I’ve been away for a very long time. Hope you’ve all been well.
At the beginning of this year, I had been lucky enough to get accepted into the prestigious Australian Film Television and Radio School to do a post grad in film music this year.
Which means that the year has been spent level upping where I proceed to drown my brain in the ropes and art of music making for films, and the tech…so much tech.
I don’t think I’ve ever had so much fun…or slept ever so little. But then I wouldn’t miss it for the world. I’ve had the pleasure of studying under some amazing lecturers and meeting some awesome contemporaries. In short, I don’t ever remember enjoying myself this much in an institution before.
So here’s something to show for…for the year — a showreel of my musical brain babies.
In other news…I’m now armed with the production skills to finish Twisted Tales, my ever longing album project.(what a meandering journey)
So stay tuned. I’m going to rest for a bit as the year’s been all very challenging and my brain cells have taken out a restraining order against me . See you all in the brand spanking new year.
Till then, me and my clones wish you a merry new year and some general bah humbuggeries.
Your Royal Madness
Suspense Suspense Suspense….I decided to go all minimalistic on Queenie Chan’s Legend of Zelda Chapter 6 and use only pianos and some percussion.
If you’ve noticed, it’s a piano transcribed version of Chapter 5. Much slower….and with some creepy gong scrappings thrown in for the opening.
Few themes are repeated loosely at the pensive scenes for Zelda before ending it all with a piano trio.
More news re: Twisted Tales soon
Your Royal Madness
This is the instrument I was waging sonic wars on for Queenie Chan’s Chapter 5 of Zelda’s fanfic.
Suona sounds like this!
I wanted to experiment with some Suona lines this time round. (Suona is a Chinese trumpet with middle eastern origins and amazing for war tunes)Suona is tricky to write for mostly because the piercing sound it makes makes most people run for the trees and further still. The Chinese use this instrument for funerals and marriages mostly…I suspect it’s the best musical instrument to employ when you have to cut through the festive clanging of the chinese clashes. It’s Chinese New Year…and if you are anywhere near Chinatown and see a lion dance you’ll see how liberally the Chinese use their clashes, Suona’s just great for cutting through the cacaphony of noise.
This is a typical soundscape for liondance…see how liberal they are with clashes.
When I was playing in the Chinese Orchestra in high school I remember feeling a little sorry for the suona players…mostly because they get packed right to the back of the orchestra with quite a radius about them…and when they do play it’s usually to a bunch of scrunched faces and covered ears…for that reason, amongst many I always wanted to write for suona players because I think they are actually beautiful instruments easily misused and misunderstood. Although…I do concede that they cause ear bleeds at close range
This time round, as a draft, I’ve temporarily used the viola players instead
(which is the work in progress version u heard). The viola played most of the suona lines then…
Work in progress version (chpt 5)
This is the final work
and I’ll leave you with an interesting vid of suona vs bagpipes
My next single is a mix and master away slated for mid march so whilst we wait…the composing of Queenie Chan’s amazing Zelda fanfic continues!
I’ve been hankering Queenie to draw some frames that let me write some war music. It’s legend of Zelda after all….and I was really hoping to put all that Taiko learning into practice…again…if only virtually.
So this is the near finished result.
I’m not far from done though.(I’m in the middle of making an unusual instrument sit well in the piece and shall reveal this early next wk)
Like I said last year, I’ve taken to learning me musical arrangements because it will help in my musical journeys…this includes creating better and better tunes too.
So first Here’s chpt 4 of Queenie Chan’s amazing Legend of Zelda fanfic, and my sounds for it. It’s work in progress but ready for a sneaky peaky. I will talk more about the previous chapters when I get a little bit of a breather but ONWARD my spiderlings! for now…
Overall sounds for Zelda
Queenie basically gave me (almost) free reign in the drafting of Zelda’s sounds.
