Sunday, 23 July 2017

Opus Pica Pica: An Insight

This piece of music is split into three sections and it is an aural study of the relationship I have with my better half. The first piece was originally written for a film I was in talks to score. This fell through, not through animosity - more so lack of communication. I hope the film makers in question treat those who choose to work with them in a more respectful way than ignoring them completely as they wont be going too far in the industry based on what I've experienced.... Rant Over.

I was thrilled with this piece of music. I was also afraid it would never see the light of day in context to the above. It was written to convey fear, dissolution but ultimately, hope. I realised it was merely a reflection of everyone's journey and it was only the beginning......

My wife is a fantastic muse - so much personality, so much passion. She fuels almost everything I do, musically. So I took the first peace and rejigged it a little bit. This is the first instrumental track in which I've not used any synth sounds to stay true to a more classical sound.

Part I: Ups & Downs. The story of how the road in life is never straight for us or indeed anyone.

Part II: Silver Linings. This is signalled by a playful bass line and grows into a choir led crescendo with flutes and some unexpected glass armonium.

Part III: When We Soar. Violas and Violins duel in opposing but complementary melodies while accompanied by big drum ensembles in stereo which grow in intensity towards the end whilst the glass armonium returns in a more rhythmic, less chaotic fashion this time.

For the curious "Pica Pica" is the latin for the Eurasian Magpie. "Magpie" is a playful name I call my wife for how easily distracted she is. Like a magpie to a shiny object....

Monday, 17 July 2017

Piano musings: "Mercury"

It appears I've been neglecting my blog quite a bit recently.....

I've been up to my ears in work commitments. Alas, retail  is a cruel mistress. But as always - there is plenty of time for music and I finally got around to securing myself a piano simulator. Which is frankly incredible, as the piano is my favourite means of composing! I wanted the best of the best and I researched all possible software before discovering "Mercury" for Kontakt by Waves Factory. It's a HUGE sample factory based on Freddie Mercury's Fazioli piano which he employed at the turn of the 90's before his untimely death. A huge chunk of his work from "Innuendo" and "Made In Heaven" were either composed or performed on this particular piano, which now resides in "Metropolis Studios", London.

I'm frankly blown away by the sound. It is truly remarkable, but due to such a huge amount of sampling it is quite taxing on the CPU so I don't employ all 5 mic positions at once. Nevertheless it sounds phenomenal and I am looking to using it on some of my pieces very soon. For the curious, here's a demo video:

Friday, 19 May 2017

HADES THEME Part I: Through The Valley Of The Kings

The sands of Cairo carry a massive host in the distance, which moves forward - as though sailing through the parched earth. The shape grows bigger and bigger as it approaches the pyramids. The behemoth object ceases to be a mirage and reveals itself through the wavering heatwaves as a gigantic schooner ship, but she is no ordinary schooner....

The ship carries the stench of death on her. Made of burnt black wood and rusting steel, she almost resembles a boat built around a gigantic rib cage. But even more curious, is the way she makes her way through the sands....

Thousands of men, or what once were men, carry the ship on their shoulders. They carry the rot of a thousand years and more on their bodies. Each one guilty of crimes against humanity so great, they were personally selected for this particular task. Rapists, murderers, the treasonous, the dictators. Each one retrieved from the darkest, vilest corners of history.

On the deck, stands a tall dark figure. With the horns and face of a goat, leering into the distance. The schooner is flanked by two horses on either side, carrying ghostly riders. These are named Pestilence, War, Famine and Death. The sun seems to grow dimmer, casting a deep orange glow over the procession.

Back on the deck, the goat figure swings a whip towards a captive man on the boat, contained by huge chains. He screams in pain and spreads a blood spattered pair of wings. The captive is Gabriel, who struggles to his feet, lifts a giant golden horn and blows. The noise is both deafening and terrifying. As the boat nears the city boundary, her name comes into view. It reads "Hades".


Tuesday, 9 May 2017

5 Favourites From Off The Beaten (Sound) Track

Soundtracks. We love 'em! But some soundtracks get a lot more love than others. We all have a soundtrack (or two, or three etc!) that ticks all the right boxes for us but never seems to receive the acclaim we feel it deserves.

Obviously there are some pure classics out there. The most identifiable themes probably belong to John Williams, but I'm just looking at some of the less lauded and potentially, not as well known, that have had a huge influence on me personally.

