Consequences: Composing from different character perspectives

The first track on my album Journey is called Consequences and comes from my score for the feature film Sasquatch (2016). Writing this piece taught me a lot about character points of view and I’d like to share with you what I learnt. To avoid major spoilers, I’ve changed the names of the characters, but you’ll still find a few minor spoilers ahead. Be warned!


MINOR SPOILERS AHEAD!

During the film there is an accident with a gun and someone, lets call them Brian, ends up shot and bleeding out in the arms of John. Standing around them are two of their friends, holding each other.

From John’s point of view (and the nearby friends) the scene is obviously very sad. And this is the point of view that the music takes. However, initially I had scored this from the point of view of Brian. As Brian speaks his last words, he is not afraid. Instead he is almost hopeful. He lost someone very close to him, but sees death as an opportunity to see them again, and reassures his friends that he will be alright. So we have the same scene, with two different points of view and approaches. My first approach was to score the scene from Brian’s perspective, which you can hear below.

However, a week before we had to submit the final version of the film, I was asked to rewrite the music from John’s perspective. And thus the piece was born in its current form.

The final version, which I called Consequences, is a lot more minimal in it’s approach. And I was amazed at how strongly the music was able to say so much with just a few simple notes.


The Big Picture

Lately I’ve been losing focus, feeling overwhelmed and ultimately lost. I keep looking at my music plan which I mapped out and it’s not really helping. I keep discovering more things which I feel I need to learn and seem to be struggling with finding the time and motivation to do any of them. It’s as though the further I climb up the mountain, the bigger it gets!

So I’ve spent the past couple of weeks trying to find my motivation and a way up this ridiculous hill! Every day I’ve been writing down a new music plan or a new daily routine that I can adopt to make things easier. And I feel I’ve finally managed to work out the next stage of my journey through a simple change in perspective.

Instead of breaking things down into tiny steps and then working out what order these 10 000 steps go in, I’ve done the opposite. I’ve zoomed out and turned down the resolution, leaving me with only 10 steps.

Learning the piano isn’t one of these steps. I’ve spent the past 7 months working pretty intensely on my piano skills, and they’re now at a stage where I feel comfortable with my level of playing. I recently learnt to play this:

I’m still actually only half way through the piano course I’ve been taking, but am going to continue with it at a slower pace. Composing must take priority!

Therefore my new plan is as follows:
– Work through the Music Composition for Dummies book (Step 1)
– Learn about Counterpoint using a series of books I’ve found on the iBook Store (Steps 2, 4 and 7)
– Work through Alexander Publishing’s Writing for Strings course (Step 3)
– Learn about Synthesis via the tutorials available on MacProVideo (Step 5)
– Work through Alexander Publishing’s Professional Orchestration I & II course (Steps 6 and 8)
– Work through Alexander Publishing’s Visual Orchestration I course (Step 9)
– Work through the Music to Picture iBook (Step 10)

Now that I’ve written the steps down I can bring my focus in on just what is necessary, allowing me to ignore all the other steps, hopefully preventing me from feeling overwhelmed again. And with this new plan of action in place I don’t feel lost any more. I’m back on track!

Phase 2: Composing

Up until now I’ve not actually done much writing and have just been concentrating on learning lots about music composition. However, I feel as though I now know enough to actually get on with composing. This last week I’ve been writing a lot of music and whilst I originally planned to use my free time to continue learning, I’ve instead been using that time to compose. When creativity comes then it’s best to harness as much as you can before the moment passes.

I think I’ve posted this before, but it’s such a great talk on creativity that if you haven’t seen it yet you definitely should as it is sure to inspire you.

I feel like I’ve entered the next phase in my musical journey and whilst I have only scratched the surface when it comes to learning about music, my main focus now is going to be getting on with composing.

I’ve also spent a lot of time recently thinking about where I’m going with my accordion playing and whilst I originally planned on buying a full size 120 bass accordion and becoming a master on the instrument I’ve decided that my time (and money) would be better spent writing music which is what I actually want to do. I’m treating the accordion more like a hobby now and just enjoying playing both by myself and as part of a band.

With a much clearer view of where I’m heading, my current plan is to write five short pieces for string quartet and then approach a quartet to rehearse them with, get some feedback from the players and hear the pieces played with some emotion. The disadvantage of writing music using notation software is that there is no emotion in the music. I’ve already finished one piece and am working on a couple of others, so hopefully it won’t be too long before I have all five pieces finished, printed and ready to play.

Write Like Mozart (Week 5)

There was no composition for this weeks assignment, instead I had to do an analysis of two short exerts, where I had to identify the chords using roman numeral analysis, name any non chord tones as well as identify the cadences. I must admit it was tricky. The first piece I did ok with, only making a couple of errors. However, the second piece I was stumped at for a few of the chords and so took an educated guess. Obviously I’m not quite as educated as I’d hoped yet, as I got them wrong. However, I didn’t feel like a complete failure as the bars I struggled to identify with had chromatic runs in the right hand of the piano part and actually turned out to be augmented 6th chords, which I haven’t had as much practice at spotting, so lesson learnt there. All in all though it was well worth the time and the effort of analysing the music as it’s definitely improved the speed at which I can name and identify the chords. It also seemed to help me with switching from reading bass clef to treble clef and vise versa, as my brain now seems to be able to look at both clefs as one, meaning I don’t really have to “switch” at all, something I’m sure will continue to become easier with learning to play the piano.

Write Like Mozart (Week 4)

So this was the first week where I feel I actually did some real composition. There was still a lot of arranging involved as we were already given the chord sequence and some of the rhythms, but the teacher had left gaps in the melody to be filled in, therefore my solution was very different to his, but I feel it still fits the brief.

Mozart W4 A

Cadences were the main focus of this weeks assignment. You’ll notice I’ve annotated my score with some text. Where it says HC, DC and PAC are the cadences. HC stands for Half Cadence which means that when that phrase is played by itself, it leaves the listener with a sense that the piece is not finished. PAC stands for Perfect Authentic Cadence and leaves the listener with a sense of conclusion. And finally DC is Deceptive Cadence, as it sounds like it is leading into a Perfect Authentic Cadence and so the listener feels the sense of conclusion is coming, but then the final chord for that cadence is different and instills an inconclusive feel to the phrase.