music development

Halt////Resume

As I sit in boredom listening to the erosively loud soundtrack to the new Wolfenstein game I have developed an intense liking for, I think about the past few weeks since I've been in Delhi. It has been a very interesting and rewarding year at Berklee Valencia. While my heart has been a bit on the heavy side - as with most things that you have to learn to let go of, I feel like somehow I may not have been quite done with Valencia. Something tells me I might some day return there. Or maybe not, and its just the uncertainty of what lies ahead talking. Maybe both.

While not a lot of musical work has been happening the past few weeks, I feel that the next few days might give me a glimpse of what future projects hold for me. Having very intensely concentrated on the orchestral side of music working with several film cues all through the year, I feel that I now see a lot more of the musical spectrum than I did before. I suppose somehow the internalisation in my work of that is yet to happen.

However, I will slowly be rolling out new compositions in the next few weeks that I have worked on all of 2014 and the past half of 2015 on my alternative soundcloud page. Some of them crafted with a blunt hand, others with careful precision. On some, I was quite the stumbler. On others, I found new avenues and genres that I had never thought I could do before. It has been a great learning experience and I feel that it’s important now than ever to leave the colourful world of preparation and study for one of application and hit-and-try-and-fail. Because truth is, you learn a lot more that way than any other else (not that going to school for music is not useful, quite the contrary)

In addition, there is quite the backlog of remixes that I have acquired the past two or three years. Having put it off for really long, I feel that the only way to break a giant tower is to first start taking a crack at it with a small needle and a hammer. Clearly, my compositional approaches seems to have changed and I’m looking to start a musical riot as soon as possible.

P.S. - To those of you who are looking at blogpost after blogpost, I worked on a small track for a sort of a ‘pitch’ to an indie game company, I’ve embedded the link below. More good stuff coming your way soon enough. Keep your eyes and ears open to the Facebook page as well.

 
 

Countdown.

With less than 24 hours left on the clock till I fly off to London to conduct and participate in a recording with a 51-piece orchestra at Abbey Road Studios as part of the culminating experience for my Master's course, many mixed feelings come to the forefront. Excitement, derision. Doubt, happiness. A mixture of frustration, inspiration and exasperation adds some more heightened euphoria to the concoction of strange emotions, voices and whispers in and around my psyche.

It has indeed been a wild ride so far at Berklee Valencia with so many highs, lows, slow realisations and sudden occurrences. One thing that I can be sure of is the fact that I have understood so many things in the past ten months about myself, not to mention the possibilities that exist and the giant steps that lie ahead of me, creatively and decision-wise in the future. It's almost like my carefree and fun life the way it was back in New Delhi seems almost like another lifetime before. But I suppose that is all about the smaller sacrifice for the greater good.

Onwards, towards the piece of music I have been working tirelessly on over the past month - I could say that it is always a real challenge to distill your ideas and musical thoughts into something that truly and uniquely symbolises you and what your 'sound' is, not to mention the challenge that exists twisting an idea completely on its head and to try to build backwards from an already existing sound or something that is visually available. Being primarily a person that relies on how things 'sound' as opposed to how they should be 'written' or orchestrated, it is a giant leap to go to a place where you are trying to learn composition as opposed to focusing on producing and mixing, something that is being stressed on so much these days. You will often hear statements being thrown around like 'The song/track/idea is great, but you need to work on production.'

Having the thinking that comes from the perspective of a music producer, I fully subscribe to the notion that production is important. However, it came to me after a certain amount of time producing and mixing music that in essence, interesting music becomes easier to write when you really understand more about music compositionally. Therein lied the reason I decided to pursue a film/video game scoring program as opposed to going after music production. In this day and age, I feel like production has become such an essential part of the musical framework required from musicians and producers in the industry, it really does come back full circle to composition. There also lies the idea that certain music compositions stood the test of time and are still recognised as legendary, as opposed to the culture of music being produced en masse these days with countless music producers and electronic artists coming out with new music releases every other day. Among the noise, chaos and helter-skelter, what really stands?

Being a person that truly does believe more in quality and quantity, I have been constantly been posing myself this question and hitting a wall simultaneously. Over the past few years, the amount and quality of music I make has been varied. The reason behind it is perhaps, because I am truly trying to understand where the boundaries lie. Where does music end and sound begin? Are they really as dependent/independent as they are perceived? Does it really matter? While producers and electronic musicians reading this will scoff at these statements, when you really go into the orchestral side of music composition and try to pull apart the elements, you see rigidity and then you see so much flexibility. It's a bundle of contradictions, perhaps not that different from what popular musicians are trying to do these days. After all, every idea comes from somewhere doesn't it?

