Berklee Online, Summer Semester, Week 6

These next two tracks were from my Berklee Online Summer Semester, Week 6 in Synthesis, Sampling, and Sound Design in Film Scoring.

Acid House Bass was an exercise to “create a TB-303 bass line … choose a subtractive synth and create a 16-note sequenced bass line … loop the sequence … make sure to automate the filter cutoff and resonance over time to change the timbre.” I automated the cutoff so that it would have a predictable, planned rise and fall, and then performed the resonance on my modwheel. Using the modwheel as opposed to turning a small knob made it a little easier for me to play a rhythm.

Terminator Drive, Stranger Glass was the assignment to “write a two- to three-minute piece of music using four arpeggiated parts that work well rhythmically together … use the film clips in this lesson to inspire you and incorporate any of the approaches and techniques that were mentioned … you are welcome to add synth pads or percussion, or any other instruments that you want, but make sure the arpeggiated parts are a significant element in the score.” I was inspired by the ostinato from the first Terminator film, the undulating bass from Drive, and the arpeggio from Stranger Things. I adapted the 13|16 ostinato from Terminator into 4|4 by adding a group of 3 and changed it into 10|16 by taking away a group of 3. I did the 4|4 version in my A section and then the 10|16 in the return of the A section at the end. I used arpeggiators with increasing layers of notes and range to build my moving lines. I was also inspired by Philip Glass, so in the B section I used one of his arpeggios (I can’t remember what it’s from), using a step descent bass progression that is 5|16 + 5|16 + 5|16 + 6|16. Throughout the entire piece there is a bell sound with an arpeggiator to make it pulse in a group of three 16th notes, tying everything together.


Berklee Online, Summer Semester, Week 5

These next three tracks were from my Berklee Online Summer Semester, Week 5.

Dancing Bells was the culmination of two exercises in Synthesis, Sampling, and Sound Design in Film Scoring using FM synthesis. The first exercise was to “Use your FM synth to create four different sounds from scratch … make sure each of the four sounds are unique … be as creative as you can … make them sound like something you’ve never heard before!” The next exercise was to “… create one of each of … a bass and a bell sound … spend time crafting each sound … create an eight-bar composition using the two sounds.” I focused mostly on the algorithm and a little bit on the frequency ratios.

Blade Runner Inspired was the assignment in Synthesis, Sampling, and Sound Design in Film Scoring to “Find a still image from the film Blade Runner online to use as an inspiration … create your own synth soundscape in the style of Vangelis that is one minute long … use at least three FM synth sounds as well as effects processing, such as reverb, delay, and chorus … try to depict the mood of the Blade Runner image with your music … avoid presets, and instead, create your own sounds from scratch.” I used a lush evolving pad for the cityscape in general, a bass patch that would pulse from left to right to represent passing police cars, high tinkling bells to represent the bright neon lights, and a lead for Deckard. For the bass I wanted something fat but also with some edge to it so that when it fades in it’ll add the bottom that’s been missing, but also cut through the mix. For the bells I wanted something that was bright with some shimmer, but not too piercing. I also turned the arpeggio into four separate tracks and panned them so that as the arpeggio ascends, it moves from left to right. When I was working on my pad sound, I stumbled upon a configuration that sounded like a synthesized saxophone, which I though would work perfectly for the noire vibe, so I changed gears and tried to get it as close to a real saxophone as I could (trying to simulate an instrument that needs a flow of air to start make a sound). I spent the most amount of time on my pad with three different LFOs and reverb, phaser, flanger, chorus, and delay, all at slightly different speeds so that it would slowly evolve very randomly. I used a very slow 12 bar blues for my form since I thought it would also work well for the noire vibe.

