Back in The Jungle

It's been six months since I updated this blog. Been a while since I composed any music for movies/video. Finally, a new opportunity presented itself to me again today, and it seems like I'm back in business for the moment.

The same friend that contacted me the last time to work on his movie, came back in touch with me a few hours ago and he wanted me to work on music for another film. Now I was hoping it wouldn't be horror again, because frankly, making music for horror is completely draining. Sucks the life out of you. Because its more of a niche audience than a general one, the sound has to be different and unique so you have to work that much harder every time.

This time, though It's supposed to be a part romantic part-suspense thriller that starts in the midst of a jungle. Now I'm not really a mush fan, But the fact that it had an element of suspense to it got me interested again. And of course jungle means more African tribal beats and more experimentation. So experimentation ftw.

I pretty much knew what the first track was supposed to be like and I started working on something african and tribal as the producer/director wanted something like that and I guess that's only obvious since it's a jungle and there are a lot of different elements in play.

Now, I must say it had been a while since I worked on any ideas, in general and it seemed like rust had settled into my music-making abilities. I spent an entire day trying to conceptualise the entire jungle sequence in my head. The fact that lots of times you don't get any footage when you start working on music scores can be quite a crutch.


Nonetheless, I experimented quite a bit with african percussion. Downloaded tons of sample libraries and just experimented with compound times for a few hours. I didn't want the music to be too inaccessible, so I decided to make the intro a little more common-time, but I kept the setting heavily dramatic and made the track segue into an African beat in the last minute.

I spent so much time trying to dissect the African percussion it's not even funny. Couldn't really figure out the timing either. African music is very complex rhythm-wise, I've come to realise that.

Another thing I'm going to make sure this time around is that the music shouldn't seem disconnected. I will try to make the entire score as one giant track that fades in and out of different moods, something I haven't been able to do the previous time, while I was working on the horror movie. Ambitious, I know.

This music, however is supposed to be shorter and there are places where things are lighter, happier and even comical in a few places, and then there's action too. Not to mention the drama and suspense. It's brilliant actually to have so much moods packed in just about a twenty-minute movie, One wouldn't think that's even possible but somehow it works, I suppose.

Eerie or Weird?

'To be eerie or to be weird?' That is the question I'm asking myself while working on music for a horror film. While the occasional orchestral treatment is always there to get back to, what matters is how much one can push the boundaries in terms of whats acceptable as music, what's not.

A recurring theme throughout the score I'm working has been unusual percussion. While on one track I used white noise as percussion, in another I've used ethnic/african instruments like bongos and tablas. And then there's another that had sounds of decapitating heads, swords and animal howls (check out 'Cloak and Dagger' on my Soundcloud) I believe making music for film is all about creativity.

Now I know african instruments are not usually as wide spread as probably decapitating heads in horror movies, but it always helps to envision things from a different perspective and find the new in the old or vice-versa.


Part of how the african sound in that one track came about was a consequence of what happened yesterday. My film producer friend shared a snapshot of the 'monster' in the movie that sported a bird mask of sorts and was staring down from a flight of stairs.

The tribal mask seemed to give out a very ethnic and creepy voodoo vibe, so I went back to the basics. started with bongos, added orchestral percussion like bells and and odd sticks to the mix and a sitar pluck on top of it. It seemed almost like an african dance that was ritualistic. It was creepy.

Lots of times, I find it easy to start a track but much more difficult to end them. Now there is always the good ol' fade out or gradual muting of secondary elements to come back to the core, but I wanted something unique and eerie for that track in particular. I layered about twelve orchestral string sounds to once again create something very dissonant and Hitchcock-ish and to my surprise, it actually worked!