Friday, September 7, 2012

Young Writers Theatre

Reese's Pieces

Dan's Reese's Pieces backing track had a wonderful spirit, beautifully akin to the original ethos of IML, you can record with whatever you've got technology wise, it's not about the quality, it's about taking part and doing something. Dan's backing track (see blog post below) involved hammering something with something else to make a brilliant sound of hammering. It's a playground chant setup, so where do I turn? MY KIDS! I played the track to my 6 and 8 year old (that's 2 kids, 2 different ages rather than a trans-aged child) and asked for lyrical advice, based on the fact that the song HAD to be about a film they'd never seen involving an alien with a cranky voice who loved sweets.

We collectively listened to the track a few times, then it happened. Sam started chanting, the lyrics were written, he chanted some more, we recorded him chanting, fun ensued, track complete. Elliot (aged 8) wasn't so sure. The pressure of recording was too much, the sense of self which is gathered by that age weighed too heavy and he freaked out. There's a fine line (2 years) between abandonment and ... not-abandonment. Anyway, Layla and I weighed in for backing vocals (with much abandonment because it was such a fun track) and it was done.

Against my religion I did a bit of cutting and shifting post recording to line all the vocals up, but we all had a gas, and as Dan says, we've collectively started a new genre. But what's it called?


Spielberg at college. Greg's track was also a lot of fun. All the organ, swish and pizzazz of a lot of music I feel naturally inclined to, namely Georgie Fame. Slightly strapped for time due to [yawn] work, I had to create something I was happy with, that I thought would do Greg's track justice (I was late to start due to my own stupidity of recording over the wrong track to start with), so I needed to hook onto a formula to guide the writing process.

Moody's Mood For Love. There I go ... name checking a Fame track. I can't forget Greg telling me that Georgie wrote the lyrics for Moody's Mood For Love by listening to the sax line, and then writing words to fit. So I listened to Greg's track, sketched out dashes on a piece of paper to represent the syllables ... and then filled in the blanks. SKAT.

I'm sure I could have done something more meaningful but I really enjoyed trying a new technique for lyric writing and my sincere apologies for the recording quality. I wanted to go with the flow and the lyrics came pretty fast, and I didn't want to hold back the performance. The compression and EQ for the vox was all done hardware side on the Focusrite strip so not much room for fine tuning in post.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

What, no menthol?

For some reason, Dan Waldkirch channeled Ennio-Morricone-western-style music for his backing track about the amazing Dennis Nedry from Spielberg's Jurassic Park which was actually a great if unexpected choice for that character! When I started writing and singing my vocals, I found myself randomly affecting an Antonio Banderas voice - this made me laugh, so I ramped up the accent. After a few days I listened to the mix and realized that the lyrics are totally unintelligible, and sound like I'm singing in Portuguese! That made me laugh even more, so I left it! Its fun to try and decipher what I'm saying - you'll never guess it!
Jim's backing track for Gremlins was more challenging - at first the track reminded me of 'Screamadelica'-era Primal Scream, and so I thought about doing a fey Bobby Gilliespie impression, but when I started writing, I found that I needed to sing over the lush female backing vocals in the track and ended up with a sort of kinky Disco-funk approach and stupid lyrics. Re-watching Gremlins wasn't much fun though, and gave me almost no inspiration apart from the title/chorus 'Bright lights, bright lights' which is what Gizmo says when he's accidentally exposed! I did discover, however, that Gremlins is a Christmas movie!
I also had a trip down memory lane writing lyrics with Kelly for Mike Webber's lovely backing track about Dawson Leary (from 'Dawson's Creek') whose personal philosophy is closely linked to Spielberg's catalog of movies. A brush-up on Wikipedia reminded me of the key story-lines, which I had managed to conglomerate with 'The O.C' and a few other teen-dramas!

Monday, August 13, 2012

Mola + Godlights

I finished my tracks! I got to work with two great pieces -- those of Barney and Tim.

