electronic

A Short Update!

Alright, it's almost the end of 2017, so it's about time to put an update out here, I thought.

I have been at work on a number of projects over the past year, some of them will slowly come to light as we go knee-deep into 2018!

I worked on a remix of the Wizpig Challenge theme from the Diddy Kong Racing game, it's out on the newest release by Materia Collective

You should check it out here

Also, I've spent quite some time re-working my website, simplifying it, complicating it and shifting it around. Hope you like the new look

Oh, also one more thing. Did I mention there's a new video of an orchestral recording I worked on from 2015? Yeah, that. You can check it out here

To conclude, watch out there's a lot more coming! Remixes, videos, music releases and some of those sweet, sweet music scores you can't find on the internet

Smarter and Smarter

Re-imagining the entire score for Smartican from the start was something that was really hard to do. Primarily, this was because I had to go against the initial vision I had for the score for the game. It did not have anything to do with specifications or what was needed but rather what I felt about the score. I wanted it to be a little different from the previous revision. And there were pro's and con's to that train of thought.

For one, since I had made up my mind that the score was going to have lesser of electronic influences, I had to go back to the traditional sound, A more orchestral-oriented score which meant I had to put more stress on melody. Something I realised later on, though was orchestral scores can fit into a quizzical game, but it's probably better to keep things more electronic-influenced. Nonetheless, I had committed myself to getting out of the comfort zone and started working on the score.

I worked on the score for almost a month. It was a constant process of iterations and corrections. There were atleast twenty different ideas that were considered before arriving at the choices for the levels. There were a lot of levels in the game and every one needed to have a different track. Inspiration is very important when you're working on a score and I needed to think about the surroundings and the mood for every level. Doing that was just as important as working on the music itself.

There would be some times when how things panned out in my head about a certain mood and setting wouldn't exactly translate well onto the run-time environment. Things were much more dynamic and ideas were in constant flux. There came a certain point of time when I realised going back-and-forth between my home studio and the game studio was starting to become a daily habit. I decided to spend a couple of days at the game studio itself to work things out.

Once I decided to that, things did start to move a little faster. As the needs were constantly changing and so was the game and it was important for everyone to look at the same page at the same time, so we could collectively arrive at what would be the best set of sounds for the game. I had to make tons of changes to my tracks so that things better fit with the visual idea of the game.

While some times, I didn't like changing my work to fit the game, I slowly realised that even though it would feel weird in the beginning, while playing the game and looking at it as a whole, it would in fact make more sense. I broadened my horizons considerably and looked the other way to see what a game really requires not just in terms of sound and music, but also other things like graphics, promotions, visuals etc. as well. It was a great learning experience.

When I sit and think about it I realise we musicians are sometimes like little kids in a candy store. We always want one or the other, but somewhere in our heads we know having all of them at the same time is not logical. As we grow up and become more rational, we realise that there's more to life than just candy and we learn to start letting go of all that was, and we evolve. We get smarter and smarter, but the smarter we get the more we realise what being that kid in a little candy store means. To not have a worry in the world, to just imagine with a head full of ideas and the entire universe in front of you.

That feeling is all I live for.

An Orchestra of Variables

After my first meeting with the guys at Motion Punch Studios, I came home and started working on some preliminary ideas for the music score. Since there are only three tracks in that game, It was not going to be very hard, I thought. One had to be for the Start Screen, another for the Halloween Theme and the other for The Christmas theme.

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Now, Since I'm much better at making creepy music than tracks with joyous spirit, I decided to approach the Halloween theme first. I went through a few sounds and came across a few organ sounds on my computer but nothing really seemed to fit the bill. I then proceeded to look through some of the organ sounds I had on my Kawai CP 115, and found one particular sound that was exactly what I was looking for. It was a spooky organ more close to a theater organ than a church one.

Working on what was going to be the central melodic motif to the entire three songs was a hard task as well. What's weird while you're composing music is you never know what will end up being the central melody or sound that everything else is based on. There is always a central theme or a melody to any music that makes the backbone of a track and everything else either drives or supports it sonically. Sometimes it will be subtle and in the background and sometimes it will take up centre-stage and the entire sonic space.
 

 
 

Predictably, the first few notes that I composed on the Kawai and recorded into my computer were what would constitute the main theme. As time passed by, I slowly built up a percussion track around it from a groovebox VST that I use a lot, which was followed by other minor and orchestral elements, A harpsichord there, a little bit of flute here and a little pizzicato string to make things more playful. There was also this jingly-jangly guitar which was made to go through a 'vibrolo' effect to add a creepy vibe.

Originally, clocking at about five minutes the track was too long to fit into the mobile app, so I had to shorten it to about two minute and add numerous FX lke bat screeches and shaking skeletons to make it more halloween-ish. Typical stuff.

I'm yet to work on the other two tracks. Long week ahead.

Whipping Up a Fire

The good thing about movie climaxes is, you can't really ever take feeling out of the equation. It matters so much, It makes and breaks the heart of the movie. If things were okay all the time in a movie, it wouldn't really be a film worth talking about. It pays off to kill and destroy, than maintain sanctity and your goodie-two shoes. It's always a great idea to whip up a fire.

