Task 3. Sound Poetry and Working With Spoken Text.

•February 18, 2011 • 4 Comments

Report for Task 3: A short Sound Poem.

-Objective:

The Objective for this task was to create a piece, which played on the mechanics of the human voice, using spoken words, poetry or text. My personal objective was to take the sample of William Wordsworth’s poem and create a piece that contrasts with the sense of the human contemplative nature that his message conveys by degrading the speech, making it sound less human and more robotic, more ominous and uncomfortable to listen to.

-Adopted Composing Approaches:

In this task, I adopted the approach of Paul De Marinis used in his piece Cincinnati (1991) of warping a segment of speech by transforming it into robot or computer speak, which can be heard coming into my piece at 0:05″. I also adopted Marinis’ technique of using formant frequencies to trigger a sound, which in my piece is the demonic Vocoder synth, heard around 0:31”. The technique of using vocals to trigger sounds comes up in number of Marinis’ tracks, for example Odd Evening and The Power Of Suggestion as well in his collaboration with Robert Ashley on Nova Musicha No.3. I also adopted the technique used by Sten Hanson in The Glorious Desertion of trying to leave the nature of the spoken message reasonably intact. Although the speech fades into computer speak, at around 0:10″, the words are still recognizable as being coherent sentences as apposed to robotic jargon.

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

One particular audio technique that I have not used before was the use of routing a vocal sample to vocoder synth via the side-chain function to allow the vocals to trigger the sound of the synth when a certain amplitude or frequency is recognized. The effects of the amplitude of the vocal sample triggering the rise in amplitude of the synth can be heard best in the climax of the piece at 1:03″.

-Note one particular music technique learned through this task.

One particular music technique that I learned through this task was the use of dissonant notes and chord progressions played on the vocoder synth to create a threatening feel to the piece and heighten the ominous sense of the track overall, which can be heard most effectively at around 0:50″.

-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 furthered my research into speech and text based music by practicing it in the form of a spoken music piece. The piece is derived from the knowledge and research gained from listening to examples of the spoken music repertoire, for example Cincinnati (De Marinis, P) and The Glorious Desertion (Hanson, S) and employs techniques found in these examples such as degrading the speech audio whilst leaving the message in the speech intact.

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

I would award myself a mark of a 2:1 because my piece demonstrates that I have developed my knowledge of text music and expanded on it by incorporating newfound research on the subject. I have then furthered this knowledge by exploring the disciplines or working with spoken sounds, which is evident in my piece as it demonstrates originality, clear structural direction and also my interpretation of the requirements of the task objective.

Word Count. 504


Bibliography.

  • Ashley, R & De Marinis, P (1991) In Sara, Mencken, Christ and Beethoven: There were men and women on Nova Musicha No.3 (CD). USA: Cramps Music.
  • De Marinis, P (1991) Cincinnati on Music as a Second Language (CD). USA: Lovely Music.
  • De Marinis, P (1991) Odd Evening on Music as a Second Language (CD). USA: Lovely Music.
  • De Marinis, P (1991) The Power Of Suggestion on Music as a Second Language (CD). USA: Lovely Music.
  • Hanson, S (1979) The Glorious Desertion on Poesie Sonore Internationale (Cassette Compilation) France: Éditions Jean-Michel Place.

Task 3. Orchestration 1.

•February 18, 2011 • 2 Comments

Influences on my string score for Psycho.

One of the soundtracks that influenced me in scoring the Psycho sequence is the piece The Well by Hans Zimmer, written for the 2002 film The Ring (dir. Verbinski, G). Zimmer’s use of arpeggiated staccato cello heard in this piece at around 1:55″ create equal movement and suspense, making the soundtrack flow onwards but leer toward the inevitable misfortune of the characters. Zimmer then layers more stringed instruments over the top following a similar rhythm pattern to perpetuate the mood of the scene it relates to. Below is posted a video of Zimmer’s soundtrack.


