piano

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.

Looking to The Skies

Ever since the dawn of mankind, man has been looking up to the skies for everything ranging from inspiration and direction to meditation and as part and parcel of a sense of curiosity. I tend to think it is ingrained somewhere deep in the very fabric of us all. To look at something deeper and much more larger than us and feel content with the mysteries of the universe.

It's with a similar feeling I started working on another track with friend and collaborator Aishwarya. It started once again, the usual way. I played a piano rhythm track on top of an electronic beat and sent it to him. What he created on top of that was pretty huge. He sent me back about 40 stems if I remember correctly, and it was absolutely mental going through all of them.

What I love about collaborating with other musicians is the fact that sometimes you create something that you feels vibrates from the essence of your being, and they will take it and make it their own instead. It's exchange of ideas that goes way beyond all the artificial ties and friendships we all have. It's something so untainted, so true. The fact that it exists is what makes you want to go on making music. It's the feeling you live for, as a musician.

As days and weeks passed by, I slowly ploughed through each one of them, EQ'ing, mixing and compressing them, shaping and moulding what the building blocks of the track were. Lots of times, some things wouldn't fit the way he arranged it so I would flip it around, add a couple of effects and try something new. It's always good to progress and evolve. That's what music is for me, a whirlwind of constant change.

Ultimately after about a couple of months, and some added feedback by Uniyal, I put this track up on Soundcloud. And I realised there was something very spacey and other-worldly about this track. That feeling of being a kid and having an entire universe in front of you to explore and discover, that's the feeling I wanted to convey.

One doesn't have to always get old. You just have to stay true to your heart.

Time to watch a movie. About aliens.

 
 

Keeping It Classy

Now you see, jazz and action music is all good, but for a score to be really good, you need to have class. You always need something traditional and orchestral (in a subtle way if not all-out every time). There needs to be something heavy just to fill up the giant space of a movie filling up an entire screen. There needs to be character and a sense of epic larger-than-life sound.

That's what I set to achieve when I started to work on what I called 'Moonlight Nocturne I'. It was an entire track on the piano with an orchestral undertone. It was supposed to provide the background for the scene where the protagonist and his love interest are under the moon gazing up at the stars.
 

Things were a little romantic. Nothing expresses romantic better than the classical 'Nocturne'. A song about the night. There was a sense of longing and everlasting love in that song. Something that personally moved me a lot. You need depth in music. There needs to be weight. A sense of something dragging you, when you're watching an intense movie and I believe that was the driving force in this part of the score.

Another track with classical influences in the score was of an intense, ambient nature with the piano being played extremely low, in fact so low there was a certain ring that accompanied it after it went through some customised processing, which even though being purely accidental at first seemed to fit the mood quite perfectly. Otherwise the track didn't have much of anything else except an ambience that reminded me of the claustrophobic feeling one experiences inside an elevator and uncannily reminded me of 'The Shining'.

Time to go on a Stanley Kubrick marathon again. Woooo.

 
 

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.