Projects from the Class I’m Taking

Since the beginning of April, I’ve been auditing the “Computer-Based Media Arranging” class at DU (remotely), taught by David Hanson. Here are the highlights of the assignments that I’ve done so far.

One of our earliest assignments was to write four melodies, based on different situations. Our next assignment was to add harmony to at least one of those melodies.

Melody 1. “A Man on a Bike Finds an Injured Baby Girl Raccoon…” – This was based on a scenario that my wife came up with. “A man is riding a bike… he comes across an injured baby girl raccoon… he gently puts her in his backpack… and races to the animal hospital! She is going to be ok… so he takes her home to live with him.” The solo cello plays two different melodies (one for the man and one for the raccoon) which gradually merge. This was one of my melodies that I added harmony to. I added low string accompaniment below the melody for the man, and high string accompaniment above the melody for the raccoon.

Melody 2. “A Conversation Between a Man and a Computer” – This was a scenario that I thought of, inspired by 2001: A Space Odyssey. Written for piano, I used a 12 tone row, and upon each completion, transposed it up a half-step, to increase tension. The middle voice represents the man: C Major pentatonic, and after the initial note C, the notes spell out D-A-V-E (for the ‘V’ I used the note G which is ‘V’ or ‘5’ in the key of C, so D, A, G, E)  are placed in that order. The notes in the extreme low register are the beginning of the melody of the song “Daisy Bell” in the key of F# (this represents the ‘human side’ or ‘soul’ of the computer. All the other notes of the row are played as fast as possible in the upper register of the piano, short and dry (this represents the machine-like, computational aspect of the computer). I really enjoyed how this worked on its own, so I didn’t add harmony to it.

Melody 3. “Innocence Amidst Danger” – This prompt came from our textbook. “The childish innocence of a mute Indonesian child at play in a dangerous place.” I chose a ‘tuned gongs’ sample library in Kontakt that was able to adjust the notes to Slendro/Pelog tuning. Initially I created a simple melody that playfully explored the notes of the scale. When it came time to add harmony, I added more of the tuned gongs underneath to fill out a little bit more of the gamelan atmosphere.

Melody 4. “A Cat and a Bird” – Another prompt from my wife. A cat wakes up from a nap. It hears a bird outside. The cat stalks the bird, but when the cat attacks, it just scares the bird and it flies away. For the cat, i used an octatonic scale (C, C#, D#, E, F#, G, A, Bb) and the bird is the fully-diminished 7 chord that is the complement of the cats’ octatonic scale (B, D, F, Ab). Again, I was happy with this on its own, so I didn’t add harmony.

Our next assignment was to write a minute-long theme for a contemporary detective show with a heavy backbeat (using the theme song for the show Bosch as an example). My first example was close, but not quite there yet, but after some tweaking (a better drum sample library, a better bass sample library, some better string parts, etc.), I’m much happier with it. Ladies and gentlemen, the next hit streaming series: Detective Backbeat!

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