Another influence on my score is Christopher Young’s use of half-step trills and harmonic glissandi that are frequent throughout his score for the 2004 hollywood remake of The Grudge (dir. Shimizu, T). Although both Zimmer and Young’s soundtracks use more than just string instruments in places, Young prefers to utilise glissandi and other alternative string techniques such as playing behind the bridge which are now more-or-less standard in cinematic horror scores. Glissandi, behind-bridge playing and also string scrapes in my piece have been heavily influenced by the sounds heard in Young’s score, which has been posted below.



Although my influences for this piece draw upon modern cinema, most of them the techniques used were originally adopted by Bernard Herman in his original score for Psycho (1960. dir. Hitchcock, A). Hermann’s use of major thirds to create his theme and variating it using ostinatos and arpeggiated melodic lines have been the core ingredient to my composition. Other techniques used by Hermann such as stabbing triadic chords feature as another major influence in my piece and are used to create mounting thrill and suspense, which is touched upon by Scott Murphy when discussing the Psycho suite in Terror Tracks: Music, Sound and Horror Cinema (Ed. Hayward, P) when he says ‘aspect of the five ‘hammer-blow’ chords in this first three bars, the qualities of its harmonic structure aside, are pertinently expressive’.(Murphy, 2009: 49). This stabbing chord motif is a central part of Hermann’s score and a similar motif has been given equal prominence in my own composition. Below is a score for the ‘hammer-blow’ chords used in my piece as well as an audio sample. These chords can first be heard in my piece at 0:22″.



My string-only score for the Psycho sequence.

Below is the video player containing my string score.

Task 3. Orchestration. from James Utting on Vimeo.


Report for Task 3: Orchestration 1.

The objective for task 3 was to score a given sequence using only string sounds. Visual elements I chose to highlight were the points were the trooper walks up to the car window and the full-face shot of the women and trooper in succession, marked by stabbing chords which I feel portray the fear and surprise felt by the women at the sight of her potential assailant. I adopted techniques used by Christopher Young in The Grudge of using alternative string effects such as harmonic glissandi as well as Hermann-style ‘hammer-blow’ chords featured in his score for Psycho. One audio-sequencing technique I have used in this task was the use of the modulation wheel on a midi controller to recreate the effect of vibrato on a string instrument. Through this task, I have learned the musical technique of harmonizing arpeggio melodies and major thirds to create a retro-classic horror cinema style score. In my view, this task is practice as research because I have looked further into alternative string techniques found in works such as Christopher Young’s The Grudge and have advanced my research via practicing these techniques in the form of a composition. For this task I would award myself a 2:1 because I feel I have put into practice the theory behind composing with strings and string FX, which my piece is evident of as it demonstrates a good understanding of what the task objective requires and presents the results with clear and consistent structural direction.

word count: 250

Bibliography.

  • Davis, R. (1999) The Complete Guide To Film Scoring, Boston: Berklee Press.
  • The Grudge (2004) [DVD] dir. T, Shimizu. USA: Columbia Pictures
  • Murphy, S (2009) ‘An Audio-Visual Foreshadowing in Psycho’ in Hayward, P. ed. (2009) Terror Tracks: Music, Sound and Horror Cinema, London: Equinox
  • Psycho (1960) [Film] dir. A, Hitchcock. USA: Shamley Productions
  • The Ring (2002) [DVD] dir. G, Verbinski. USA: Dreamworks

Web references.

Task 2. Scoring a Chase Sequence.

•February 11, 2011 • 3 Comments

Influences for my chase scene score.

On top of the films and influences I have mentioned in the previous post ‘Scoring Chase Scenes’, one of the major influences on my score is the rhythmic line used in John Williams’ score for Star Wars Episode IV. Williams score creates tense motion for the scene involving the Tie Fighter attack on the Millenium Falcon, which is accentuated by the allegro motif heard between 2:46″ and 3:04″ (relative to start a point of 0:00″). My score uses a similar line, best heard in my piece between 0:15″ and 0:21″, to signify the points where Batman enters a shot because I felt that the fast, consistent tempo of the music put emphasis on the dramatic imagery of Batman hunting down the Joker. Below is a video of John Williams’ score for the movement  Ben’s Death and Tie Fighter Attack.

