Building Cities

Shaping and creating sounds is like an art. Much like the art of building a city, A city of sounds. There is never only one plan. There is never a perfect one, either. It is a human process. You make mistakes, you learn. You take the good, throw away the bad. Then you build another layer on top of that. There's foundation and architecture.

Then there's landscaping. If you build only roads and forget necessities, your town is going to be messed up. People won't turn up to live in your city if it's full of beautiful scenic places but has small and shitty houses. You always need the right balance. You can always skew it a bit left or right, to add the human touch. But if one extreme is absent, you risk making the whole structure fall apart to chaos and uncertainty.

I hope you get the analogy. It matters to see everything in perspective when you're working on a project. It might take a few minutes and a cup of coffee or three 17-hour sleep days to get that golden idea or unique concept in your head, but at the end of it all, Believe me. It is the only thing shining through like a light throughout your city when you're done. The golden idea. The concept. Art can only go so far without a concept. Because truth is, you need a concept to sell your art, to make it bankable and establish a value of trust, money and time with it. It is what makes you legit.

As with any musician/artist, there are always influences. Mine, particularly for this score was the score for 'The Social Network' by Trent Reznor. I saw a lot of parallels in terms of theme and subject matter. There were a lot of 'smarts' involved. While I could've absorbed much more from the influence, I didn't want it to overwhelm the sonic picture I was painting for this game in particular.

The score began with the dominating motif on xylophones and a slow percussion and as the score progressed different melodies and elements just melted into each other. There was transformation and evolution. There was a certain 'catch' to the whole score. It was not long. Five tracks that clocked not more than a minute and a half. You need a certain tact to make scores short and concise and I, in particular have a bad habit of making tracks really long and I usually suffer because of it. I have to go back and shorten it, always.

It was not an easy task to create different melodies and chord progressions in such a way that they all had a different 'sonic signature' but somehow came together effortlessly as if made for each other. Creating sound, is indeed the art of making the impossible, possible.

As I finished the score and sat listening to the almost six-minute track on my home studio monitors, I was quite happy. I had tried endlessly for days to challenge myself and create something that was unique, organic in the beginning. Not just that, it transformed into something different and that was something I had never expected. In a good way, of course.

Time to play Bioshock again.

Little Monsters, Giant Ideas

As work has progressed on music and sound design for Candy Catch (taking in to consideration my previous roadblock as well), things have managed to move pretty well. Making music for games is a little complex and takes a different kind of treatment than probably a movie or a video would.

You see, games are interactive. You push a button, move a control and suddenly the game is not the same anymore. There are different behaviours and patterns for every course of action that you take, and they constantly influence your position in the game. There are many more variables and constants than a movie would have, probably. Of course I'm not saying scoring for movies is easier, but it's different. I like to think of it as an a matrix of functions forming entire arrays that constantly interact and make changes in each other. It's like an orchestra of variables.

I predictably ended up making the Christmas theme track as a little bit of a derivative on the usual 'Jingle Bells' theme. I needed it to not look like straight up cut-and-paste debauchery, Hence a long process of constant refinement and modification of scales happened. It was an interesting thing to do. To sit with a bunch of scales and completely and utterly change the mood of an original track to suit your twisted needs. I felt like a butcher. It felt evil. It felt pretty good.

A musician's gotta do what he's gotta do. Even though the Christmas theme was not as subtle as I imagined it in my head, it fared fine as it was not the usual Christmas theme, there was something different. There were subtle elements of the halloween theme in there as well. Not as spooky though. Ah, the drastic difference a major into a minor and vice-versa can make to an entire song. Mind-blowing, to say the least.

After a snack break which consisted of binging on the usual potato chips and cookies, I got down to finally taking down the last brick in the wall, The opening song. Things seem much more easier once you're the past the two-track mark usually, and so it was. I had a giant folder full of half-recorded stems and elements from both the tracks. Some spooky, some sounded like Santa Claus himself.

There was more copy-cut-paste. Brutal modifications sufficed in extreme situations as well. I'm not the kind of guy who likes to hurry up with tracks and make them sound glued-together or disconnected. I hate that sort of thing. 1 am turned to 5 am and then afternoon, but the almost-done track was still not quite done yet. Even though most elements were borrowed from both tracks, I made sure I did a scale-change here and switched sounds here and there, just to give the track a refined touch. And now it's done. More cookies are in order.

God, I feel like a magician. Poof.