experimental

Not All Binary!

Humans are a complex species. Some of us want to find patterns in everything, others perhaps want to elude these patterns at every chance they get. But we ALL find a pattern sooner or later, don't we? I like to keep things random in my general day-to-day life. I think a part of it stems from trying to be creative. I have this idea that if you keep doing the same things at the same times and inside the same cycles, you eventually stop getting new ideas. I'm not sure how strong a holding that idea has in actual psychology or social science but I'm sure there is some merit to it.

I recently picked up a book on Game Design, a field that I feel is going to matter more and more to people from different fields as gaming as a medium gets more prominent with the passing of years (Apparently Spotify just started an entire section exclusively dealing with game music). How does a music composer / sound designer get all mixed up with game design, you shall probably ask. I think music and games have historically and perception-wise a lot more things common to them, than you can imagine, so in a way I feel that it's natural. The real reason, though is that last year when I went to Indiecade, I was inspired by a variety of different talks that touched on the topic of game design. That eventually led me to an online game design book club, where people read a book on game design every month, and speak on their views about it.

Long things short, a friend gave me an interesting idea for a possible app / game which fed into me seeing many parallels between musical development and how games are developed. All of this happened reading this month's book on that discussion group which happened to be A Theory of Fun by Raph Koster.

 
 

It was a fun read, as it mostly dissects the idea of fun, what constitutes activities that are fun and aren't. Some of it could probably be interesting literature for algorithmic music creation. What I liked about the book was that it gives a lot of different perspectives - psychologically, socially and at times talking on even evolutionary terms in the sense of how games started out and how they've evolved over the past few decades.

There's quite a lot of points that actually mention music-making. Now, there are different levels of controls and restrictions players have in games but it pits that against how different kinds of music-creation could be classified under the same table. There are definitely are some fascinating thought collisions that happened to me while I was reading it. In the spirit of keeping this blog post shorter, I shall refrain from discussing it further. (you can join the club here). You could probably go here and here to learn more about game design and it's various intricacies (in case that's your thing)

 
 

Moving on, I'm going to harp once more on the concept of curation and how integral it is going to become in the larger scheme of things. A friend started using this new platform that goes by the name of Soundgood. I decided to follow suit and convert an old playlist to a Soundgood playlist. You shall find all kinds of experimental / electronic / chill music if that's what you're into. Another thought experiment with curation - I've lately noticed that people that do more reposts on Soundcloud tend to get more active plays, listens and follows. Having started my Soundcloud originally just to keep my own tunes there, I'm considering breaking that rule and going crazy with reposts.

Soundcloud closed down Groups recently, which probably was one of the first horns of collapse that I sense coming to the music industry as a whole. I might be wrong, I might be right. If there's one thing I don't understand it's why they closed Groups. They were probably great for getting your music across, but I definitely could think of better ways to get music out there. If anything, I've realised platforms evolve and so does music distribution and the several other cogs in the "machine" so to speak. Anarchy rules everything, eventually. (Open-sourcing of media and hacking culture might have to do something to do with all of this 'disruption')

 
 

Between dabbling with playlists and their curation, trying to understand more about game design and going off on tangents about hacking, music work has been slow but steady. Lots of track reveals are scheduled for September, and I look forward to them. In the meanwhile, I have been scoping out more work for short films and video games. I might start working on a new video game soon, but that news is probably still far off in the distance (maybe another 2 weeks?)

Creativity takes time, folks. It is what it is. It's a risky business. Sometimes you end up at the right place, at the right time. At other times, everything might be exactly where you expected it to be but things would still not work out. It's not at all binary. Sometimes you make a huge mistake and fuck up things. Most of the times, it leads to a torrential shit-storm. At other times, a spark you didn't quite expect. I have found myself working on music related to time, twice this year and it's a fascinating coincidence. The first time, I knew exactly what the client wanted and it didn't quite turn out the way I expected it to. The second time, the opposite happened. I think creativity is not an easy bird to catch. It takes a lot of time, patience, perseverance and self-control and very rarely do all the variables work exactly as planned, So the gist of it - I made a mistake while I was sequencing some music, and I stuck with it. Why? Because strangely, it stuck and went well with what was needed.