Indian Scenario was the assignment (begun in Week 3) in Stylistic Adaptations in Film Scoring to “Research the construction of Bhairav raga … write an original melody of about 30 seconds in length based on this raga … write a cue using the raga melody you composed for the previous lesson …  create a draft, and then I will give feedback; and the following week you will submit your final version, incorporating my feedback … I am providing a written-out description of a scene, with timings … construct a cue that is a hybrid of Indian and Western instruments.” Here is the list of scene descriptions with timings:

0:00: MX IN on a series of shots of Calcutta (this movie takes place in contemporary times). These will include shots of slums, wealthy areas, and religious shrines.
0:22: CUT to a small room in a home where several people are sitting and praying in front of an altar of Lord Ganesh.
0:31: the camera settles on a young man – this is Ram.
0:43: CUT to the narrow street outside as Ram is saying goodbye to his family.
0:50: Ram gets in to the car and drives away, turning around from the back seat to wave.
1:02: DISSOLVE to Ram in the back of a taxi driving across the Triboro Bridge into New York City. He is pensive, but here is a lot of motion in the camera work; kids playing in the street, people walking, people talking outside shops, etc.
1:18: the car pulls up to a fancy brownstone on the Upper East Side.
1:26: Ram sits in the car and looks up at a security camera mounted by the door. He gets out of the car and at…
1:37: the door is opened by a large, threatening looking Indian man wearing pleated slacks and a tight golf shirt.
1:43: the man frisks Ram.
1:51: Ram walks into a very modern techno looking office where a young, educated-looking and upper-class thirty-something Indian man sits behind a desk. This man is very slick and really clearly sleazy in a well-dressed way. They shake hands and then embrace, and…
2:14: MX OUT as Ram settles into a chair and they begin to talk.

Early Synthesis and Sampling Assignments

These four tracks were from my Berklee Online Summer Semester, Weeks 1 to 4 in Synthesis, Sampling, and Sound Design in Film Scoring.

A Single Sound was my Week 1 assignment to “create a 30-second piece of music using the provided audio file as the only sound source … Use the tools in your DAW, such as volume automation, pitch shift, editing/chopping, and panning in order to create a piece that develops over the course of 30 seconds.” The original sound was just a single synthesized sustained pitch.

Synth/SciFi/Horror/Classical was my Week 2 assignment to “create a piece that’s under one minute long using the subtractive synthesizer sounds that you created … in a style that is similar to the Doctor Who theme, or to the music from A Clockwork Orange or Halloween.” I wanted to combine elements from all three styles, so I incorporated the driving bass groove, portamento melody, and song-like structure of the Doctor Who theme, the high percussive ostinato with half step movement for dissonance and driving hihat 16th notes of Halloween, and the use of classical themes played electronically from A Clockwork Orange. I made closed and open hi-hat sounds, a bass sound, a lead sound, a pad sound, and a high plucked sound (for the role of the piano in Halloween). There are four different classical themes that I mashed up, see if you can spot them!

Chariots of Apocalypse was my Week 3 assignment to “make a one-minute long piece with a minimum of four sounds that you’ve made … (use the LFO, filter, LFO envelope or filter envelopes, and automation to create movement in all four of the sounds) … in the style of either one of the films Apocalypse Now, with its experimental and mysterious undertones, or Chariots of Fire, with its magical, inspirational mood.” I wanted to start with a reference to the optimism of Chariots of Fire, but then transition into something along the lines of the relentless military march ostinato from Apocalypse Now. I created a bass, a pad, a lead, a hi hat, a timpani-type sound, and pitch risers.

Casino Royale Car Chase was my Week 4 assignment to “find a short film clip with a scene that is around one minute in length … create your own ambient synth soundscape for the scene … using multiple oscillators that are layered and that represent the mood, feel, and pace of the film clip … any additional layered ambient synth parts with movement using tools such an LFO, envelopes, or automation … any combination of effects … such as reverb, delay, chorus, flange, or phase.” I thought adding tension as opposed to “action” scoring (like in a fight scene) would work well. I wanted to have a change from when he is outside the car and starting the car to when he is actually driving. This ended up also being an exercise in composing around loud sound effects.