Thursday, 9 February 2017

The Gunslinger (A Suite)

So I've finished "The Gunslinger" suite and I'm pretty damn happy with it!

Thematically, the pieces are similar as well as melodically, without being repetitive. Which is a big plus for me. It's the first time I've employed a brass section and am quite happy with it. I always envisioned a big brass "Old West" sound for this story, with a few little oddities - given it's otherworldly status.

Part I - Lots of fun!
 Big, golden era trumpet driven intro followed by a big driving rhythm courtesy of some celli, synth drums and 6 (!) French horns. I sprinkled on a little sequencer bass to add a modern edge towards the end.

Part II - Rather unexpected.
I originally wanted write a piece inspired by the Man in Black but straight in, I knew this was to be Jake's theme. Between the flautando violins, legato violas and the boys choir, it would only ever be Jake's. The choir was a big challenge as I wanted one to play off against the other without them actually fighting each other. Thankfully, it sounds well. The French horn immediately presents the piece as a direct descendant to Part I, along with the melody.

Part III - Difficult. 
I knew the Man in Black needed to be represented, as he is the first character mentioned in the book, though he doesn't make a hugely significant contribution until the later books. Is he an immortal wizard, is he a God, is he the Devil?? What is his game? And why is Roland determined to catch him? The piece, like him is hard to label. Hard driven sequencer with percussive bass, guitar, quanun, duduk and some brass, again to link it with the original piece. I wanted it to be mysterious, more than pursuit driven and hopefully I succeeded.

Wednesday, 25 January 2017

The Gunslinger

So have started on a new piece.

 I'm very inspired lately, as is quite obvious, and have to decided to strike while the iron is still hot. I've decided to create a piece inspired by Stephen King's "The Gunslinger".

Back in school, I borrowed the particular book on the promise from my good friend, Tom, that I would love it. He was right, I did! So much I read the entire saga that was borne from the original story and was hooked.

 I am aware (and very excited) for the forthcoming "Dark Tower" offering featuring Idris Elba and Matthew McConaughey. As such, I have avoided any so called soundtrack snippets to the degree that I have no idea who the actual composer is and I don't want to absorb any thematic ideas from it, subconsciously or otherwise.

At the moment, I am approaching it as a standard western, but obviously - it's far from a standard western. I've earmarked a couple of instruments that I am looking at utilising, guitar with spring reverb - an old school western staple, muted trumpets and maybe a little choir thrown into the mix with some nice percussion.

The real work starts tomorrow and I'm really looking forward to starting such a DIFFERENT piece. Keep your ears peeled.

Friday, 20 January 2017

Let's Hear It For The Boys.

Choirs, I love them. You don't need instruments to make one. Bar a voicebox, or several. They are the perfect ensemble. A truly organic orchestra.

If I had to pick a favourite choir "type", it would be a boys choir. It just has that perfect in between range. It's not too peaky, not bass heavy and it doesn't explode into your space, like a full choir ensemble. I recently had to retire my young nephew as my would be boys choir (A lot of overdubbing, but so worth it) as mother nature kindly decided that puberty take priority over my music and his voice bears all the telltale hallmarks.

So I procured a copy of SoundIron's Mercury Elements, to help me in my search for a would be replacement.

 I'm heavily influenced by Danny Elfman and his unique, almost ethereal style he gave to such films as "Edward Scissorhands", Batman Returns and "Sleepy Hollow". I'm still figuring out the nuts and bolts of the software but some early experiments have been promising! Here's some examples of the classic "Elfman" sound with boys choirs:

The Dark Knight Returns: A Trilogy.

3 pieces that I've written in tribute to Frank Miller's "The Dark Knight Returns" graphic novel. To be totally honest, I'm not particularly gone on the "Batman" theme as I had recently gotten hold of some new sample software and completely over produced and rushed it, completely ignoring the "less is more" aesthetic. Not that I really follow it. Regardless, I will be revisiting this piece in the future. Personally, the "Superman" theme is my favourite. My first stab at the "BIG" Hollywood sound.

All music is strictly copyrighted to me and my production studio - SHAP Sound.

Friday, 25 November 2016

Books Of Blood (Ode To Clive Barker)

This piece was written and recorded over the last two days. It came together very quickly and I am as pleased as I can be, when I don't hear it's little sonic imperfections jump out at me. So I try to listen to it as a nonchalant listener would and appreciate it for what it is. But you want hear the back story, right?

