Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Suggestions Anyone?

Hey there!

I need your help. On Sunday, The Director helped me come up with a great idea for a story, but I can't think of a good title to save my life! That's where you lovely people come in.

Basically, it's a mystery that takes place in an unknown year sometime in the future. Gravity isn't a natural force. It was discovered that it could be created by four brothers from Ancient Egypt. Together they left their village and built a high-tech facility on an island off the coast of Greenland.

There are four men who guard the button that turns gravity on and off. They each work in shifts of 6 hours. But one night the one on duty goes unconscious and gravity is turned off. The workers must figure out who did it, why they did it, and how they did it before the world is thrown into irreversible chaos.

If you have any ideas for a catchy title, please, oh please leave a comment.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Soundtrack Review: Peter Pan

Just so you know, folks, I'm not talking about the old animated one. I'm talking about this one:

The score for Peter Pan was written by James Newton Howard, the same guy who did Treasure Planet. (In case you haven't yet, please read that review here)

It was suggested to me that I do a short review of each separate track, so I'll try that this time. Remember, you are more than welcome to leave suggestions of your own!

1. Main Title:

The Main Title is very much your typical opening score. It has a pleasant blend of the themes and uses many different instruments. It reminded me of the first score in How to Train Your Dragon called This is Berk because of the way Howard stuck the themes in there and his use of dynamics. The score goes from quiet and mysterious to full-blown swashbuckleyness and back again. I thought that was very cool.

2. Flying:

I almost didn't like it because of the use of synthetic instruments, but now that I've listened to it as a whole I think the unreal, static-y sound actually works. Because it was blended with real instruments I think it sounded better. If it had just been synthetic I don't think I'd like it very much. I also loved the way I could hear them flying with the use of violins. My other favorite thing about this song was, of course, the drums. You can't have a song like this without them. The ending of the song really got me with the horns and drums along with a synthetic something- I can't tell what.

3. Learning to Fly:

Not to be confused with Flying, this song begins much more intense. Then it mellows out a bit and takes on a Celtic/English feel. I liked the way the melody was passed among instruments and Howard's chord choices were very unique. This score is different from his others because, unlike most of his others, this one focuses on one main melody.

4. Tinkerbell:

This one is very mellow and mystical. The chords Howard chose for this one surprise me sometimes. I try to predict what will come and when it doesn't it makes me want to listen harder. It was hard to pick out a sure melody in this one. It seems very background-y.

5. Is That a Kiss:

I've got to say, the chords in the beginning of this score are just weird. I'll bet it fits with the movie, which I haven't actually seen, but for listening to alone it isn't my favorite.

6. Peter's Shadow:

Like Flying, this one uses synthetic instruments, though not as much. I really like this one because of the chord choice and the way Howard uses the synthetic voices- if, in fact, that is what they're supposed to be.

7. A Note From the Teacher:

I like this one because it begins with a funny sort of melody using a low horn. I can picture some pirate hobbling around on a peg leg for some reason. Then it gets into the main melody which is very energetic and playful while at the same time being somewhat intense. That is hard to do!

8.Build a House Around Her:

This one sounds very playful because very few low instruments are used. That's actually what I've been trying to begin doing with my own compositions. In the past I'd always depended on my bass clef to tell the story. This song is neat because it tells the story by using higher instruments instead.

9. Come Meet Father:

I'm not really sure why but it started out sounding Native American with the flute-y thing. I'm not sure that I really like this song either. It just sounds sort of awkward.

10. Fetch Long Tom:

This one reminds me of Treasure Planet, I think because of the melody. It's by far one of the most intense songs out of them all. Again, the use of drums makes the song all the better.

11. Mermaids:

This isn't a happy song. It just sounds heavy and dark. That must be the use of a droning note and the voices. I think I also heard a timpani in there. It's also pretty intense even if it isn't the most exciting or loud.

12. Fairy Dance:

This one is The Director's favorite, and I can see why. It's very light and dance-like. What she really likes about it is the voices. I like it because of the unpredictable chords Howard throws in there, and the occasional messing with the time signature. Over all it is an exceptional piece of music.

13. Set Them Free:

The beginning of this one reminds me of the song Ben from Treasure Planet because I can just hear something lurking in the shadows, just waiting to pop out. Then it gets somewhat intense and I stop liking it. No, it isn't my favorite, but I don't mind it too much.

14. I Do Believe in Fairies:

What I really like about this one is the way Howard began the song- with a very ocean-y, floating feel, and the piano. It worked. He sort of meshed Fairy Dance and Flying which was too cool. The drums completed it, as usual. I'm pretty sure this is my favorite song out of them all. The only disappointing part was the ending.

15. Poison:

As the name suggests, this is a more intense, heavy song. I didn't really like it, but I'm sure it fits the movie.

16. Please Don't Die:

This one is mellow and pleading, but it gets brighter and more hopeful, while still being unsure. Howard did a great job blending major and minor chords.

17. Flying jolly Roger:

 All I really have to say is that this song was very sparkly. Interesting, huh? Howard used the main theme but changed it just enough that it wasn't repetitive.

18. Peter Returns:

This one is reminiscent of the Main Title while still being its own piece. It stretches and bends the main melody. Also, it swells. Typical ending. What i found interesting, though, was that it only used one of the themes- the main one. It didn't even hint at any of the others.

