Category Archives: Media Composition

Recently working on…

Over the last few weeks I have been working on…

The score for a  short film set in a real old peoples home mocking up scenes from ‘The Great Escape’

Music for the Newcastle United Fan Film – a feature length documentary from FNA Films that is currently in post production.

A 10 minute music and audio collage for Sam Goodlet’s exhibition ‘Never The End’ the recording of which will be performed on Friday 16th June between 8.30 and 10.30pm at the George Stephenson Railway Museum in North Tyneside.

Promo for my solo piano EP ‘Murmuration’ plus some new  solo piano pieces – to be released soon.

 

Also in the last few weeks my music has turned up on the following shows/channels

‘Mind The Age Gap’ –  Channel 5

‘The Balancing Act’ – Lifetime

‘Winter Road Rescue’ – Channel 5

‘Crimewatch’ –  BBC1

If you would like to speak to me about music for any of your projects please don’t hesitate to get in touch [email protected]

Happy New Year

Hi all,
Back into the studio today after an enjoyable festive break. I’m currently working on preparing  library tracks for submission, some library track admin (boring but necessary), editing scores for my forthcoming solo piano sheet music collection and listening to some great work from my friends Sam and Dan Burt who have made this fine collection of trailer music.
https://soundcloud.com/borderscout/sets/redcola

The playing and recording of the next solo piano record will have to be put on hold for a while as a result of a fracture of my left thumb sustained whilst stalling my motorbike at the petrol station before Christmas. No boogie woogie for a while…what a dafty!

 

 

Always Getting Better

Recently I completed the score and the sound mix on a short film produced by Shapeshifter Creative called ‘Always Getting Better’

I will post a link to the finished film in due course but I thought I would share a couple of uplifting, hopeful cues from the film with you.

 

Electric Avenues

Synthesisers are great. When I was a kid Jean Michel Jarre popularised electronic music. I had never heard anything like it before. This music, in part, helped inspire my early teenage desire to own my own synthesiser and the one that was affordable enough to allow me so set my heart on was this! The Casio MT 400-V

casiotone-mt-400v-full

It wasn’t really a synthesiser. This little machine was actually a pretty basic home keyboard with an ADSR (Attack, Decay, Sustain Release) filter bolted on, but it  provided many happy hours of mucking about with sounds. The fact that it could be powered by batteries was also a boon – I even remember playing it on the beach.

A few years later I graduated to one of these…

Korg-M1-970-80

 

The Korg M1 is the best selling synthesiser the world has ever known. It had an impressive feature set – a 61-note keyboard that senses both key velocity and aftertouch, a joystick for pitch-bend and modulation control, 16-note polyphony, eight-part multitimbral operation with dynamic voice allocation, and 86 16-bit sampled waveforms within just 4Mb ROM memory.

Importantly it also featured a facility to record using the inbuilt sequencer which provided me with my first experiences of layering sound on sound. I remember spending about a week, eight hours a day, recording an instrumental cover version of  ‘Private Investigations’ by Dire Straits. From what I remember it sounded pretty good, apart from the overdriven guitar burst on the original recording, which the M1 struggled to emulate – I had to resort to some sort of insipid brass pad which didn’t quite have the same impact. I have  a vague recollection that this recording may still be in existence on cassette tape somewhere. I will post it online if I can find it.

Sadly I don’t own either of these marvellous machines anymore. Eventually the Casio went to a charity shop and the M1 was sold, at a discount, to compensate for sticking keys and a dodgy output jack socket.

More recently in my work writing for media There have been quite a few occasions where an electronic score was been commissioned. Below is a collated playlist from some of these projects. All of the sounds here were made using software instruments –  which very often are software emulations of classic synthesisers including the Korg M1.

The Fall

the fallDelighted to have completed work just before Christmas on the score and sound design for the short film ‘The Fall’ by Jack Staveley.

The film is about what happens when two boxers caught up in an underground bout realize they are both trying to throw the fight.

It stars former Cruiserweight champion of the world, Glen McCrory as well as local actor and promoter Steve Wraith. It is shot really well so you get a real sense of the action and is set in a grimy industrial warehouse with bags of atmosphere.

It part of the ‘Random Acts’ scheme from Channel 4 so keep an eye out for it on your tellybox in the near future.

Open Studios

Just a quick reminder that its open studios, here in the Ouseburn 36 lime streetthis coming weekend.

All of the artists within 36 Lime Street (and other arts venues around the area) will be opening their doors on Saturday and Sunday the 28th and 29th November between 10am and 5pm – its a great opportunity to see some amazing art work, chat to the artists and pick up some unique Christmas gifts.

There will be a cafe set up in the gallery space as well as a raffle where you could win some art work or maybe a £100 gift voucher.

For my part I will be giving ten minute piano recitals on level 2 at 30 minutes past the hour beginning at 11.30 on Saturday.

I hope you can come.

36 Lime Street, Newcastle Upon Tyne NE1 2PQ

‘Boy Meets…’ short film score

Before and after – a film composing show and tell.

Reflections on the approach taken to composition of the score to ‘Boy Meets…’

This short film was made as part of the Northern Film and Media ‘Stingers’ series in 2007. Written and directed by Graeme Beech ‘Boy Meets…’ is less than three minutes long, contains no dialogue and is a clever ‘single idea’ short film with a neat twist at the end.

Watch it as it was first presented to me – the composer

When I watched it I came to the conclusion that this was a gift of a film for composer – a single idea executed well with a nice twist at the end. It contains no dialogue leaving the way clear for the music to help to tell the story. Its a nice show reel length – roughly two and a half minutes and I was genuinely amused by it.

