Great Logic tutorial on YouTube

It’s been a while since I’ve updated, so I’ll just push on rather than holding off for perfection.
I recently found this great tutorial on recreating the Game of Thrones theme using just the built in instruments:
What I particularly like about this tutorial is the files required are provided, it’s amazing how accessible this makes it and how it encourages experimentation.
A moment of heresy – I’ve only watched an episode and a half of game of thrones – but that’s a discussion for another day…

What does summoning a demon sound like?

I’ve been busy with lots of real life stuff recently (boooooring!) so I neve rgot round to posting this entry when it was first written.
Thankfully over the last few months I’ve also made time for some more musical activites (yay!). Along with putting together a new guitar (which I love!) and working through various audio tutorials, one of the best things I’ve done recently is work on a friend’s short film. So here is a rather overdue post about that experience:
Before I spoil the plot though, here is a link to the film:
One of the key lessons from my masters was that learning by doing, and especially finishing things, is one of the best ways to progress quickly. It was brilliant to be reminded of that. This project was challenging but I really enjoyed it.
For me the key things about the film was it’s charm and sense of humour. It was essential that any work on sound and music should build on these, rather than detracting from them. Thankfully the subject matter and themes were very familiar to me so
Dialogue Editing
Lots of learning here, but the main thing was how impressive Isotope RX4 is… whilst I’m still learning, it’s amazing to be able to paint out and smooth over noises which would otherwise ruin vocal recordings…
I am fundamentally a guitarist/scientist with an interest in sound, so working with strings (in this case sampled)  was a completely new experience for me.
I’d like to think I went a little beyond sounding completely static and artificial, whilst still just using the provided string sounds in Logic X.  As much for my own memory, I’ll soon post up a quick note about how I set up and used modulation/expression to add life to the sounds.  Given the subject matter, I regarded early feedback from the director that it sounded “a little too Buffy” in places as a positive thing!
There are many things I’d love to go back and change, but with any such project that knowledge and those realisations will need to be stored up for the next time.
I was lucky to be pointed towards a very skilled individual, Ali Murray, when it came to painting a picture of the fight scene. My initial thoughts about how to approach this massacre may have been functionally correct, but not served the piece in the best way. I’d have gone for something much more muted and possibly “real” rather than amping everything up and pushing it straight at the viewer.  It was obvious the correct effect had been achieved when my partner visibly flinched at the results!
I’ve just started working on audio for another couple of films in the same universe, one with a much darker tone and another which plays to humour and geekiness like this one. I’m really looking forward to seeing (and hearing) how they turn out.

Original Motion Picture Score – The Matrix

Back in the mists of time got to see a preview screening of The Matrix, several weeks before the official release. This was in the middle of their “What is the matrix” publicity campaign and I remember trying to tell friends how great the film was without giving anything away…..
…I then ended up working in a cinema whilst it was still showing, so it’s definitely a movie I’ve seen many times. on both the large and small screen.
I’ve long been aware of the movie’s iconic soundtrack album, such as the PropellerHeads from the lobby scene or Rob Zombie from the club, but what about the score?
Before listening to this album, my audio memories of the film were the songs and the sound design. The huge noises, gunfire and metallic, electric sounds of the Nebuchadnezzar…
… on the other hand, the score  mixes synthetic sounds with frenetic strings, repetitive ascending motifs and loud brassy bursts of energy. I was surprised by the images instantly summoned by the music, hearing Trinity’s initial frenzied escape and seeing it clearly. 
What I liked a lot:
The strong connection with scenes that I’d not realised were so
The suspense filled track Virus.
What I liked a little less: 
As a standalone album it doesn’t work too well…  each track needs faded out or edited to be made more listenable outside of the context of the film. This reinforced the results of Zimmers efforts to turn the Dark Knight Score into an actual album. 
A great article on the Sounddesign of the movie, and an effective reminder of how far desktop audio processing tools have advanced in the last 15 years –

What I’m currently working on

To push myself to be technical/creative on someone else’s timescales I’m currently working on the sound for a low budget short. It’s charming, contains content most geeks will be all too familiar with and mixes live action and animation. The mix of styles is rather challenging from a sound point of view.
Otherwise, I’m continuing to work on my conspiracy themed EP…. much slower than I’d like but all progress is good. A wise man once said “Doesn’t matter which way we’re facing… so long as we’re rolling forwards”.