For the Godlights track, I immediately recognized the opportunity to do a big choir, which I always love doing but haven't done in a while. I believe I ended up with 28 vocal tracks, singing 7 or 8 separate lines. The chords were so simple I thought I should have an almost haiku-like lyric. Here's what I came up with, a minute or two after hearing the song.

Light of God
Light of Steve
Either way
I believe in you.

I think it's sort of cryptic yet positive. I like it.

Mola Ram was a TON of fun and it's really crazy. Usually I try to avoid following the rhythm of the instruments for IML tracks, as I think most people consider their backing tracks "accompaniments" and not really a main melody. But I really couldn't resist with this one, as the first few lyrics just came right away. It's all really fast, and I tried to give it a Mr. Bungle vibe where there's no dead space in between lines. Unfortunately the lyrics aren't very understandable if you don't read them first, but I think that's fine. Turned into a sort of progressive hardcore punk song. Really happy with that one.

Anyways, I guess my work is done -- can't wait to hear the rest, I think this album will be deliciously weird!

Friday, August 10, 2012

Tootles (I looked it up. It's with a 't')

I've completed my song track assignment. I've had to turn it in early as I'll be on holiday for the next two weeks. It was a difficult brief, but I think I've managed to do justice to the style of the backing track. I can't really think of a better name for this track than "Tootles", so I suppose I should just leave it at that. I've never seen the film Hook and never really cared to, but I did find a YouTube video of the famous (I suppose) scene where Peter hands Tootles his lost marbles and in his joy (and with the help of some fairy dust) he is able to fly out the window to return to Neverland.

Monday, July 9, 2012

Last Minute Change!

I was holding out on choosing a 'Jaws' theme because I thought it would be a popular choice, but as no-one's gone for it, I'm changing my 3rd backing track from 'Spielberg Fashion' to 'Jaws Horror Head'. You know what I'm talking about - the bit where Roy Scheider dives down and finds that sunken boat - he's just a-pokin' around and AAAAAARRGHHH!!! - a horror head pops out!!! Scariest scene ever. Apparently Spielberg shot it himself (with his own money) because there wasn't enough popcorn flying after the test previews!

Sunday, July 8, 2012

May Marcus come in?

Sorry to be a late sod. I've brought Marcus Brody, Indiana's long standing friend and comrade, to the party. Just love him. The song morphed out of control during the recording process, so I am not sure how well this now represents him. Close your eyes. Can you see/feel him?

Friday, July 6, 2012

Duelling scouts

I've got two tracks just about finished. The first track is based on the film Duel, as I've said before. It is very heavy and quite unconventional. I like it, but I don't envy the person who gets it as a song.

The second piece is much more straight forward. I recorded an acoustic guitar idea that I've had lying around for a while. Without this project it probably wouldn't have seen daylight. It is very pretty (I think). I'd had the art of song writing in mind, but the feel is a bit more rural and calm than anything I've seen Spielberg do, so I've changed the subject to Boy Scouts. Spielberg got into film making when he borrowed his dad's movie camera at the age of twelve to complete his first film for a Boy Scouts photography merit badge. Awesome. The feel of the second piece fits this perfectly. The merit badge and photography in general are also suitable.

Maybe I'll try for a third...

Friday, June 29, 2012

You ugly.

So I'm just about finished with my tracks. They're all mixed, I'm just gonna listen to them for another day or two before I hit that "render" button.

My Dennis Nedry track turned out to be a sort of Morricone-style cowboy theme. I have no idea why. I suppose Dennis is the kind of guy who'd see himself as a badass hero/outlaw. It's a nice little galop with some church bells for good measure.

My Toodles track is a 17-second rag piece. I feel a little bad for whoever gets this one, because I'm kind of forcing a melody on them - maybe there's a way around that, I don't know! But I found myself making up my own lyrics to it immediately, so I think it'll work out somehow. I love ragtime, and since Toodles is a very old man, I thought that might be the kind of music he would have listened to as a kid.

For my third track (Reese's Pieces), I tried to do something not necessarily experimental, but...unexpected maybe? I thought about what style of music I could do that nobody else would. And I have no idea where this idea came from, but I thought about those jump rope/hopscotch/double dutch songs little girls sing on the playground. I honestly can't remember any of the ones I heard for double dutch, but hopefully everyone knows what I mean. Closest one I can think of is "U-G-L-Y, you ain't got no alibi, you ugly! Yeah, yeah, you ugly!"

