Monday, October 07, 2019


Game design. Stuff like "hooks."

Rabbit model.

Rabbits do, allegedly, and according to the Internet, have different gaits. But by and large, they do their high-speed gallop thing, and then walk the same way: front two, back two, front two, etc.

Lucy amuses me. Here he uses his tail as a torch. 
Basic microphone design.

PhD Salford:
Most standard composition portfolios are about an hour in length, with a commentary of anything between 15-30,000 words.

Friday, October 04, 2019

Copland FIlms


4 OCTOBER, 2019



MUSIC FOR RADIO: SAGA OF THE PRARIE (1937, CBS Radio commission)

Early orchestral work from Copland's populist period, renamed in 1968 (by Copland) "Prairie Journal."



Suite of Selections from 1939-40 Copland-scored films

New England Countryside and Sunday Traffic (The City, 1939 NY World's Fair documentary)

Threshing Machines and Barley Wagons (Of Mice and Men, 1939)

OUR TOWN (1940)

Suite from Film

Piano Suite

Grover's Corners

:00 - 2:22 (especially 1:39 - 1:57)

Soda Fountain Scene (George and Emily)

2:26 - 4:29

Cemetery Hill

4:32 - end (especially 4:58 - 6:26; 6:38 - 7:12)

FIELD OF DREAMS (1989, James Horner)

The Place Where Dreams Come True

"Our Town" influence (Grover's Corners, Cemetery Hill)

:56-1:10, 1:54 - 2:34, 3:22-3:44, 4:21 -4:39, 5:45 - 6:33, 8:25-9:04

THE RED PONY (1949, scored Spring 1948)

Suite from Film

2. The Gift

4. Walk to the Bunkhouse

6. Happy Ending

THE HEIRESS  (1949, scored December 1948)

(Orch. Suite) assembled by Arnold Freed

Plaisir d'amour (source material, interpolated into film score by Copland at request of director Wyler)

Scene from film (YT excerpt)


SOMETHING WILD (1961 independent film, scored in NY)

MUSIC FOR A GREAT CITY (adapted from score to above)

1. Skyline (note: Rosenman-like brass around 1:14)

2. Night Thoughts

3. Subway Jam (note: muted trombones)

4. Toward the Bridge

Thursday, September 12, 2019

School's Out

 The end of my course at Thinkspace/University of Chichester is technically a week from this past Monday. Or, rather, it ends on this coming Monday. My main tutor is going on to get his PhD from Hart. And I'm trying to push my nose into an online PhD program at Salford, Manchester.
In any case, what it certainly means is that I'm not in school anymore. And I miss it. I even started taking some other courses (I can do that -- as a degree student I have access to all courses now and for the future. I'm even allowed to go to webinars (but to take a "back seat").

It was only a year ago I heard I got in. Sigh. My eldest brother would have been the most excited about me finishing this program. Well, next to my dad I suppose. And it's totally a selfish thing to think that way but for so many years I would think "Oh, I need to show this to my mom" before remembering.

Monday, September 09, 2019

Pictures on the Moon

Turns out, this picture is "fake." It's fake only in that it was significantly altered, with more black "sky" added.

That said, I still insist the Apollo astronauts were really terrific photographers. Sure, Armstrong messed up the framing on one of the most iconic photographs in the world. But it's in focus and correctly exposed. He had to shoot without seeing through a viewfinder for crying out loud.
I can't figure out the actual film speed of the color film(s) they were using. It was all special-order 70mm Ektachrome.
Among things that are true is the fact that any 70mm photographs you took in that environment (space, the moon) would look amazing because they are, you know, space, and the moon.
All of the Apollo pictures are on Flickr.

Tuesday, September 03, 2019

A Rule-Book for the Actor

The first thing each actor must do before embarking on the dream of creating a sceneae is to become aghast at the triumvirate demons of 1. occlusion 2. seduction 3. trans-configuration.
It is right and just for the quality Ldy in these times to maintain her antigravity belt in tip-top condition. Would you want to be left out? Grounded while your sisters are fighting the alien globes infesting the upper atmosphere?
We shall fin by the end of this interview whether you are human at all. And no, we do not mean the other thing. Please prepare yourself for the Questioning by the Imperial Accessor.
One: Do you taste metal in your mouth right now? Or plastic? Answer carefully.
Two: Have you or any of your pod been exposed in any way to that which is behind the door with no key?
(Have you ever seen that door open?)
Three: If ordered, will you actuate the backup knowing your own hive is in the Observatory platform?

Tuesday, August 27, 2019

PMC:09 2nd Review

Assignment Score Merit
Tutor Notes

David Denyer's Notes:
Hi Andrew,

Thanks for this submission, and for your very detailed commentary, which is a useful insight into your process. It’s a shame you ended up raising the volume of the music so much (on the advice of previous feedback, granted), because the volume of music is a very important factor in its effectiveness. At present, the score generally feels on the “overscored” side, and often feels over-busy - and I’d say lots of this is because it’s been mixed too loudly (although I would also say that a tendency to overscore is generally present in this music, it would probably be less of an issue if the volume were lower). It also means some of the dialogue is lost.

You’ve picked up on some interesting filmic references here, but I’d suggest that the Blade Runner 2049 sound is the least effective of them - probably because the high-production synth sound work in Blade Runner because of the highly commercial, corporate world - this world seems more militaristic and apocalyptic. These synth tones could work really well but I think only in relation to the landscapes and vistas, rather than the interior conversations. I also sense you have a tendency to overuse the action tropes, especially the big percussive bangs - this works well in trailers, and in big, dramatic action scenes - but almost all of this film is dialogue. Ultimately, this is a drama more than an action or even a sci-fi film and I think a more considered use of subtlety in lots of these scenes would prove beneficial, as I will outline below.

