Major Task. Track 2 – Elektronische Musik Piece.

•April 15, 2011 • 1 Comment

Below is my Elektonishce Musik Piece which is the second of the two contrasting tracks put towards the final task for Electroacoustic Composition.

Major Task. Track 1 – Drone Piece.

•March 22, 2011 • 2 Comments

Below is my Drone Piece which is one of the contrasting tracks put towards the final task for Electroacoustic Composition.

Task 7. SFX.

•March 17, 2011 • 2 Comments

Influences on my Sound Effects Task.

A major influence on my sound effects task is the sound designer Erik Aadahl, who is best known for his work on the Transformer movie franchise (2007. Transformers/2009. Transformers 2: Revenge of The Fallen. dir. M, Bay). Aadahl’s technique of serious multi-layering of similar effects to correspond to a visual sequence or on-screen action contribute to the fullness and quality of his sounds. Aadahl also uses deep, low-frequency impacts to accentuate metallic hits or act as a LFE to lay beneath the sounds evolving on top, which adds to the overall richness of the effect. This is a technique I have implemented in my own project and can be heard at around 0:05″ and lasts only for about 2 – 3 seconds. Below I have posted a video of s sequence from Transformers which influenced my use of this technique.



Another technique used in my SFX task is the method of associating a sound to a character on screen. This is something that is common in cinema although more so in contemporary cinema where the sound designers are using effects as apposed to music to portray a character. Some of the most famous examples of this are Ben Burtt’s effects used to signify characters of Darth Vader and R2D2 from the Star Wars franchise (dir. G, Lucas). This is a technique I have used in my piece to signal the point of the Terminator robot moving its arm towards the end of the sequence. I wanted to assign the Terminator a low, rumbling growl as it lifted its arm, almost as it were coming to conciousness, which I have marked with a down-pitched lion growl and a synthesised robotic chattering effect to give the it a more mechanical feel. This can be heard at the very end of my piece at around 0:14″.

This video (posted below) shows a documentary on the making of some of the sounds for Terminator: Salvation (2009). This includes a segment with Cameron Frankley, explaining how he went about using the technique of developing and assigning a sound effect to represent the different Terminator robots. This is shown in the video at around 1:00″.

The Sound of "Terminator Salvation" from Michael Coleman on Vimeo.


Another technique which I employed in the production of my SFX task is the use of atmospheric effects which act as a backdrop to the sounds triggering off on top. The sound comes in at around 0:08″ into my piece and is a fluttering, mid-frequency, FM synthesis sample which rises in pitch from its onset until the end of the piece. For me, this sound helped to accentuate the futuristic, robotic feel of the sequence, bringing out that un-natural, un-earthly vibe that is found in the original Terminator soundtracks. Although, this previously been mentioned, the ‘Paramount’ logo title sequence from the first Transformers film contains a similar sound effect which really helps to set the scene for the rest of the film.




My Sound Effects Task.

Task 7. SFX. from James Utting on Vimeo.

Report for Task 7: SFX.

The objective for task 7 was to create the sound effects track for a given sequence. Visual elements I wanted to highlight were the machinery welding the arms on the Terminator and where the Terminator lifts its arm at the end of the piece, which I have marked with low-frequency impacts and metallic hits. I chose to adopt techniques used by Erik Aadahl in Transformers (2007), of layering samples with low-frequency emissions to fill out the overall sound, and Frankley’s technique of assigning a sound to represent a character on-screen, found in Termintor: Salvation (2009). An audio-sequencing technique I used in this task was the use of the Multi-pressor plug-in in Logic Pro, which I used to compress all of the sounds collectively. An audio technique I have learned is the ability to thicken out the overall sound of a group of samples by layering a low frequency sound underneath. I feel that this task is practice as research because I have looked further into techniques of arranging and layering sound effects found in works such as Aadahl’s Transformers and have developed my research by practicing these techniques through a composition. For this task I would give myself 60% because I feel I have put into practice the techniques behind arranging samples and sound design such as using a sound to represent a character or the multi-layering of samples. My piece shows evidence of this as it demonstrates a good understanding of what the task objective requires and displays the results with a clear compositional structure.

word count: 255

Bibliography.