My first approach was to try and mind-meld with readers and do a reading soundtrack..which Queenie liked but wanted to try a more “Location loop” soundbyte approach.
For those of you who are gamers, this would be a familiar concept.
The original Zelda’s theme by Nobuo Uemetsu is largely divided written for different locations. Zora’s domain, Gerudo Valley etc. You get the idea…so when players enter a world they immediately associate a musical soundbyte with an event.
This gave way to my interpretation of Zora’s Domain, which, to me, was good enough for chapter 1 since it was largely based in…Zora’s domain but proved a little challenging for subsequent chapters which had a wider emotional landscape with multiple location switches.
Looped “event based” soundbytes vs “film” soundtracks
There were a few problems with using the location music approach that made us eventually do manga trailers with more film like soundtracks instead. Here are my theories on why it didn’t work.
- Reader speed – Since I cannot yet mind meld with you, the listener, I can’t make music with adjustable speeds tailored to your reading speed…yet. As such, I cannot predict when you are moving from one location/ emotional landscape to another in Queenie’s tale.
- Interactive vs non-interactive landscapes- Looped music without event triggers = boring= irritating. In games, one uses event triggers to make musical variety so gamers don’t get bored, in this case Queenie’s ff is a tale where the main triggers are the emotions and the events in the story are non-interactive so a more film soundtrack approach was used for later chapters but as trailers (see reader speed…at least now I control it)
Sounds in Zelda
The original legend of Zelda theme always feels east-western to me. I wanted to keep that sentiment so I kept the largely western ensemble, but used quite a bit of eastern percussion with the western style drums. So, Taikos, Mu yu ((木魚) , you name it…I probably whacked it in at some point.
Chapter 4 drafting process
Queenie gives me a host of “trailer pics” she wants on the chapter trailer. After reading her full tale, this is usually how I start. Preview screen open on the mac, one hand on the keyboard, playing the draft and then scrolling through the pics. I do this a few times until I collect a few musical sequences I like.
After which I have an “emo-map” so I know where I am. Where the musical changes are etc then set out to set it in semi stone.
Drafting these soundtracks for Queenie are, in a way, heaps easier than drafting for moving pictures. Afterall, the “hit points” (important visual events specifically scored for with music) are decided by me…
This… for composers who work to moving pictures will be like composing in god mode since you don’t have to time musical changes to the nano-second for scenes that you want to emphasize sonically.
My drafts have started in different ways for different pieces but for chapter 4, it’s pretty much been a one take on the piano….like so. From nothing to a one track draft…takes me 30mins or so.
Imperfect Piano draft.
Quick arrangement draft
Then I do a quick arrangement draft. All this happens in 1-2hrs on average.
Here’s an excerpt…
Then comes the painful/ fun part. The actual arranging, where you split the instruments into their respective instruments (dividing string parts into their respective violin, viola, cello, dbl bass etc. Do the same for brass etc etc.
It’s funny, 12 weeks ago I would draft string/brass parts like pad sounds and play the parts like a piano… Since string/brass not equals piano because thinking it is so makes everything murky, voiced wrongly and horrifyingly unconvincing.
This is my long haul…deciding what ranges and sounds are right for which instruments. Making sure the harmonics sit right and aren’t sumo fighting each other etc. This process is taking me about 15-20hrs per track which makes me slightly batty because I still don’t think I know what I’m doing and I’m still really new to all of this and I want to be faster faster faster.
With Chapter 4, strings were the primary culprit. At some point I made the mistake of giving the lead “here comes the calvary” line to an 18 violin ensemble. I thought more people playing = more grand= this line of thinking is very very wrong.
This is the lead line that’s been plaguing me. Imperfectly exported from logic.
<< click for full view>>
But leaving the lead string line with the ensemble makes the strings all lost in la mancha land and the tune simply loses strength after the build. Of course…the hilarious thing was that I attempted to solve this problem by turning the strings way UP. Check out the resulting sonic mess….