Moral of story - make more mistakes, fail a bunch of times and you actually learn more than you realise. With the extremely large amount of focus placed these days on music, art and aesthetics to be somehow "perfect". I think artists need to fail more frequently at what they do. We learn more about things when we fail, as opposed to when we do them perfectly. Not to say that one should intentionally fail. But learn with mistakes every time we make them. The learning slope is exponentially increasing while the grasping power of people - not as much. Eventually the machines will kick in. Knowing how to code and program will take an even stronger front-seat than what has been felt so far.

Hence, I dug into some code the past week or two. (write a poem. Type enter once to go to the next line, and type enter twice to end the poem and voila! something happens)

 
 

So, some time back a strange request was pulled up by a person I knew. They wanted to convert a poem to binary, and wanted me to help them do it. For a while, I thought hard and went back to my old engineering books to try and figure out how that was possible. Eventually, I came to the point where I felt that converting entire poems to binary would take a lot of time, manually. So, I wrote a program. While this could have been just doable in C++, I decided to take the opportunity to dive into the mighty Python programming language and gain some street cred, or in other words "coding cred". Turns out, it's probably a lot more easier to do many things in Python as compared to doing them in C++. The more you know, I guess. While I seemed to have grasped the basics fast enough. There still remains the problem of turning boring python code into something more eye-catching and visual on the front-end. That led me to things like Django and Flask, which so far seems to be a bit confusing to navigate. But more on that later. More bots, HTML and web scripting incoming too, hopefully. A lot of different things, and then there's always the music.

ow, let's see if I can reverse-engineer this binary code extract. (there's a hint somewhere, I'm sure of it!)

01010000 01100001 01110011 01110011 01101001 01101111 01101110 00100000 01100111 01101111 01100101 01110011 00101100 00100000 01100010 01101111 01110010 01100101 01100100 01101111 01101101 00100000 01110010 01100101 01101101 01100001 01101001 01101110 01110011 00001010 01000011 01101111 01100011 01101111 00100000 01000011 01101000 01100001 01101110 01100101 01101100
 
 

Breaking the Wall

The past few weeks have been unexpectedly more busy than I planned. I took some time to sit and mull over what I wanted to do as an artist and where I wanted to go with my work as a music composer / producer and I found myself tugged in several different directions, albeit very unrelated ones. This gave me the chance to explore the idea of breaking a wall. 

What do I mean by breaking a wall? I thought about the idea creatively and analytically. And the more I thought about it, the more it seemed to make sense. I feel that we're living in an increasingly isolated society where more and more people would prefer to do things on their phone and produce their music by their own in their own little home studios and setups. I realise to a large extent that the majority of my work consists of music I create and put out on the web single-handedly hoping for it to reach the right people and an audience that would appreciate it. As we move towards a more heavily 'curated' society, it becomes more and more difficult for me to maintain a coherent identity as an artist. For me, art is super-personal and every time I create some music, it stems out of a personal experience that had an impact on me. To expect somebody to have similar experiences in their life, seems slightly outrageous. I would rather write a 70s synth horror score one day, and a hip-hop banger with metal guitars the next. I don't care about stereotypes or what an 'artist image' is supposed to be. On one level, that for me is breaking a wall.

On another level, I really feel the need now more than ever to collaborate with new artists with unheard-of ideas and un-talked-about stories, because at the end of the day we're all storytellers. We love telling stories and we love hearing them. It gives us something real to relate with and comfort. Comfort, that in the wide universe spanning over a billion galaxies and a gazillion miles, we're not alone. Have you ever tried speaking with someone that never understood your language or somebody that you would never ever meet, if it were not for the internet? It's mind-boggling - the possibilities we have in this time and age and what we make of it.