  • Chion, M. (1990) Audio-Vision eds. Gorbman, C. New York: Columbia University Press.
  • Star Wars Episode IV. (1977) [DVD], dir. Lucas, USA: Lucasfilm.
  • Terminator: Salvation (2009) [DVD] dir. J. McG, Nichol. USA: The Halcyon Company/Wonderland Sound and Vision.
  • Transformers (2007) [DVD] dir. M, Bay. USA: DreamWorks Pictures.
  • Transformers 2: Revenge Of The Fallen (2009) [DVD] dir. M, Bay. USA: DreamWorks Pictures.
  • Whittington, W. (2007) Sound Desing and Science Fiction. Austin: University of Texas Press.

Web references.

Task 4. Acousmatic Music.

•March 15, 2011 • 1 Comment

Report for Task 3: A short Sound Poem.

-Objective:

The objective for this final task was to take a very common and recognizable everyday sound and transform it into something that is almost completely devoid of any previous associations.

-Adopted Composing Approaches:

For my fourth and final task, I chose to adopt a similar approach used by Jonty Harrison in his piece EQ (1980) of taking a recorded sound and creating impulses from that sound by way of using slow grains of audio. This is something I feel works particularly well in Harrison’s piece as it disassociates these new sounds from the source material whilst baring a similar relationship in timbre, which is heard in my track between 0:30″ and 0:42″. Although this method of warping an audio sample shares a common relationship with Glitch music, it also appears in other examples of Acousmatic work such as Alistair MacDonald’s Kilim (1993) at around 0:12″ and 0:42″. This also works well when coupled with strange spatial reverb effects, like those heard also in Kilim at around 4:36″. For this I have used the Space Designer plug-in in Logic Pro 9 with the ‘BPM-Twisting Gears’ preset and can be heard towards the end of my piece between 0:56″ and 1:10″.

-Note one particular audio technique you applied in this task not applied before:

An audio technique used in this task I have not used before was the Grain Streamer plug-in by Michael Norris for spectral analyzing and granular synthesis. This was used on all audio throughout my piece along with heavy automation of the ‘Grain Length’ and ‘Freeze Probability’ parameters of the plug-in. This plug-in is what allowed me to create movements and textures out of miniature grains of audio so that they may be used to completely remove the association between the original audio and its source, which is one of the fundamental principles of Acousmatic music. Pierre Schaeffer touches on this subject when referencing the Larousse dictionary with regards to the term Acousmatics in that it ‘…is said of a noise that one hears with out seeing what causes it’. (Schaeffer, 2006, pp.77)

-Note one particular music technique learned through this task.

One particular music technique that I have learned through this task is the ability to generate fluid glissandi motions from everyday recorded sounds in order to create a downwards or upwards pitching tone, which can be best heard in my track between 0:06″ to 0:20″ and also between 0:50″ to 1:10″.

-In my view, how is this task an example of practice as research?

This task is an example of practice as research because I have created a piece that has come from the knowledge attained from exploring Acousmatic works, such as EQ (Harrison, J) and Kilim (Macdonald, A). The piece then adopts composing techniques found in these pieces such as disassociating the newly created sounds from the source material whilst attempting to retain similar textural qualities and timbre.

-Auto-evaluation: what mark would I give myself for this task and why.

I would award myself a mark of a 2:1 for this task as I believe I have fulfilled the criteria in the task objective, which is evident in my piece as it incorporates my researched techniques and demonstrates them clearly with a structured and coherent compositional direction which shows an accurate expression of what I feel the task criteria requires.

Word Count. 504



Bibliography.

  • Harrison, J (1996) EQ on Klang: Electroacoustic Collection Vol. 1 (CD). UK: NMC.
  • MacDonald, A (1996) Kilim on Klang: Electroacoustic Collection Vol. 1 (CD). UK: NMC.

Task 6. Percussion

•March 11, 2011 • 3 Comments

Influences on my percussion score for American Beauty.

The first of my influences for my percussion only score is the piece Shimmy She Wobble by Othar Turner and The Rising Star Fife & Drum Band. Taken from the 2002 film Gangs Of New York (dir. M, Scorsese), the piece is entirely structured around a marching style snare drum beat with a solo woodwind accompaniment. Because this sequence from American Beauty begins with a marching band playing On Broadway, I wanted to tie in with that feel by orchestrating a snare drum beat around this piece to begin with and then progress to be an improvised percussive element in the main section of the score during the provocative dance scene. Turner’s repetative use of rhythmic snare drumming is one of the main influences for my score and can be viewed in the video below.