When I was a teenager, I found the graphic novel of "The Yattering & Jack" by Clive Barker in the local library. I fell in love with it immediately. The premise was simple but fun. Idiotic man, Jack Polo (a gherkin salesman, how colourful) is tormented by a demon. Said man is too stupid (or is he) to recognise there is a malevolent presence in his house and this leads to the demon being pushed to the edge of it's own sanity. No spoilers, I promise! But I noted the piece came from "Books Of Blood" and added it to my must read list. Long list that it is.

I've always admired Barker's work be it writing, films or art. There's a beauty to it. In a brutal way, but it's always there beneath the visceral, sexual imagery. It's rooted in the Gothic style but it's equal parts fantasy as well as horror. "Hellraiser" is probably his best known film. But there are many others based on his short stories. "The Forbidden" became "Candyman" for example. Back to the point though. Speed forward a couple of years, I secured a copy of "The Hellbound Heart" and "Books Of  Blood 1-3" from a guy in my local. True story. It's had several name changes over the years, I believe it's now called "The Funky Monkey". (One used to be able to smoke weed without bother in the smoking area. But that was a long time ago, not that I'd know...)

I fell in love with the books, I kept them for a long time. But eventually returned them, it broke my heart. A few years ahead and I met my beautiful soulmate. We would occasionally take random day trips, mostly to Dublin. We still do. But we love to take random shops, think old vinyl and books, the smell alone is perfect. Old paper. (Some people get it, some people don't). I approached a corner in one of these shops and there it was: "Books Of Blood 1-3". It was almost smiling at me. I snatched it up and ran. Well, after paying for it. 

I love this book. It helped me grow up. This piece is inspired by my 3 favourite stories: "The Yattering & Jack", "New Murders In The Rue Morgue" and "Skins Of The Fathers". I called on a few influences for this - Stravinsky, Jarre and Elfman are the most obvious ones. I worked my arse off to get this piece perfect. I'm rightly proud of it and I hope you enjoy listening to it as much as I enjoyed writing and producing it. Thanks for reading. For any music tech heads, I'll write how I did it in my next blog.

Tuesday, 11 October 2016

Moonlight, Murder and Roses Part. I: Gypsy's Kiss

A man sits in an old burlesque gentleman's club. He watches a woman perform for him. She has a shock of red hair, pale skin and green eyes. The lingerie she wears is an unusual mix of burgundy red and green.

He knows the woman. Her name is Selena and she is born of a gypsy linage. Unknown to the punters around him, the man is a priest. And he is in love with the gypsy girl. What's more - she is in love with him. The man is drowsy on whiskey. His eyes grow heavy.

Selena leans in for a forbidden kiss when suddenly the priest finds himself awake in a hall of mirrors. Lightning flashes and thunder rumbles, the frame of the hall resembles the inside of an animal's ribcage. Every so often flashes of the dead appear clawing at the mirrors from the opposite side. Then he spots one with Selena. She appears stuck in the very second their lips were about to  meet. He approaches the mirror. Suddenly she begins to move. Her hands reach up to meet her face. She places a finger in either side of her mouth and proceeds to tear her mouth into a grotesque, bloody smile. She then smashes her hands through the mirror, grabbing his face and plunging her thumbs into his eye sockets....

He awakes outside the club. Dazed, soaked, confused and terrified. His only comfort is the sound of the rain in the night as a vixen screams in the distance.

Moonlight, Murder and Roses Part. I: Gypsy's Kiss

Wednesday, 28 September 2016

Gypsy's Kiss

So am prepping myself into jumping headlong into my upcoming sound and production course by making myself familiar with a DAW (Digital Audio Workstation), namely REAPER. Pro Tools is the industry standard, but I'm not rich.

It's pretty much how all music is produced these days and it's about time I got with the programme.
I've learned how to employ virtual instrument plugins and am therefore able to create pieces of music by playing my midi keyboard and using the sampled instruments on EASTWEST Quantum Leap Gypsy & Silk. I've not done anything too extreme to begin with as I've started learning the basics such as panning, reverb and track reversal, but here is a new piece to keep me ticking over. It's made entirely using sampled instruments from EW Gypsy and edited and published through Reaper.

1. Percussion
2. Flamenco Guitar
3. Lead Violin
4. Dulcimer (listed as Cimbalom, but I'm too used to the other word)

I reversed the track halfway to give it a creepy, dreamy feel and segued back in to give it a measured ending.

Click here for a listen -> GYPSY'S KISS  

Thanks for listening.