Jeff's online journal, ramblings, whatever.

Archive for December, 2010

Music from each month!

This year has been a super busy year for me, both in general and especially in the music-writing field. In January I signed on as an intern at a company called the Visual Marketing Group, which produces various film, TV, and video projects. This internship turned into an actual job once I graduated from BYU in August. Also, I have continued writing music for Poison Ivy Mysteries this year. We’ve written a total of three more shows this year; combined with the four from last year, that makes seven shows, each with from four to seven songs in them. Even taking into account that Nate Drew (who is also my boss/co-worker/guy who got me the job at the VM Group) wrote about half of that music, that still means I’ve written nineteen songs for them so far (nine in 2010). In addition, Johnathan Whiting and I have been working on an ABC Monster album, with a track for every single letter of the alphabet. Although the final version is not yet ready, all the songs have been written (at least first drafts), so that adds another twenty-six songs I’ve done this year. I also did a Travels Megamix for Mrs. Fields’s retirement thing back in April, in which I took twenty songs from Travels and techno-ized them into a ten-minute long dance remix. Plus, working at the VM Group has given me the opportunity to do tons of little and big TV and film projects, including commercials for companies like Fris coffee and Check City, some MLM videos, industrial trade-show kiosk videos, as well as some music for a documentary about the life of David O. McKay that airs on BYU TV every so often. Probably the biggest project on that front has been working on a show called Xtreme Tourist that actually isn’t out yet, but should be next year. Nate and I have been working recently on the first season: twelve half-hour episodes, which adds up to dozens of cues that we’ve been writing in the past two months or so.

Add to all this the random songs that I write anyway for practice, experimentation, or simple stress relief, and I’ve probably written more pieces of music this year than I can count. So, to show you, my faithful blogketeers, some of what I’ve been up to, I’ve decided to upload some stuff I’ve written in the past year; at least one thing from each month.

January

January didn’t start too busy, as I didn’t get the internship until near the end of the month. However, I did begin writing music for the PIM sci-fi show, even before the show itself was written (I was reeeeally excited for this show).

February

In February we spent most of our time working on the David O. McKay documentary. For some reason I don’t actually have the music tracks I wrote for that separately (I was using a different computer then), so in order to hear it you’ll have to go watch the actual documentary (found on BYU TV’s website here). Nate did most of this, but a few specific points where my music shows up are 00:29:40, 00:55:01 (actually an arrangement), and the part with the Nazis that I can’t find right now. That’s right, Nazis. Also, the first draft of the android song came about during February.

  • Harp: But so I don’t leave you high and dry with no MP3, here’s some random harp thing I did when I was bored during February. It doesn’t go anywhere and is obviously unfinished, but here it is anyway.

March

March saw me working mostly on the Travels megamix, which I’ll post under April’s section. Also, work for the rest of the PIM sci-fi show was finished during March. And I think the Fris coffee ad that I did the music for happened during March, though I don’t actually remember. That ad, though, led to one of the funniest, most random, and probably most sacrilegious moments I’ve had this year, when Nate opened a project he was working on (a documentary on LDS painter Del Parsons) but somehow got the voiceover for the coffee ad attached to the beginning of it. When it was played, a slideshow of beautiful paintings of the Savior was shown, along with Cuban music and a deep, seductive Latin voice asking something to the effect of, “Why do you drink coffee? Is it the rich, warm taste? The dark, flavorful aroma?” We couldn’t stop laughing for about ten minutes, and I still can’t look at a Del Parsons painting without wondering about the dark, flavorful aroma of coffee.

  • Lockdown: I’ve posted the android song already, so allow me to post what was definitely my favorite song for the show, even more so than said android song. Lyrics are by both me and Johnathan Whiting. Listen for references to both Super Metroid and Doctor Who.
  • Different: This song has no real name, but I wrote it a day or two after the Fifths song I’ve already posted, and I actually enjoy it more.

April

Finishing the Travels megamix wasn’t the only project on the table in April. Work for Club Mystique, the next PIM show, was begun. Also, some random VMGroup projects were worked on during this time, including music for a Check City ad (which they didn’t end up using). In addition, I helped Randy McNair with his senior project Monster in the Woods, though I mostly supervised fellow composer Kristina Austin as she actually wrote the score, so I can’t post any of that as my stuff.