Overall, the Peter Pan soundtrack was worth every penny. It was typical James Newton Howard. Just for fun, I made a playlist of everything I have by him and sometimes I couldn't tell what movie a song was from. This one was more similar to Treasure Planet, most likely because the setting and time period are similar. I did hear hints of Great Debaters thrown in there though, which I found interesting considering The Great Debaters takes place in America during the 1930's.

That's all! Again, suggestions are most helpful when it comes to this sort of thing. Please comment and tell me what you thought.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

I've been Tagged Again!

The Director kindly tagged me.


Well, here goes nothing...

5 things I learned in 2010:

  1. I am not in control.
  2. There is a reason for everything.
  3. I still have much to learn in the way of music.
  4. Nerds make the best friends.
  5. I may not like deadlines, but I can't live without them. Seriously.

5 things I want to accomplish this year:

  1. Get in trouble at school for glorifying God!!!!!
  2. Publish a piece of music!
  3. Memorize all of Psalm 119
  4. Save up $500
  5. Read the entire Bible cover to cover

5 things I've always wanted to do but have never done:

  1. Play an oboe (or at least try)
  2. Sleep outside with only a sleeping bag
  3. Travel out of the country
  4. Meet a film score composer
  5. Direct an orchestra

5 Things I see as important in life:

  1. God!
  2. Spending time outside
  3. Music
  4. Food
  5. Friends/family- They're basically the same thing around here!

5 Mishaps (Embarrassing moments that I can laugh at):
Oh gosh. This type of thing happens so much to me I really don't know what to say.

  1.  The time I stumbled and slid down a flight of stairs at Bible study
  2. Last Sunday when I collapsed on the floor in a pile of laughter and sheer awkwardness. Don't ask.
  3. 4th or 5th grade, when I forgot to bow at a choir concert.
  4. About a month ago when I cowered in a corner while my English class listened to a recording of me singing. It was for extra credit and everyone (I think) liked it, but still.
  5. Does the fact that I don't know of the latest songs, bands, TV shows, text abbreviations or such count? People actually laugh at me for being so clueless.

 Okay. Guess I have to tag some people now. Let's see... I'll just tag this fine gal over at...

Sidetracked Studies! (Don't worry... I can help you!)

And since I read her comment on The Director's blog...

Amaranthine! Sorry, you haven't escaped this time!

Saturday, January 8, 2011

The Best Film Scores Are...


The Director and I have been listening to a bunch of great scores lately. About a week ago I had a moment of realization and I found that the greatest scores are actually the more empty ones. Not boring or plain, just empty, as in sometimes they don't have a real melody, or sometimes it's just a few little things all blended together so that the song fits right into the background.

It's easy for me to tell the work of a CIT (Composer in Training) from a professional. How?

From experience, I know that amateur composers tend to use basic, common chord progressions and one simple base melody, often comparable to the works of John Williams (as was my case, but it's understandable considering where I got most of my inspiration, *Cough* Director...)or other well-known composers. I'm not saying this is bad. After all, if it were, then why would anyone want to compose in the first place?

Another common mistake among amateurs is that they put too much into their music. Take Pendragon, for example. There was too much of a melody and so many instruments that it was distracting for me. I have to say, though, they did a pretty good job considering at least some of the instruments were fake. I understand how difficult the job is of finding the balance between too much and too little of a melody. As a composer, we want to stuff as much of ourselves into a piece of music as humanly possible. We become attached to the music, not wanting to take anything from it. I've learned over the past month that it usually sounds better once the unnecessary parts are removed. It's easier to listen to and less distracting in a movie. The problem is actually doing that.

I've found that CIT have a tendency to go overboard on our instrument parts. What we don't think of is whether something is playable or not. It helps to have a pretty solid background knowledge of the instruments you are writing for, things like instrument range, what key instrument it is, what notes can be played together for stringed instruments, or phrasing for brass and woodwinds. When I began composing, I loved drums. Last month I was listening to some of my older songs and I decided to fix the drums. They sound so much better now. professional composers only use drums where it is absolutely necessary. Drums can either sound great or horrible, depending on how they are used. They should be used as accents, not as melody, they should be used sparingly, and they should be used subtly. The drums that evoke emotion are the ones where you have to strain to hear them. The only exception might be a battle sequence where there is nothing but drumming, but that's understandable.

Speaking of battles, The Director commented that if you want to convey emotion during a battle scene you should use music, but if you just want brutality, no music. Just fighting sounds.

Finally, great scores pass the melody, if there is one, among instruments. They don't use just one main instrument the whole time. Different instruments fit different shots. If, for example, the scene switches between the good guy and the bad guy, you don't want to use a low, ominous sounding instrument for the good guy or a lighthearted, lilting sound for the bad guy. In this case, you could use one melody, but switch the instrument based on what character is in the shot. An example of this would be Veggie Tales: Dave and the Giant Pickle. Yeah. I'm serious. Look:

If you want, skip to the one-minute mark. Okay, so it's a weak example, but you get the point. When Dave was in the shot, a higher instrument was used. When Goliath was there, they used lower instruments.

I think that's all I have to say now. Bye!

Sunday, January 2, 2011


Guess what, everybody!?

I just had to tell you all that...

Highlight here ----->I lost the game!!!!!!<-----