Saturday, February 26, 2011

6 Days To Glory

6 days.

6 days until my recital.

I think the only reason I'm not freaking out as I type this is because I have nothing major to do today. The past week was incredible with how much time I spent at my computer working on my recital. I barely slept all week, had rehearsals, meetings with designers, somehow managed to transport a canvas home from the store in a convertible that wouldn't fit it (we put the roof down and drove the entire way home while it was snowing with me buried under it in the back) and composed a bunch of new pieces. All in the span of 5 days.

I have faith, though. The ensemble is coming together wonderfully, everybody is understanding with my insane scheduling and they're a fantastic bunch of musicians. Expect a bunch of surprises... one you may know about already because I enjoy talking about it, but the other we're playing incredibly close to the chest. So just you wait.

As a treat, since I said I would post music more often, I found the audio file for the music we're using as an intro. Sometimes composing movie scores that ultimately never end up getting used is a good thing. The music was from the big climax moment of the movie, involving a large bat man (not THE Batman), a little boy and a whole lot of cannibalism. I took another look at it, fleshed it out, made it MORE bombastic... and here you have it. It's still untitled, since I hate titles, but it's suitably epic for an epic show.

Recital Intro by Michael Hart

Keep your eyes peeled. In the next couple of days I should have prints of my recital poster that I'll share with you all.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Cold Weather? Montauk Video!

In SOMEWHAT keeping up with my theme of posting music that's been sitting on my computer for a long time that nobody's ever heard before, I happened upon a short score for a video produced by a friend of mine. Christor Lukasiewicz is quite possibly one of the most talented photographers I've met; my apartment has pictures of his hanging all over and he's responsible for the lovely gasmask photograph that adorns my profile. Sometimes it's wonderful to have a semipro photographer as one of your best friends. The perks are endless.

This may or may not be one of those perks.

Anyways. Enough rambling.

Back in October or November, Christor contacted me with a short clip he had shot and edited that he wanted original music to. Being the kind gentleman that I am, I agreed immediately. And sat on the clip for about a month or two. I'd say I was busy, but who the fuck am I kidding, last semester was taken up by a WHOLE lot of Mass Effect 2 and dicking around.

When I finally got around to looking at the video, I found his temp track to be a little bit... intense, shall we say, for the visual onscreen. I notified him of this, and he agreed somewhat. The feel was there, he said, but  I was allowed to experiment how I pleased. The score came together incredibly quickly; it was much more song form based than I'm usually contracted to do, but there were certain cuts that I had to hit as well. A bit of a challenge, but luckily I have this uncanny ability to find the perfect tempos that line up with cuts. Simple 4 chord pattern on a nice distorted Rhodes sim, filter drums, bass, and super delayed surfy guitar swells, and we have a tune. Oh, and harp harmonics. Quite possibly my favorite patch in EastWest; it gives me a piano-like sound, but with a much more dreamy quality to it.

I shipped it back to him, he liked it, and now it's on Vimeo. There's another one in the works, of him playing with his water housing backed by an original song I wrote with Kelly Izzo, but that one may have stalled, since I learned I don't get tracking for free anymore. Boo me.

Now. The real test. Lets see if these embeds work.

weekend in Montauk 2010 from Christor Lukasiewicz on Vimeo.


Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Remixed And Loving It

Apologies for not sticking to the "song a day" mantra I set out to do last week. Living the life of a full time student and composer doesn't leave me with very much free time; none at all, to be exact. This weekend was exceptionally hectic, between rehearsals with the Salvation Denied ensemble (it sounds so much more badass when I say it like that), beginning the production of arrangements for Alice Unraveled, and realizing that the Amanda Palmer remix was due a lot earlier than I expected.

It's a great feeling, opening the contest page on Saturday and realizing that the song has to be submitted by Monday. Panic set in, I didn't leave my room for a good 5 or 6 hours at a time, and through the sheer power of will and the magic of copy/paste, the remix was completed. Mixing occurred the following day, on Monday, thanks to my housemate and longtime friend and collaborator James Perrella, to give it that extra grit, drive and side chain compression, and I submitted with a little over 2 hours until the completion of the contest. Whew. I work best under pressure.

The remix is an amalgamation of Paul Van Dyk esque trance, Salvation Denied's own eccentric brand of electronica and my first foray into dubstep. Dubstepping bass sounds was one of the most exciting parts of this project, as I had never done it before. Running into problems with getting my LFOs to work (which is how most dubstep musicians get that WHOMP WHOMP WHOMP that's so prevalent in the genre), I devised a simple workaround: FILTER PLUGIN. It's not the smoothest, but it gets the idea across and works wonderfully.

James provided me with additional amusement with his frustration at mixing in Logic. It's somewhat of an oxymoron; Logic is completely illogical with the way its set up. I don't think I've heard the phrase "piece of shit" used more times than in that hour of mixing. Quite humorous, to say the least.

Download It Here. Additionally, if you want to check out any of the other submissions, click here. There's quite a few of them, some of which are incredibly good, some of which are... not so good, shall we say. But then again, I'm a cranky music major.

As for Alice Unraveled, I'll have to talk to Kelly, but I'm sure she won't be opposed to posting some scratch arrangements that we did up on here.

