Writing Music for a Dance

I recently wrote five pieces of music for a dance project at Bath Spa University, called Secret Project. Two groups of students were given the music and had to use them in their own site-specific dances, which they performed on campus. Uniquely, on the grounds of the university are remnants of Newton St Loe Castle that was originally built as a fortified manor house in the 12th century. Below you can see the surviving keep. Both groups used the grass space just in font of the keep, during their performance.

Bath Spa Uni 1
This was my first venture into the world of dance as a composer, so it was fascinating to watch, and see how the dancers had used/interpreted my music. Hopefully I’ll have some photos of the performances soon, so when I do, I’ll be sure to share them.

My First Soundtrack Release!

Whilst you can’t yet watch the film, I wanted to celebrate my first short film score with a free downloadable soundtrack.

Friend Request is a 20 minute short film that I wrote 15 minutes of music for, in just 2 weeks. This is technically my second film score, as I actually started working on a feature film before this. However, that’s still in post production, hence I’m posting this one first. For the feature, I was writing an average of 5 minutes of music a week, so I was really pushing myself with Friend Request. Professional film composers write on average, 2 to 3 minutes of music a day, which is what I always try and aim for now. Although working a full time job obviously means I can’t quite produce as much per week as they would.

It was just 18 months ago that I actually started learning how to write music, so the completion of this film has been a big milestone for me. And I was lucky enough to watch the film at the O2 Cineworld in London a couple of weeks ago, where hearing my score on the big screen was such a wonderful experience and a great way to mark this achievement in my composing career.

We’ll soon be submitting the short to film festivals, when I’ll hopefully be able to share the film with you. But until then, I hope you enjoy the music, and please do share it with your friends 🙂

A Mini Composition

As part of my music studies, I’m gradually working through the book, Music Composition for Dummies. What makes this book so great is that it has a series of exercises at the end of each chapter which enable you to put into practice what you learn. Chapter 7 is on melody writing and the exercises at the end of this chapter asked me to write two 16 bar melodies. The first must have no melodic repeats and the second must be based around a motif of 2 to 6 notes. However, I actually took it a step further and harmonised each melody for string quartet. I didn’t like what I came up with for the long melody but thought the motif I came up with had potential, so chose to develop this when working through the rest of the exercises for the chapter.

The exercises that followed asked me to expand on these 16 bars and rework the motif again and again. As well as expanding the motif I also created a second melody which I also reworked. However, this only gave me half a piece so I decided to abandon the exercise book and do my own thing for the second half of the piece.

Here’s my end result…

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!

Keeping Up With Technology

I recently spotted an advert online seeking a composer for a short film. The job was unpaid but you needed to submit some of your work, as well as list your experiences. Well most of my work is still in progress and my experience is lacking, therefore I decided to write a score for the teaser trailer that was included with the advert. I’d give myself one weekend to complete the project. If the piece ended up being good then I could submit it with my application, and if I got the job then brilliant, but if not then it would still be good practice. After all, I didn’t feel 100% ready to write to picture, so it was more of a test if I could actually do it.

I imported the video into Logic Pro X and begun exploring some of the different electronic instruments in Logic that I could use in my score. I don’t have the equipment to record live instruments or the money to buy amazing orchestral samples, so Logic’s electronic instruments seemed like a good way to go. However, problem one: the video wouldn’t play back smoothly. A pain in the ass, but… I guess I’d just have to work with it. It wasn’t long before I was stopped in my tracks again. This time Logic simply stopped working. Why? Because my MacBook Pro was sizzlingly hot! The spinning wheel of death came on screen so I couldn’t do anything. Normally the problem is solved by waiting… So I waited… In fact I even went and washed the dishes! I came back and there was no change. So it would seem my 2010 MacBook Pro isn’t cut out for scoring movies! I thought it would be me that wasn’t ready to score to picture, but it turned out it’s my computer that isn’t ready!

500x_macbook-on-fire

Unfortunate I can’t afford a new Mac at the moment, but I’ve still got plenty I can get on with in terms of writing and learning. Nevertheless, I’m going to have to solve this problem eventually, as I won’t make any progress as a film composer if I can’t even score a one minute video!