Act 4

Really nice start to this, I quite like the distorted, glitchy effects in the very opening. Sets the scene in an extremely brutal way. Synchronisation could be more effective here - the cut at 0:10 is a very sudden shift of scene and I feel like this brass chord continuing underneath is bridging the gap in a way that I think is too “nice”. This cut can be more brutal, I think. Given that dialogue begins almost immediately it makes sense to drop suddenly too. Nice synchronisation at 0:28 again, but this peters out before the end of the cut - (0:36). I also think this moment feels a bit anaemic - maybe some very long, static octaves in strings, maybe with a very slow glissando or something - I feel like the landscape needs more of a comment here. The occasional percussion burst here (1:47) feels a little out of place, and kind of unnecessary - the environment is generating enough sound of its own that this whole scene is already quite suspenseful. At 2:12, when the Captain begins talking about the history - you have quite a nice string+synth (I think?) line to accentuate the moment but I think it’s flagged too hard. Again, possibly a volume issue but you don’t want to be too theatrical about “this is an important piece of knowledge!!”. I also think the horror-style aleatoric string scribblies are a bit over the top - subtlety here really would be an advantage. Especially in a scenario like this where the drama is not in what’s actually happening in the scene, but rather the exposition - if you overemphasise this is makes it seem the telling itself is the drama - which it isn’t. So distance is useful here - the drama is in memory, far away, an echo of something heavy. Nice build in drama at 3:28 but I feel like you pre-empt this a little too much in the music - his manner is still quite casual before he reveals the information, so I’d follow him rather than preempt him too much. This pulsey synth part at 4:23 feels a bit much - I’m not sure exactly what you’re accentuating here. Music really comes up at 4:38 and it feels a little unjustified - “this planet’s all she’s ever known” - I think perhaps again subtlety is the key here. 5:30 feels a bit clunky. The woodwind melody comes in a bit quick after the cut, I think. It’s nice to accentuate this moment “how many moves ahead have you calculated?” but I wouldn't overemphasise this, or it becomes too obvious and cheap. You can emphasise something by using delicacy too. 6:23 is a nice cut (although I’d avoid cymbal crashes as they’re a little old-fashioned). This brass cluster that comes in doesn’t do it for me - I think because at this point I’m yearning for a change of key and this is too similar to what we’ve had before - the visual language is different in this transition (more daylight) and I’d like for this to feel maybe a bit more open somehow. I also don’t want to hear this drone in this key anymore because we’re moving to a different sequence. I’m not totally sold on the Blade Runner buzz here, as I’ve mentioned - perhaps something a bit more corroded, corrosive, rusted, something with more grunge and less sparkle would do it for me. I also think the Blade Runner 2049 reference is quite an obvious one that many would pick up on - which would be a shame! Not too sure about the percussion and drones at 6:42 - I realise you’re trying to add an element of threat and suspense to this sequence (which is dark, uses sharp angles - good intuition here), but the percussion will always have something of an action emphasis that I don’t think is quite right. Perhaps some kind of synth tone that is by itself threatening - something high, detuned, something that is texturally threatening rather than overly active. This could work nicely. As it stands, it feels a little like you’re trying to “save” the film, that the sequence isn’t “epic” enough and a director has asked you to make it feel more “cool” (which, indeed, might be true). But this can be achieved without resorting to tropes and it’s in your best interest to try, I feel. At 7:09, it’d be nice if you emphasised the cut again a little more - a change of tonality would be wonderful here, a change of texture even - we’ve had a huge amount of very deep, low drones and the quite spectacular vista here warrants some comment. A change in texture would be very welcome at this point, even if it’s just brief. Nice decision to use silence at 7:26 - this is quite a touching moment between two old friends. It’s a shame the sound designer felt the need to overscore this sequence with ambient sound, which for me kills the tenderness. Oh well! 7:55 feels hugely overemphasised. Subtlety here is everything! I’m desperate for something more delicate in this moment. Again, perhaps even the lower volume would be enough but the insistence on deep drones feels a bit obvious by this point. The piano + Cor Anglais(?) at 9:09 is such a welcome shift. I’d kill the deep drones and percussive sounds if I were you (or at the very least cut out a lot of the lower frequencies). The ambient sound is already so flooded with lower frequencies, it’s better, I think to leave them out of the score. Very soft tam-tam hits could be a nice, higher-frequency replacement for these percussive hits. The sinister line at 10:31 is a bit much - a little too over-emphasised. Again, subtlety is key. Let the lines be the sinister element! Give the actor room to perform. A change of key at 11:31 would be a nice touch. Maybe a different woodwind instrument. Cluster at 12:02 seems pointless - not sure what it’s commenting on at this point.