It is this strange, but revelatory idea that struck my head about a few weeks ago when I discovered an interesting music producer perhaps, much like myself that liked a couple of my tracks on Soundcloud. Doing the customary honours (and being curious) I went over to their Soundcloud to check out the music. This eventually led me to the Bandcamp page of a producer that goes by the name Nea. This album in particular is something that I really digged for its sound as well as visual aesthetic.

 
 

We eventually collaborated on a track which turned out to be an interesting combination of psychedelic and trip-hop music. It fascinates me that sometimes, being where you are and having the surroundings around you that you have growing up, greatly influences how you think about music, rhythm and melody. And then suddenly, you throw it at somebody on the other side of the globe and you're never sure what turns up. The uncertainty and the thrill of it and how unpredictable results can be, still makes me think about every single notion we have about everything. Questioning everything is a gift. And as a musician, I only hope that I can do that every single day. It's literally what makes me excited to open my eyes to a new morning.

 
 

Moving on, I worked on several projects these days. One of them was actually a score for a short horror / experimental film that was inspired by the visual / audio aesthetic of the 70s and 80s. Seeing that Stranger Things is such a big deal everywhere just a few days after I started working on this film, I wouldn't go as far as saying that the style of music in Stranger Things is something I took inspiration from. But it fascinates me how sometimes one film / good tv show comes out following a certain music style and suddenly everyone wants to hop on to the bandwagon. It's sad seeing trends being given more leverage than actual hardcore creativity sometimes.

I would perhaps place the music I made for this particular short film as more inspired by the work of Wendy Carlos than, say music that is so to speak textbook 80s. Being a dissonant composer and somehow always having that Bernard Herrmann DNA running through the music I make for horror, I feel like it made for an interesting combination of sounds. John Carpenter is also another composer I deeply admire and look up to, when horror film music is talked about.

Apart from all that, another topic that found my curiosity was the use of non-diegetic sounds as part of a music score for a film. The idea first hit me when I was on Twitter and found somebody asking about examples where the wall between music and sound effects was removed. There were some pretty interesting answers to the question on Twitter (I added the tweet thread below). While the usage of a combination of sound design and music in recent video games might have been the first and most obvious answer, I actually found myself trying to find out about films in particular that did this. There definitely seem to be a lot more video games than films that do this, though.

 
 
 
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The first film that I could find about that tried blurring the gap between sound design and music was a film in 1956 called Forbidden Planet (poster above) and if you go and watch the film, the sounds you hear in the film are fascinating to say the least. What's piqued my interest in Forbidden Planet is that it's electronic music score's innovation stemmed out of the need to avoid film industry music guild fees, which eventually led composer Louis Barron to construct his own electronic circuits and a ring modulator so that he could create the characteristic blips, blops and beeps that you hear all through the film. What's sad is that they never got considered for an Academy Award for their score simply because they did not belong to the Musicians Union. People didn't get whether to put their work in the "Sound Effects" category or "Music" category. If that's not hardcore sound fuckery for you, I don't know what is, honestly.

There are also an interesting paper I found that talks in depth about Diegetic / Non-diegetic music scores and how they relate with film and narrative. There are some very interesting examples there. I also think that there's a lot of things in the concept of usage of non-diegetic sounds or music as score in film that films can borrow from video games and I am surprised that more people don't try to connect these seemingly unconnected dots. This article in particular talks a lot about the subtext of non-diegetic narrative in video games - things like people finding out more about the story of the game from items they collect inside the game. In a sense it's like people are breaking the fourth wall with video-games by finding out more of the story from items. What if people could do something similar with music in films? I feel that to a large extent, a lot of inspiration could be taken from the Bioshock franchise where some of the licensed music seems to be so well thought-out that it's almost like it tells a story just with the licensed songs themselves. Almost all of them strangely enough, seem to have their context twisted and made to fit what the narrative of the game is. Last year, I wrote my master's thesis on the topic of narrative in Bioshock Infinite, and I had a section where I talked about the idea of licensed songs being used as narrative in games. If you are interested to read more in depth about that game in particular, and how it put this to use, you can check my thesis which I've uploaded here.

