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Original game soundtrack; new chamber music!

July 23, 2016, 3:56 PM · So much has happened for me musically this month, and I guess now's the time I'm going to try and share as much of it with you as I can!

First of all, I wanted to start with my violin project updates. I recently took part in recording and submitting myself playing the first violin part for "Donna's Suite" as part of the Doctor Who (Online) Fan Orchestra. That video will be going up sometime before the end of the year, I'm sure. Online orchestras are a unique collaboration, and this gave me the chance to play some music from my favourite Doctor Who album (Series 4) by Murray Gold. After that, I pulled out a few random pieces just to have fun with - currently I'm enjoying Mahler's Piano Quartet (ca. 1876) and particularly the first page of Ravel's rhapsodic "Tzigane" (1924), which is my first real unaccompanied extended passage of violin music I've worked on. Someday I'm sure I'll get around to learning Bach unaccompanied, perhaps with my teacher once I start taking lessons at school starting this fall.

I just also wanted to briefly mention I've been enjoying seeing several films and hearing scores by film composers I recognize - most recently is Star Trek: Beyond, which came out on July 22nd, scored by Michael Giacchino. He did a good job of continuing to include his own main theme he'd introduced back in 2009 with the first film and continued in 2013, as well as including some of the main TV themes from back in the '60s.

The main thing I've been doing, of course, is composition. This month, I've started two main new pieces. The first is a piece for violin and harp. I really wanted to have the chance to work closely with a harpist and really try to write a good piece, unlike some other attempts I've tried in the past. I've just begun the scoring stage of that piece now. The idea of the piece is that it's in eight short movements, and each one is based on some Japanese cultural thing or idea, utilizing the pentatonic Japanese scales. Because they were such small movements, I was able to sketch one almost every day for the past while, until yesterday, when I decided I should start organizing them and putting them together into the piece.. I will certainly explain more about the piece as I (hopefully!) start practicing and preparing it on my own violin to hopefully play with my harpist friend sometime this next school year. The brass quintet came out of me listening to "Birds of Prey" and hearing a brass-only moment, on the Fourth of July, as it happens. So it's been about 20 days since I conceived of the piece and began sketching, but it is finished and I am currently putting it in the computer. My ballet I began in the spring is still something I hope to continue - I'm leaning toward scoring it for a full orchestra this fall.

Finally, and this is something I'm really excited about, is my alter-ego music. For my dad's birthday tomorrow, to celebrate 20 years of being with him, I decided to make a game called Superhero Adventure, which stars Superman and Batman, his favourite superheroes - and I composed pretty much the entire soundtrack. Here's a little bit I wrote down earlier on my thoughts on the finished soundtrack.

(Here at the beginning, I'm talking about recording a violin improv solo I played for the title screen of the game.) At first, I think I was going to only do the violin improv solo you hear during the title screen during the final product at the end of June when I’d started making it very slowly then. And go all-out I did—I really threw out my classically-trained concert music-self to go for contemporary styles I would never have dreamed of trying. This music is also much more tonal (apart from some of the battle scenes) and closer to video game soundtracks I’ve heard—I keep comparing it to Xenoblade Chronicles X and Final Fantasy VI music, and my friends compared some tracks to Sonic battles (with my electric guitars) and Pokémon a little (with my march theme). But yeah, here’s an overview of the many different styles of music you’ll hear. I’ve experimented with the popular genres of rock, jazz, and hip-hop (sorta). Obviously there are some orchestral tracks, both pure orchestra but also me blending rock with the orchestra, like for the Space Invaders track (we always seem to be going back to that retro game for some reason…). And part of the reason why the music is the way it is is from me discovering the drum tracks in Garageband—those drum loops held each track together and helped me get really into the music. A lot of tracks are very simple, just drums and maybe a section of violins or something. There are three themes that stand out to me simply because after I had created them I had thought that was the best track yet. “Bombs Ahoy” was my first totally rock track and it was so much fun to put together—it has a grungy vibe to it, and then the strings come in at the end with some dissonant chords. The other two are heard right at the very end of the game: “Space Invaders?!” is totally rock with a pumpin’ electric guitar at the beginning, but I love the orchestral progression with the flute flurries especially, and the strings melody, combined with electronic sounds and drums to match the style of a late-70’s early 80’s arcade game. (I had a hay-day with timpani in this soundtrack!) And if you listen to when it plays a second time in the soundtrack, synth is added to follow the strings or bass. Finally, the track I composed yesterday morning to compliment the epic final boss (which I tried to make more epic with avoiding lasers and laughing and things): “Battle Against X”, inspired by “Dancing Mad” by Nobuo Uematsu at the end of Final Fantasy VI! It starts out soft, and is actually a passacaglia—where you have the same bass line. And this bass line is actually pure 12-tone (so I guess I drew on Schoenberg—actually somewhat Ravel as well in this track too). Things get really intense with the choir and crawling organ and bass line, and then, 2 minutes in (and I’ve timed it so in the game, around this point, you’re in the actual boss fight portion), the drums kick in, and then starts the “battle portion”. After that, I slow the tempo down again and have a really beautiful melody softly plucked out on acoustic guitar, with held chords in the organ (eventually strings when the drums kick in) and a magical celesta following the guitar at times. I’m so proud that I made this in just 3 hours, all three layers of it, and I’m really happy with how it turned out—it really adds a whole lot to the end of the game, and you really feel that this is it, and you’ve made it!

So yeah! This was a really fun project to spend some time on before I got back into my concert music - it's a really nice change to be creating music in a completely different sense, even a completely different genre, for a change. I hope he will enjoy it, and perhaps I can put some of it on YouTube in a playlist! One new track every day.

I hope you enjoyed this little update article. (I'm still on the fence about actually writing a Star Trek: Beyond imdB review - I enjoyed the film and the music, especially the futuristic outer space vibe to it that's totally different from the new Star Wars film, but I'm just not sure if I can talk for that long on it... Oh well.) See you next time!

UPDATE: Below is a link to the playlist - and it was in this very article I came up with the idea to do it as well! So yeah, I have (good) material till August 5th or 6th but I might continue updating it past that for some of the "filler" tracks. At any rate, hope you enjoy my "alter-ego" self's music, as I like to call it, simply because it is so far from the concert music I know and love to write - besides, of course, this soundtrack's constant obsession with strings!

Click here for the playlist.

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