Act 5

Again, lovely strong opening, brutal, but I’m not sure it actually suits the imagery here. Perhaps this doesn’t matter for the very beginning of an act but it continues for some time trying to add some kind of sinister emphasis to a scene that isn’t really very sinister. All the way up until 1:24 this feels misplaced - the percussion is heavy and action-y and the scene is quite small, and fairly intimate - I’d certainly consider cutting all percussion from this, but maybe even this scene doesn’t even need music. The passing of time can certainly be indicated in more subtle ways and I suspect watching this scene without music would reveal that perhaps it doesn’t really need anything - or if it does, what it needs is quite subtle. 1:24, again, great vista - I wonder if you could accompany this cut again with more of a textural shift rather than just a dynamic emphasis. Expansiveness could certainly be better expressed here. The pulsing synth at 1:29 feels quite cheap and a bit kitsch - doesn’t really work for a contemporary show. I’d try and find a way to express what you want to express in a way that’s a little less obvious. I also feel like there is just too much percussion here - by now we’ve heard so much percussion, it doesn’t really have the power it’s trying to wield and it’s becoming ineffective. Nice work with this sequence from 2:11 - This follows well the visual storytelling. I like the sounds too - the ticking might be a bit much - consider maybe halving the tempo and softening the higher frequencies. Electronic percussion at 2:50 feels a bit cheap - and the ticking clock that comes back in - I’m not sure it’s necessary. It’s a bit obvious a motif. I also think you’re over-darkening this conversation at 3:00 - their text, really, is giving us the subtext we need. I wouldn’t try and make it such a conspiratorial-tone conversation - just touch at the darkness. So again, subtlety is key here. No electronic percussion here is necessary - I think you rely quite heavily on percussion generally to “keep things going” but the challenge is how to keep underscore, drones going without going down the route of driving it forward rhythmically. If you find your drones aren’t quite doing it, you need to work on how to modulate drones with pitch, texture density and volume in order to remain interesting - relying on percussion is a bit easy and creates a strange emphasis. This line “we haven’t been here for years… we just got here” feels like it’s quite significant. Maybe try cutting out music for this or giving this line space. At the moment you risk scoring over it and ultimately playing down its significance. Lovely distorted sound at 5:10. Again the ticking clock feels like a distraction - perhaps part of the problem is that it isn’t in time with the actual music. 5:52, nice string line. I yearn for the percussion to stop here - otherwise the effect of the cut is weakened. It’s a cut to a new shot, let it feel like a movement away. Just the string and brass lines here (maybe with one very deep drone) by themselves would be really cool. I find the percussion quite distracting here. It is odd that this shot is so long. Again at 7:09, percussion is distracting. Great sound at 8:10. The arrival of the man is nice, and here the percussion doesn’t feel out of place - because of his threatening, somewhat military appearance. Sequence from 8:24 onwards is really nice, the underscore really conveys very well the slightly panicked tension. Great low tension at 8:50. 9:51 feels a bit too epic given the imagery - perhaps it’s a bit heavy. Silence at 10:10 feels like a relief. I think we can probably use silence a bit more freely throughout this whole piece such that this sequence doesn’t feel so exposed. Entry at 11:51 feels very exposed and quite heavy - definitely fade this in. It also feels a little un-orchestrated (woodwind unisons rather than individual woodwind lines) and I think more synth textures here would make it feel more appropriate to this score. Nice harmonies at 12:00 - the slightly more organic flavour here is lovely.

Act 6

Percussion at the start of this act feels again a little random. These brass clusters are starting to become tiresome by this point - and I’d like to hear fewer of them. There’s a certain randomness to them that I’m not hugely into - they always seem to have the same types of harmonies and perhaps more diatonic clusters in places or wholetone clusters or something like that would give this aspect of the score more colour. Nice transition at 1:08. Nice reveal on “we got there first”, 2:08. This whole build was very well done. Nice transition to act 7.

Act 7

Strange that the score is in mono for this act. Be sure to sort that out for the final submission. Lot of what I’ve talked about before applies here, but the higher tension of this act warrants the percussion and the epic drama a bit more than it has done before. This sequence from 1:22 I think needs to be a lot more dramatic than it is. I get that you’re leaving space for sound effects but I think this could carry a lot more weight. You could certainly make this ostinato more complex, with counterpoints, more exciting, more accents and syncopations could really drive this forward. This atonal line at 2:22 really needs some help - it’s very exposed. I also think a line such as this would have shorter notes - the angularity of the part combined with the tempo would mean that a string player would naturally give these a bit more energy and space between (to give time to move position). So - shorter, perhaps spiccato - samples would probably go better. But also, some kind of accompanying passage in inner strings would really help this. As it stands its very exposed and doesn’t quite have the power it needs. 3:30, nice introduction of a synth sound to accompany the flying spaceship. Percussion here feels like it makes sense. Need a shift at 4:07, a reduction of the energy to match the visual cut (close to far). Percussion 4:34 feels too slammy and big - it suits the big robots but not this foot chase. 4:49 - it’s a shame you didn’t time this with the teleport, as I think that was probably the more significant hitpoint than the cut. 5:04 is a nice new, minimal texture - I’m very relieved by the absence of percussion here. More of this throughout this film would be good. Percussion around 6:10, again, too slammy and overly epic. This a small scene with lot of emotional weight - doesn’t need to be so epic. 7:45 - again, the heavy percussion is distracting - I’d just keep the strings here (and please add some more phrasing on to the strings!!). Cool sound at 8:30. Nice conclusion.

Mockups are generally pretty good but I’d say more phrasing is generally needed for all of the organic orchestral stuff and generally more believable orchestral dynamics. Synth sounds are sometimes a little obvious but sometimes great. Music is all very much too loud (I know you were advised to do this by previous feedback but you will ultimately be marked on this final submission as though it’s a finished piece of work and if your music is too loud you will be marked down for it).

Overall, I’d say there’s some very very promising work here, and a lot of conceptual thought behind this (your commentary was a great read, although more focus on the research prior to implementation would also be more interesting). But the work itself relies too heavily on cliche (big slammy percussion, which is more often inappropriate here than it is effective). The emotional weight seems to be in the right place but it’s laid on with a trowel, and all needs to be toned down quite substantially to allow the other aspects of production, acting camerawork, pacing, etc - to do their thing. Promising, but not quite there yet.

Research: GOOD
Creative: GOOD
Technical: GOOD
Practical: GOOD

Kind regards,


David Denyer's Summary:
Overall, I’d say there’s some very very promising work here, and a lot of conceptual thought behind this (your commentary was a great read, although more focus on the research prior to implementation would also be more interesting). But the work itself relies too heavily on cliche (big slammy percussion, which is more often inappropriate here than it is effective). The emotional weight seems to be in the right place but it’s laid on with a trowel, and all needs to be toned down quite substantially to allow the other aspects of production, acting camerawork, pacing, etc - to do their thing. Promising, but not quite there yet.

