Challenging yourself to rearrange a piece of music is a good way to practice your composing skills without having to start from scratch. This week, I made it my goal to transform a cheesy soap opera theme into something that I'd actually want to listen to. In the end, it turned into an old-school video game track.
For the Composer Quest Season 4 finale, I asked Jon Brantingham back to chat. He shares some great insights on musical form, film scoring, and the Gustav Mahler orchestration style.
Siama Matuzungidi played guitar on and wrote some of the biggest pop hits of the 70s in Zaire (now the Democratic Republic of the Congo) and Kenya. In today's episode of Composer Quest, I talk with him about the soukous style of creating interesting rhythm guitar parts and lead parts to complement them. We also talk about Tim, his talented cockatiel who can improvise in the right key over Siama's guitar playing. As a bonus, Siama writes a song on the spot in honor of the thief who stole his shoes in Uganda.
I'm excited to announce this Composer Quest double episode with TV composers Fil Eisler (Revenge, Empire, UnREAL) and Mac Quayle (American Horror Story, Drive, Mr. Robot). First, we hear from Fil about what he learned while composing for an orchestra during four seasons of Revenge. He shares his tips on getting hired for composing gigs and his tips on scoring the entire arc of a show without getting musically stale.
Next, I interview Mac Quayle about how his dance music background (41 #1 Billboard Dance Hits!) influences his film and TV scoring. He gives some music mixing pointers and explains how to build momentum in a song or soundtrack.
In today's episode of Composer Quest, I interview Noah Keesecker about everything from the perils of grad school to making musical ping pong tables. Along the way, I discover that Noah is on the "spectrum of synesthesia" as he calls it. For example, he often experiences smells when he hears things (bassoons smell like mossy logs), and he strongly associates visuals and sounds, which has led to some really cool multimedia works like Tonegoblin. Noah shares some great tips on being both a creative and professional artist.
Composer and Baroque music specialist Michael Dodds is the subject of an upcoming documentary called Blessed Unrest (currently being Kickstarted) about the personal challenge of creating a 40-minute choral symphony. Michael joined me on Composer Quest to talk about the techniques he used in writing his symphony, like borrowing from the beautiful Romantic harmonies of Richard Strauss. Michael also explains how Baroque composers are like jazz musicians, and how music theory is linked to the history of map-making.
This week I've been working on a 30-second track for a contest hosted by UniqueSound. A music supervisor at the ad agency TBWA will be taking a listen to each entry, and one person will win $200. The challenge is basically to write music that could be used in a commercial, with the following style guidelines: indie pop, dreamy, electro, and ambient. Oh, and the track also has to "start mind-blowing" and have an "emotional explosion" ending. Since there was no video element to this challenge, I just had to picture blobs of brain and heart flying everywhere to capture the feelings they suggested.
Lisa Walkosz-Migliacio is a video game designer who also specializes in composing sparkly "tingy tingy" music that perfectly complements her games like the cute, bunny-filled Usagi-chan. With about 350,000 downloads of that game, she's clearly found a niche: young girls who don't have many games designed with them in mind. In today's episode of Composer Quest, I talk with Lisa about her creative process as both a composer and game designer. We also get to hear about her first ever game, a floppy-disk Joan of Arc adventure.
Over the past few years, Bob MacCallum has been focused on one question: can music evolve through natural selection? In this episode of Composer Quest, we discuss Bob's amazing evolutionary music project, DarwinTunes. In the DarwinTunes experiment/game, participants rate and "mate" short sound loops to breed new musical offspring. Although it started with randomly generated sine waves and noise, the evolved sounds are now surprisingly musical. Also in this episode, we talk about Bob's scientific analysis of over 70,000 Billboard hit songs from the past half-decade, which has revealed three major revolution years in music history: 1964, 1983, and 1991.