Also, thanks a bunch for reading. I've noticed I've been getting hits every day. From who, I'm not sure (I have to find the little widget that shows me where my readers are coming from), but it means a lot that you care about my ramblings and music. I promise I'll bring you goodies from the archives of music on my computer soon.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Fuckin' America

Since my last post was rather heavy handed emotionally, I figured that this week we could do something a little more lighthearted. I'm going to take a page from a longtime collaborator, friend, and musician of (I grudgingly admit) much ability, Andrew Fox. His blog, The Foxy Music, was set up so that he could share his back catalog of music with everyone. For the past month and a half, Andrew has been steadily releasing  a large amount of music, whether they be one offs, incredibly stupid/funny covers, demos, scratches, whatfuckinghaveyou, and it's a great way to connect with the artist.

Time to steal said concept.

I've learned that, as composers, what do we do to blow off steam? Besides drink ourselves into oblivion, we record really, REALLY stupid shit. I think it's time that this stupid shit gets shared with the world. Unfortunately, unlike Andrew I can't take requests for things because my workload is incredibly massive at the moment, not to mention that I'm still taking on projects, but I figured it takes maybe 10 minutes to upload a song to share. Why not do it?

Today's gem comes from first semester of sophomore year. Still in the thick of getting rid of Gen Ed requirements, I signed up for an American History class that one of our music professors taught, mainly because I knew that I could slack off and still get an A. Sue me. I had a lot of movies to score that year.

Anyway, at the end of the semester we were required to do something creative, whether it be paint a painting, bake something, music, visual, movie, yada fucking yada... so long as it showed our passions. I decided to team up with Leila Hegazy and Mara Dominowski, two fellow Studio Comp majors and longtime friends of mine. What happens when you get three overworked musicians in a room together to write?

Incredible awful music.

The music for this track was written in a day, the lyrics that night, we did basic vocal tracking the next day for like an hour (2 to 3 takes max) and the entire project was wrapped in less than 2 days. Caleb Foss signed on to do visuals, which I sadly don't have, and we presented to the class. Rather, Mara and Caleb did, since both Leila and I went home.

Supposedly it was a hit. Why, I don't know.

The best part of this whole experience? Vocal tracking. We first ran into problems when I couldn't get enough sound out of the microphone unless the girls got really close to it. Me, in my ever so perverted wisdom, devised this solution: pretend like you're giving the mic a blowjob. Mara got incredibly offended at me, of course, but Leila just shrugged it off and went for it. Not literally, of course, but you get the idea.

Getting the girls properly autotuned was somewhat of an issue too. They're both incredible singers. Like, seriously good. Why they wanted to be autotuned was beyond me. The autotune wasn't catching their voices because they were too on pitch for it to be jumpy, so they decided to riff the hell out of EVERY SINGLE VOCAL LINE that they sang. Which they seemed to enjoy immensely, being from Staten Island and all.

So, at the end of the day, you get what you see below.

America The Bastardized

It'll be up for download for the duration of this little releaseage I'm doing. After that, this fucker's comin' DOWN. Can't have it on my professional Soundcloud.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011


Hello all.

I've had a rather turbulent past week and a half. Those of you who need to know why probably already do.

During that time, I sat down as a composer and did something I've never actually done before: let my feelings take control of what I write.

As a film scorer, I'm constantly tasked to create mood and emotion for various setpieces. I've gotten quite good at manufacturing what I think to be pretty believable representations of the gamut of emotions, from sad to happy to anger to intensity, what have you. Never have I attempted to let my own experiences dictate what flows into my compositions. It's so very... singer songwriter of me, I suppose you could say.

The entire experience has been incredibly cathartic, and I can finally bring myself to cope with what happened over this past week and a half. I have no regrets at all about what happened, and genuinely believe it can help me move on with my life.

One last thing: there's a bunch of different ways the title for this piece could've gone. Originally I was tempted to title it something incredibly melodramatic, like "Loving, Losing" or "Requiem For A Lost Love" or something equally at home in the discography of HIM or Aiden or any of those other fucking awful teen angst bands. As I sat back from finishing the last notes, the title hit me.

It's been the driving emotion behind the whole experience, and no matter what it will always be in the back of my mind.


Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Please... No More Charts

I hate writing charts. There, I said it. I guess it's the curse of being a composer who works primarily in a DAW (Digital audio workstation. My preference? Logic) but when I compose, I do it through playing music in, as opposed to writing it out. Writing charts is entirely tedious to me. I understand the need for charts, and I've noticed that every so often seeing notes in a score form on a page helps me make more intelligent harmony choices... but translating already composed music to score form is so goddamn boring.

I bring this up because for the past 2 days I've been frantically writing charts out for the Salvation Denied live ensemble. With less than a month to go before my recital, it's been a whirlwind of activity here, with coordinating rehearsals, sending out charts, sending out music, and ordering pants for my costume. Thank God my chili's lasted me for over a week; I barely have time to cook.

Anyways, if you want to see a brief snippet of how I write, here's the first 2 pages of a song we're performing. Not a full score by any means, but these are the parts I pulled out for second synth and solo violin.

Obviously the score's missing a lot of information. These are just the individual parts my players are performing; the rest is going to be playback through my computer. I don't have enough money to buy things to trigger parts live, sadly.

Another realization I came to while writing these parts: my individual parts are really simple. Layer 5 or 6 of them together, though, and you get something that becomes epic and complex. Missing from the score right now are the staccato violas, drumkit, and low low low low low bass pad. Like, almost inaudible deep. Awesome.

Next on the agenda: booking a space to practice, working with Rachel Edelman on poster design, and beginning the orchestration of Alice. Gonna be a busy month.