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.

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.