Sunday, August 11, 2019

Some Films for Music

Laura (1944) - David Raksin
The Best Years of Our Lives (1946) - Hugo Friedhoffer
A Streetcar Named Desire (1951) - Alex North
Viva Zapata! (1952) - Alex North
The Heiress (1949) - Aaron Copland
Bad Day at Black Rock (1955, scored in late 1954)  - AndrĂ© Previn
East of Eden (1955) - Leonard Rosenman
The Big Country (1958) - Jerome Moross
The Wreck of the Mary Deare (1959) - George Duning

Films scored by Aaron Copland (available to view on YT, discussed in future webinar)

Of Mice and Men (1939)

Our Town (1940)

The North Star (1943)

Tuesday, July 23, 2019

PMC:09 1st review

Assignment Mark (Formative)

Assignment Score Merit
Tutor Notes

Chris McGuire's Notes:
Hi Andrew,

Thanks for going into so much detail surrounding the film and giving a sense of context here. All very useful to know! Its good to identify instruments that you may want to use to signify a certain character - this can be limiting and may evolve away from this, but it can offer a good starting point. Also good to hear about how your sound pallet evolves when working with your director. Now you have painted this picture, it would be really interesting to hear how you landed at some of the creative decisions you took to meet the twists and turns of the narrative.
You mention some good references, but quickly and in passing. There could be much more detail in how certain section/timbres are similar in musical approach to your score. This could also be in terms of spotting or musical pacing, each of the films you mention as references have very different approaches to spotting and pacing, which would be most comparable to your film and why?

Overall thoughts
This is an interesting score which makes many of the twists and turns you outline in the commentary. Spotting is done well throughout so far, although some moments are a little heavy handed. There could be more space to allow for the ‘important’ elements to speak. The acoustic elements in particular (strings, woodwind, piano) appear very small in contrast to the sound design. Some of the acoustic lines are a little convoluted, too: be mindful of writing too many notes when one or 2 may suffice enough to warm the timbre or change the aspect. I’d be tempted to mix up the score slightly in some of the conversation sections, just so we can hear the detail/depth without it taking over. Some bass is a little overly resonant, but this can be tamed. A good start!

Specifics and Sync points:
00m - Sense of scale in the opening is not quite there. The transitions in the woods/brass(?) are too dry and synthetic. The descending figure is almost funeral like. Blending sound design elements will help give depth and a more consistent energy synomynous with the rest of the score. If you are going for contrast here, then make the woodwind notes clear and ‘de-clutter’ keeping the notes you only really need. They will still need to be dressed with suitable reverb to keep it on a scale comparable with the rest of the score.

Nice level of musical involvement around the chess game, subtle and evolving, works well. 1m05s loses a level of intensity. Keep some involvement of the score before the notes at 1m22s.

Mix the music up a little so we can hear some of the twists in the score a little more clearly. This would be fine for demo purposes/the assignment.

You handle the rise in tension well around 3m50s.

The resolution at 4m16s is unnecessary, the first one works well around 4m but a movement back to this resolution is too complete.

Tasteful elements around 5 minutes. The string s may need a touch more reverb/depth on the tail of the note, they appear a little small in comparison to sound design elements.

The bleeps at 5m45s are well done. These could have more effects/swell up and down with a little more movement, particularly at 6m10s as the camera pans back away from the chess board. Integrate these into a more fluid mix.

This shot (6m-6m25s) feels a little static, apart from the good sense of growth in the distorted pad, not much else changes or evolves in the score. This could be a moment to bring out other rhythmical pulse and show a coherent sense of growth in other areas of the arrangement as well. this will add to the intensity and drive.

The external shot at 6m25s could be a moment of respite, allowing the tail reverb/space of the previous sequence to wash over this shot to give a sense of emptiness that is apparent in the shot. The contrast from the previous and the following scene will add room to the pacing of the score. As long as energy and detail is captured in the reverb tail this would give quite the ambient and atmospheric transition (Stanley Kubrick in 2001 S.O. famously left out all sound for shots in space, Interstellar did something similar with external shots too). Keeping some of the synths/sound design in the upper frequencies on the exterior shot would work well without the bass growls, as there should be enough bass in the reverb tail from the previous scene.

A very intense start to the next sequence. This reflects the danger you mention in your commentary really well. The 2 percussive hits at 6m41s might benefit from being repeated moments later, and/or altered in their repeats as the scene progresses. Currently they stand out as being slightly too much. Something similar to the subtle pulses here will help the previous scene. At 7m02s I felt the intensity drop slightly from the score. Perhaps another layer of rhythm/pulse would help maintain the high intensity of the start of the sequence. There could be a slight push/riser towards the end of the internal shot helping propel the narrative into the external shot with the wind gusts. Try syncing the final hit with the cut to the external shot and see if that makes the end of this sequence a little tighter. Pulling that final hit a little earlier will allow for an ambient reverb tail to dissipate organically before the dialogue starts in the next scene.

From 7m20s some of the bass pulses are a touch loud, (around 7m48s particularly). On entry of the strings around 7m55s: these could do with a little more reverb/space – that will give their entry a sense of depth comparable to the previous sound design; at the minute they feel small in comparison. The transitions between the first 2 notes is overlapping quite noticeable. Consider dropping the 3rd note in the motif. The final note of the string motif is rather static, this could evolve or lead us in a certain direction (more gritty? Dark? Portamento slightly detuning?).
8m40s, the bass is again too much, consider taking some of the lower boomy freqs down a little and adding some top end to give more definition to the pulse.

9m15s, the piano feels thin on entry here, again this is in comparison to the scale you have established in earlier scenes. The high pitched note on strings entering at 9m20s exits a little abruptly, do we need that there? The shift towards piano is already pushing us in to more sentimental territory, the extra note on the close up of the picture is not necessary in this form.