The Dark Knight Rises – Score of the month

Note: I’ll not be talking about Bane’s voice. Too much has already been said…

For a movie that runs for over 2.5 hours with music in almost every scene, the CD of the score is a rather short  52 minutes. Zimmer himself said he “I wanted to make an exciting CD” and he’s definitely achieved this. For those wanting a more involved experience there are extra downloadable tracks and an IOS app available which will happily create an interact gotham-esque soundtrack to your drives around your home town.

That interaction with the viewer is matched by the close interactions between Christopher Nolan and Zimmer. Nolan describes Zimmer as  “Hans sees through the screen to the dark beating heart of the story and is faithful to that and only that”.

Just as the final film in the trilogy is impossible to take in complete isolation, so the soundtrack borrows from its predecessors but also brings new life. There are still elements of the electronic to go alongside the orchestral, though less obvious and abrasive noise elements than those used for the Joker in the previous film. The electronic elements often reveal themselves more on careful listening, supporting and adding texture to the organic elements, sometimes it’s hard to initially tell the source of the sounds.

The focus is definitely on dark and powerful. Whilst there are dynamics here, often they feel played with, caricatures of subtlty more than truely gentle or delicate. Even to my unsophisticated tastes it seems rather simple, big but pared back. That said, I love the pounding 5/4 thing that is Bane’s theme.  The opening plane scene brings us this initial thundering percussion and these strong rhythmic elements introduced here echo throughout the score.
Interestingly, the lack of any music for most of the first fight between Bane and Batman brings each hit to the fore, along with the wet subterranean soundscape. Sometimes it really is about the spaces between the notes.

A strong theme in the score was group chanting, which occurred on a couple of tracks, apparently
translating as “one rises”. This chorus was the result of an invite online for people to send in recordings of themselves chanting. As I’ve recently taken part in a similar exercise (the Universal Choir for the latest Devin Townsend album) I can certainly appreciate the appeal of such an exercise.

All the way through the album, from “A storm is coming” to “Rise” we are taken on a journey. My favourite track is probably “Imagine the Fire” where brass, strings and synths come together to outline a huge menace but not without hope…

What I liked lots: 
  • The rhythmic elements
  • Huge and powerful strings!
  • Well integrated electronic/synthetic elements.
  • The flowing nature of the finished CD, the editing has achieved a very listenable album.
What I liked less: 
  • Trying to listen seriously to music whilst suffering from an ear infection!
  • Sometimes the loudness and lack of subtlety went a bit too far, some more subtlety, long building atmosphere.
  • The realisation of how little I know about this sort of music, but that goes hand in hand with the learning so is really a good thing.
Some links about the score:
There isn’t as much information about this score as the Dark Knight, there are a few great resources out there. One of the best, which covers the whole trilogy is:
More information about the Dark Knight Rises app, can be found on the iTunes store or this article here:
(I’d originally hoped to finish this entry in January but unfortunately illness and reality got in the way slightly… )

Score of the month

I love music and movies, but I don’t really know much about classical music and I’m always keen to learn more about the creative process and the people behind it.  I figured that a good way in would be to actively listen to modern movie scores, so  I’ll be studying one a month for 2015.
I hope to learn what I can about the process, people and techniques involved. Whilst I have no great desire to be an orchestral composer, with the amazing tools available nowadays it’d be nice to know enough to dabble intelligently when I choose to. I thought it would be nice to share some of those experiences, and keep a travel journal so I can look back on the journey.
Along the way I expect to see patterns and differences, learn a little about the genre and then perhaps prepare myself to dive into more classical orchestral works in 2016.
I’ll be starting this month with Hans Zimmer’s score for the Dark Knight Rises.

Music maketh the mood.

Last night whilst watching The Matrix again I was struck again with how much music, and other film audio, manipulates us and tells us what to expect and how to feel.

Here is a brilliant example of how a scene can be changed by the music used:

Particularly interesting is the 13th style, where it uses a big bombastic piece and the impact is initially huge. But then, as they walk down the corridor the impact is lost and the viewer confused because none of the hard hitting stings seem to match the action.