Time to pack and say my goodbyes for the week.

Abbey Road is going to be fucking legendary.

P.S - A Muse video I saw back in 2011 came to mind. I did once think it would be one of my major dreams to be there, much less even dared to think up that I would have my music performed and recorded there. Maybe dreams do come true after all. Here's to more.

Ciao.

 
 

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.

Clarity in Motion

Clarity is a slippery slope. I like to picture it as a thin sheet of ice, stuck halfway between completely dissolving into cold colorless water and being so solid it comes to the point of cracking.

It really does take a lot more than just willpower and determination to hold on to anything. Be it a thought, an idea inside your head or something that you hold very close to yourself. It stays for a bit, then it disappears.

It was trying to catch these few wisps of ideas and thoughts that I spent most of my last month trying to do. I embarked on a roadtrip to Chandigarh, a picturesque and quiet place in Punjab that has its own charm. 

I was basically cut off from civilization for about a week as my phone didn't seem to work. I like to think it brought a lot of things in perspective for me. I met my grandmother who's over 9 decades old now along with other family relatives. I had jacked up enough songs on my phone and iPod shuffle to make the time seem like a blur. Time flied away.

I also brainstormed on a few ideas that were developing in my head on my way there. And it dawned on me that it was just about the right time to start in motion the release of my new song. I had been stalling releasing it for a while as things kept happening . However, once I got back and things seemed to be going fine. August seemed to be the perfect time. I took the plunge.

Sometimes in life, you have to stop thinking about consequences, opinions, doubts that include all the junk in your head that stops you from making decisions and just go in for the kill.
 

 
 

Climax & Relapse

Often in life, you find yourself tackling situations and coming head-to-head with problems you never thought you would have to deal with in the first place. It's at time like these, you sit and try to look at life from different perspectives. Some of them show you the rosy picture, some don't. It's when I am trying to tackle such problems, I find myself running out of inspiration. I have been trying a lot of things to help me out with the creative process of making music. I seem to be running low on sleep, and its usually more productive than not

confus.gif

The biggest challenge I faced during these two weeks was trying to formulate a point of climax. I like to think of a song as a story. There's the introduction, then there are a number of characters that come into the plot that add color to the story. There's chaos and there's drama. And finally there is always a twist that turns the entire plot upside down. In a lot of songs you find a buildup and finally a point where it all comes together and crashes down. For me, usually this point comes in between.

I am not a person that is used to thinking of songs as having a straightforward structure. I have struggled a lot in the past trying to follow a strict formula, but it always gets boring when there is a set structure. I believe music is free and it should flow the way it comes out. I feel that crafting and modifying it to follow a certain structure is akin to betraying the original spirit of the song.

It is nothing but ironic though, that a certain mistake I made while I was tweaking the reverb settings of a certain drum part, ended up forming part of the climax. A 'breathy' effect, you could call it.

I'm really trying to not give away a lot here. But it is really hard as a musician to control your excitement when you work hard on something and it ends up sounding good to your ears.

I realize that some of the best things in life are caused by unexpected things. Something that could fit in with the state of my life right about now as well. I would say nobody is perfect and we all make mistakes. But what matters is learning from your past experiences and growing into a better person rather than lingering on the bad parts.

Earlier this week, I lost a couple of opportunities due to minor differences. I also ended up parting ways with my band Ebonix permanently, something that I had hoped would not happen maybe a year ago. but it seems like your needs and what you want from life changes as time passes by. While somewhere along the line, I had hoped things wouldn't come to the stage where differences became irreconcilable, but I realize that it had to happen sooner and later. Hard decisions have to be made when they are required. We all need to let go and move on. Maybe better things lie ahead. I plan to continue working on music on my own.

The only conclusion I can draw is, you have to keep moving in life. You have to keep hunting for opportunities and look for the silver lining in every dark cloud. All I know is making music is what I love, and I will continue regardless of any setback I come across.

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.

Behind the Mirror

As I find myself feeling a little hung over after managing to barely wake up at 5 pm, I can't help thinking about the crazy, crazy gig I played with Ebonix last night. I don't really like following routine so I have been putting off writing this post for a while, primarily because I don't want this blog to turn into a primarily gig-related blog. But nonetheless, I shall talk about it a while.

I have often looked at the kind of unmarked line that exists between the audience and the musician/performer at live venues with a sort of disdain and curiosity. What if someday, the musician turns into the audience and vice-versa? What if there were no artists as per se, but only people doing abstract random things and the same people watching each other? Wouldn't it be more interesting?