Lead line played by 18 violin ensemble. Big Calvary line comes in at 4 secs there abouts. Notice the WEAKNESS? It’s like having a grand looking war elephant with a leaking jagular vein…messy and not very helpful to the clause.
After I had quite literally pulled all my hair out and frothed all over the keyboard in frustration, Lee eventually pointed out that I had actually written a piece that was more for a string quartet. (I’m still in the midst of cleaning all this up so it’s actually a quartet…but simply changing the key string sounds to solo make a universe of a difference in power.)
Lead line given to 1 violin, 1 cello. (largely doubled – the work in progress version you are listening to which still needs cleaning up…but I can already hear the difference in power)
1) This may seem obvious (BUT don’t give lead string lines to string ensembles). The sound just loses power. Save ensemble parts for lines that need “airiness”. For something more powerful and present…solo it is.
2) oh…and string solos get panned right up front. Not at the back with the rest of the ensemble…(eh…no wonder it got losted initially.)
I am borrowing a smidge of these ideas for later chapters. Steve Reich is uber fun. Check this piece out. It’s WRINKLING my BRAIN!!.
Anyways…coming up in a few weeks…it will be back to TWISTED TALES for us. Stay tuned.
Ah well…the end to another year and it looks like humanity’s going to survive. The Mayan thing has been pretty underwhelming…despite the Prime Minister’s claim to the contrary…No Zombie Apocalypse, although it humours me to know that America’s CDC has instructions for what to do if it does occur. If you are a fan of the I am Legend (Although I’m more Omega Man) version, then we are on track for a precursor of the Zombie Apocalypse since we have discovered the ultimate cure for viruses.
Having said that… these could be famous last words. Julia Gillard might be right.We might all have creative and explosive ends in the next couple of days. So before then a Merry Christmas and Happy New Year and all that…just in case it’s all dandy after all.
Now that that’s out of the way and we are ALL feeling optimistic, I have an announcement to make.
I’ve decided to properly learn me a little more of the technical aspects of music. This includes the theory, orchestration, related sequencing stuff. While making Twisted Tales and (as a result) jumping from genre to genre to accomodate the diverse tales, it had become more apparent that I should really know what goes where…not just whack a sound at things…although that does sometimes work…I just like to make things work a little better…and clearer.
Until recently I have ran screaming from the prospect of learning any aspect of music formally like I would the plague. I was taught piano classically in Singapore, and music then was more about discipline, physical torture and a lot less about enjoyment. As a result, I’ve watched my brain make a habit of shutting down or firing up its internal screensaving mode in protest whenever there is speak of anything technical in music.
This is a bad habit that I will destroy in 2013. Barring Zombies and the apocalypse of course.
Why now then?
Not being able to speak the same language as fellow musicians is proving decidedly inconvenient. All well and good to have my own invented musical language, until I have to communicate what I really want…then I feel martian, and not in a good way.
There’s a limit to the extent I can analyse the more complex music I like. I can usually splice music up quite comfortably for myself just by hearing it…but frankly I think there’s a limit to my musical developments if I keep running away from the technical aspects of things.
This is also going to give me an excuse to bring you through the realms of my musical journeys…which will be Twisted Tales and Queenie Chan’s Zelda Fanfic all while I learn….and I have miles to go in this aspect of things.
Also…I’d like to open the blackbox that is my creative process. There is a process…I don’t just pull things out of a glued hat with cats….(that’s…. only step 1)
So in 2013, more musical drafts online, me learning how to read music again, and getting better at sequencing and programing and more MORE better music for all.
Weaponry (for they are important for level-upping)
To do this
I have now armed me with
1) Don Sebesky – The contemporary arranger
2) Various theory books. ( I have a feeble memory of grade 5 theory, the neurons have sent a search party for it)
3) Logic (the software and the concept)
4) access to East West samples (thanks Lee!) – awesome sounds but insanely expensive samples I cannot afford (so help?)
