John Carpenter. Pino Donaggio. Jerry Goldsmith. These are just some of the composers who are MUCH better than me. But that’s not gonna stop me churning out some fast cheap synth crap for my films.
A NOTE FROM THE COMPOSER
As far back as I can remember, I’ve always loved film music. I did that thing that everyone does where they hold a cheap cassette deck up to a TV and record the sound, and I filled many an E-90 with bad noise, with a hint of movie score underneath. At some point, I realised you can buy music, and the first album I ever bought was Joe LoDuca’s score from ARMY OF DARKNESS.
The point I’m trying to make is that I really love film music. Thing is, I can’t compose a note.
I took some violin lessons when I was about eight years old, but gave them up after I got constipated at an off-site concert rehearsal (true story). Since then, I never looked back in my determination of complete musical ignorance and it’s a decision I regret to this day.
My pain subsided, however, when I bought ONCE UPON A TIME IN MEXICO on DVD. Robert Rodriguez’s masterclass in composing (basically, “wing it and see what happens”) was truly inspirational and I felt I finally held the power to score my own films.
At some point in the mid-to-late Naughties, I acquired a copy of Garageband, possibly the last piece of software anyone would recommend composing a motion picture score with. Luckily, I wasn’t a composer, so I dove right in…
These were the liner notes in the first volume of music from Untamed Aggression Productions (available on the music page on CD or digital download). Since nobody’s bought it, I feel comfortable in recycling the material in this blog.
Since 2007, I have scored eleven short films. Twelve if you count my re-score of ANGRY AND MOIST: AN UNDEAD CHRONICLE. No one is ever gonna say they’re award worthy (although the review of THE OXENHOPE EXPERIMENT on the Film Threat website did mention the music*), but I like them. One of my main aims when creating a score (I hesitate to use “composing” or “writing” when describing my process since I do neither) is to create something that I would listen to myself. I don’t like sound design scores or atonal dissonance, I like melody, I like themes, so that’s what I lean towards. My score for EXPIATION was just a synth mush of effects that worked in the film, but I wouldn’t put it on a CD.
I have a couple of musical processes.
- Try to play by ear another melody I’ve heard. Usually, in my wild flailing, I’ll hit something else that works. The theme from THE OXENHOPE EXPERIMENT started as my attempt at emulating John Harrison’s DAY OF THE DEAD score.
- A method I picked up from Matt Berry (who picked it up from Ronnie Hazlehurst) which is to build the title into the melody. When you hear the theme from LAST OF THE SUMMER WINE, you can hear the words “last of the summer wine” in the music. I tried this out whilst working on a theme for WAY OF THE MONKEY’S CLAW and was quite pleased with the result, so I continued it with my re-score of ANGRY AND MOIST.
WAY OF THE MONKEY’S CLAW is an upcoming feature film that I did some music for (released as a digital download under the title NINJAS!) but went mostly unused in the final film. This is mostly because I’m not that good, but partially due to the shittiness of the Garageband instruments. I often consider upgrading to Logic or some other pro software and dropping a couple of hundred quid on some better orchestra instruments, but with no musical training or comprehension, that would probably be the aural equivalent of polishing a turd.
Instead, I’m embracing the cheapness. At the budget level I’m working, I don’t really have a choice, but hopefully you can look past that and find something enjoyable in my scores.
In the meantime, here’s a sneak peak at Rosie Kightly Stoker’s work in progress art for my new album coming soon to Amazon, currently under the preliminary title of CLUSTER-FLICK.
* When searching for that OXENHOPE review to find the exact quote, I’ve noticed that Film Threat is offline, possibly for good. Really wish I’d saved that review now. They only gave two stars, but it had some nice things in it.