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Soundtrack, lalalandrecords

Music That Doesn't Suck

Posted on 2008.10.22 at 13:25
Current Location: 75070
Current Music: Globus - Epicon

Last month I attended a funeral in which the music selection, having been chosen by the deceased, was played throughout the service. And while torn between not wanting to disrespect her memory (we had often shared new music with each other in eager anticipation of the others' finds) and coming to the ultimate conclusion that the music she chose for her final journey, well...sucked, I set out to craft my own soundtrack of demise, "Funeral Music Which Doesn't Suck."

There were those who knew of my endeavor that called it morbid, and while hopefully I have many years to add, remove, and adapt my end music, I felt it important to be prepared in the event of the inevitable. I chose low, melodic pieces which would allow for the somberness of the event - music in other words which would be right at home in the setting - most ended with sweeping conclusions; tracks such as "Allegro Maestoso" from Organ Symphony #3, Mozart's "Introitus" from Requiem and score selections like "Loved Ones & Leaving" from Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix along with "Real Rain," "Father's Funeral" (of course) and other beautiful yet appropriate pieces. All my selections were very carefully chosen - I spent two full days on this, pulling selections out with Audacity (the audio software, I assure you I wasn't pulling out selections with insolence and disregard) to create a half-hour FLAC image.

Problem is, it sucked. It was difficult putting one after another, or between two others. Dissimilar sounds, dissimilar instruments, meter, rhythms...Gah! Which to start and which to end? I scrapped the whole project.

Later, having so enjoyed Age of Conan, I wanted to piece together a playlist in which composers used the range of voice as an instrument. I pulled several tracks from Conan and added to it gentle wordless vocals from A Beautiful Mind and Pan's Labyrinth, then moved to choral selections such as "Sirens" from Sinbad: Legend of the Seven Seas, Galaxy Quest and others. Incorporating chants I chose tracks such as "Optiums vs. Megatron" from Transformers: The Score. Then I ran into that same brick wall - they didn't play well together.

Another project scrapped.

My last entry took me 72-hours to complete, in which I was able to listen to four mixes that didn't suck:

I don't often ask myself, "How does he do it?" But after trying my own hand at it with the consequences I ended up with, makes these mixes even more impressive. Not only do they all work, they manage to convey a story of sorts with them - like reading a good book. All these albums are constructed using the same methods: A rousing intro to set the tone followed by a little exposition - some background information to introduce characters or locations - before getting into the 'plot' so to speak, which is the majority of the album. And just like life, these albums run through any number of emotional cues depending on what's trying to be conveyed. Shaft for example is action-packed, and at times, elusive, mellow. Vice is best described by the arrangers own words, "...in addition to beautiful long-form themes, there is also a streak of weirdness that runs through his music..." Just as I was being drawn into a movement there would be hooting, or clanging of an instrument - and not just moar cowbell - strange, eerie sounds which weren't identifiable waking you from the lull of the melodies, lest you forget where you were...The Old West. (And might I add a brilliant album when the lights are low in the office late at night while working surreptitiously on teh internetz.)

Of these four, Love & War is perhaps the most traditional of the mixes - and far more contagious than I first imagined. Tinny YouTube videos don't do justice to these lush orchestrations, and for not being a movie the score was quite comprehensive and likely greater than the sum of its parts insofar as bringing the listener full-circle in just under an hour and a half. Whatever I was expecting from a mini-series despite having understood that was a full score was surpassed almost immediately. The album is an exceptional listen, taking you back to another time with an almost duality to it: Romanticism and happiness, but always with an underlying tone of foreboding doom.

But for me the real surprise was the jazz compilation Father to Son. I have quite a few jazz CD's but I'm very selective with my jazz, and my conversations surrounding it. There are few artists that I enjoy, and jazz encompassing such a varied sub-set what with fusion, big band, acid (I could go on) finding just the right album is usually a frustrating and time-consuming effort. And while I have only a few 'Jazz in the Movies' albums, they're usually very slow, sensual collections. Mood music. Just what I like when I like it. Granted, that's not often. All this being said, one might begin to see the source of my surprise when Father to Son turned out to be the most oft-listened of the set. While each of these albums are perfect in their own right, arriving all at once they way they did, and having listened to them back-to-back, I was shocked at how seamless Father to Son came off, and how enjoyable it was, having been more a jazz album, than a score album (though the jazz was indeed original score music to a film).

The only thing left for me now is to slide Shaft into my car's CD player on my next trip ;)

Boys from Brazil two-disc set is finally on its way, ordered Rest Stop: Don't Look Back (signed by the composer) and Wrong Turn 2 ($4.98 special!) both by Bear McCreary and almost ordered Beltrami & (sometimes composer) Sanders' Max Payne. Twice. In the end, however...I puss'd out.


galinda822 at 2008-10-22 18:33 (UTC) (Link)
I love discovering new music and will sometimes spend hours seaching it out. Though I seriously need to find more time to listen to it.
ehowton at 2008-10-22 19:40 (UTC) (Link)
Most new music I come across is so heavily synth'd I find I can't listen to it for long. I mean its good initially, but the lack of range seems to grate on my after any period of time.