9m32s, the piano feels small. More reverb/subtle delays to get this into a similar space to the rest of the score. Perhaps try dropping some of the notes of each motif to allow for more room in the reverb/decay.

The chord at 10m15s paints a fairly hopeful colour which for me doesn’t match the conversation. Is there a reason this is more positive? The shift at 10m18s is such a stark contrast the sudden change doesn’t work, it feels blatant, and the acting is actually carrying that turn, the score may not need to work so hard here.

At 10m30s on the words ‘I am very lucky’, the score could introduce some intrigue as this is a rather odd comment, and on her second statement about knowing she is an android, is obviously a dig at the others not knowing. Could there be an ominous undertone here?

The cluster chord at 11m works well, although the resolution at 11m07s is too sentimental and unnecessary. You end the sequence well with the clusters and a sense of dread. The piano is again too busy. Using one note instead of so many would warm the timbre somewhat giving a nod back to the character it represents without making it overly convoluted.

Research Fair – you have the timbres/colours but more detail in the analysis of other scores and specific points in these scores is needed; why are they relevant to this project, etc.

Creative Good – appropriate sound pallet set up which matches many of the points of the narrative outlined in your commentary. Allow for some elements to evolve more, especially sustained notes.

Technical – Good – well mixed on the whole although some boomy elements. Acoustic elements need work getting them into the same sense of space with sound design.

Practical – Good – appropriate spotting on the whole, sometimes a little heavy handed or convoluted, when one or 2 notes would have done the trick

Hope this helps,
All the best

Chris McGuire's Summary:
This is an interesting score which makes many of the twists and turns you outline in the commentary. Spotting is done well throughout so far, although some moments are a little heavy handed. There could be more space to allow for the ‘important’ elements to speak. The acoustic elements in particular (strings, woodwind, piano) appear very small in contrast to the sound design. Some of the acoustic lines are a little convoluted, too: be mindful of writing too many notes when one or 2 may suffice enough to warm the timbre or change the aspect. I’d be tempted to mix up the score slightly in some of the conversation sections, just so we can hear the detail/depth without it taking over. Some bass is a little overly resonant, but this can be tamed. A good start!

Monday, July 15, 2019

PMC:08 Summative

Assignment Mark (Summative)

Assignment Score 74 %
Tutor Notes

Spencer Bambrick's Notes:

This piece has come such a long way! It certainly is unique and original as the brief requires. Just about every sound in this seems created and processed from scratch to great effect. And there is *just* enough musicality to make particular moments impactful, while the rest of the piece relies on dynamics, timbral contrast, and spatialization to bring the listener to attention. Great work!


This is definitely one of the most creative pieces I've heard from a student. By far my favorite aspect of this is the "melody" as performed by the drill throughout the piece. I know that was something of a "found sound" on its own, but I also know quite a lot of work had to be done to bring it into the foreground of the mix. So nice work on that.

The other creative aspect of the is the development. This piece does not rely on tonality in any way, yet it has tension and resolution just the same. The combination of dynamic contrast, tempo, and timbre shifts is more than enough to keep the listener's attention from fading.
Personally, I love the spatialization as well. Sometimes this can work to distract a listener, but here it just adds to the cacophony.

Technical: EXCELLENT

Music concrete, and music based on sound design is so hard to mix, but you've done an excellent job here. It took a lot of work to separate background and foreground elements (as I've seen through your iterations), but it was well worth it. At no point did I find myself guessing at what I was supposed to be focused on. There are always interesting elements in the background, but the foreground is compelling enough to garner my attention throughout. This is largely due to the intense focus that the mix puts on every foreground element. This is a very well done mix.

Practical: EXCELLENT

In terms of practicality, I believe it goes above and beyond what the brief asks for. All sounds were recorded and processed from scratch, and the palette is expansive. Plus you've basically created an entirely new language of music concrete for yourself, and orchestrated it with superb clarity.

It's worth mentioning that throughout the process you took feedback in stride and implemented every bit of it in your own way, without losing sight of your original intentions and goals. Of course I am particularly a fan of this kind of sound design based music, but your track is excellently done regardless of style. Amazing work!

Spencer Bambrick's Summary:
Overall fantastic job on this. Truly creative use of sounds and timbres, and I honestly cannot think of another thing to make it better!