Back at the gig at Matchbox, HKV, things moved pretty smooth. Happening at a venue we had never played before, it is always exciting to go to new places, figuratively and literally. The rest of it, was pretty much routine. The typical soundcheck peppered by the odd setup question and figuring out how the sound setup was going to work with the band. Hurling and moving around of gear, trying to find space and so on. Stages in Delhi, are pretty much usually quite cramped and you tend to get used to adjusting yourself according to space limitations.

As the night progressed and the other bands playing with us settled in, getting their soundcheck in order, we hung around Hauz Khas chilling, talking and discussing band strategies. The street art around that area is nothing short of amazing. with some artworks stretched out over buildings three stories long. It was nothing short of mind-blowing to look at them and be generally awed.

The gig went pretty spot-on. No major glitches or fuck-ups were noticeable as such. Probably was one of our tightest sets till date. It was a good crowd to play to. They seemed receptive and it really is a good feeling when music you've put years into gets an audience that likes and appreciates your work.

There was of course the odd fear I had of my laptop falling down as it was literally perched on top of a stand at the edge. But somehow, it fared well. There was no catastrophe, only fun.

A gig well done, makes for a good week. An interesting couple of new projects are in the works. I'm still trying to get them off the ground. But inspiration can be a hard nut to crack when you have so much going on in your life simultaneously. The situation behind the mirror is always a lot different than what it seems like, on the front. It will happen, sooner or later. Fingers crossed. Just need that one bright idea to get things going.

Guess I'll just sleep on it.

Diffusing Timebombs

Back to real life, and repetition.

As I sit and give some thought to what I was doing the past week amid the chaos and repetition of an NIN album from 2005 playing in the background, I have realized quite a few things. One of them primarily being  that mixing, recording and producing a song is like diffusing a time bomb. Especially when its not your own. You know you're handling a bomb when there's a sweat on your brow and you're fidgety as fuck about everything. Green wire? Red wire? Do you create a bypass circuit. Do you try hacking digitally? There are millions of way you can go about it, to be honest. But what really defines whether the song is going to explode or not is what decision you take. 

To be frank, that's always too much power in one person's hand. And like I said before. More power, more responsibility. The fact that one small line you draw on the automation of a track on a Cubase can make or break someone else's career is heavily scary, empowering and kind of, a buzz-kill. But still, you try to do your best, always. Sometimes you succeed.

Back on Sunday, I recorded a metal band called Requisition. It was a whole day affair. I don't really have an extensive setup, just standard stuff. Think DIY Bedroom Producer stuff. A couple of 57's, A condenser, etc etc. One thing I do have figured out though, is setting up right is being halfway there. I woke up early, took my stuff upstairs and fortunately, there were no delays. The band came, recording begun immediately.

Stasis

..aaaaand we're back.
Been six shaky months since I updated this blog. Sans redesigning the website, not much has changed. I would say I have been in a state of stasis. Think of it as a standstill at the crossroads of life, where I was weighing my options. Call it a bet with the devil, a game of chess with the universe or maybe tracing a map if you will.

That changed pretty much last week, when I finally decided to work on some of my own music, brand new stuff. (no spoilers yet). You see, making music isn't really like a tap of water. You can't turn it off or on whenever you want, It just sort of happens when it does. In the meanwhile, life happens. You learn to schedule and mould your life around seemingly random bursts of ideas, concepts and thoughts in your head. Sometimes it leads to magic, sometimes it just not enough.

I'm writing this as I slowly try and burst out of my creative block, I wonder what I could equate with that feeling of inspiration without alienating my fellow readers, however small the count maybe at the moment. Chips! Yes, it's like a bag of chips. So many of them in a bag. they're all the same but they're all err, tasty. Maybe not to the odd diet-conscious anorexic, but you get the drift.

Putting rants aside, I've started work on a band's song that I recorded the past weekend in addition to some more interesting ideas/projects that lie ahead this month. This one's sounding pretty heavy as fuck at the moment. I'm thinking Jambi meets Kyuss? Another two days full of hard work ought to do the trick. Time's ticking.

Tick Tock.

Ciao civilization, for a while.

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.

Create & Destroy

As with any great idea, Finishing it up is never really the end of it. After finishing my score for the game I was working on, I went and met up with the good people at Motion Punch Studios and they seemed to like the music. After finalising it and deciding upon the kinds of sounds they required for FX and in-game scenes, I went back home that day and sent them everything they needed. Things were finally done.

This was not the end, though. About one and a half month later, they got in touch with me again. Apparently, the entire game had been renovated and changed from the top-bottom completely. It was an absolutely new game. It also seemed to be much better-looking graphics-wise and interactive quotient seemed to be higher. It was time to destroy the old and come out with the new.

