Wednesday, February 27, 2013

What's in a Name ?

A film composers primary objective is to create individual themes for each character portrayed in a given film and screenwriters make sure to utilize individually unique names for each character so that there is no confusion when identifing them. 

(Therefore I created this simple device in order to have another option for creating character themes.)

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PROCEDURE: Write out the alphabet in succession over any order of pitches (i.e., intervallic, scales, randomly or chromatically as show above) then take the characters names and combine the pitches. 
Since the names are uniquely different you will therefore have melodic motifs that are uniquely different.           

Then apply various rhythmic permutations, octave transposition, etc... to fully develop your leit-motifs. Enjoy!  

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Synthetic Scales (Pitch Sets)

This process is a wonderful way to break free of conventional scales and create a unique palette which is very useful for composing.

Combine two triads of any denomination separated by any interval apart in order to create a unique combination of notes for a scale. (The example here consists of two major triads separated by a half-step.)

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Monday, February 25, 2013

Common Tone Voice Leading

Common Tone Voice Leading is a beautiful device in order to create rich 
harmonic support... especially in long sustained passages utilizing numerous 
chord changes as shown in the example below.

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Alternating Diads

Alternating Diads in contrary motion is a fantastic way to create harmonic motion
and utilize tension notes... especially in the Winds and Tuned Percussion.
*Strings as well of course!

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Who's Talking ?

Finding out where each characters individual vocal pitch ranges are located
is very useful in order to keep your musical frequencies and activity out of
the way of their respective dialog.  Sound effects, etc... as well!

Music can still be present as long as the actors dialog still has it's place in the
sonic spectrum.

Also the rhythms in their speech patterns are useful when transcribed and used
for additional motivic ideas.

Characters as Animals

A film composers primary objective is to create identifiable themes and motifs for
the films various characters.

I sometimes find it useful to think of each character as an animal instead of looking
for their individual personality traits, mannerisms, gestures, etc...

If you think of them as an animal... certain instruments, rhythms, harmonic structures,
melodic modes will always come to mind.  Works every time!

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Overlapping Poly-Meters

This dreamy cue demonstrates how a beautiful feeling of complexity can be created
when utilizing a simple ostinato figure in the bottom while having a sparse melody
playing over the top of it. Jerry Goldsmith does it again!

This theme is a 24 beat cycle with the ostinato figure in 3/4 (8 X 3) and the melody
in 4/4 (6 X 4).

"Main Title" - Hollow Man

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Multi-Triadic Distribution

I first noticed this orchestration technique in a cue called "The Raptor's Appear" from
John Williams "The Lost World" score.

I was initially intrigued with the brass voicings and their amazing inter-action and power.

Upon analyzing the cue I noticed that what first appeared to be large brass clusters were 
actually diatonic triads being dispersed equally between the various brass instrument groups.

The cue was written in D Major which is a fabulous key for the orchestra and the brass
were separated as such: 6 Horns playing B Minor, 4 Trumpets playing F# Minor and the
4 Trombones (2 Tenor & 2 Bass) playing E Minor.

It is my opinion that this equal distribution allows the triads to sound more pronounced
and balanced because of their unique timbral differences.

After breaking the cue down I then applied this approach to my own writing and found 
that it yielded fantastic results. I applied it to all the various orchestral families and it will 
now be a part of my writing vocabulary from this day forward.

Please reference this link to hear this amazing cue by maestro John Williams. The brass
enter at around 0:54 of the recording at this technique is dispersed throughout. Enjoy!

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Introduction Statement

Greetings Composers & Orchestrators,

I am creating this Blog on behalf of myself and other serious music composers & orchestrators
in the hopes of sharing theoretical techniques that we use in order to compose our music and
streamline our individual creative processes.

I will be posting my initial concepts in the next few weeks and it will be my goal to continue
posting more on a weekly basis as my schedule permits.

These postings will contain examples in both text and notational formats and it is my goal to
make them as clear and concise as possible.

I will of course welcome any and all contributions, additions, critics, etc... from any fellow
composers and orchestrators who would like to share there views.

Thank you and I look forward to posting my first example soon.


Brent Heflin McHenry