So anyways, I decided to do that. Don't have a jump rope, and I can't imagine they're very loud, so I went outside and got a stick and whipped it in front of the microphone. Also added some clapping and some bucket drumming. It took everything in my power not to add more instruments, but I thought even the bucket might have been overdoing it. I wanted to keep that "playground" vibe and make it as basic as possible. Absolutely no melodic instruments. I suppose that's an IML first?

Good luck to whoever gets that one. Hopefully it's not too out there. I thought the name "Reese's Pieces" already kind of lends itself to a kids rhyme.

Here is the entire ensemble:

So anyways, I think mine will be a fun challenge for whoever gets them. Will upload the WAVs by the end of the weekend, probably!


Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Duel, and possibly others

I will be composing a backing track on the subject of Duel, the 1971 feature film directed by Spielberg in which a hapless driver is terrorised by a truck driver for no apparent reason. The film is very tense and suspenseful. There is almost a supernatural element to it. It will be hard to capture the feel in 30 seconds, but I have some ideas.

I may also do a piece on the general art of story-telling if I have time. Spielberg has said that he sees himself as a story-teller primarily and that his medium is film rather than the written word.

Monday, June 25, 2012

Two ideas, with maybe a third coming?

As of now, I have 2 tracks I want to do.

The first will be about Dawson Leary and his film obsession.
The second will be about Elmer the dog and the movies he found himself in.

I have a third musical thing I'm working on, but I haven't decided yet if it is IML-worthy.  It may be a bit too wierd...

Friday, June 22, 2012


I've decided to write my 3 songs about:

  • Mola Ram, the heart-stealing high priest of the Pankot Thuggee (Indiana Jones and the Temple Of Doom)
  • One of my favourite movie-adaptations of all time - Empire Of The Sun
  • Spielberg Fashion - the Nikes, the Aviators, the baseball caps

Thursday, June 21, 2012

John Williams

For my first track I claim Spielberg's relationship with John Williams as his chief composer. I'm going to try and use old school music tracker software to write the music as well so it might end up as a chip tune! My second track is going to be about Torch Beams! I think they're often referred to as Godlights in his films, I tend to refer to them as ... Torch Beams! Let the fun commence.

Willie Scott

My backing track is going to be on the subject of Kate Capshaw and the love that bloomed between leading lady and director on the set of Temple of Doom (I think, I haven't really researched this).

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Hold on to your butts.

Just wanted to pop on here and claim my subjects! I'm going to do 3 tracks. I'm thinking:

1) Reese's Pieces. E.T.'s love for them? Their significance in the history of product placement? Vocalist decides, I guess.
2) Toodles, from HookEarly in the movie, he explains he's lost his marbles. Then this happens: One of only a few movie scenes that make me cry. So happy!
3) Dennis Nedry. Enough said.

That's all, can't wait to hear everyone else's!

P.S. Like Steve up there ^^^, I have also never had a cup of coffee. 

Monday, June 4, 2012

30 Seconds of Spielberg!

Greetings IML tune-mongers. Welcome to the IML's 8th album
 'Short Songs about Spielberg'. On this album we're going to be writing about American film director Steven Spielberg - the man, the movies, and other 'm' words. 

As if that weren't fun enough, we're challenging you to limit your song(s)* to just 30 seconds in length! I'm going to be wrangler for this album, so email me if you have any questions or need any assistance. Use this blog to lay claim to Spielberg song-subjects and keep us all posted on your progress. 

Here's the specs for contributions...

Submit .wav or .aiff formats at 44.1kHz, 16 bit
Mix your tracks to peak at approx -6dB
Maximum track length: 30 seconds
*Maximum submissions: 3 per contributor

Submit back tracks by: July 6th 
Submit finished tracks: August 3rd 

Now go on - say everything you've always wanted to say about Spielberg in half a minute.
Jolly good luck!

Tim Donderevo