Saturday, July 27, 2013

Collaboration Quartet ?

Greetings to all my fellow composers and orchestrators out there in note land. 

I have an idea for a collaborative project that I would like to propose to any and all 
who may be interested in possibly adding their own personal contribution.

My proposal is to create a multi-movement or sectional String Quartet in which a
group of individual composers will each create and contribute their own section
towards the building of a cumulative piece of music.

Each composer would certainly have the freedom and respect in order to create as 
they see fit and there would only be a small list of criteria guidelines established 
by me, that would mainly be in consideration of overall form, tempo, modulations, 
formats, score layout, etc… towards the building of the entire piece

My goal for this project is to have a minimum of six and no more than a dozen composers 
contribute to this initial string quartet piece. I am mentioning initial because, if it turns out 
that there are more than a dozen composers interested in this type of project. I might vary 
well propose additional projects based on other possible musical forms and styles, etc… 
Who knows, maybe it this collaboration is fruitful for all, this idea could grow and evolve 
in to something bigger for all of us.

At this time I am merely inquiring to see how many of my fellow composers might be 
interested in participating in this type of project endeavor… and since the majority 
of us composers and orchestrators lead relatively isolated lives I thought this 
might be an interesting avenue to pursue, 

If you are interested in contributing to this project please send me an e-mail to 
( with a brief bio and any basic conceptual ideas, approaches, 
styles, etc… that you might like to implement.

I will add a follow-up post regarding the specific criteria and further details depending 
on how much interest is generated from this initial post inquiry.

Throughout my nearly 4 decades of interest and experience in music, without doubt the most 
satisfying and fond memories I have were when I was involved in group collaborations with 
musicians from all over the world… especially my brief stint with "Cirque Du Soleil" where 
every member of that group was from a different country and each possessed such wonderful 

Thank you for your potential interest in this project and I look forward to hopefully working and
collaborating with many of you in the very near future.


Brent Heflin McHenry

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Staggered Line Development

This blog demonstrates a concept I like to personally cal "Staggered Line Development"...

The cue excerpt I have chosen in order to demonstrate this concept is called "Crossroads"… previously titled (1M7 - Tamara's Plea) from Elliot Goldenthal's wonderful score for his wife Julie Taymor's brilliant film… "Titus".

I absolutely love the bittersweet quality that this cue evokes with it's slow evolutionary building effect, having one voice after another being introduced and layered on top another in order to create this fantastic piece of music.

Please notice the Cellos start the cue with a simple repeating 4 note motif… then the Violas enter in a rhythmically staggered manner followed by the Violins doing the same, and so on… eventually reiterating this order to help create more melodic development.

(Click once on images for full-size)

Download link to entire cue: 

I have personally written several short cues based on this concept, following and not following traditional species counterpoint principles... I find that the possibilities of this approach could be potentially endless. 

It is now my personal goal to write a piece of music in this fashion, utilizing as many voices as possible, one entering after another in order to hopefully create an endless stacked type of fugue and/or contrapuntal creation.

In closing I hope that you enjoy this cue as much as I do and will try this approach out for yourself.

Thank you for your continued interest in these musical posts and I hope they are proving beneficial for you!

Monday, July 22, 2013

Theoretical Sketching - Part 6 (Realization)

Thank you to everyone who has followed along with this short series of posts regarding my
Theoretical Sketching process. I hope these posts have been beneficial to many of you. 

I am very pleased with the results of this particular sketch, for I feel that it successfully demonstrates the viability of writing music in this manner, purely in theory, without the aid of an instrument and most importantly, for it's sheer convenience. 

I would also like to state that my scoring of this sketch is not my final completed score, since there is always room for further orchestrating, arranging, melodic and contrapuntal development, etc… 

I treat this first draft orchestration in the same manner as my original sketch… in other words, my initial orchestration is designed to establish certain timbre colors between instruments and to create additional counter figures. 
I will then choose my favorites from these ideas in order to create my final performance composition and orchestration.

In general, I make it a point to bring all my sketches to this basic orchestrated level in order to be able to archive them and have them readily available for further use and/or development.

I will then always archive these orchestrated sketch drafts into respective folders based on their specific genres and styles. Therefore, I can easily access them for use as temp tracks or with demo reels, etc… 
In addition, I also find that many times I can actually combine various sketches in order to create larger cues or musical suites.

I personally believe that there is no such thing as writer's block when it comes to composing music. 
That is not to say that we should not strive to, or do not have those moments of divine intervention when the lightning strikes us on our respective instrument(s). 
This sketching process simply offers an alternative for always being able to make something musical happen no matter what the circumstances may be.