My influence for wanting to blend my own score with the film’s original soundtrack, i.e. between the music backing the cheerleader’s routine and the solo provocative dance sequence, is derived from a similar style of musical blending used by Hans Zimmer in his score for Mission Impossible II (2001. dir. J, Woo). Zimmer’s track Nyah is mixed, almost inaudibly, with the digetic or source music of the flamenco dancers in the scene. This smooth mix of my own soundtrack with the source material in the scene itself, works well because it maintains a theme, for example the prodominence of the snare drum, throughout the transition between the digetic and non-digetic soundtrack much like how Zimmer incorporates the sound and feel of the flamenco dancers in his track before it is reduced to the sound of just the dancers themselves. Below I have posted a player widget containing the mix between Zimmer’s track Nyah and the flamenco dancers.



My soundtrack during the solo dance scene has been heavily influenced by the piece Night Fight by Tan Dun from Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon (2000. dir. A, Lee). Although Dun’s piece is much more rhythmically consistent than my own soundtrack, the sparsity of instrumentation in Dun’s piece greatly influenced the amount of instruments which I used in my composition. This piece, although uses a wooden clave-like instrument, also influenced the use of finger clicking in my piece which, when played to meter, has a captivating effect and accentuates the fixation felt by Kevin Spacey at the sight of the young cheerleader. Below is a video post of the track Night Fight which demonstrates Dun’s minimal use of instruments.

A final influence on my score is Thomas Newman’s main titles track Dead Already from the film American Beauty itself (1999. dir. S, Mendes). Newman’s intervals of fourths between the marimba notes in his score directly influence the similar sounding xylophone hits in my own composition. Although my soundtrack is composed mainly from untuned percussion, with the exception of the timpani, I found that this use of a piece of tuned percussion playing simple note structure gave the piece a moderate and quirky melody line that didn’t interfere with the sparsity of instrumentation or overall feel of the piece. Below I have posted a screen shot of the notes used in my soundtrack as well as a small sound clip.

I have also posted a video containing Newman’s track so that the two melodies can be compared.


My percussion only score for American Beauty.

Below is the video clip of my score for Task 6.

Task 6. Percussion from James Utting on Vimeo.

Report for Task 6: Percussion.

The objective for task 6 was to create a percussion only score for a given sequence. Elements I wished to highlight were the shots of Spacey transfixed by the cheerleader, orchestrated by tam-tam scrapes, and the repeating shot of the cheerleader turning to face Spacey during her provocative dance. Composer’s techniques I choose to adopt were Hans Zimmer’s style of blending the soundtrack with the digetic sound in the scene, found in his track Nyah (Mission Impossible: II. 2000) and the minimal approach to instrumentation found in Tan Dun’s Night Fight. An audio-sequencing technique I used was to utilize the hyper editor in Logic 9 to create realistic snare drum rolls. A musical technique I have learned is the use of intervals of fourths played on tuned percussion to create a melodic backdrop which suited percussion only score, influenced by Thomas Newman’s Dead Already (American Beauty. 1999). This task is practice as research because I have researched percussion scoring techniques and explored their use in an original piece. This includes with a minimalist, instrumental approach, much like that heard in Night Fight (Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon. 2000). I would give my composition a mark of 60% because it incorporates techniques such as blending the soundtrack with digetic sound and scoring intervals of fourths in order to meet the objective. My piece shows evidence of this by demonstrating that I have structured my research in an original composition which shows an accurate expression of what I feel the task criteria requires.

word count: 249

Bibliography.

  • American Beauty (1999) [DVD] dir. S, Mendes. USA: DreamWorks Pictures.
  • Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon (2000) [DVD] dir. A, Lee. Hong Kong: EDKO Film.
  • Davis, R. (1999) The Complete Guide To Film Scoring, Boston: Berklee Press.
  • Drifters, The (1963) On Broadway on On Broadway (Vinyl). US: Atlantic.
  • Karlin, F. (2004) On The Track: A Guide To Contemporary Film Scoring. Great Britain: Routledge.
  • Gangs Of New York (2002) [DVD] dir. M, Scorsese. USA: Intermedia Films.
  • Mission Impossible II (2000) [VHS] dir. J, Woo. USA: Los Angeles Center Studios.

Web references.

Task 5. Orchestration 3.

•March 4, 2011 • 1 Comment

Composer’s that influenced my woodwind score for Wall-E.

