November 25, 2010

Making “Connections”

One of the toughest things to learn to do when composing to order is to translate the concepts, ideas and feelings producers and directors try to convey into an understanding of what it actually is they want. Too many people have been quoted as saying “Writing about music is like dancing to architecture” to pick any single on for this post, but they’re all right – music is a nebulous concept at the best of times, but when a director has a very strong idea of what they want, trying to convey that to a composer in such a way that the composer begins to hear the same thing is a test of language, shared experience and cultural reference points.

So imagine trying to do it in a foreign language, with directors and producers raised immersed in a culture alien to your own and sharing very few historial and cultural references… That’s my biggest stumbling block with developing any serious work here in Spain at the moment – connecting!

Coincidentally (or, if you prefer, in a brilliantly crafted seque), I am currently working on the title music for a web travel series called “Connections” which is being developed by a friend here in Granada. After some initial, somewhat frustrating conversations, we overcame the communication issues by swapping YouTube links back-and-forth of music which contained elements of what she was after until we honed in what it was she wanted. And I think I’ve got it now – ambient, oriental drumming (well, who doesn’t like a bit of taiko now-and-then!) with some natural sounds to evoke travel and cultures, etc., etc.

So, I’ve got the melody and basic harmonic structure together, a pretty simple idea in Em. (Title music doesn’t have a lot of scope to be complicated – this is a 60 second spot, and at 70bpm that allows for 16 bars, but it’s still possible to develop a nice little AA’A”B structure with some sacrifices.) Now it’s time to start looking at orchestrating and developing it to: a) develop a recognisable identity, and b) make it interesting!

Here’s a very rough render of the melody and a harmony line to give you an idea:

Along with “Connections”, I’ve been playing out and developing a few ideas on the Taylor. A couple of chord sequences have some potential I think, including one which has some strong resonances of the Floyd which I need to flesh out and see where it goes.

Recently, while playing, I’ve been experimenting with tunings other than the guitar standard EADGBE. (Interestingly, I played out the harmony for “Connections” with the guitar in Dropped-D [where the lowest E-string is tuned down one-tone to a D and the other strings are left as they are] and it turned into something completely different, but really nice, so don’t be suprised if that chord sequence ends up somewhere else in a more guitar-oriented form at some later date!) It’s all too easy to find one’s fingers falling into tried-and-tested (and worn-out) positions in standard tuning and changing things about can often make for interesting and exciting discoveries. I hope a few of the little ideas I’ve been coming up with while doing this will turn into stronger ideas over time!

Given I’ve been ill over the last couple of weeks, I’m quite pleased with what I have been producing. The Adams are making a difference, both in the quality of sound I’ve been creating, and in the desire to do it, so I’m happy with that too. Anyhow, just keeping you up-to-date – hopefully there’ll be some completed work to show for it all very soon now!

November 25, 2010

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