The party music

This week I have been exploring the party music for the pool party in the movie. You can do two things: license music, or create your own. Since  we are on a composing exercise, the only way to go is creating my own.

This is harder than expected. I like melodies. I can think of a melody and then play it on an instrument. That decision is very clear for me: the melody line, and which instrument should play it to get the desired effect.

For the party music I wanted a basic house tune. And this definitely is not something I am very good at. You are looking at creating a sparse, repeating set of bars, and add effects, instruments and whatever other elements you can think of to make it sound not boring. At least one thing will not be achieved. It will be either boring, it will have the wrong combination of instruments, or will have too many instruments, sounds and noises included that the actual song will be completely lost.

Here is a minute of what I have so far in its raw, unmixed form:

It is somewhere, but whether it is good or will become something good remains to be seen. It will need a lot of work and listening to other house producers to get some inspiration and a feel of what should and should not be done.

As far as composing for the movie goes: it is completely separate from the movie score itself. It has no relation to the characters or the stories. As a piece of music, it pretty much stands on its own. And in that sense, you might as well pick a piece from any producer and put a new soul in the spotlight.

With that in mind, the party music may not make it on the final album. Do what you are good at, and let others do the rest.

Do what you are good at, and let others do the rest. Share on X

As always, let me know what you think about the piece in the comments.


Exploring moods

In week two I have been exploring moods. The first piece is for a melancholic mood that as a theme I can use for different characters and different parts of the movie. Have a listen to the excerpt below, and as with last week’s theme, it is a very rough, unpractised piece that has not been cleaned up or mixed well. Right now, we’re still sketching, creating outlines.

There are several places in the movie where this could be used, such as the long walk home, the cold night at the front door, and the life’s story of one of the male characters.

The other theme I have been exploring is one for the nightmares. First I had a deep bass sound, which got mangled a little, but even with that sonic variation it sounded, well, boring. Lifeless. Not very scary. It needed a pulse, either with negative space (kind of like sucking the sound away), or with the addition of a heartbeat. I can increase the frequency of either the pulse or the gap to simulate the increased heart rate as a result of a rise in adrenaline levels. Have a listen to the theme below, again in its basic, unmixed, unfinished form.

Play around with the EQ to create some sort of “Pwooaaap” sound (you know the one, right?) and add more grit at the end of that “Pwooaaap” and you can intensify the sound and feeling tremendously.

That said, I will be the first to admit that it doesn’t sound that scary, but I want to point out that the impact will be very different when played on a screen together with the picture.

Which brings me to another weak point of this method of learning: you really do not know what the final piece will look, sound, or feel like. You can imagine it, but since it will all be only in your head, you will adapt the image you have up there and there is a good chance you will miss the mark.

Side-stepping a little here: I believe this is a very good example that shows how the actors, the director, the editor, and the composer all put in their bit to create something that is bigger than the four individual bits together. Don’t you agree?

Anyway, I will continue. There will be more next week.


Starting composing

First week, first obstacle: the theme I had in mind does not fit the movie anymore! Disaster!

Or not. Let’s step back a little.

Before I started writing the script I had a line in mind that I thought could work well as a theme for a movie. It could be re-used multiple times for multiple scenes or moods. But since I had no movie to write the music for and I did not want to randomly write a couple of tunes, I started writing the script. I had one idea for one scene, and I was convinced I could come up with a few more scenes based on that one scene. The few-more-scenes turned into a full-length movie script, a story with characters and moods.

This is when ‘disaster’ struck, because the theme I originally had in mind did not seem to fit the movie anymore. I had gotten a better insight in the movie and what emotion the music could add to it. In brief: disaster?

Perhaps, perhaps not. It is just how it goes. Things develop, evolve, change. However, after a few tries I discovered that the original piece could still be used. It is still a good theme. You can find the rough idea below, live recorded without any practice. And no, playing the piano is not my forte.

Listening to the theme I have now and trying to plot it against several scenes in the movie, I can see that some scenes can take on a different character. And this is where, in my opinion, the flaw of my approach comes to light: I am the writer, the director, the editor, and the composer — that sounds a bit like Robert Rodriguez, but without having an actual movie.

On one hand, being writer, director, composer, and editor closes off creativity, as there is only one person with one idea, not multiple people bouncing off ideas against each other. On the other hand it can give you too much freedom and may lead to losing coherency: you can move all over the aural spectrum without having anyone to keep you in check. The moods, pace, energy, everything may change from one scene to the next.