  • Travels Megamix: When we did this in April at Mrs. Fields’s retirement show, we actually got all of the main cast back to sing it, save Josh Ludvigson and Stephen Dunn (though he came to rehearsals, he wasn’t able to come to the actual performance). I never got them all in for recording, though, so the only version I have has me singing all the songs. Also there was a slideshow/video that went along with it, which I uploaded to YouTube.

May

May was when most of the work for Club Mystique was done. However, it was during this month that I started taking classes again to finish up my bachelor’s, so my internship work lessened quite a bit (also, the whole company moved from Provo to Salt Lake during the next month, so there wasn’t a whole ton of music needed at this point anyway).

Also, this happened. MOVING ON.

  • The Heist: From Club Mystique. Part of the premise of the show is that a group of mobsters is meeting to decide who the successor will be, as the boss is retiring and moving to Mexico, and to prove their worth, three mobsters (really just random audience members) are going to pull three offstage heists. In the end all of them backfire, but whatever; it’s good fun. This song is proof that it’s difficult to write MIDI jazz songs without them sounding horrible (though the sax part sounds OK, thanks to Mickey Murphy coming in to record on an actual instrument). There exists somewhere a version with Criss Rosenlof singing, who played the part in the actual show, but I have no idea where it is (somewhere on Nate’s computer), so instead you get to listen to my temp track. Lucky you.
  • Preston’s game music: My former roommate Preston Cowley, was working on a video game with some fellow students at BYU for their final project for some class, and he got me to do the music for it. I don’t actually remember what the game is called, but it involved exploring caves and using light to create holes or something (it made more sense in context). Anyway, the music is basically just mysterious ambience, kind of a cross between the Protoss themes from Starcraft and some incidental music from the Lucasarts game The Dig.

June

June, along with January, was probably my driest month when it came to music. I was going to school and working full-time, and since the VM Group had moved their offices to Salt Lake and I was still living in Provo, I rarely came in to work on anything.

  • Rachel – No joke, this is the only thing I could find that I did in June. It was to be for a video on mormon.org, but I have no idea if it actually got posted (I can’t find it). It’s just as well, since this version isn’t complete, most glaringly in the mix.

July

In July I began what is probably the most ambitious project I’ve done in a while. Earlier in the year Johnathan had shown me some drawings of some fun monsters he had done for letters of the alphabet, along with some fun little rhymes to go along with them, like a children’s book. Then, in June, to give me something to do until I graduated and could work for him fulltime, Nate asked me to start working on an album of some sort, and left what kind of album it was up to me. For some reason I thought of Johnathan’s little monster drawings and thought it would be fun to do an album about them: a song for each letter monster. So we began collaborating on it, Johnathan on the art and lyrics, and me on the music, and soon I began pumping out the songs, a project which is still ongoing. This was basically all I worked on musically, as I was still taking classes.

  • D – Can You Dig the Digg? – This was the first song I worked on. All I did was write the opening bit (mellow guitar), but then Johnathan sent me a message saying he pictured it more as a hip-hop thing. So I did both. It’s funky!
  • Z – The Zither goes Hither and Thither – Even with all the other ABC monster songs that came afterward, this is still my favorite one. It may change somewhat, however, because it’s got the controversial phone call bit. That was added more as a reference to a remix of the Gato theme from Chrono Trigger that is way too silly for words. The epilogue at the end isn’t quite up to par with the beginning, but is still pretty good.

August

In August the most monumental event in years occurred: I graduated from college! Hooray! With my new degree and newfound time, I was ready to dive headlong into the career I had been preparing for for so long, and fortunately, I had a place in which to do it. Working fulltime at the VM Group gave me a lot more opportunities to not only write music, but do it on a professional level, and my output increased dramatically at this point. This was to be fully realized starting in September, however, as most of this month was spent with finals, graduation, moving, etc. What work was done during this month was mostly done on refining existing music rather than creating new stuff.

  • G – Oh, Gee! Look at the Gigant! – Apparently I can’t find anything that I started in August, as this ABC Monster song was written on July 30 and the next one wasn’t started until September 3. Oh, well; it’s close enough. Between the steamy Zither and now the Barry White-esque Gigant it’s clear that I need to start dating more.

September

Like I said before, fulltime work at the VM Group provided quite a bit of opportunities. And, like every month for the rest of this year, work on the ABC album continued.