Number I - "Dances With Wolves" by John Barry. My father took me to see this film when it was released and I fell in love with the story, the imagery and the beautiful music. Here is my personal highlight from the soundtrack:

Number II - "Fright Night" by Brad Fiedel. Rented out on a VHS tape (remember them) way back in the early to mid 90's. Fiedel is generally revered, and rightly so, for his Terminator soundtracks - T1 & T2. But this soundtrack, awash with 80's idiosyncrasies (Fat synths, guitar with a brutally obvious chorus) spoke to me on another level altogether - particularly this piece:

Number III - "Candyman" by Philip Glass. Introduced to this in the early / mid 90's by a good friend of mine who lent me the VHS. I think what appealed to me was that it wasn't a typical horror/slasher soundtrack, it had more of Gothic fairytale vibe to it. My wife bought the vinyl as a Christmas present for me, just gone. Yeah, she's awesome.

Number IV - "The Edge" by Jerry Goldsmith. Ok, so Jerry Goldsmith is immediately synonymous with big budget, sweeping, grandiose soundtracks. Deservedly on a pedestal with Williams, Jarre et al. But I don't think this soundtrack gets half as much love as so many of his others. Bought this on, you guessed it, VHS when it was newly released. Just listen to that from 0.51. It positively soars and takes your soul and breath with it. You can almost touch the Alaskan wilderness....

Number V - "The Last Of The Mohicans" by Trevor Jones. Now funnily enough, the following piece was actually written by Dougie Maclean but is interspersed with the main theme from the film which was written by Trevor Jones. It's a perfect musical marriage. The whole soundtrack is absolutely stunning and well worth snapping up, should you feel so compelled. Nightwish clearly plagiarised the theme for their song "Stargazers". But that's none of my business. (Insert VHS viewing story here)

Thursday, 6 April 2017

The Standing Stone.

Quite some time ago, a great friend of mine mentioned the possibility of me composing a short composition to accompany some podcasts he was looking towards producing for his website - THESTANDINGSTONE.IE, Naturally I was intrigued and jumped at the chance. Tom is very passionate about history and to watch him find even the most obscure, tiny, off the beaten path site is akin to watching a child on Christmas morning and it's highly infectious.

I naturally wanted to produce something that he would approve of, so when I asked what "sound" he was looking for, I was informed a "from the mists of time" sound would be sufficient. I know this guy pretty well, so I knew this advice was far from blase. Tom's a musician himself. He'd expect more than a drone and a few pipes. But I was also aware that it might be a good place to start and he generally lets me run wild, musically, when I'm producing something!

I produced a demo and he liked it. Phew! The blueprint was laid. So I set to work on a professional version and it sounded....shit. I tried again, no joy. I couldn't define what was wrong. It just didn't sound right. So I buried it and began my "GUNSLINGER" journey, all the while being tormented by my inability to complete "The Standing Stone".

Coming into Easter is a pretty special time to be Irish, as regards to the 1916 rising and the centenary has awakened a wonderful sense of pride in many Irish people, myself included. The old songs are being played again and have heavily inspired me lately. So I revisited the piece that I'd long promised my old friend and it still sounded....shit! The difference this time was I stuck at it. I added brass - French horns, trumpets - "Sounds promising, Phil". Uilleann pipes..... nope, bad idea - reverse! And then I added the marching snares and bass drum. Finally, it sounded .... grand. He seemed genuinely pleased with the result, though my ears hear all that's wrong. Sure, it'll pass. One day I'll pat myself on the back and say I did a good job. And never compose again!!

Some day soon, it will hopefully accompany one of Dr Nelligan's podcasts - but for now, here it is in all it's glory (or lack of). I give you THE STANDING STONE:

Tuesday, 28 March 2017

New Toy.

Actually, it's not a toy. More a very useful tool.

My fingers are getting used to returning to the full sized keys having been using the microkey for so long and there's a learning curve along with it. I appreciate that I've not posted a lot, if any new music lately but rest assured, plenty has been created and will be forthcoming very soon. But work (paying wise, that is) calls my name. And there is bills to be paid.

Thursday, 23 March 2017


So I have been in minimal contact with a producer about the possibility of scoring a feature film. Nothing has been decided as of yet. We've not even personally met but there has been conversation over social media as regards to the would be job. There is an agreement that we should meet soon, but post production has taken precedent over this, and rightly so. I have composed a few ideas based on the trailer that I've viewed whilst conscientiously ignoring the temp track that accompanies it.

I imagine the fee would be a main talking point, but as they are an independent company and have done some fund raising appeals, I am willing to work on contingency. If I become as passionate about the project as they are - then it will be more a focus on art, than financial. I'm not in it for the money. I'm blessed to have a full time job, as much as I loathe it. But a credit, and a little recognition, would go a long way.

In other news, I bought a desk to contain my ever expanding software orchestra and a chair. Not terribly exciting but..... IT HAS WHEELS! I've also ordered a proper sized midi keyboard as the trusty and reliable KORG microkey 37 is too small for my sausage fingers and it's becoming increasingly harder to play more complicated passages without deleting them several times due to fluffed notes. I may cut down on the breakfast fries.