Recently finished work with DMG Entertainment on a car branding spot for the Jaguar XJ Ultimate. These guys did a beautiful job shooting a gorgeous car. Take a look!
Posts tagged film score
A few 8-bit compositions for a short set in a…surprise surprise…8-bit video game! Certainly a different beast than the 100-piece orchestra.
It’s not every day you get to say your music is going to be heard by a Kenyan and Albanian audience, especially not as a result of Beijing politics, but stranger things have happened.
Long story short, the Beijing Dance Drama and Opera is accompanying Liu Qi, the (this is rich) Communist Party Committee Secretary of Beijing, which is like mayor but actually a notch higher, on his diplomatic trip to Kenya and Albania early this month. As part of the trip, the dance troupe will be performing shows for the dignitaries of both countries. While the performances will primarily be of Chinese dance and music, the troupe wanted to open each show with a piece that reflects the host country’s music and culture, and that’s where I came in.
The instructions for the Kenyan piece were simple. As the opening dance, it had to be highly energetic, extremely percussive, and passably authentic. I decided the piece needed three main components: very dense and busy percussion, tribal vocals, and some convincing pitched percussion (marimbas, kalimbas, and xylophone).
The percussion wouldn’t be much of a problem, but without the time to record actual vocals, I had to rely on prerecorded loops and samples, something I try not to do because it feels so…lacking in integrity. But nonetheless, I dug up some South African, West African, and Masaai vocals (I know, only one of these is actually Kenya-specific) and tried to construct a piece around them. A good trick for making the vocals sound more natural and less like a copy and pasted loop is by forecasting the melody, so in this case, letting the kalimbas and marimbas introduce it before you ever hear the vocal loop.
And as for the tribal percussion, let’s just say it was a lot of fun!
Albanian Eagle Dance
This piece was an especially interesting challenge since I had no clue what Albanian music sounded like. Even watching video after video on Youtube, it was still pretty tough to get a feel for it for some reason, so I synthesized a combination of Greek, North African, Persian, and Russian music. Hope it doesn’t offend anyone. I’m just a practically white Chinese guy with a keyboard.
The structure of the dance had already been planned out before I committed a single note, so the piece reflects the three parts of the dance: 1) the expansive sky, 2) the eagles, and 3) flight of the eagles. In case anyone’s wondering “why eagles,” it’s the bird on the Albanian flag.
It’s partly inspired by Daft Punk’s score for Tron Legacy, which is twisted in that a black entertainment show hired a white person to direct the opening, who hired a Chinese guy to copy some French guys.
I recently got a chance to really stretch my boundaries when Cassie asked me to help write some music for a show open she was working on. Urban Beat Hollywood is a black entertainment news show that’ll be airing on TV One, and we wanted a high-energy open that would be suitable for Cassie’s high-energy editing and shooting style.
We tried a few different concepts for the opening sequence, including a blues open and a minimal piano open, but we ultimately went with the heavily electronic and “glitch-tastic” Daft Punk sound (which the producers seem happy with).
The alternate blues open came about for obvious reasons - the show’s target demographic is a black audience. So we decided to experiment, combining the electronic elements with some jazzy piano and vocal phrases.
And we also tried this even simpler opening, which features just a short minimalistic piano phrase over percussion and bass. We wanted to try using a darker piano tone, and I added a very very soft brush kit underneath it at the beginning just to give it a bit more of an old-school vibe.
In the end though, the Daft Punk electronic version won out, probably because it sounds the most energetic, edgy, and modern out of the options.
Jerry Goldsmith’s score for Mulan does a brilliant job of balancing her femininity with her obviously masculine badassery of, you know, defeating the Huns. It’s a tricky thing to do and a very interesting concept, so I wanted to try my hand at it, though through a different genre because, I mean, who among us mortals can even compare with Goldsmith?
Writing this piece has been one of the most frustrating experiences I’ve had in a while. I can’t tell you why, but I do know that everything from finding the basic tune all the way to producing an arrangement out of it was no walk in the park. Sometimes, I suppose, you’re struck by inspiration and all the elements of the process just gel. Other times, all you can do is muck about and hope everything you’ve done and learned up to this point can get you through it.
And funny enough, despite all the troubles involved with composing this piece, I really like it - especially the tune. I would definitely put it up there among the better melodies I’ve written, all of which came much more easily than this one - which just goes to show that sometimes the tenacity to see a troubled piece through is just as valuable as that elusive divine inspiration.
Pad Yatra: A Green Odyssey, the documentary I’ve been working on for the past few months with some fantastic people, just released its first trailer! It looks so good - please check it out for yourself as well as the website.
The trailer also features some music from the film as well!
Here comes another piece, now the second, that I’ve written by hand. I’m still excruciatingly slow at it, but I also think I’m making progress as far as efficiency goes.
The idea behind it is pretty embarrassingly simple - ever since I’d seen the opening for Star Trek Deep Space Nine, I’ve always wanted to write a piece that uses that interesting “twinkling” effect. What better chance to give it a shot than in a stock Olympics anthem?
I think I’m getting better at long melodies (though it never really seems that way when you’re staring at a blank page), and I’m happy enough with this one that I think I may follow up with a piano-only version. Might as well get as much mileage out of a tune as you can.
This post comes a little late, since this article published a week ago, and an earlier version of it many months ago. But anyways, here is the final version of China Daily’s profile on me. It’s fitting for this to appear on Tumblr since that’s how the reporter Amanda and I first “met,” and over the topic of chicken fried steak no less.
Dear Amanda, thanks for all that work and interest! You’re awesome, and I’m truly grateful for it!