One of the great sites I've been meaning to post about and haven't gotten around to yet is Jamendo, from where I've downloaded a ton of great, legal, free music. Unfortunately a lot of it is recorded on synthesizers so falls under the same problems as above...and the low bitrate - you know how much I hate my lossy compressed music.

Regardless, I've found some real jewels, most notably, Tryad and more specifically two tracks from their album Listen: The song Alone and their title track.

Edited at 2008-10-22 07:41 pm (UTC)
galinda822 at 2008-10-22 19:49 (UTC) (Link)
I remember you gave me the Jamendo site before. Again, I just haven't had time to browse around as much as I'd like.

I downloaded "Alone" and "Listen". And am listening to them right now.

galinda822 at 2008-10-22 20:56 (UTC) (Link)
I actually enjoyed their title track, "Listen" over "Alone". What can I say...I'm a sucker for piano and violins!
ehowton at 2008-10-22 21:11 (UTC) (Link)
That piano is gorgeous, isn't it? Probably a synthesiser. The male vocalist reminds me of the dude from The Beautiful South.
galinda822 at 2008-10-23 12:14 (UTC) (Link)
The male vocalist reminds me of the dude from The Beautiful South.

I can hear that.
Melancthe the Woe, So-Called
melancthe at 2008-10-22 20:39 (UTC) (Link)
Father's Funeral" (of course)

*gleefulness* ♥
ehowton at 2008-10-22 20:44 (UTC) (Link)
Of course!
catttitude at 2008-10-22 21:38 (UTC) (Link)
Don't worry I plan on having you stuffed and mounted on my bathroom wall. I will play music for you all the time.
ehowton at 2008-10-22 21:49 (UTC) (Link)
Just keep my iTunes on repeat. Thanks babe.
galinda822 at 2008-10-23 12:15 (UTC) (Link)
You're so sweet to your husband! He's lucky to have you! lol
catttitude at 2008-10-23 15:14 (UTC) (Link)
I do my best.
Joshua Gizelt
swashbuckler332 at 2008-10-23 12:59 (UTC) (Link)
It is always gratifying not only to hear about how much you enjoy my mixes, but that you get them on the level that I was intending. It is, as you point out, all about creating a story in musical terms, only with thematic threads instead of a traditional narrative. Vice is a good example; I'm telling one story and using five scores to do it.

In the case of Just Talkin' About Shaft it was about illustrating the character's inner cool. Your comment that plan to listen to Shaft while driving was something I listened to with some wistfulness as I have not yet gotten a new car and never had the chance to give this mix a proper "car stereo test" when it is so perfectly suited to that arena!

I do believe, however, that you should have given yourself some credit for making Love and War look as nice as it does! I do think that perhaps the nature of the artwork makes the richness of the score a greater surprise. This was not something I had intended - rather I thought the images were emblematic of the achievements of the mini-series - but I feel that hearing the music immediately puts the image into the right context to emphasize the epic nature of the score. So I thank you again!

While I have long thought that the score for She's Gotta Have It was a masterpiece, I, too, was surprised at how well Father To Son came together. I was aiming for the "sunny Sunday afternoon in Brooklyn" feel with it; I could have made something a bit more dramatic or a bit more frivolous if I had wanted to, but I chose a specific direction that I felt Lee's music lent itself to.

I have to implore you not to give up on the projects that you have described here, partly because they sound interesting but mostly because you shouldn't get so frustrated so quickly. I doubt the results were quite as bad as you thought they were, but if they did bother you, it's just a matter of figuring out what you do like and what you don't. Your raw material looks really good, it's just a matter of finding commonalities to link them together. You might have to make some sacrifices, but you also might try coming up with an overall structure and rounding out your selections with other stuff to act as a buffer between the more glaring tonal shifts to allow for a smoother overall listen.

I have been making mixes, editing suites and combining tracks for over half of my life. If I do have any sort of skill, it wasn't something that just appeared overnight but rather honed through trial and error. And I'm still learning as I go (which is one of the reasons why I try to record my thought process while making the mixes). And I don't always get it perfect (first run of Sandcastles and Breadcrumbs sounded great, but I needed to hear it a couple of times to spot the problems it had), which is why I sometimes revisit older projects with what I've learned in the interim.

I thank you again for your kind words and hope the next batch of discs will be as satisfying to you as these were. And I hope that you'll keep at it with your own mixes. I'd love to hear them.
ehowton at 2008-10-24 13:06 (UTC) (Link)
Thanks for the encouragement concerning my attempts. I feel like Young Sherlock Holmes, poorly playing the violin right before raising it over my head to smash it. "I should've mastered it by now!"

And thanks again for the music - it really is wonderful. They were all delightful. And you're right about me having picked up on some familiar Morricone tunes that I didn't know by name, but that disc was so comprehensive that there were indeed many new jewels for me to unearth.

Despite being talked about, read about, discussed - nothing can take the place of the actual listening experience.
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