  • Precorp – This was my first big project for the VM Group, and my first paying job since graduating. It’s basically an industrial video for a kiosk for some trade show for the manufacturing company Precorp, which for some reason YouTube doesn’t want me to upload (not due to copyright issues or anything; it just keeps timing out) so you’ll just have to imagine ten minutes of people putting screwdrivers into things. Keep listening, as there are actually seven different cues, so if you don’t like one, wait a minute and another will soon fade in. My favorite is probably the third one, because it kind of sounds like U2. Part of the penultimate one ended up making it into an ABC monster song that I haven’t posted anywhere yet (you’ll have to get the album when it comes out!) Keep your ears open during the fourth one for a Poison Ivy Mysteries reference to “Testin’ the Mic!”
  • M – Mea is a Monster! – I got into some trouble over this one. Johnathan had written this for his niece, who’s barely over toddler age, but apparently she got scared by it. I still really like it, but we haven’t hashed out if it just needs a little less scariness or a complete redo (or whether we should just leave it, as I think that most kids over, say, three years old would probably be fine with it). The final version will have an actual little girl sing the non-monster lines, but for now, it’s just me.

October

Continuing work for the VM Group, October was the first month we worked on music for Xtreme Tourist (XT for short), a new show about a guy who goes on vacation to random places and films how awesome it is. Also, during October we wrote the stuff for the newest Poison Ivy Mysteries show Shadow of the King. I also wrote a bit for another Check City commercial, which they actually used this time!

  • The Wizard Song – Written for Shadow of the King. The actual name for this song should be “Wobblety Bobblety” or “Hibbety Jibbety” or some other such nonsense, but meh. This song was obviously based on The Sword in the Stone, though it gets very different about halfway through, and the ending was both inspired by Gustav Holst’s “Mars: The Bringer of War” and the music at the end of the Star Trek: The Next Generation episode “The Best of Both Worlds, pt. 1”. And hey, this one actually has Criss singing it, as opposed to “The Heist”!
  • Pirates! – For an XT episode about Cancun. This type of track is actually atypical of the type of music that we usually put in the show (we usually try to do more metal/alternative stuff), but it’s probably the most interesting to listen to.
  • Commercial Bumper – This was a bit I wrote for the very first XT episode I worked on (Hawaii), and just for some continuity I try to work it into every show I do, usually as a shorter version for a commercial bumper.
  • P – The Paw Paw’s Poem – This ABC monster song’s got a bit of a Johnny Cash vibe. That’s all I got on this one.

November

November saw us working hard on XT, since the first season was due to be finished by December 1 (it later got moved back a little bit). I was writing perhaps two or three cues a day at the beginning of this month, stepping up to four by the middle. Due to some family emergencies the end of the month wasn’t as productive, but it soon picked up again.

  • Kite Surfing – From the Belize episode. This is much more typical of the stuff we wrote for the show. We were writing a lot of these types of track each day, so musically it isn’t all that groundbreaking, but it’s not supposed to be artsy or deep. Instead it’s just supposed to build up excitement and make you want to go kite surfing in Belize.
  • Oh, Wendy – From another Cancun episode (yes, there are two for some reason). This accompanies footage of the host’s wife and how he’s grateful that she could accompany him on that particular trip.
  • U – The Undergator Lives Underwater – Obviously a bit of a Jaws reference. Once again, too scary? I mean, these are monsters, after all. We’re not doing an album about ABC fairies or ABC ponies. If kids can take Coraline, this stuff ought to be a piece of cake.

December

This month obviously isn’t over, since we’re only eight days into it, but already I have written quite a bit of stuff (most of it for XT).

  • Hang-gliding – From the Rio de Janeiro episode. It’s kind of like kite surfing. Both the activity and the music, I mean.
  • Song 4 – After a while Nate and I realized we couldn’t score every single episode, so we started reusing tracks. To that end, I wrote a few that didn’t actually fit with any footage but that we could just plunk in anywhere. This is one of those tracks. Oddly enough, I don’t think we’ve actually used it in an episode yet, but we’re not done with the series! Actually, I don’t know if it will ever be used in XT (it’s a little too muddy) but I like it anyway so I’m posting it.

Well, there you have it. A smattering of what I’ve been doing all year, especially the latter half.