Chris McGuire's Notes:
Hi Andrew,
Great to see another assignment of yours this week!
Some really interesting reference tracks mentioned, love that you have discovered Messain’s Quartet for the end of time, such a fascinating piece, and how he was considering the use of orchestral elements depicting other real-world sounds; he was a sound designer ahead of his time!
I loved reading where you got the sounds from here, some wonderfully whacky sources. It sounds as if you have gone all-in on this which is fantastic. Taking ‘musical’ elements into sound design is a benefit a composer can bring to the role; audio editors can be clinical and overlook this. Musical considerations that you highlight are worth applying in any future work in this vein.
This is a highly creative and exciting track, with a sense of energy which also retains structure and build over the 3 minutes. You balance intensity with atmospheric passages well, and reverb/delays are tasteful. The sense of space in the mix remains fairly consistent, and the different ‘scenes’ you paint are well-balance.
I really like the use of stereo image in this; highly dynamic whilst creating variation and life to elements in the composition. At 6s, the tail end of the opening atmos/hits dissipates underneath the saw. It would have worked better to maintain a longer sense of atmosphere underneath the saw to 9-10s so the abstract setting can be sustained.
Kick/bass drum (?) element from the start adds some good rhythm and provides drive, it’s a rhythmical element that the listener can latch on to and recognise pretty well its re-entry.
Excellent doppler effects on the bells at 24s, there is wide textural variation created through the 40s which works well in this track. – shame these aren’t revisited later under a different guise?
1m01s the repetition of squawky/radio effect (first heard at 52s) is too similar to its first iteration. Perhaps a high/low pass filter would change enough of the character of this to feel like a development rather than a direct repetition of the passage moments earlier.
You have created a really clear balance between foreground and background elements, giving a sense of depth to the production.
Through 1m-2m the various ‘kick drum’ hits could be dressed with delays to supply a sprinkling of musical metre; at the moment they appear rather randomly, but the sound itself isn’t really altered from one hit to the next.
The rising white noise/synth from 1m30s adds build/expectation and tension, nice contrast with the braam/downer at 1m45s.
There is a pop/clicks at 2m03, might be the end of a tempo-synced delay reacting to a tempo track change?
The sudden change at 2m08s could have been prepared to establish the gear change on the drill/high synth sounds. This is a moment where we move from plenty of depth and space to an element ‘close up’. A short swoosh/ramp in to this would shape the end of the preceding phrase.
Panning really effective in this section through to 2m30s. Build/expectation works nicely with the ascending high pitch and growling bass. You are using the full frequency spectrum really well. This comes to an anti-climax of sorts around 2m40s, perhaps a similar interaction as seen at 1m45s of introducing a downer/braam would help this moment of transition. – you have something at 2m50s which would answer this rise in anticipation really well, I’d be tempted to pull this forward a touch.
2m55s pops/clicks in the audio track. They appear like errors in a mixdown rather than an experimental feature. Make more of them if they were intentional, or if they are due to a mixdown/CPU issue, then this is different!
Great use of intensity in the final note, seems an apt way to finish this track! Tail end of the final note is appropriate, although there is quite a bit of silence after we have heard the full decay.
Hope this helps, and any questions please feel free to get intouch and we can arrange a 1-to-1.
All the best

Creative - Excellent
Technical – Excellent – check for pops/tail on delivery!
Practical - Excellent

Chris McGuire's Summary:
Overall a really creative submission for this assignment. Plenty of detail in the manipulation of sound sources. You strike a wonderful balance between foreground and background. Use of space and stereo image is really well-handled. There are occasions where a change/new section could have had more impact if it was better prepared; shaping the tail end of a preceding section can act as a springboard. Some audio click/pops in a couple of places. Wonderful work with detail, focus and a musical arch to the structure that adds drive and momentum/tension and release. Well done.

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Mac Rogers show is only two nights at The Brick.

Tangent Edge Instruments makes a Kontakt conch horn.

Thursday, July 11, 2019

PMC:07 Summative

[Editor's note: I highlighted things I though I should look at again.]

Assignment Mark (Summative)

Assignment Score 60 %
Tutor Notes

Allison Piccioni's Notes:
Hi Andrew!

Thank you for your “Frozen” summative submission.

Great to get a little more in-depth read this time about your inspiration and creative process. Also lovely to grade both your formative and summative submissions of this assignment and hear the additions and how the score has filled out melodically and texturally! I love the subtle change to the melody at the opening scene, it is much more emotive with the change and it’s nice to hear the addition of the live flute, particularly in a solo instrument it just adds so much more to a sequence.

I get so much more emotionally from the music when she closes her eyes around 2:05:59:09 now as well as 02:06:50:14 as she smiles subtly! You are really telling the story with the music. It’s quite nice to have the break in the music when we get indoors with the church scene. It also puts a great emphasis on the door opening.

I don’t know if it’s necessary to duck the music so low around 02:07:15:17, it would be nice to still hear it tailing here, as it could help the segue back in around 02:07:21:21.

Good additions to the suspense in the music as she’s searching around with a flashlight. I can also hear the piano clearer in the mix now.

I personally would like a longer fade out around 02:08:16:21. It seems too abrupt here, almost like a music editor chopped your score. A nice long smooth fade here would help tie the scenes together without being so distracting. You have a great one under the narration reading the card at 02:09:19:02.

Great consideration for the music to sit under dialogue, the arrangement and mix balance nicely around (and out of the way!) of speaking range.

I’m not sure if it’s a sound effect style sample or the mix is just completely blown out, but at 02:09:28:23 the music mix is very harsh, totally washed out by that white noise sound. I think you could have gotten the same effect using a low synth and choosing a different instrumentation changeup here. You can still get that “wall of sound” effect without just piling on frequencies. This was a new addition, I actually prefer it how you submitted for this section in your formative submission.

Could have used a smoother transition at 02:09:46:22, it almost sound like one of the samples is either cutting to early or another is going too long? But a really nice changeup in the music here afterwards.

Again the mix sounds a little blown out (possibly too much compression?) around 02:10:11:10.

Really nice additions to the melody around 02:08:39:21, the music is so much more impactful.

Guitar with the reversed reverb and back sounds great.

Research: GOOD
Creative: GOOD
Technical: GOOD
Practical: GOOD

Allison Piccioni's Summary:
Great to have reviewed both your formative and summative submissions for this assignment - it’s wonderful to see how the score has filled out with some carefully placed additions including live flute! Do watch that some of your sound effects / additions are not too overpowering and harsh in the mix.

Chris McGuire's Notes:
Hi Andrew,
Apologies for the delay here, and thank you for your patience. Let’s dive in!
Some good observations here and nice to see your considering a range of different productions and scores. I think your summary of the tone presented in the film and narrative definitely resonates with Nordic Noir, Fortitude an interesting soundtrack and the bridge also. Its good to look further afield and consider influence from soundtracks that aren’t necessarily linked in other areas.
I’d like to know more about how the energy in House MD score creates such fitting propulsion of the narrative; was pacing considered? Fades and entry points of cues? Instrument entries? Acoustic vs synth hybrid split? – I see you are using Albion ONE, a great starting point. Albion V has a whole host of Nordic influence in there, Tundra is a great library.
You detail some good creative angles in your commentary, although the discussion only goes as far as what you are doing, rather than WHY you are doing it. That being said there are moments of research which shows the justification of an action, for instance your handling of supernatural elements on entry of the church.