My third orchestration, this time featuring woodwind instruments, was heavily influenced by Howard Shore’s Concerning Hobbits from the film The Lord Of The Rings: The Fellowship Of The Ring (2001. dir. P, Jackson). Shore’s piece, which although relies more on string movements, features a call-and-response melody between the recorder and fiddle using major keys. This method of orchestrating two instruments playing off each other whilst backed by full string section movements has formed the basis for my score. My score imitates, to a certain extent, Shore’s method by using a similar major progression played by the piccolo and violin. Below I have posted a video of Concerning Hobbits which demonstrates Shore’s melodic progression, instrumental variation and call-and-response orchestration as well as a short sound clip of the predominant melody line used in my piece which reflects Shore’s influence.

In the middle of my piece, there is a moment when the score is backed by a horn section motif. Although this is not a woodwind section, the sense of heroic triumph captured by the trill of major fifths when Wall-E reveals to Eva he has rescued a plant was drawn from a similar motif used by Danny Elfman in his score for the main title sequence of Spider Man 3 (2007. dir. S, Raimi). This motif has been altered for my score be using only major notation as opposed to Elfman’s minor keys used at the end of the motif, heard at around 1:29″. This was done in order to tie in with the positive feel of my piece created by the use of primarily major chord progressions. Below I have posted a video of Elman’s score for Spider Man 3 as well as a screen shot of the notation for the motif used in my score as well as a short sound clip.

Another influence on my score is Ennio Morricone’s piece The Falls from the soundtrack to the 1986 film The Mission (dir. R, Joffé). Morricone’s use of a wooden flute instrument in this piece has always been a particular favourite of mine and has without doubt been a significant influence on my woodwind score and possible on my music in general. Morricone’s haunting use of minor notation has contributed to the major notated equivalent found in my piccolo melody, shown above, and can be heard in the video posted below at around 0:25″.

A final influence on my score for this scene is the original soundtrack from Wall-E itself (2008. dir. A, Stanton). The score for this scene, Define Dancing by Thomas Newman, creates delicate textures between the string section and the harp. Although for my score I did not wish to directly imitate this, I found the melodic plucking of the harp to be a fantastically irresistibly way of representing the playful nature of the scene which was definitely something I wanted to retain when scoring my piece. I also wanted to re-capture Newman’s sense of motion and fluidity by altering the velocity of certain notes played by the strings when the two robots begin zooming around in space, which can be heard at around 1:00″ into my piece. Below is another video post containing Newman’s score for this sequence for comparison.

My third orchestration score including woodwind instruments.

Below is the video clip of my score for Task 5.

Task 5. Orchestration 3. v. 03 from James Utting on Vimeo.

Report for Task 5: Orchestration 3.

The objective for Task 5 was to score a sequence using woodwinds. A visual element I wanted to highlight was the motion of the two robots zooming around in space, orchestrated by the use of the harp, melodic piccolo motif and swelling string ensemble movements. Composer’s techniques I adopted were Howard Shore’s method of call-and-response between the woodwind melody and a solo string instrument heard in his piece Concerning Hobbits (2001), as well as the horn section motif involving heroic sounding leaps of major fifths heard in Danny Elfman’s Spider Man 3 (2007). One audio-sequencing technique I used in this task was the use of the velocity tool in Logic 9’s sequencer to manually adjust note velocity to create flowing string movements. A musical technique I have learned is the ability to harmonize multiple orchestral sections such as woodwinds, strings and brass together in a major scale i.e. F# major. This task is a good example of practice as research because I have discovered techniques used in Concerning Hobbits (Shore.2001), Spider Man 3 (Elfman.2007) and then incorporated these techniques into my own work, which displays the use of the call-and-response method as well as harmonizing multiple orchestral sections. I would give myself a mark of a 2.1 for this task because I feel I have successfully explored composing techniques and used them to meet the task objective. I have displayed evidence of this in my piece, which incorporates my research and demonstrates that I have structured a composition that shows my impression of the task criteria.

word count: 256

Bibliography.

  • Davis, R. (1999) The Complete Guide To Film Scoring, Boston: Berklee Press.
  • Karlin, F. (2004) On The Track: A Guide To Contemporary Film Scoring. Great Britain: Routledge.
  • The Lord Of The Rings: The Fellowship Of The Ring (2001) [DVD] dir. P, Jackson. USA: WingNut Films.
  • The Mission (1986) [Film] dir. R, Joffé. UK: Waner Bros. Entertainment.
  • Spider Man 3 (2007) [DVD] dir. S, Raimi. USA: Columbia Pictures, Marvel Entertainment.
  • Wall-E (2008) [DVD] dir. A, Stanton. USA: Pixar Animation Studios.