On an analytical note... another wonderful by product of this process is that every time I create and realize one of these sketches, I am always amazed at how much my influences through years of listening and score analysis invariably come through, even when writing theoretically with no preconceived notions or intentions.
This specific sketch strongly reminds me of my exposure to the majority of scores by Patrick Doyle for Kenneth Branagh's fantastic films, specifically "Frankenstein"... which to date is still one of my all-time favorite film scores.

I do apologize for the rather bland Sibelius sounds for I simply do not have the extra time to dedicate towards creating a full scale MIDI performance… when other work and business is pending.
Thank you for your understanding regarding this situation and I feel that this version still adequately demonstrates my performance intent for this sketch.

Here are the download links for the audio mock-up and it's accompanying notated score... 

I hope you have enjoyed and approve of this sketching process and I appreciate you taking the time to follow along with these posts.  

Thank you and I look forward to posting more new subjects on my blog in the near future.

Friday, July 5, 2013

Theoretical Sketching - Part 5 (Form & Structure)

This will be my last procedural post in this series on Theoretical Sketching before I post the final modest 
Midi/Audio mock-up and it's accompanying notated sketch score in my final post on this topic.

I am using this post in order to describe how I personally take a sketch that I have created… even what appears to be a convoluted one and lay it out into a final cohesive musical structure.

Once I have completed my sketch draft to my basic liking I will then take some standard paper or write on the back of the sketch itself, a verbal description regarding the sectional order, instrument suggestions, tempos, dynamics, articulations, etc… before I begin the final sequencing and scoring steps towards its musical realization.

I based this sketch on an 8 bar phrase based primarily in 4/4 with beats left off in bars 4 (3/4) and 8 (2/4) to help create a sense of forward movement.

I have decided to start this cue with a large open poly-chord voicing on synth as an Intro in order to establish a basic atmosphere and precursor the harmony that the A section will start to play as the cue's predominant theme begins.

The 8 bar A section will then play (a tempo 1/4 = 80) twice with the 1st Violin + Oboe melody introduced the second time through. 
I will also disperse some light percussion and low pizzicato strings for additional harmonic support in this section as well.

The B section will then play over the same 8 bar rhythm sequence twice with the Cello introducing a secondary theme supported by the low brass and dove-tailed sweeps occurring in the 3/4 and 2/4 bars

The C section I will treat as the dynamic focus of this cue and it will be played in double time (a tempo  1/4 = 160) with high energy string activity overlaid with a big sustaining melody in the horns. This section will be repeated no less than 4 times and possibly upwards to 8 times as it develops.

I might decide to recapitulate the A theme at the end for it is generally nice to come back home… however this is not written in stone and I may decide to disregard this thought.

Any slight alterations from this point on that I may choose to implement will simply be in consideration for orchestration, melodic sweetening, counterpoint, recapitulation, etc… and I will without doubt stay true to the original sketch.

Now it is time to score and sequence this to see what kind of Christmas gift pops out of the box… and trust me a nice one always does. Even though some are more special than others, they all have something very musical to offer.

Thank you for your continued interest and I look forward to posting the final results.

Thursday, July 4, 2013

Theoretical Sketching - Part 4 (Melodic & Harmonic Development)

My previous posts regarding Theoretical Sketching have now finally led towards the creation of an actual piece of music as shown here. I will more than likely add some minor embellishments, additions, etc… to this sketch. If I do, these additions will also certainly be created in theory as well and shown in my next post.

Disclaimer: Since the objective of this process is to create as many musical ideas on one page as possible… the page can potentially become very convoluted and possibly appear confusing to some. Therefore, in my next blog I will outline and describe my process for laying out all these ideas into a coherent musical piece containing form and structure.

The other day I decided to head down and check out Stanley Kubrick's exhibit on it's final day here in Los Angeles for some composing inspiration. The musical ideas shown and described in this post were created in a little over an hour at the museum while sitting and viewing his wonderful exhibit. 

This sketch from now on will be named "RedRum"… for if I come back to this sketch years from now, this title will more than likely help trigger my memory as to the circumstances surrounding it's original creation. I always date and at the very least give a mock title to each sketch that I create for these future reference purposes. 
I would strongly recommend doing the same for as your amount of sketches increase over the years you will literally have stacks of these lying around. It is therefore nice to have a reference as to when it was created in addition to what may have helped inspire it's creation.

                                                                      (Click once on images for full-size)

I now consider this sketch as it appears to be approximately 90% complete. There are three main sectional ideas now labeled A, B & C that were based on the criteria that I stated I would follow from my previous blog. 
Theoretical Sketching - Part 3 (Musical palette).

Please see how many topic subjects from my previous blogs are utilized within this sketch and I look forward to heading down the home stretch with you in my next post. 
Theoretical Sketching - Part 5 (Form & Structure). 

*I do apologize that the sketch had to be scanned in 2 pages since my scanner obviously does not accommodate larger than letter size images.

Thank you for your continued interest in this topic and I hope you are finding this process as enjoyable as I always do.