The tone of it to me is largely comical – light hearted and playful. I also picked up on an element of magic – making the girl disappear from the cafe in the middle but underpinning it all was that this was a live action film that also behaved a bit like a cartoon. It had a series of episodes – a bit like the Tom and Jerry thing of multiple scenes where the cat is trying to ‘get’ the mouse and failing. We are asked to suspend our disbelief that during all the time following the girl, the main character never actually gets to see her face. It also has a tragic-comic ending with the death of the main character in a surprising way.

As a composer, it feels important when scoring comedy to play it straight – the laughs are somehow diminished if you do the obvious and make the music funny –  to play along with the comedy with  a kind of whoops, bang, wallop, crash – following the action type approach. What you are giving then, is the same as what is on the screen – you aren’t really adding anything. If you play it straight – i.e as a serious drama I think the comic effect is enhanced. The juxtaposition of the seriousness of the music and the comic nature of the pictures add an extra element. The music in film should always be contributing to a scene, otherwise it feels like there is little point in being there.

So this led me in a couple of ways. The ‘magical’ element I chose to represent using glockenspiel. Since the Harry Potter films and probably before that, magic and the supernatural have come to be represented on screen by metallic tuned percussion – Hedwigs Theme which is the main Harry Potter theme is played on a celeste. The solo glockenspiel  in the intro has an ethereal quality and is there  to introduce a sense of mystery – both for the audience who are at that point in the film thinking  ‘whats all this about ?’and from the point of view of the main character – the boy who is enchanted by a pretty girl and wants to know more.

An instrument which has a long association with comedy is the tuba. The low pitched rasping nature of the sound conveys ‘pompous’ with great aplomb. It also sounds like a fart and draws on our propensity to appreciate toilet humour. On top of this I came up with a melody which uses a compound time signature 6/8 and a skipping rhythm – tum-ti-tum-ti tumpety tum etc which by its nature has light hearted, fun, bright and breezy connotations. The melody also contains a number of crushed notes  or ‘acciacaturas’ which, when used in this way can add a bit of comedy to the music as initially they can sound like the wrong note. All this is accompanied by odd blasts on the ‘heroic’ solo French horn adding some comical gravitas to represent the films hero and also to add some surprising sudden swells which keep the listener guessing as to the direction the music and the film will take.

Hopefully all of these elements add something  to the pompous nature of the tuba and gives the overall effect of something light but trying hard to be serious. Part of the thinking behind this was to lead to the plot twist at the end of the film not giving away any clues as to what was about to happen. This is another key principle – don’t tip the story – don’t give away the punch line. Wait until the thing happens and then react simultaneously.

The structure of the score roughly reflects and is loosely timed to match the episodic nature of the different film scenes. All of the episodes trundle along with the 2 beat in a bar 6/8 march like feel with  relatively simple 16 bar, four X four bar phrase structure.  In the contrasting sections I used the odd rest/unexpected pause  before the final phrase of the sequence to heighten the anticipation of what is coming next. This uses the idea inherent in antecedent and consequent musical phrases – one phrase setting up a question and the next answering it – in this case with a slight delay and a quick unexpected flurry of notes – a surprise in other words – the key element in comedy. All of these devices I hope contribute to the playfulness of the score and the contribution that makes to the film as a whole.

It is lightly orchestrated – it wouldn’t do to be too large an ensemble or to be too forceful – it would feel overblown. In the beginning there are some timpani, snare and cymbals, a staccato string melody and  tuba, woodwind and horn accompaniment. I contrast this with use of pizzicato strings and some light woodwinds and a return to the ethereal magical glockenspiel for the the magic trick of the girl disappearing from the cafe. There is also a return to the original theme and a big build up to the surprise ending that tells the audience that something is going to happen but we don’t know what.

This film has made a great show reel piece and has got me more work as a composer. It was among the successful portfolio of work I submitted to the Royal Television Society for their regional awards in 2007.

It has been nice to revisit it. I hope you enjoyed some insight into my thoughts about how the score came together.

Watch the film, complete with music score below and feel free to leave any comments on the use of the score. Thanks for taking the time to read this post.

Short Film Night

short film night

I will be speaking about my score for ‘Boy Meets… ‘ at the short film night organised by Candle andBell this coming Monday evening, the 16th November, at the Tyneside Cinema. This months theme is all about film music so there will be Q&A’s with both directors and composers of each film.

The full line up of films is as follows

Miss Todd
Directed by Kristina Yee
Composer: Matt Kelly

Bread and Butter
Directed by Freya Billington
Composer: Jennifer Bell

Moments
Directed by Chris Cronin
Composer: Joel Catchatoor

Eclipse
Directed by Mark Lediard
Composer: Roma Yagnik

Bistro
Directed by Sean Gray
Composer: SOMA Music

Boy Meets…
Directed by Graeme Beech
Composer: Steve Luck

Tickets are just £3 and are available via the Tyneside Cinema here https://www.tynesidecinema.co.uk/whats-on/films/view/short-film-night

Book now to avoid disappointment – the event sold out last month.

 

Advertising

Happy November everyone.

Recently I put together a playlist of shorter pieces from recent projects –  possibly suitable for that most lauded of art forms the advert which according to Will Rodgers is “the art of convincing people to spend money they dont have for something they don’t need”

Check it out.

March TV track plays

le-zapmy violent childstargazing live

Click the links below to listen to some of my tracks that have made the TV schedules this month.

Porch Blues Party‘ on ‘Le Zap’ on Direct Star – France

In The Evening By The River‘ on ‘My Violent Child – Tearing Us Apart’  Channel 5

Sailing On The Big Sea‘ on ‘My Violent Child – Living In Fear’  Channel 5

In The Evening By The River‘ on ‘My Violent Child – My Secret Shame’  Channel 5

Trip Hop Hop Trip‘ on Stargazing Live BBC2