5) and the ultimate power-up – Lee McIver the co-producer of Twisted Tales will put the aural shiny on the tracks as they finish as well as point the gaping holes in the compositions…which has happened countless times.
The coming days/ weeks shall have more on Chapt 2 and 3 and the various drafts of my music as well as more of the creative processes.
Meanwhile I leave you with sketches of my music to Chapter 2 and 3 of Queenie Chan’s Zelda Fanfic. made SHINY by my manager/producer Lee McIver.
Queenie Chan’s fantastic ZELDA fanfic lives here
Your Royal Madness
Kylie Chan and Queenie Chan’s wonderful book Small Shen is finally out and about. Released by Harper Collins. This book also contains a FREE copy of Butterflies (Third single of Twisted Tales) which is available with the book.
Here’s a trailer
Here it be!
It took a long long while to make…I haz stories to tell. But first FIRST!! the video clip.
This is the third installment of Twisted Tales Butterflies. The tale is based on an old chinese fairytale the Butterfly Lovers It is a rather sad tale of star crossed lovers who only got together in the afterlife.
Cast lists and stories coming soon.
Directed by the very wonderful Tahnee McGuire from Hatch Films.
Buy the song here
How’s tricks? I’m happy to announce that the next single Butterflies has been made part of a hidden track for the awesome Kylie Chan and Queenie Chan’s book Small Shen (available via a QR tag at the back of book.)
Small Shen, the prequel to Kylie Chan’s best-selling “White Tiger” Chinese fantasy series. For those who haven’t heard trilogy introduces Emma Donahoe, who takes a job as nanny to the daughter of a wealthy businessman. Unaware at first that he is in reality a Chinese god, she is drawn into a world of martial arts and magic where gods and demons walk the streets.
Small Shen will be released through Harper Collins and will be available in all good book stores. More here
Read a preview and enjoy some of Queenie’s art here
Butterflies is a musical track about star-crossed lovers and part of the album Twisted Tales.It is also based on a Chinese tale Butterfly Lovers. You can read all about it Here
Anyways…more coming this fri. Where I unleash the video clip directed by the very talented Tahnee McGuire (Hatch Films) – she also directed Lenore’s Song.
Firstly the reason for my long long offline absence. Had a short break to visit family whereupon i have a freak accident with my laptop (bag strap broke…gravity vs free falling laptop…gravity wins) . This is her now… *weep*
Numerous backups and heaps of luck later…I’m happy to report that my puter is back online. Concussions and all. (Although I’ve been told her logic board is now functioning on borrowed time…and I’ll need to get things fixed soon.)
In happier news – a fanfic for Legend of Zelda
My long time Twisted Tales collaborator, the ever talented Queenie Chan asked me if I was game to do some music for some fan fiction she’s written – namely Legend of Zelda.
Of course I was game. Also, writing for worlds beyond my own was something I’ve been wanting to get into for a bit since I’m a huge fan of Queenie’s work I could not think of a better way to start.
She’s doing a chapter by chapter update every friday and I’ll be writing tracks to go with hers (although I’ll be heaps slower since I’ve got a few things to get out of my way..namely festival applications for next year (fingers crossed), and a mad catchup on various things since my laptop went out of commission for 2.5wks.)
Queenie’s asked me to approach the writing for this particular chapter in an RPG format in mind…so more “location music” as opposed to “soundtrack – like film music. So this is my take on what Zora’s watery domain will sound like…nothing to do with the legendary Nobuo Umetsu’s original composition. (I think there are many wonderful remakes there…no need for one more version)
Here’s the track, mixed by Lee McIver who’s been really kind to show me the intricate ropes of composing instrumentals.
Finally…if you have bought a QUIRTz…I’ll be making the soundtracks downloadable exclusive to you sometime next wk
Go…read Queenie’s wonderful take on Legend of Zelda here
News single release coming + more exciting collaborations announced.