Monthly Archives: October 2015

Scoring as a growth challenge


Most composers have something that they do especially well–their
style or reputation may be built around this. It can be a genre–
like rock, or orchestral, perhaps contemporary rhythms or techno.
Whatever the tags that a composer may live with or even promote,
there are always tasks that require a composer to stretch–move out
of the comfort zone and grow. This can be a fun challenge, a way to
explore new musical landscapes and increase one’s range.

The wonderful thing about scoring Travelscope for me, is that it presents
this kind of challenge on a weekly basis. Each episode brings
the show to a new location, and at times a different time period.
In that it has no actual story line or recurring characters–other
than Joseph Rosendo as the host, it is the location that is both
the story line and the characters. This requires me to visit the
music of that culture and weave it into to the sound and POV that
I bring to the show as a composer. The music themes that normally
recur on scripted or even many reality shows, do not happen here.

A look at some Season 8 locations reveals the scope we are discussing:
Taiwan, San Antonio, Eastern Europe(Bulgaria, Romania, Croatia, Hungary),
Germany and Switzerland in a period centric 2 part episode about the
Reformation, Toronato, Tri Valley California, Korea, Thousand
Islands. Each of these has to have an identity that fits the subject
and yet remains true to the Travelscope sound. Each episode often
has moments that lean towards the past or peek into the future–
thus the ethnicity also has to be ‘period’ sensitive.

An example: The Reformation 2 part episode required music like
this opening from part one:

Or this cue which I created for Luther’s death–it is both period and in my guitar style.

By contrast, few weeks earlier, I created this cue for one of the Taiwan Episodes:

The challenge is to keep all the music sounding appropriate and still be
stylized with my stamp on it.
(contrast to the atmospheres of Biker Build Off a few years back)


The Travelscope ethnic and period centric work has been made much easier having Youtube as a research tool. Imagine going to the
ethnomusicology department at UCLA to hunt down exotic recordings
from what can be almost any culture any week– Youtube makes this
quite doable…Of course, there is the challenge of doing
something creative and professional with the influences one has explored.
Personally, I love it.

Viva la difference!

Keeping Up with the Jones

The equipment arms race will never be over–and that is a good thing.
Music has always been driven by technological change (amongst many other factors).
Valves were added to brass in the early 19th century,
for instance. Electric guitar appears in the mid 20th century and synthesizer,
samplers and digital technology followed. There are always new interfaces,
new toys, new software, speakers and microphones. Access to good teck
stuff is a positive—sometimes just a new sound library can
kick start a composer out of a period of bad mojo.

The other side of the race is the addiction and pressurized environment
that can can darken it. Keeping up with the latest, greatest is not
always all it is made out to be. One way to confirm
this is to go back and listen to great records made 10 years
ago, or 25, or 40 or even 60 years
ago. Rubber Soul still sounds perfectly fine to me
–done on a 4 track analogue machine.

We all learn with and from our gear. If you know how to get great
results from a set up, it is not always a positive or necessary thing
to “switch up.” If something works well for you, keep using it.
Adding to a system gradually is usually pretty safe. Wholesale
leaps can be scary and demanding. I can honestly say I regret
dumping my old Roland 760 sampler and the 8 bit Roland drum samples.
They were just dirty enough and sent out through an analogue board
and a dbx 163x, the kick and sn popped like nothing I have heard since.
You can hear them on my heavy metal and are rock sounding
cues for Biker Build Off. And hey, a 57 on a guitar amp is still the THING.

Old is not a derogatory word in music technology—old guitars are priceless.
We spend lots of money
on emulations of old gear not because the old stuff was terrible.

Before stressing to keep up with the Jones equipment-wise,
slow down, pick a couple of things
that are tantalizing and be additive…
or….. just buy that old Telecaster you’ve been dreaming of.