 
 

It is with this context that, when I started working on music for a short film, and I saw the first few scenes, I inherently realised that it seemed to somehow go well with music that a friend and a close collaborator Nikita Sailesh had recently been working on. Having reached out to her and secured her permission to use some of her work in a derivative sense, I eventually tried to shift the tone of music in a rather different direction that seemed more nightmarish, yet elusive. At first, I re-recorded the entire track through a cheaper decades-old analog tape recorder and heavily EQ'd it to give it a characteristic radio-like texture. The idea at first was to have it sound like it was coming from a nearby radio, which incidentally was not in the film. But one can always use imagination to conjure things up, and somehow in the context of the scene it seemed to make sense from the non-diegetic perspective.

Eventually, the music composer in me started taking control, and I decided to add many many new things to the slightly destructive radio-filtered track that was the new version of the music. What happened later, was that the original track by Nikita got severely pushed into the background and something you don't actually hear much of, at all in the final version. But it definitely adds something to the core feeling of the track. I added a lot of synths, percussion and some sudden extended crescendos of violins and voila, what came out seemed reminiscent of somebody who was sitting at a beach feeling great, but there was this slight undertone of things not being normal or 'right' - something that suddenly came into prominence with the percussion hits and the orchestral crescendos. A french dream about the Riviera, gone very very rogue. Nightmares abound!

 
 

Moving on, there have been plenty of failures and plenty of successes doing things. I worked on audio for an art studio promo, but it perhaps didn't go as I expected. It would perhaps end up on the Disquiet Junto, an interesting collective of audio artists and experimental music composers that come up with new compositions and works every other week on a new theme or topic. It makes for a very interesting creative process to work on tracks that have themes they think up. It's full of innovative, creative and interesting musicians. If you're a musician, I would definitely recommend looking them up and trying out some of their 'juntos' to try and see where it takes you creatively.

As for me, I shall continue to create more music, and try breaking more walls with music, art and games - just as much as I try to find news ideas, collaborators and possibilities. Also, I just finished a new experimental hip-hop joint. So more on that later. wink wink.

 
 

The Driving Force

Behind any form of art, there is always a driving force. I asked myself the question probably a lot of people ask themselves. 'Why did I work on this song?' or to arrive at the existential part of it 'Why do I make music?' The answer was of course not as easy as juice and pie. Maybe because I find it beautiful that a lot of things that happen to me on a day-to-day basis impact and affect the kind of music I make. While in the short-term it doesn't amount to a lot. But in the long-term, I like to think the kind of music I make and the people I collaborate with, shapes and defines who I am. And maybe that's why I hold it so dear.

Some questions never really have clear-cut answers but I think that's the beauty of the human condition. We make out of it, whatever we can. We shape our own realities in an abstract way. So what really was 'Daze Blue' about? I don't really think there's a clear-cut story behind the song yet, except the fact that the past few months have been an uphill struggle both internally and externally. And to keep at it, to continue making music regardless of what I get from it materialistically or what opinions other people might have - to continue following the wavy and crooked road of my imagination that leads maybe nowhere, maybe somewhere. That was the spirit of it.

Perhaps one thing that I really pride myself on, is the fact that I worked on the artwork, if not completely - atleast partially. My sister provided me with consistent support and let me use some of her photographs which proved to be essential and central to the theme of the song. But more on that later.

My month was of course peppered with the odd gig or two that I went to, some familiar faces meeting me and then some new. Having been accepted to Berklee College of Music, Valencia for a Master's in Scoring for Film, Television and Video Games about a month ago, I also had to run around getting various things in order. Learnt some Spanish, worked on some music theory and harmony among several other things. I shall start in September.