Another of my main influences for my piece was the development of crescendos and varying dynamics throughout the score to emphasise the actions in the movie. The composer Trevor Rabin uses multiple examples of progressive build-ups in his score for Armageddon which I have tried to emulate in my composition. The build-up towards the end of my score where Batman is about to flip the truck, was based on the dynamic effect created by Rabin towards the end of his piece Evacuation at around 2:46″ as shown below.

Re-written score for chase scene sequence.

Below is the video player containing my re-written piano score.

Task 2. Chase scene score re-write. from James Utting on Vimeo.

Report for Task 2: Scoring a given chase sequence.

The objective for task 2 was to score a given chase sequence. Visual elements I chose to highlight were the guns on the Bat-bike shooting the skip in the alley, batman himself and the street lamps toppling over because these elements feel to be a significant aspect of the chase scene. Composer’s techniques I wished to adopt were the rhythmic allegro bass notes used to signify Batman, influenced by John Williams’ Star Wars, and the dynamic crescendos created by Trevor Rabin in Armageddon. An audio-sequencing technique I have used in this task was the use of the step sequencer in Logic Pro, which proved useful in realizing my score by aiding my inefficient piano playing experience. A musical technique I have learned from this task was the use dissonant notes and atonal clusters to create a disjointed feel which suited the tense atmosphere of the imagery. This task is an example of practice as research because it persuaded me to use alternative means of composing a score influenced by works such as the movement Ben’s Death and Tie Fighter Attack in John Williams’ Star Wars and between 2:46″ to 3:20″ in Trevor Rabin’s Evacuation from Armageddon. I would award myself a mark of roughly 59% for this task because I feel I have explored the practice behind composing chase scene music through an alternative means. My piece is evidence of this because it demonstrates consistent direction and a good understanding of the task objective developed in the resulting composition.

word count: 254

Bibliography.

  • Armageddon. (1998) [DVD], dir. Bay, USA: Jerry Bruckheimer FilmsValhalla Motion Pictures.
  • The Dark Knight. (2008) [DVD], dir. Nolan, USA: Legendary PicturesSyncopy Films.
  • Davis, R. (1999) The Complete Guide To Film Scoring, Boston: Berklee Press.
  • Star Wars Episode IV. (1977) [DVD], dir. Lucas, USA: Lucasfilm.
  • Williams, J. (2004). Star Wars IV A New Hope (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack), US: Sony Classical. Cat#S2k 92950. CD, 91:08 mins.

Web references.

Task 2. Guide To Early Electronic Sounds.

•February 8, 2011 • 1 Comment

Report for Task 2: Guide to early electronic sounds.

-Objective:

Benjamen Britten was planned to be commissioned to create a piece called The Young Person’s Guide to Electronic Music based on his Young Person’s Guide to the Orchestra (1946) highlighting what sounds were newly available to composers. The objective for my task was to make a version of what he might have done, lasting between 1-3 minutes.

-Adopted Composing Approaches:

For this second task, I adopted the approach used by Gottfried Michael Koenig in his 1952 piece Terminus by layering up sine tones at different frequencies to create a more complex tone, which can be heard best in my piece at 1:22″. To add to this method of sounds creation, I also adopted the approach encouraged by Koenig when teaching his students of manipulating the amplitude of the sine waves manually, which can create much subtler changes in amplitude as apposed to implementing linear or exponential volume curves. Another approach used in my piece was that of using cut-up sung phrases or syllables, which were influenced heavily by the vocals found in Karlheinz Stockhausen’s Gesang Der Jünglinge (1955/56). These vocals were introduced to compliment the electronic sounds and add a slightly more human aspect to the piece and can be heard between 1:01″ and 2:11″.

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

One particular audio technique that I have not used before was to use the High Frequency Cut-0ff in the Channel EQ plug-in in Logic 9 with an attenuation of -48dB per octave on a vocal track, so that by manually altering the frequency of the cut-off, it gives the effect of creating different vowel sounds from those being sung, not unlike a guitar wah-wah pedal. This can be heard best in my piece at 1:17″.

-Note one particular music technique learned through this task.

Through this task, one particular music technique that I learned was the basic arrangement and composition of electronic sounds along with classically sung vocals. By manipulating some of the sounds with a similar pitch to that of the vocal audio, I learned to create strange and abstract clusters of pitched impulses that fit nicely with cut-up samples of sung phrases or syllables.