There's a scene in the movie where the climax is almost being set up, and you get a hint of the twist the first time, and to say the least its quite heartbreaking. I needed a track that gave off pure unadulterated emotion. Something that would portray that terrible feeling you get when you're almost choking from the inside and you don't really know what to do.

Now, I didn't have an awful lot of tools at the moment, so I tried modulating sounds to arrive at that place sonically. I made strings go through flangers and ring phasers, and the outcome was, to understate it 'amazing'. A large part of the movie had things going on in secret, and there's this subtle underlying percussion that runs throughout the score, which kind of mirrors that thread of the story.

 

The Social Network soundtrack has always been quite an influence on my sound. A lot of sound modulation I did on movie scores was a direct consequence of that.

 

I've come to realise, you can recreate sounds, you can recreate compositions. But one thing you can never do is recreate a feeling, not in the same way anyway. That's another thing that really makes me even more curious about film-scoring. There are a million ways to do the same thing, and yet you have to be very careful with your methods.

In the meanwhile, I finished up the pre-climax and moved into the domain of the actual climax. And you know how climaxes are. Everything needs to burn and die. You have to do the equivalent of killing your audience sonically and emotionally. Make it feel like nothing is ever going to be the same again. Chaos and anarchy is the name of the game.

I spent a lot of time thinking what the darker and angrier emotions of mankind would sound like. I ended up using a groovebox-like VST that gave me some interesting rhythm percussion. I fiddled around with it, changing and modulating elements, shifting their placement and making things a little more primal. It still sounded a little too refined. I basically destroyed it.

I made the entire groove go through so much distortion you probably couldn't tell it from a washing machine, and I parallel-processed with the clean signal, and faded the clean signal out as things got messier and darker. It was a good idea. And then there was this point of explosion where basically, you could feel everything burning inside, as well as outside. Even though it was the messiest part of the score, it was the probably the most brutal part of the movie, and you really want the audience to feel that.

..Aaand that's the story of how I almost destroyed the climax of a movie.

Beats and Scares

And we're off to the latter half of the giant 50-minute movie I'm supposed to be scoring. And, well what can I say, It's weird how as soon as you approach the 60-70% completed mark of a score, you find yourself wondering how much more longer it's going to take, especially when you're working on a tight deadline.

Then there's another elementary question, How much of the score should actually have a beat, if any at all? There's like a million questions in my head about the music, but the sad part of it is, I have nobody but myself to answer them for me. And then there's the scary quotient. How much is too scary, how much isn't enough?!

It's in the middle of this entire vortex of chaotic questions and doubts, that I ploughed through another couple of tracks last night for the movie score. They were mostly ambient tracks with not really a lot going for them but nonetheless, I managed to create something decent out of those ideas.

There was more artificial modulation of sounds to make them sound like something else than they were originally. Like door creaks and animal growls being pitch and time-shifted to shit just to make them feel like they were in tempo and scale. Crazy engineering stuff.

 
 
 

And of course sudden orchestral stabs. Stabs. Stabs. Stabs. People dig those sudden stab sounds. when there's a closet opening or a door closing. I live for that scare. Ah, so delightful when you're the one causing it instead of receiving it for a change.

Above: A really scary scene from one of my favourite horror movies 'Drag Me to Hell'. I felt the detail and texture provided to sound-design throughout the movie quite mind-blowing.

The Crack.

Back in 2008, when I had just started fiddling with Fruity Loops, Some people I closely knew at the time were a few hip-hop producers and they were probably the first ones to give me advice and help me out while I was figuring it all out.

I used to listen to a lot of hip-hop when I was 10, and it seemed to be the easiest to start with, if I had to learn to produce and mix. I also collaborated with a few rappers in the next couple of years, I made beats and I feel that somehow, the experience influenced a part of my music.

 
 
 
 

Above : One of the several beats I made for hip-hop artists back in 2008

So imagine my surprise when, I realised that some of the people working on the short-movie were hip-hop fans as well. In the meanwhile, I came across a scene in a house, where you're not sure if there's somebody in there or not. I decided to bust out a beat.

While I laid out a skeleton of the track which consisted mostly, of just a beat in the beginning, I realised even though it was strong, it didn't seem to be making an impact. The 'crack' just wasn't there. Now, I'm an experimenter by nature, and I decided to layer the snare and put another two layers of snare sounds over it. One was boxy and the other one was the typical rock snare with a 'crack'.

Finally, when the percussion was in place. I thought a few electronic loops on top of that would do the trick, with the constant fade-ins and fade-outs. It did, but not completely and I proceeded with making some of them go through Guitar Rig just to add a little bit of grit and roughness.

Since, the scene wasn't entirely supposed to have just a mean attitude to it (which I think I managed to project decently enough), It was also supposed to be a little dark as things weren't as they seemed. I added strings and turned the second half into quite the scare.

Another track done. Proverbial Hi-five.