll post more about the project as I know more. We’re planning to screen it at this year’s Phoenix Comicon Film Festival. I hope you can all make it.

More to come.