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

I feel that this task is a good example of practice as research because it involved looking further into the methods behind creating some of the sounds heard in examples of electronic music, such as Gottfried Koenig’s method of layering sine tones to create more interesting and complex sounds as heard in his piece Terminus. The task then encouraged me to further my academic research into this subject by recreating my own impressions of these sounds through practical research.

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

For this task, I would award myself a mark possible in the realms of 60-65% because my piece shows that I have used my already existing knowledge and have endeavoured to develop it by exploring the theory and practices of creating and working with electronic sounds and demonstrates this through a track composed through my own originality. The piece is consistent and direct in its composition and also shows how I have structured a fairly accurate expression of how I have interpreted what the task objective required.

Word Count. 505


Bibliography.

  • Britten, B (2008) The Young Person’s Guide To The Orchestra on Benjamin Britten – The Full Works:
(CD). UK: Edition Classic FM.
  • Koenig, G. M (2006) Terminus on Gottfried Michael Koenig (CD). Germany: Edition RZ.
  • Stockhausen, K. (1991) Gesang Der Jünglinge on Elektronische Musik (CD). Germany: Stockhausen-Verlag. 

Scoring Chase Scenes.

•February 8, 2011 • Leave a Comment

Chase Scene Music.

During the period of early film productions, the directors and film producers would use classical composers works to accentuate the mood or cinematic sequence that was happening on screen. This was so until the ability to record sound to tape in 1927. Classical composer’s works were still used for on screen dramatics such as love scenes and chases, one of particular familiarity being the March of the Swiss Soldiers from the  William Tell Overture by Gioachino Rossini, which featured as the theme music on the classic show ‘The Lone Ranger’ (first aired on radio 1933). Below is a video showing this piece and other classical works featured in early cinema.

Primarily, music for more modern chase sequences is marked with the tension and anticipation of allegro percussion lines and random pitched instrument input. For example, the timpani or percussion could be playing a fast paced yet continuously steady rhythm line whilst the string and horn sections of an orchestra play random staccato stabs throughout a minor or chromatic scale which adds further tension to the expectancy provided by the percussion. This is evident in most, if not all, chase scenes and has become a pinnacle mark in the hollywood composer’s arsenal. This method has been used in the latest of the Batman franchise, The Dark Knight(2008. Dir. Nolan. C). The Score, composed by Hanz Zimmer (b.1957) and James Newton-Howard (b.1951) uses this technique of underlying string section chromaticism with rhythmically sequenced percussive lines. Below is a video of the chase scene music from The Dark Knight demonstrating this method of scoring.

The scene itself doesn’t feature any music until around 4:35″, although once the soundtrack comes in, it is a great example of mood music and chase scene scoring. To add to this (and in general interest), below is a link to an interview by Alex Billington for ‘First Showing.net’ with the composers, Zimmer and Newton-Howard, who talk about their collaboration together and how they were influenced on the score.

http://www.firstshowing.net/2008/interview-hans-zimmer-and-james-newton-howard-on-the-dark-knights-score/

Task 1. Theme and Variation.

•February 6, 2011 • 1 Comment

Theme and its variations.

(note. timed comments on soundcloud player at points of variation. Includes information on changes made in each variation).

Report for Task 1: Theme And Variation.

The objective for creating the score for task 1 was to create a simple theme with around 5 variations for a given sequence. The octave transitions of the melody in the theme were influenced by the minor key transitions heard in Dietro Casa (2007), between 0:56” and 1:02”, and throughout the piece Ritornare (2007) by composer Ludovico Einaudi. An audio-sequencing technique that was applied in this task that I have not used before was the use of the ‘Direction Mixer’ plug-in in Logic Pro using the MS algorithm. This was used to create the Mid-Side miking effect and was used to create a slightly different stereo feel. A musical technique I have learned through this task was the use of modulating through different keys, for example between the keys of G and C. I also learned the discipline of composing music quickly and to a brief or outlined objective. This is different to composing for personal benefit, a subject touched upon by Einaudi when he says ‘…composing for yourself, you have to define yourself the idea and its limits that sometimes is even more difficult than writing the music’ (Einaudi. 2007). This task, in my view, is an example of practice as research because it encouraged me to listen to examples of the repertoire and then research these techniques by practicing them by composing my own piece. For this first task, I would give myself a mark of around 50-60%, because I feel I have demonstrated a good knowledge base and understanding of the objective and my piece shows evidence of this by exploring the practice and disciplines behind composing theme and variations. .

word count: 250

Piece composed from Task 1.

