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At the beginning of June, I participated in theSpitfire Audio | WestWorld Scoring Competition where I had to score a chase scene from season 3 of WestWorld. When I tried to upload it to YouTube, for some reason it had none of my music (maybe because I used YouTube’s new uploader). Since I uploaded it right at the deadline, unfortunately there was no time to fix it. Eventually I did get the version with my music uploaded (using YouTube’s older uploader). I hope you enjoy it!
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!
What have I been doing during the “shelter-in-place” you ask? Between bouts of anxiety, I scored Emil Acevedo’s (Virgeo Studios) LEGO stop-motion short film Conan vs Zombies! It is truly a metaphor for our times! You are Conan! Crush the coronavirus! See it driven before you! Hear the lamentations of the coronavirus! While wearing a mask and/or staying home!
I also included the stand-alone score in the media player in case you want to listen to that by itself.
At the end of last year, I scored Emil Acevedo’s (Virgeo Studios) LEGO stop-motion short film Captain America Vs Trump: A Bernie Sanders Tribute. Originally, I created my own temp score using a mashup of Imperial March and Hail to the Chief, as well as The Avengers Theme and Captain America’s Theme. I then changed and simplified the themes so that they are technically different, but still recognizable as the original themes. I also included the stand-alone score in the media player in case you want to listen to that by itself.
In the summer of 2017, I scored the short film Aura by Linh Ngo for the Denver 48 Hour Film Project. I recently condensed the music to create a short, stand-alone soundtrack for the film. Here is a synopsis of Aura so you can read along while listening to the music (in the media player).
A woman walks into a board room and puts a gun on one end of the table, and a second gun at the other end. She takes a seat at the middle of the table and adjusts her makeup. When we see her face in the compact mirror, it is in black and white, with a white glow. There is a flashback to a week earlier.
While she is walking outside, she runs into a male friend of hers who she had lost touch with. He confesses to her that he misses having her in his life, and she sees a similar white glow around him. A day later she meets with her female friend and sees the same white glow around her.
Our main character goes to see an oracle, and the oracle tells her that if she sees the color blue in someone’s aura, then that person is her soulmate, but if she sees red in the person’s aura, then that means that she has met her greatest enemy. Our main character has seen both, but doesn’t know which is which because she is colorblind. The oracle gives her a reading and tells her that in a week, she will be together with her soulmate and mortal enemy, and there will be death, but upon death, the aura is so bright that even someone who is colorblind can see its color.
Returning to present day, in the board room, our main character answers the door to first her male friend, and then her female friend. She has them sit at each end of the table, by the guns. She tells them both that her enemy will try to kill her today and that she hopes her soulmate will save her. In an instant, they each pick up a gun and fire! Our main character is unharmed, but she sees that both of her friends have been shot dead… and both are glowing blue. Reeling from the revelation, our main character picks up one of the guns and shoots herself in the heart. As she lies there dying, she sees her face in her compact mirror… and her face is glowing red.
(When I am composing a piece that deals with colors, there is a ‘spectrum scale’ that I use for color associations. For the colors of the auras in this film, I used the note G for the color red, and the note D for the color blue.)
In the summer of 2015, I scored the short film Synthia by Linh Ngo for the Denver 48 Hour Film Project. I recently condensed the music to create a short, stand-alone soundtrack for the film. Here is a synopsis of Synthia so you can read along while listening to the music (in the media player).
A father is playing on swings with his daughter (in her late teens or early 20s) who is reluctant because she thinks she’s too old. We see that something is not quite right in the sky behind them. They are startled and turn around to see a giant alien spaceship. Flaming debris begins to fall around them as they run into the house. Once inside, the father starts packing as the daughter begs to know what’s going on. He only insists that they have to go, RIGHT NOW. She goes to pack some essentials, but on the way to her room, stops at a closed door that gives her a troubled feeling. She opens the door, and inside, there is a life-sized doll, missing an arm… with her face! As she is investigating it, her father interrupts her, telling her that she shouldn’t be in that room, but then he notices an alien creature outside the window, so he runs off. She follows, and when she gets to the kitchen, she comes face to face with the creature her father had seen outside. The creature studies her for a second, but then pushes past her to get to her father, who shoots it with a shotgun.
When we see them next, the father is wearing a white lab coat, and he is running diagnostics on his daughter, who is actually a replicant. When he is satisfied with her status, he permanently disables diagnostic mode and reboots her.
Her human personality returns, and she is confused, with only vague memories of the recent past. After a heartfelt moment between father and daughter, there is a huge explosion in the house that sends them running back outside where they are ambushed, and her father is fatally wounded. With his last bit of strength, he touches her face, looks into her eyes, and whispers, “save us.” As she cries over his body, we see that the distant sky is filled with a massive aerial battle of jets vs spaceships… and the spaceships are winning.
A few years ago, I auditioned to score a film about sumo wrestlers who join a college football team with a lobster as their mascot. I composed a marching band ‘fight song’ for The Lobsters (listen for the sound of their claws clicking), as well as a taiko drumming theme for the sumo wrestlers. The track I submitted features: The Lobsters’ Fight Song, The Sumo Wrestlers’ Theme, The Sumo Wrestlers’ Theme with added drumline (signifying the conflict between the sumo wrestlers and the football players), and The Lobsters’ Fight Song with The Sumo Wrestlers’ Theme played simultaneously (signifying that they learned to work together).
P.S. I didn’t get the gig.
Ten years ago, Emil Acevedo (Virgeo Studios) released the stop-motion animated short film, Apocalypse LEGO Episode 1: Frozen Terror using LEGO minifigures. Since then, it has had over a million views and over 4 thousand likes. In the years following, he released FT2: LEGO Submergence, FT3: LEGO Club Che Boom Boom, FT4: LEGO Block War, and most recently FT5: One Shot, Two Kills.
I met Emil at last year’s Denver Comic Con (now called Denver Pop Culture Con) when I was working for Nerds That Geek, and covered his panel on stop-motion animation. When I introduced myself and told him that I’d be writing an article about his panel (read it here), he offered to do an interview as well (watch it here). Somewhere along the line, Emil asked if I would be interested in composing music for his most recent work in progress, Frozen Terror 6. I jumped at the chance and began working with some ideas that he had come up with for guitar.
After sending him some of the samples I had put together for FT6, Emil told me about his plan to digitally remaster FT1 and release the updated version for the 10 year anniversary of the original. But there was an issue. In the original, he had used a clip of music from a popular video game, which meant that he was very limited in where he could show it (e.g., not in film festivals). He asked me to re-score it with my own music so that there wouldn’t be copyright issues. I took the core of the ideas that he had come up with for FT6, tried to match the overall mood of the original music, and shaped it around the preexisting sounds (explosion, alarm, etc.). He also asked me to score the rest of the film, which meant that I was able to be a little more creative because in the original, there is only music in the first few minutes (up to when the alarm goes off). The end result is: Frozen Terror 1: Apocalypse LEGO 10 Year Anniversary Remastered!
P.S. I didn’t write the elevator music.
During the most recent 48 Hour Film Festival, some of the music I composed didn’t get used, but I decided to post it here anyway. Some things to listen for: (1) At one point in the scene there is a reference to a mobile game that was very popular at the time. (2) Around the climax of the scene, a slow-motion “bullet-time” effect was used.