percussion

GAMETYM!

One of my cooler hobbies when I'm not playing music or writing or maintaining blogs is to play games. I just recently finished Bioshock : Infinite and Crysis 3. I love to shoot stuff. First-Person Shooter Games are my second love. Perhaps that's one of the reasons I like chip-tune influenced music as well.

I recently joined an experimental/progressive metal band called Heisenberg as a full-time keyboardist. We jammed more than a couple of times and things just sort of, fit together. Even though it's just been a couple of months playing with Heisenberg, The energy and the vibe is incredible. The band has some incredibly talented people.

Somewhere around early October this year, I got a mail from Heisenberg's drummer Dipan Das. He had been working on an original composition on his own. He thought it would be a good idea to share it with us all. I heard the track a couple of time, and the guitars sounded pretty well done. The drums sounded pretty good too.

 
 

Now, having the creative itch that I have to work on almost anything interesting that comes my way, I decided to try working on keyboard stems for the track. I had recently got myself a copy of Logic Pro X and just upgraded my Mac to Snow Leopard and I figured it would be a nice way to test out the system.

What I ended up inadvertently playing on the track were a lot of chiptune sounds. There was also a lot of the trademark ambient sounds, something that I tend to do a lot, the main reason for which is the fact that Porcupine Tree has always been a huge influence on me.

As if the bundling up of chiptune with ambient sounds wasn't enough, the last section of the track had a very heavy breakdown-ish rhythm to it. I was at a point of confusion again and I decided to experiment a bit more and used saxophone sounds to make something like an improvised saxophone solo. It was a really interesting track to work on, and I still keep going back to the track just for the chiptune

 
 

Heisenberg is no stranger to the chiptune genre either. I would not be lying when I say Aishwarya Uniyal, the band's guitarist was probably the guy that got me into it and it seems like a really interesting genre. Heisenberg has released 8-bit versions of all their songs, something that's really unique and unheard of, in the scene. Something that makes me praise the band even more.

I have also been doing lots of interesting sounds on the Heisenberg songs and they all have fresh makeovers, which makes me look forward to the band's next jam. There's everything ranging from dubstep to chiptune to Electronic loops, and it's crazy.

Crazy is good. Right?

 
 

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.

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.

Eerie or Weird?

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

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

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

 
 
 
 

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

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

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

Drumming Up.

Its been a couple of days since I started working on the movie score and there seems to be quite a lot of progress, in terms of ideas and the fleshing out of concepts. I had a talk with the producer, and one of the few pivotal points that he thought seemed to be crucial about the movie are a couple of opening sequences, one of which seems to be closer to an action sequence with a sense of chaos and urgency to it, rather than traditional horror.
 

 
 

The Perfect Drug', OST of the movie 'Lost highway' is one of my favourite NIN songs.

I have been digging through my influences to find something I could adapt in a more movie-friendly way. I checked out a few movies while I was at it and one of the movies that really hit home was 'Lost Highway', a movie that used a few Nine Inch Nails songs. I'm a huge NIN fan and I particularly seemed to like that NIN era where Trent Reznor experimented a lot with drum-step and electronic drum-breaks. So, yeah sped-up drum loops certainly felt like the steal of the day.

I also, ended up incorporating a little-bit of good ol' synth just to add that jagged edge of modernity to the mix. And there's just this point where the whole track just explodes into a chaotic rumble. I would say it sounds a little bit Fight Club-influenced as well even though I still haven't seen that movie.

Note to self : Watch. Fight Club.

 

Tyler (Brad Pitt) convinces The Narrator (Edward Norton) to hit him as hard as he can.