Below is a more orchestral version using adapted versions of my theme and variations. Movements and the introduction of added instrumentation, particular the use of rhythmic glockenspiel and pizzicato strings, were influenced heavily by similar rhythmic variations found in Danny Elfman’s Batman.

Bibliography.

  • Ludovico, E. (2007) Dietro Casa on This Is England: Original Motion Picture Soundtrack (CD). UK: Universal Music.
  • Ludovico, E. (2007) Ritornaire on This Is England: Original Motion Picture Soundtrack (CD). UK: Universal Music.

Web references.

Task 1. Close Micced Musique Concréte.

•February 2, 2011 • 1 Comment

Report for Task 1: Musique Concréte

-Objective:

The objective for this task was to use close or contact miccing techniques to explore hidden sounds or sounds not usually heard. The piece uses the sound of a rattling component of an electric heater, a toilet cistern, contact miccing on a guitar string, contact miccing with a microwave fan, a boiling kettle and contact miccing across a speaker cone playing a low-pitched sine tone.

-Adopted Composing Approaches:

For this first task I adopted an approach used by Karlheinz Stockhausen in his 1964 piece Mikrophonie by using the microphone to scrape along the surface of an instrument, i.e. the top E-string of a guitar, making sure that the edge of the  microphone head found some of the gaps between each coil which created a pitched, fast iterating scraping sound. I have also used many of the approaches used by Pierre Schaeffer in works such as Etude Noire(1948), heard at 1:14″, of repeating sounds by looping the audio which can heard in my piece at 0:16″. This method was adopted in a more concise way by only looping the sound twice to avoid it being repeated too often in any one instance. My piece also uses pitch changes of sounds by speeding up and slowing down audio, as well as plate reverb, both of which are approaches used by Schaeffer and Pierre Henry in movements such as Prosopopée (plate reverb heard at 0:03 and 0:06″) from the piece Symphonie Pour Un Homme Seul(1950) and can be heard in my piece at 0:00″, 0:02″ and 0:08″.

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

One particular audio technique that I have not used before is the adjustment of a sound’s pitch by speeding up the audio after plate reverb had been added, so that the reverbs decay of the sound also has an adjusted pitch. Heard in my piece at 0:00″, 0:02″ and 0:08″.

-Note one particular music technique learned through this task.

Through this task, I learned that changing the pitch of a single sound by speeding up or slowing down audio can be used to create a disjointed, atonal melody out of noises that may not contain any distinctive pitch of their own. This can then also be the basis for building sounds around others that may already have their own discernible pitch, which can then be arranged to fit in with a collection of pitched noises.

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

In my view, this task is an example of practice as research because it encouraged me to listen to other examples of Musique Concréte and, through the creation of my own original track, research into the techniques of close proximity and contact miccing to attain sounds and use them in the style of other examples of the repertoire.

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

For this task, I would award myself a mark of 55-65% because my piece displays a reasonable base of knowledge and also explores the theory and disciplines behind Musique Concréte whilst showing originality. My piece shows consistency in its compositional direction and demonstrates a structured and reasonably accurate expression of my interpretation of what the task objective required from the outcome of my piece.

Word Count: 501.

Bibliography.

  • Schaeffer, P and P, Henry. (1998) Symphonie Pour Un Homme Seul on L’ OEuvre Musicale (CD). France: INA-GRM.
  • Schaeffer, P and P, Henry. (1998) Etude Noire on L’ OEuvre Musicale (CD). France: INA-GRM.
  • Stockhausen, K and Kontarsky, A (1993) Mikrophonie on Klavierstucke I-XI / Mikrophonie I & II (CD). Europe: Sony Classical.