Also, getting a student visa for Spain must have been the most excruciatingly tiring process I have ever came across. But at the end, it was done, along with succeeding celebrations, fist-pumps and of course the obligatory 'Bhai, kab ja raha hain?' question being asked about fifty thousand times. But it's all good.

Now with barely two weeks left to clock, Things really come full circle. A new journey is about to begin, and I feel just as excited as I feel determined to take on the challenges that lie ahead of me. So many questions and so many possibilities, it's actually kind of freaky how fast your life can change sometimes, in the blink of an eye. Three months ago, probably none of this could have been imagined.

Onwards we go.

Expecting the Unexpected

Some humans are straightforward and upfront about what they want in life. They have a plan. "Let's do A. If it works out I'll be at B." - that's what they tell themselves. Planning down to the last second of what they're doing is what makes them feel more stable and more confident that the future will work out for them. And then there are some of us, who take life as it comes. it's always a bit of risk expecting the unexpected.

Last week on an early Sunday morning, I decided to try something new. I ventured out of the house alone without a destination in mind and I decided to take a portable recorder with me. Several hours passed away as I walked around the neighborhood through half-broken footpaths, past the sounds of cars driving by, chitter-chatter of random old people, and all kinds of random ambient noises I never realized existed before. What's better, I ended up in the middle of a sparse jungle.

An interesting thing I noticed was the fact that field recording is drastically different from recording something inside a studio. There is never only a single isolated sound when you're recording. there's always the odd bird chirping in the back or some unexpected ambient noise. It was interesting to try and make these unusual sounds add more character to what I was recording. Say, for example a dog barking in the back while I was sitting near a leaked pipe trying to record the sound of water.

Interesting ideas popped in my head later on while I was going through all these recordings and interestingly what happened later that day ended up sculpting in part, a new song idea. More about that later.

The Bigger Picture

During the course of my musical exploration over the past few years, I have realized that learning new things and concepts can be testing and quite unique in the terms of challenges it poses in front of you. But sometimes taking the risk and the prospect of going a mile in an unknown direction can be both rewarding, and confusing.

I spent some time off and went to Pune a couple of weeks ago, looking for interesting opportunities and experiences. While being there helped me think a bit more clearly about which direction my music has been going, I still haven't yet completely figured it out. So I have decided to take some time to contemplate and focus a bit more on projects other than Ebonix for now. While there is no dearth of ideas or concepts in my head, there is still the need to separate the stones from the diamonds.

I find music I'm making these days seems to be more gothic-influenced and there seem to be darker tones. I've been listening to a lot of Marilyn Manson and Nine Inch Nails. Perhaps I shall arrive at the smack middle of an industrial, electroclash witch-house sound and ambient music with a few orchestral elements. A hint of psychedelia always works for me too. There's often so many different directions one piece of music can take, I find myself going in tangents and circles. Then before I know it, I'm back to square one.

 
 

This tends to get worse when I'm trying to work on several tracks and they're all from completely genres. It's complete and utter chaos. I hope that I could work on one track for extended periods of time but it seems to me like the longer I work on something at one go, the more ideas get dispersed. Hmm, maybe I just need a timetable for the month. But that's the problematic thing about ideas. They come at always the wrong time. Sigh.

I suppose workflow is very important when you're trying to work on something creatively. The process you use does have an impact on the kind of music you're making somewhere along the line.

 Hence, I try all kinds of combination these days. having coffee before working. Writing this blog after an intense music-making session. Everything helps when you're a little free to do things at your own pace and speed. Something, I suppose isn't present there as much when you're working with a band.

While I have been on a creative standstill for a while, I find ideas coming to me again, something that probably wasn't there a couple of weeks ago. But it's even harder to finish a half-done idea than to make one in the first place. I'm trying to look at it from an opportunist perspective. A half-full glass always looks better than empty one inside your head.