Composition and Mix
Overall, you have chosen a well-suited sound pallete which compliments the setting of the film. There are moments of intensity which really heighten the suspense, for instance on the view of the ice as she is dreaming in the final quarter of the film. There are moments where synchronicity is handled well, on the introduction of most of the string ostinati for instance, which matches her intent and emotive drive. Some other sync points are rather abrupt which detract and cheapen the sound. This goes for delays and reverbs used – being more subtle and lingering with these will aid the idea of expansive space that is so prevalent in Scan-noir and other genres of thriller/suspense.
Occasionally there are quite distinctive entries of intriguing timbres that are not synced with moments on screen. Or, if they are, the movement in the picture is too small to warrant such a large timbral shift/entry (see below for specific points on this). On the subject of spotting: removing the score completely then reintroducing it is a bold thing to do! Of course silence is important in film, although moving quickly from score to silence a few times in fairly quick succession actually detracts from the atmospheric nature that the score (or use of silence) adds to the narrative. I try to give myself perspective in the pacing of a film/cue whilst working on a specific point by watching the whole cue through and often the cues either side of the one I am working on. I am listening/watching to hear the effect of an entry or exit point from a ‘greater distance’. That way I can maintain an idea of pacing that the audience will experience; as of course we are working at microscopic levels, replaying notes/bars/sequences over and over again, we lose that perspective of hearing it all once through, with no repeats.
The mix is good overall, and you blend synths and acoustic elements well in the same space. Good use of the stereo image with moving rhythmical textures. You create some nice moments of evolution in the synths/rhythmical layers! Occasionally some acoustic elements appear a touch thin and lacking in life. Take the sustained string notes for instance, these could benefit from more expressive shaping of CC1, CC11 and CC2 (vibrato). If using legato patches CC5 and portamento could have been explored as they are rather static and synth like. The piano could have benefitted from saturation to warm up the lower end, as on some entries it was a touch thin (perhaps it was a little low in the mix).
Here are some more specific points:
Sudden ending of rhythmical textures at 05m43s – extend the delays here
String transitions are a little smudged through 06m07s, not enough life in the samples
Entry of panning tone at 06m35s is a little strange, not synced with anything and quite a deliberate entry of new timbre – this could do with being justified with synchronising/changing with something in the picture.
07m01s the silence is reached abruptly here, softer more gradual fade
Nice handling of the leaves and tension at 07m07s, although the entry point is a touch early and rather large. Something stripped back and more subtle entry with perhaps more sustain on the tail would blend better here.
Nice ostinato from 07m30s, this matches her intent and growing suspense.
Good tonal balance as she is in the office.
The delays at the end of this scene and transition in the shot of the street are again abrupt. These could be softer and more gradually executed.
Nice sense of tension instilled through the 9 minute mark. There could have been a sync point on the close up of the cards and the text ‘Steve’, this could help tie the narrative together, as it was a fairly obvious shift in the film which wasn’t acknowledged in the score.
09m13s the rhythmical elements again end abruptly. Some music can be maintained underneath the dialogue, it doesn’t need to be as strong a cut as it is currently.
Wonderful texture and depth to the score on the ice shot 09m28s, really nice balance there. Again the fade/return to the ostinato could have been softer, perhaps the ostinato less pounced, and more ‘smudged’ to match her dreamy nature, less rhythmical and more aleatoric.
The cut at 10m04s is far too abrupt, this feels unprepared as if it has been temp track that has been edited by a director wanting to get the rough sense of pacing across in the score. Consider ensuring there is an appropriate sense of attack and starting point to this cue.
The loud piano note at 10m10s is a little off putting as it does not sync with any obvious element on the screen.
Be mindful of introducing strident timbres like this with no change of movement/entry of noticeable element in the picture.
The change at 10m25s is again too abrupt to move to silence. Allow for a subtle reverb tail to linger on so the score exit isn’t so blatant.

I hope this helps, happy to talk through any of the above in a 1-to-1 session.
All the best

Research – Fair/Good – more of the ‘why’ needed in the commentary; explain the effects of music/creative direction behind the compositional choices made, rather than focussing on what you are doing which is apparent when listening to the score. Show informed creative decisions.
Creative - Good
Technical - Fair
Practical - Fair

Chris McGuire's Summary:
Good use of texture and sense of evolution in the synths/rhythmical elements. Appropriate timbre and a good mix that reflects your overall intentions. Handling of entry and exit points was rather abrupt; consider the pacing and switching between silence and score in quick succession as this detracts from the atmosphere evoked. Use of CC editing and delay/reverbs would aid in creating an expansive sense of depth and life to the composition. Consider outlining the ‘why’ and ‘how’ in a commentary, rather than the ‘what’.

Friday, May 24, 2019

PMC07 Formative 2

Assignment Mark (Formative)

Assignment Score Pass
Tutor Notes

Douglas Black Heaton's Notes:
Hi Andrew,

Thanks for sending in your Frozen assignment. Your notes are rather brief but are quite informative concerning approach. I've just had a long session watching the second season of Westworld so interesting to see that come up in your references. It would help if you actually described how you've used these references in your approach. What is it about Westworld, House or the Killing that you feel adds to Frozen? Instrumentation, mood, pacing?

Let's have a listen..

My first impression is it's very dense with music from the start. And it's quite loud. I've always considered the film to be quite intimate in approach and wonder whether this is overwhelming.

The opening is good, very mysterious mood of oppressive nature. Good musical build to the dream moment. Couple of points - I wonder if you could incorporate the camera as a sound - not literally - but something slightly sinister in the arrangement that marks it. I would also consider some sound design as she starts to move into the dream world. It would be good to feel she's on the edge of reality.

