Chaplin Film Score - A Composer's Diary - Part 5 - ft. Animal Crossing!

January 20, 2019, 6:07 PM · This post is part 5 of an on-going series about a piano score. Please click back to the other parts for more information.

I just realized I am nearing the home stretch on composing this work! I just finished up Act I, which is (I believe) the last major section of music besides little transitional things (I'm working on the "pies scene" at the moment, taking a small break to write this) I have to write. Because I'm so busy and can't work on my SI every single day, it's been a bit of a gap since my last composing session on this piece. I remember when I started Act I, I got stuck pretty fast, but when I picked it back up this early evening, the rest of the section came easily to me and I finished it up. I've been using a lot more vamps in the music. Vamps are pretty common in musicals, as I've learnt from my time in the Pit throughout high school and even in college operas. They will help make sure I stay in line with the film when I perform with the screen.

Today, I wanted to talk a little about some of my influences that can be seen in this score. Besides the obvious for those who know my music (Ravel), another influence I touched on before but thought I'd bring to the front are the OSTs of Animal Crossing. I've been blogging about various video game soundtracks in the past, from Nintendo games like Mario Kart 8 to games Stampy, my favorite YouTuber, has played. The score of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, an action-adventure game, influenced some of my sounds (mainly the wood-block hits for the battle music) in last year's Muse of Fire. Yet Animal Crossing has a completely different vibe to those games, which is probably why I'm so happy to have returned to it - it's very relaxing, a life-simulator, but there are no real objectives, and you can do as you please.

This year is the year a brand-new Animal Crossing on the Nintendo Switch is coming out. Animal Crossing has always been my favorite Nintendo series, and among my favorite games of all time. It has been a part of my life since 2003. I do remember 2013's "Midwinter's Night" was inspired by the then newly-released Animal Crossing: New Leaf, which I blogged about in September. Getting excited for a full HD Animal Crossing, hearing the big band Animal Crossing music track in Mario Kart 8, and imagining a similar-style of soundtrack for the new game - perhaps one where some of it is live-recorded??? - makes me very excited for this new game!

One thing the games do well is its relaxed feel. The games are all about taking your time and enjoying being in nature, in a village and a life that follows our real-world calendar, but a place you can escape to. Currently, I'm heading to bed playing Animal Crossing: New Leaf on my 3DS, and then reading Tolkien's Return of the King, which is my first (of hopefully many!) book of 2019. Sorry for all this extra nonsense, but... it makes me happy to think about - for example, tomorrow evening after a great strings sectional, and a great day playing my violin in my lesson (starting to learn Berio's Sequenza VIII! A very different way of playing the violin than Mozart!) and perhaps starting to engrave the music I'm writing tonight - I get to come home in the evening and play a little Animal Crossing to relax.

This has all been a long-winded way of me saying that the games tend toward a specific genre of music (amidst an enormous score that references lots of genres with my favorite character, the guitar-playing dog K.K. Slider!): jazz.

I've never really been that into jazz, at least, modern jazz. I've been enjoying hearing the jazz band practicing, but I've been partial to the jazz scores of Ravel and Gershwin and even Copland. Instead, I take my modern jazz inspiration from Animal Crossing. The soundtrack to Animal Crossing: GameCube (2001-2002) has a wonderful jazzy score that I absolutely adore; it's definitely the best in the series. There are lots of moments, mainly in the music that plays at night (there are 24 different music tracks in all the games that plays for each hour of the day), that have these running low base lines above the melody in the right hand, usually a swinging version of the game's main theme. The 3am theme was my main inspiration for the opening of my jazz number that plays at the beginning of the film, after the theatre music. (I've already mentioned that was inspired from the Wii game, Animal Crossing: City Folk, and its theatre music rhythmically impacted the melody of my motif for the theatre, which I sketched back in October. It's the theme that plays in between the acts, often in different ways, like my "funny music" during the pies scene I'm about to score once I finish this.

It's really interesting seeing where composers can get inspiration from these days. Even though this will ultimately function more as a concert work than a film score, I can still get inspiration from the medium. Animal Crossing seemed a perfect fit: being a life-simulation game, and this film being far from The Lord of the Rings, I think I found the perfect soundtrack to be inspired from and combine with my love of Ravel and his jazz scores, again, as I've mentioned before in this mini-series. (I'm also very pleased it's my favorite game as well, making this more personal to me than the epic scores I've written in the past, even going back to The King of the Aliens Symphony! Now that's a throwback for me - New Leaf was still a new game for me to discover...) Anyways, I can't wait to finish off this score and start preparing for a performance, which will ultimately be much less-stressful than Muse of Fire was to prepare for! It will be a fantastic way to end off my senior year at Augustana College.

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