Web references.

Task 4. Orchestration 2.

•February 25, 2011 • 3 Comments

Influences on my brass orchestration score.

Although for this task I have decided just to use brass sounds, the majority of my influences are played by a full orchestra. One of my main influences on this task is the piece The German Battlefront from the score for Gladiator (2000) by Hans Zimmer. Zimmer’s use of layering bass tones played on tubas promulgates the melody line played by the horns as well as the repeating notes played by the trumpet section. My piece asserts similar crochet stabs created by the tubas followed by a rhythmic pattern played by the trombone and horn section which acts as the driving theme behind my piece, first heard at around 0:15″. Below I have posted a video demonstrating Zimmer’s pounding use of tubas and rhythmic horn lines, best heard at 5:29″.


I have also posted screen shots of the score in my piece showing the trombone melody line and tuba stabs as well as a brief sound clip of the pair together, separate from the rest of the track.


Another influence on my score is the piece Anakin Defeats Sebulba in John Williams’ score for Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace (1999). The piece uses a section of fortissimo quarter notes progressing through a minor scale followed by an allegro trumpet pattern, heard between 2:10″ and 2:19″. I feel this use of juxtaposing longer quarter notes in a scale with a rapid, semi-quaver motif works well in building suspense and accentuating a sense of anticipation, which is therefore a reason why I  incorporated a similar progression and motif in my own piece which is best heard at around 1:24″. Below is a video of Williams’ score for The Phantom Menace.


My score is derived from these works in particular because they represent, for me, an excellent example of orchestrating methods involving brass sounds. These methods have aided me creating my score by providing a solid structure for which to orientate my piece around, whilst adding my own expressions of how I wanted my score to develop, for example, introducing adagio notes played in the A minor scale in the middle of the piece, between 0:59″ and 1:08″,  to break away from the energy provided by the rest of the score. This slower section of my score was influenced by the horns heard in Howard Shore’s The King Of The Golden Hall from The Lord Of The Rings: The Two Towers (2002) at around 2:33″, which is a great example of breaking up a composition by slowing the pace of the music before a final crescendo towards the end of the piece.
My second orchestration score using brass instruments.

Below is the video player containing my brass score. (note: Score begins at 0:05″ due to incomprehensible video sync issues).

Task 4. Orchestration 2. from James Utting on Vimeo.


Report for Task 4: Orchestration 2.

The objective for task 4 was to score a sequence using brass sounds and idioms. A visual element I chose to highlight was the point were our protagonist gets up after falling to the ground and begins running towards the corn field for safety, marked by a high pitched augmented, rhythmic motif. Composer’s techniques I adopted were Zimmer’s use of punctuating the melody line with layered, diminished tuba stabs, found in his score for Gladiator, and Williams’ combining of scaled crochet notes with a rhythmic semi-quaver motif, similar to that used in Star Wars: The Phantom Menace. One audio-sequencing technique I used in this task was the Platinum Orchestral preset in Logic 9’s compressor plug-in which is optimised for orchestral instrument compression. A musical technique I have learned is the use of inserting an adagio melody in the centre of an energetic orchestral movement to break away from the pace momentarily before the climax of the piece. This task is an example of practice as research because I have explored scoring techniques found in The German Battlefront (Zimmer.2000) and Anakin Defeats Sebulba (Williams.1999). I have then used these techniques in an original work, which demonstrates the use of layered tuba notes, adagio horn sections and rhythmic trumpet motifs. I would award myself a mark of 60% for this task as I believe I have fulfilled the criteria in the task objective, which is evident in my piece as it incorporates my researched techniques and demonstrates them clearly with a structured and coherent compositional direction.

word count: 254

Bibliography.

  • Davis, R. (1999) The Complete Guide To Film Scoring, Boston: Berklee Press.
  • Gladiator (2000) [DVD] dir. R, Scott. USA: Scott Free Productions.
  • Karlin, F. (2004) On The Track: A Guide To Contemporary Film Scoring. Great Britain: Routledge.
  • The Lord Of The Rings: The Two Towers (2002) [DVD] dir. P, Jackson. USA: WingNut Films.
  • North By Northwest (1959) [Film] dir. Hitchcock, A. USA: MGM.
  • Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace (1999) [DVD] dir. G, Lucas. USA: LucasFilm.
  • Zimmer, H. (2000) Gladiator: Strength and Honor. International: Cherry Lane Music Publishing Company Inc.

Web references.