Trying to look at the bigger picture for once.

Two steps forward, one step back.

Losing the Plot

Summer has set in, and it has become comfortable again, to sit under a fan and contemplate about ideas and where they can take me. No summer's complete without taking a plunge inside a swimming pool, though. I'm still wondering when I'll take one. It's all about time and it seems like I don't have a lot these days.

I find myself in a different city now. Tracing patterns, trying to find new avenues and opportunities. I feel like a rabbit in a new maze altogether. Picking one at a time, Eliminating them all by trial-and-error. Well, somebody's gotta do it right? Sometimes you have to completely lose the plot altogether to find it again. Ah, the ways of life.

The city of Pune situated in the state of Maharashtra is an interesting place to explore, if you have the time of course. Mainly cited as a 'student town', it is a vibrant city and you find all sorts of people walking and bustling around the streets till the wee hours of the night. As far as food goes, my experiences so far have not been very experimental. Two days is not a lot of time to explore this place.

The plot of how I reached here is not that interesting either. Let's just say I decided some new place would be great to recollect my ideas and thoughts while at the same time taking a break from my daily routine. Flights were booked suddenly and I was abruptly sent off for a couple of days not just to chill, but to 'explore opportunities' as I slyly told myself. Not of much use, unfortunately.

I have been experiencing creative breaks for a while, but it's amazing what a few days of fresh air and exploration can do to your mind. I suddenly find myself longing for home and its familiarity while I sit and sculpt out a few musical ideas. I don't have a keyboard. Only me and the computer. It's a new formula I'm trying, drawing things on a piano roll. I am already starting to see things develop creatively again. Hopefully the inspiration will stay with me as I head back tomorrow evening.

The Sound of Chaos

More months, more monotony. I keep doing some work or the other to keep myself busy. I believe its essential to keep changing, and keep finding new avenues to test and challenge yourself and your abilities. While there has been the occasional advertisement, trailer or promotional video I keep getting to make music for, at the studio. Been rarely anything the last couple of months that really piqued my interest in terms of concept, or art in film.

About a month ago, I got a message from one of those students at National Institute of Fashion Technology whose movie's music I worked on a few months ago. She told me there was an interesting project that some of her friends were working on. It was a documentary about a deaf and mute wrestler, and they wanted somebody who was good at sound design.

I got in touch with these people, and met them a few days later near the studio I worked in. They asked me to have some chai with them while they discussed the idea and introduced me to it. The movie was supposed to be called 'Goonga Pehelwaan'. While I had gone there with some skepticism, it seemed that they had elaborate sketches and storyboards with them, which showed exactly what they wanted. They sounded professional.

I decided to take them up on the offer, since it was quite an interesting one. They told me they had sounds of all kinds of daily activities and articles like a guy riding a bike, somebody tearing up paper, brooms, candles, papers, trains, roads, phones and basically every sound under the sky and they wanted me to arrange them all in such a way that things went from systematic to chaotic.

The main concept of the whole track would be the fact that the person can only hear, not see, speak or talk. They were of course very particular about the sounds they wanted so they decided they'd record the sounds themselves and send them to me to arrange and make a track out of.

 
 

I spent a lot of time working on the track. I think it almost took me a week to salvage an arrangement out of all the sounds they sent. There were about a couple hundred of them, roughly. Lots of times, the sounds wouldn't be in the same format or not be clearly recorded. I'd end up replacing a lot of them with clearer samples or worse, trying to restore them.

It was a gruelling and mind-numbing experience for me. Working on half a minute of audio for two weeks is no joke, period. I kept putting layers upon layers of all these samples that started almost at a four-bar beat but ended up being like a cacophony.

Now, even with cacophony there are rules. That's something I realised while working on the track. I could have haphazardly arranged all the samples in a way that it would actually 'sound' like cacophony, but the art of sound design is understanding the unspoken. I realised what they really wanted was not actually cacophony but a more refined form of cacophony, something that would exude logic and be sophisticated at the same time make no compromises with noise.