That said, I will keep composing and post the results and progress. The conclusion now is that the idea is still good. And as a reminder for myself for later: as long as you keep trying, ideas will appear and evolve. Keep going. A disaster is hardly ever that. At least not when it comes to writing music.

Music Script Writing

Why write a movie script?

Now this is where things get interesting. I have already talked about why I want to compose film music. But how do you practice composing music for movies?

One way is to grab any movie you like and compose an original score for it. This is a bit tricky for two reasons. First, you will have heard the music when going over the scenes and will be influenced by it, which makes it hard to come up with something truly original. Second, you will be competing with well-established and respected composers in the field, and your music will be compared to theirs. It will be similar to what it would be for a Hans Zimmer or Rachel Portman to compose an original score to a scene that has a piece of temp music set to it. (Temp music: music that is put under a scene temporarily.) That piece of temp music is already setting the tone of what is expected from a composer, and it will be nigh on impossible to come up with something that will be perceived as better.

Then what is the solution? An internship, or write your own movie. Since an internship for me is currently not an option, and because I love writing and making up stories, writing my own movie script is a good and fun alternative.

And with that I started writing. The idea was to write something high-level, an outline. However, soon I got a bit too involved and wanted to know more details about the story. A bit further along in time I had written 60 minutes of movie. The thought hit me that if it was that easy, why not make it a full-length script? Perhaps easier said than done, but all of a sudden it was done.

Yes, it is done. I now have a full-length movie script.

With the script finished, I can start breaking it up and start composing music for it. When the music is finished, I will share it with you and share some of the details of the scenes. It will be fun, so stick around.

And speaking of fun, wouldn’t it be fun to see the movie on a big screen? That it actually gets made? This will involve a few more fun exercises, such as find out where to send it to, how to talk with film producers, and learn more about the movie industry.

In other words: why not get that ball rolling as well. Easier said than done? Perhaps yes, but then all of a sudden it just might be done. And then there it will be, on a screen near you. Fun? You bet.

After the music has been composed and presented here on this website — together with parts of the story to give you some context — I will continue writing scripts. Whether they will be as detailed or long as this initial one will remain to be seen. I love to make music, and love to experiment more with composing for movies. But right now there are at least 4 other stories for movies that I can think of expanding into a full-length movie, so who knows.


Going to Japan on Soundcloud

Recently I uploaded “Going to Japan” to Soundcloud.

Have a listen and let me know what you think in the comments below, on Soundcloud or on Twitter.

Music Thoughts

Why write a film score?

Let’s start with stating that I love to write and make music. I have a passion for it. I will not go as far to say that I would die if I were unable make music. Not only do I find this a bit dramatic, but it is also untrue since everybody will die, and so will I whether I would make music or not. But not making music would definitely take some colour out of my life.

But then, why compose music for film? The interesting dilemma with making music is that you always have to explain to which category your music belongs. You know the question: what type of music do you make? Is it classical, trance, punk rock, down-tempo? Or something you are having trouble categorizing yourself? And what if I want to create a jazz song or play some blues next week?

My problem is that I cannot stick to just one category, and in that I am not alone. To quote Go Hiyama: “There’s no way I can focus on the same kind of music for too long, I always think about moving”, from his interview with Freunde von Freunde. I love making music, and just like listening to music, the style of music I like to make varies. To give you an idea, listen to “On the house”, “Rock garden”, “In the clouds”, “Traveling west”, “Between the pines”, and “Intercontinental flight”. On top of that, isn’t sticking to one style boring? Ask a chef whether he only makes soups or grills chicken. He doesn’t. He wants to experiment, try out new things, and every so often he will change the menu completely with the new things he has tried out.

Scoring or composing music for film will give me a fantastic creative way out of the box that we all sometimes try to fit ourselves in. Unnecessarily.

When writing a movie score you are working on a bigger picture — no pun intended. A bigger project, not your personal one, but a creative endeavour with many creative people from different disciplines. This to me is very exciting. What’s more, I find it fascinating how in film music a single theme can be reused many times with many little variations, which allows you to explore all possible options of the piece you have written, without the heartache of having to only select one and wondering what to do with the rest.

These for me are reasons why I want to compose music for film.

(And even then: will composing film music be the only thing?)