Dreamworld - the low piano note is ok but I would think about a change of pace here. We've just moved worlds after all. Perhaps drop the high pitched wooshing sound to make it less busy. When you go from the gulls to that sound it feels like a continuation even though things have changed.

06:21 Good moment where she looks to the other shore.

06:33 Adding the percussion is interesting. It feels purposeful like we're going somewhere. Why start that here? Where are we going? I would consider pulling back the music already on the moon to give some space before the next scene. At the moment you continue and build until the ending tom drums feel like they're leading to the church scene .. but that then feels too heavy with music. Cut it back earlier with the low string dying as we enter the church and the higher string comes in.

07:20 There's what sounds like a glitch here where a string line cuts out abruptly. Then we have what sounds like a horn line that feels very forthright and static.

07:27 The ostinato works well enough for the action of breaking and entering, she's on a mission after all, but I would strongly consider stopping it either around 07:40 when we're inside and creeping around, or latest 07:50 when we see the desk. The visuals are not really action oriented and there doesn't feel like there's extreme tension .. so perhaps the music can reflect the snooping around and curiosity more.

At 07:50 rather than pulling back we're actually going up a notch with the addition of percussion.

07:57 there's something a bit ragged about the arrangement here. Feels quite improvised. A little haphazard all the way through to the next scene. Lots of elements but not working so well together. The move to the next scene at 08:13 should be a little smoother and earlier. This is another opportunity to dial back the music (which would make the bigger moments more effective).

It sounds like we have some fairly static ensemble wind/string patches here that could be removed altogether, or made far more musical (thin it out to individual instruments, make them breathe through expression control). The piano at 08:34 work well leading into the next scene but again, I wouldn't necessarily leave it running through the scene. Light and shade.

08:39 Sound design pad. Presumably to indicate something suspicious but jarrs badly with the piano - this might be the intention but it took me away from the story.

08:45 Not sure about the extra percussion coming in here.

08:47 the strings work ok here. Could be even better if they were without the piano/percussion. Something to expore.

09:10 I like the clock percussion, could maybe have worked in it earlier in a more subtle way.

09:20 Save the string crescendo for after the vocal. It's partly the music being loud against the sync sound but also high strings + high pitched voice is asking for trouble. Consider using lower strings and go higher when she finishes.

09:27 Ice. The piano note is reminiscent of the earlier dream sequence which is good.

Not convinced by returning to the string ostinato when the ice sequence ends. Not needed. Could sustain through to next scene with the letter.

10:04 Very jarring going straight to the video screen sound (nice call back to earlier camera). Although that might be the intended effect when you've had almost 5 minutes of almost solid music it's too much. If the letter posting scene was emptier/quieter this could work much better.

Overall, some nice ideas. You've gone for a Nordic noir approach which is more intense than might otherwise be expected of this film but is a legitimate approach. Within that I feel the music is too dense through the 5 minutes. This isn't a fast paced action thriller - it's a slow, evolving, psychological thriller. Carving out some more light and shade would really help individual sections work e.g. gaps in the music or less musically dense moments. Having made the decision of Nordic noir there are areas where the music tries to fit in those elements (e.g. percussion) without them necessarily fitting the mood of the picture/scene. There are some areas where the arrangement feels a little weak - too improvised.

A few other points worth sharing ..

RE: Presentation. The film starts with music from the off. There's a little glitch that's probably coming from the sync audio. When you send these things to your clients you're trying to impress them so make it as authentic an experience as possible. Start the film before the music, or if that is the start of the film, delay the music by a few seconds so it's not so jarring. Think about the mix - the music is way too loud against the sync sound. You may want the director to hear your music clearly but they'll also be just as concerned with how dominant it seems compared to other aspects. When you send a guide MOV present it in such a way that the director hears the audio in a way that makes it all sound good and enhances his film.

RE: File naming. Keep the file names consistent and also include enough detail that if the music file was on its own it would be imported in the right place. Your MP4 and MP3 have different names - I know there's confusion between the reel numbers but pick one and be consistent with it otherwise things could be separated and without any other guide for placement your music could end up anywhere. Which brings me neatly on to "always include the timecode" for music start in the filename even if you're sending a broadcast WAV with a timestamp (I would normally use HHMMSSFF as it's clear enough and as short as it can get). It's too easy for editors to make mistakes so give them every opportunity to put the music in the right place.

Research: POOR
Creative: FAIR
Technical: FAIR
Practical: FAIR


Douglas Black Heaton's Summary:
Frozen - Some nice ideas. You've gone for a Nordic noir approach which is more intense than might otherwise be expected of this film but is a legitimate approach. Within that I feel the music is too dense through the 5 minutes. This isn't a fast paced action thriller - it's a slow, evolving, psychological thriller. Carving out some more light and shade would really help individual sections work e.g. gaps in the music or less musically dense moments. Having made the decision of Nordic noir there are areas where the music tries to fit in those elements (e.g. percussion) without them necessarily fitting the mood of the picture/scene. There are some areas where the arrangement feels a little weak - too improvised.

Danny Thompson

Danny Thompson passed away on Monday.
He was a founding member of Theater Oobleck. He helped create the brilliant play called The Complete Lost Works of Samuel Beckett As Found in an Envelope (Partially Burned) in a Dustbin in Paris Labeled "Never to Be Performed. Never. Ever. EVER! Or I'll Sue. I'LL SUE FROM THE GRAVE!" 
Danny's seemingly effortless intellect and artistic sensibilities were amazing. He had a kind of understanding of things which were literally and figuratively beyond words.

A number of years ago he made the above squirrel image and I asked if I could use it as my Twitter header and he said yes. It's one of my favorite things ever.