Two of my favourite samples throughout the lot was the train sample and another sample of cars passing by that I EQ'd such that the honking and the city ambience would be more prominent. Making certain sounds prominent and making some duck around and provide a framework is what made the track tick, I suppose.

Later, when I saw the finished video, I liked the way they used the various frames of video and combined them to create a something visually stimulating as well as something that would give the viewer something to think about. You can also check their website out at www.goongapehelwaan.com

Time to get some coffee, I suppose.

 
 

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.

Round 2 : Fight!

Now we come to the interesting part. Fight sequences! Being the avid gamer that I am, there are months of my life that practically disappeared when I started playing games like Street Fighter and Mortal Kombat. Ask anybody and they'll tell you they were the best games ever made.

Nonetheless, coming back to focus, approaching fight sequences is absolutely no walk in the park. It still would have been much more easier for me, if there was just one fight sequence in the movie, but two made stuff complicated. Because the thing with fight sequences is you have to keep them as interesting as possible. and no two can ever be completely the same

I think the second sequence has a very Matrix-esque vibe to it, But not really a lot in terms of actual melody. Something that's absolutely crazy about making music for movies is, sometimes you don't even have to necessarily know a lot about music to make it. I really just fiddled around with random notes on the second action sequence as I was literally on the verge of running out of ideas by then.

 
 


I used a few analog synth VST's too with some kind of rhythm going to them, at about four times the actual speed in both the tracks, something that really complimented the speed of how fast the sequence was. There was a lot of FX going around in the track as well with wooshes and cymbal crashes all over the place. Going absolutely bonkers in a fight scenes has its own perks.

While the second sequence was still much more experimental, I think the first one really upped the ante in terms of attitude and swag. It had hoodlums cornering the protagonist from every side. Once again, it was synth ftw. The good thing about action sequences is the twisting and absolute destruction of drums that is permissible most of the times if not all the time. Of course, the occasional booms and bass add to the thrill as well.

And that's pretty much the gist of it. Track finished. Game Over. I win. Muhaha.

Influences : The Good and The Ugly

I have realised there have been quite a few influences that have shaped and changed how I approach making music for a film. Yesterday night while I was going through the usual sources to get my hands on new music, I came across a playlist on a website 8tracks. It had this playlist with really old creepy folk songs. 

There was this one song that stood out from that playlist, in particular that used a lot of harpsichord and there was this drone in the background whose pitch kept bending up and down. I never quite managed to find that song, but I thought it really did a good job of creating an eerie ambience.

Below: A similar mix to the one I heard on 8tracks to give me inspiration. It has a doomy folk feeling to it.

 

I set out to make something similar as a skeleton for a dreamy sequence about a bathroom in the movie I was working on. An important aspect when you're working on music for a film is the fact that it's not just about music or ambience, it's the sound as well. For example, I made it a point to incorporate the sound of tap water or maybe just water pouring down on a floor, so that the person listening/watching the film can actually relate it to. Sometimes it's all about the realism.

The track ended up sounding quite creepy and dissonant as well. I took some white noise, processed it and EQ'd it a bit and used it as a snare, It was quite an interesting thing to do, because it interacted so well with the rest of the track, I decided to keep it. I also decided to deliberately incorporate some vinyl crackles just to add a little dirt. Dirty is good, sometimes.

 
 

 

'Don't Be Afraid of The Dark', a horror movie released back in 1973 served as one of the inspirations for the movie score I was working on.

Another cool thing that I tried doing was I really turned down the kick a few notches, so there were times when all you could hear was the snare which created interesting audio illusions that there was a kick when actually there wouldn't be one at places.

I've also been using a lot of Reason to create soundscapes and ambient layers for this score in particular, and I think it sort of, shows that all those sounds were quite experimental, when you listen to them.

And I'm off to a break now.

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.