Not What I Expected — A Commission Piece

A friend is writing a book. Her first. She had the novel (ha ha ha) idea of creating a soundtrack for the book much the way films do. Each chapter has a playlist that she’s listening to as she writes, and which I believe she intends to include with the published work as suggested listening.

She asked me to compose a specific piece to accompany a specific chapter. It has been an interesting challenge to work on something driven by emotions and motivations which are not drawn directly from my own experiences.

Silent Film Scoring Project Submission Ready

You can check out my 30 second submission for the HPM composer contest here: https://www.dropbox.com/s/gbu3lutd1cfip7e/the%20boat%20clip%20one%20jjm.mp4

The intent is for each “character” to have a musical voice and theme which begins every time that character appears on screen.

  • The Boat – piano
  • The House – bass guitar
  • The Car – percussion
  • Buster – guitar
  • Wife – banjo
  • Children – same guitar and banjo, pitched up two octaves and four times as fast

There would eventually be representations of the water, the bridge &c. in the full length project.

Because each theme begins as the character appears, the music will mix and mingle in new and interesting ways as the film progresses despite utilizing the same themes throughout. This is evidenced in the 30 second clip because Buster stays on the screen through two or three cuts while other things come and go. His theme carries on, and others fall in and out of sync with him.

Do please let me know what you think. The submission deadline is the end of the month.

Silent Film Scoring Project

Houton Public Media is hosting a composing competition for two silent films which will be aired this November at Discovery Green.

One of the two is the Buster Keaton classic “The Boat”.

My plan is to give each “character” a voice. And by character I mean not only the human actors, but also the house, the boat, the water, the bridge, that kind of thing.

By the end of July I have to have a (pre-determined by HPM) 30 second clip of the film synced to appropriate audio and submitted.

I began today with the guitar part for Buster’s character. I’m using my Danelectro DC-3 running through (what is now probably considered vintage) Line6 Pod 2.0 into a Focusrite Scarlett 2i4 interface which then feeds into Ableton Live 9.

(Many thanks to a good friend for letting me set up my studio work space in a spare room of her house as my own life and home are going through some slow motion transitions that don’t really allow for setting up quite this much gear.)

Home Studio

Home Studio

The whole situation gets listened to coming out of KRK Rokit6 monitors.

I’m going to be harvesting the piano sounds, and possibly some of the themes (sped up) from the old G# = H piece which I was working on between Drogo’s View and The Evening Song.

My Song of Lament

[This is not an “All This Time” or “Through the Window of St. Drogo” piece, per se, but I am using those categories because this, to me, is what music is really for. Expressing pain for which there can be no words.]

Twelve years ago, a group of deluded people were tricked by evil men into killing themselves to make a point. The point they sought to make was that the United States of America had spent many decades treating the rest of the world like our ill behaved children and it was about time we swallowed all that pride that made us think we could force the whole world to behave in our best interests all the time.

Sadly, we didn’t learn the lesson. We decided the best thing to do was to prove that we could make everyone behave in our best interests all the time.

We started two wars, killed a lot of people, ruined two countries and basically proved those deluded people and evil men to be correct.

Now we find ourselves on the brink of making an even bigger mistake.

The Syrian uprising two years ago was no “Arab Spring”. It was poor, rural people demanding that their government take care of them. But Western journalists working for a mainstream media deep in the pockets of our government decided to report it as a violent rebellion demanding an overthrow of the government. We reported that so often, eventually Saudi Arabia and Qatar realized it was perfectly safe to spend something like $3 billion to fund an actually violent civil war in Syria. Remember, these are monarchies with no constitutions. They don’t want to create Western style democracy in Syria or anywhere else. They simply want Wahabi control over the whole planet.

Make no mistake, our arrogance created this war. Because we think we know it all, and we think we know best. We opened the doors for this violence.

And now we’re on the brink of dropping bombs, not to choose a side, not to try to end the fighting, but to… make a moral point about sarin gas.

There isn’t enough space here to explain how absurd this is.

But I will say that Syria is one of the oldest Christian presences on the planet. Saint Paul was converted near Damascus. Antioch has been a Patriarchate of the church since the beginning. We were first called Christians there.

And if the USA doesn’t stop talking about bombs, and start talking about refugee crises, UN peace keeping actions and replace this nonsense about the manifesting of Western style democracy with outcry about Islamic sectarian violence destabilizing entire countries, it will not be long before the oldest Christian presence is the most recent Christian disappearance.

For all we have done wrong the past twelve years…

For all we seem about to do wrong…

For all we did wrong long before these recent times which prompted so much hatred…

For all these things, this is my song of lament.

Nothing But Time, Version 5

[The link below is broken because Soundcloud allows limited space and I don’t pay for more. Go here for the final version of this track which won’t get removed.]

Version 5.

The last version had some weirdness going on with fast fades that were meant to be subtle disappearances. The goal was the try to control the long echoes to keep them from lasting forever and a day. Ultimately I ended up ripping all that out.

I also played around with some bells and bell tunings, but in the end I came back to this.

I slowed the piece from 37b/m to 30.

Nothing But Time Version 4

[The link below is broken because Soundcloud allows limited space and I don’t pay for more. Go here for the final version of this track which won’t get removed.]

The fourth version of Nothing But Time is available on Soundcloud.

Quite a bit of monkeying around went on this time and my hope is that this has enough variety and space in it to keep it engaging, without losing that sense of decontextualized time passing. One of the bell samples is quite low frequency, so quality listening environments are recommended (not iPod ear buds).