With a heavy heart and a sad face, I went back home and started working on the new score. I realised that life isn't always fair and things don't always turn out the way you expect them to. Nothing really seems to be coming to my mind, so I decided to write this little blog post down.

Ah, life you witty lil' bitch you.

Record. Pause. Repeat.

Hello and welcome to another look at the daily life and day-to-day happenings of an aspiring sound engineer and musician. Oh, and did I say struggling? Yes, that too. It's a tough life trying to piece together a career out of music especially a place like Delhi, where competition is quite a bit.

The only time everything seems worth it is when people actually come to you to get their song/album recorded or maybe, give you some work. Srishti is a person I've known for a few years now and has always been supportive and helpful whenever I'm looking for new projects or something interesting that I feel, could challenge me as a musician or a producer.

A friend of Srishti used to play for Soul Reverb, a band I was associated with for a short time. His name was Neeraj Debakshi, and he was playing in another band that went by the name of Serenity Infused. Neeraj came in touch with me and asked me if I could record their song at my home studio. I looked at it as an opportunity and decided to agree.

Now this band wasn't the typical rock band, so I looked upon it as a challenge. They're a fusion band that combines elements of Indian classical music with progressive rock influences. They also had a tabla player, which would mean it would take much longer to record, as tabla is a unique instrument in terms of timbre, mic-positioning required and processing.

We decided to start recording in the evening at about 4 pm as I had other work to take care of, at SoundSpeaks at the time. I came back and we started with Guitars as we had finished programming drums the previous day. It took about four hours to completely sort out the guitars, which was followed by Bass and that took about an hour.

Tabla was special, and we took some time experimenting with several mic positions. Since I didn't have too many mics, just a couple of SM57's, it's not like there was too much room for experimentation either. But I think we finally settled at a certain position. One thing I realised later on though was the error I made of keeping the mics too close to the tabla player's hands. there were a lot of small intervals of time where he would unintentionally end up flicking the mic.

It was basically hell on earth, with processing the tabla. Even with the editing. There were huge errors in come places. If the whole song took 10 units of effort, I would probably say the tabla took about 4. It was that hard. But in the end, somehow managed to make it sound crisp and a little snappy.

The vocals gave me a pretty hard time too. But that's pretty much how your life is supposed to be when you're producing a song. It takes a lot of hardwork to make one sound good. I remember spending entire nights going through tons of forums and googling stuff, not because it was work. But because I found it so interesting.

Time just flies when you're doing things you love.

The Berlin Vibe

Last December, I worked on an interesting musical idea. A drummer I know from the Delhi music scene had recently started experimenting with electronic music. He got himself a copy of FL Studio and tried making something that would sound a little bit like deadmau5 meets Skrillex. He wanted it to be a dubstep song but it didn't necessarily have to be that way.

Now since he was pretty new to the DAW, He exported out the stems, The Fruity Loops file and the samples and sent them all to me. He was at a roadblock and couldn't really figure out the next course of action and asked me for some help and advice.

When I started working on the track it had nothing more than a few beats, a bass thrown in here and there with the occasional synth pad and swell thrown in between. It was nothing but a rough sketch of a track that was going to be.

Slowly, but surely I still kept hacking at the track like a slow hammer. Added drums, more synths and some of that distorted bass. Added loads of glitch effects to a lot of different elements.

I'm a huge fan of glitch and love incorporating it, everywhere. It adds a very sharp edge to the track. Especially when you're working in a genre like electronic music, the occasional glitch can do wonders.

There was also the last part where the vibe completely changed and I spent so long trying to figure out what could come in there. Nothing from any of the previous loops or elements I recorded for the track seemed to be fitting there. So I decided to think a little out-of-the-box.

After scouring the Internet for some time, I came across a royalty-free rough recording of a saxophone being played in the heart of a city, and I somehow felt it completely fit even though at first didn't seem so at all. After some careful EQ'ing and audio restoration, I came across the perfect way to end the song.

Saxophones are full of swag. Period.

 
 

More Drums, Less Drama

There are time when you wish there was more of music and less of talk. In any music scene there are always critics and people who gossip and say things about you. While most of them are usually false and made up, some people like to spread bad information and have wrong intentions at heart. Sometimes it is for their own gain, Other times it will be just so that they feel better about themselves.

At times like these, I find myself at peace working on a long, intense piece of music away from all the fanfare, judgement and ostracization. Nothing clears and calms my mind better than music. For me, it is the cure to everything ranging from depression to anxiety and stress. It is a medium of relief.

Another project in particular that I remember taking up with a friend was a song with the working title 'Dijkstra's Algorithm'. I programmed drums on it right after I worked with Aishwarya on Tooth Decay, and it was a welcome relief to be working on something like drums instead of keyboards and samples.

 
 

I spent just about a day on it, as the whole guitars and FX were already sorted. No drama, just plain ol' drums. One sound I particularly love is the sound of china on a good metal kit. Those things can do wonders to a metal song. Even though I don't particularly get to work on a lot of metal/rock these days, this project was a welcome excursion into the unknown again. I think I managed to pull it off decently enough.

There were of course hiccups during the last half-minute or so. One thing that is difficult to figure out is the time signatures Uniyal writes riffs and songs in. Sometimes, its pretty difficult to figure out where the beat started, where it ended.

Trivial things. Occupational Hazards of an aspiring sound engineer. Sigh.

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.

 
 

In Splinters

Now that I was done burning it all up through the movie climax, I decided having a little reflection and sobering the score up would probably be a good idea. Ever since the first day I started working on the music score for this movie, I was told there needed to be a track in the end which perpetuates loss.

 

One of the examples I was given for the ending music. It was full of vocal laments and melodies

 

I was given a few examples, and I really took to them. Heard them a few times before finally figuring out which direction the last track would go in. It was very hard getting the end right as I used a lot of vocal samples, and there's always the problem of making them sit and be comfortable inside a mix is that much harder, not to mention the ever-persistent scale problems.

I finally finished another movie score, after two weeks of intensive working and prying out the sonic innards of every single track I made, and constantly going back-and-forth through them. Even though there are still a few loose ends to tie, like the one track where the protagonist and his love interest drive through a deserted road, and things get all intense and wishy-washy. Still have to sort that out.

But then, again work on music is always never-ending. It's like golf. You can always get better and there's always scope for improvement.

Signing off.

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.

The Lighter Parts

There is always, a defining moment for every music score, an apex. A point of climax where everything that you've come to know through it is questioned and you know you're at the zenith of all that the movie stands for. To reach that point one has to take into consideration every shaping element in a movie and experience it objectively through your own eyes. This movie in particular has an entire domain that constitutes what I call 'The Sum of Lighter Parts'.

What is that, you ask? Of course like any other movie, there is drama, action and suspense. But what really defines it and really set it apart are the light moments, that in their unique way shine light towards human nature and what its really like to be human and alive between trials and tribulations. To see the happier side.

There are about two-three tracks that I plan to keep on the lighter side. And their placements are just crazy. While one is sandwiched right between the main theme and a really sombre piece of music, the other one was right before a romantic sequence.

I think the more fun I had was probably on the first one. I called it 'Downtown Shuffle (Munchies)'. Munchies, yes. As ridiculous as it sounds, it was probably just the guy running around a supermarket trying to figure his shit out. I made a hunch and figured he must have his headphones on, and made the music in such a way that it faded in from the crowd ambience like a low-pass filter with a subtle radio effect.

I think I've established already that the sound needs to be more jazz-centric in most places. Of course the action sequences ae exceptions to everything. I really had quite a ball composing Munchies. It was like a fun 2-minute jazz-rock track which sounded like a band just having a lil' bit of fun.

 
 

Then there was the other track, where I think I took the jazz-influence a little too far. It mostly had me playing some very complex chords on the piano. I tried making the piano go through a lot of processing but I guess it came out unique in the end. It was quite a unique electric-meets-boxy effect. 

I think this track came in at a perfect time where all the action and the drama has the viewer quite saturated, and things just go easy on you for a while. There's a synth-line going in the background and then the xylophone adds a nice playful touch before the jazz-piano chords kick in. It was a like nice evening in Hawaii.

I think the jazz influence is something I won't be able to shake off for a while.

Time for food.

 
 

Something Uneasy

So, I finally got the script and it seems quite the part-dream part-reality psychological mind-fuck that I expected. But the twists are something that were completely unexpected.

Time to work on the the part of the movie before the credits sequence. There's something very uneasy about that part. Even though at the surface, everything seems to be normal. The darkness that seems to be looming throughout the movie over the protagonist has only started bubbling out.

 
 


Since this scene was based inside a room behind closed doors, I figured why not turn up the claustrophobia? I didn't want the background score to look too distracting and take over the setting and premise. But since I wanted it to look dark in a subtle sort of way to, I decided to create something minimal starting with a 3/4 Rhodes Piano loop over layers of drones.

What started off as a minimal beginning slowly builded up over the course of a few hours into a track that was only a couple of minutes long descending into an almost-Victorian waltz, but had a sense of black comedy to it. Since there didn't seem to be anything strictly horror-based, I decided to keep the creeps for later.