Yearly Archives: 2007

There’s so much going on in search engine land right now I can’t help but make a couple of comments:

  • Microsoft buying Yahoo! Well…maybe, maybe not. But YHOO’s up 18%. The new company would have 2 search engines, 2 ad systems, 2 email platforms, 2 IM systems, 2 video sites, 2 music services….it would be the Noah’s Ark of the Internet. Integration will be a long series of painful battles: Panama or AdCenter? FreeBSD or Windows? Flickr or…ok, maybe Flickr. But who gets to be the VP of Widgets? All this will distract attention from product development and end users. Bulking up doesn’t normally go with less bureaucracy and faster decision making, things both companies need to catch the next rising Facebook or YouTube.
  • A friend asked “Why did Google change to iGoogle? Is this one of their home page doodles?” Sure enough, people are griping online – the meanest is a user named “RX Maverick” calling Google “some teenage girl that wants to fit in”. Google said the Personalized Home page is their fastest growing product, even faster than the gangbusters YouTube. So if it ain’t broke, why fix it? Didn’t “Froogle” show that tweaking the Google brand can create confusion? Aren’t iPrefixes Apple’s bag? Anyway, if you don’t like the iGoogle logo change, tell them here.
  • Reading about’s perpetual self-re-branding brings sweet but painful memories of my AltaVista days. Talking up and improved algorithm (it’s from…”Jersey”), rolling out silly ad agency slogans (AltaVista “smart is beautiful”, Ask has “I was all algorithm-ed out”), and making radical brand changes (AltaVista went from mountains to colons, Ask from butlers to anarchists). In AltaVista’s case, everyone ended up getting new jobs. Is Ask heading down the same road?
Posted 11 years ago by John Piscitello

So you’re doing your demo, and if you don’t have it mixed well, people will reject you as a loser after hearing 5 seconds of it. So here are some mistakes to avoid.

The first is mastering your own stuff. A successful composer recently told me: there’s a reason why people are mastering engineers. If it was easy to do, the world wouldn’t have mastering engineers. Besides, you probably don’t own the gear you need to do the job well.

Yes, hiring someone can be expensive, but there are places online which work cheap. MasteringCafe is a Warsaw-based mastering house, they’ll master a track for $40. (considering they probably spend a few hours on a track, that’s $15 an hour, which ain’t bad in Warsaw). Are they any good? Your call – their demos are here.

OK, so the second biggest demo mistake is making a bad mix. OK, so there are a billion sub-mistakes in that one but the MasteringCafe guys have a tidy list of the basic mistakes to avoid, covering short, specific tips on things like mixdown, levels and compression. Enjoy!

Posted 11 years ago by John Piscitello

Tom Salta won an MTV Music Award for his score to the game G.R.A.W. I happen to like Tom’s music, he has a solo techno album under the name Atlas Plug, and music for the game Red Steel on iTunes (here’s a IGN review). Red Steel has a style that mixes Hollywood scoring, techno, and taiko (call it “taikno”, perhaps?).

Anyway, Tom’s doing a seminar in Boston this weekend about scoring video games. A big part of it is dealing with how your music needs to change with the action.

Here’s a mini preview, from a video of him on FragDolls:

“(in video games) the music has to adapt to what is going on…it could shorten, it could lengthen, it could go here, here, here…there’s a lot of technical considerations.”

Tom’s seminar “The Art, Craft, and Business of Scoring Video Games” is Saturday the 28th in Boston, you can register online.

Posted 11 years ago by John Piscitello

Sometimes Google products are useful in ways you don’t expect, and they can help you accomplish musical research in clever ways.
I’ve been doing research based on recommendations of a composer whose talk I attended a few weeks ago. One happened to be to listen to the composer Elgar.

Elgar’s most famous for “Pomp and Circumstance March No. 1” (played at US high school graduations). OK, fine. But I wanted to know – what are his most distinctive works in the literature?

I tried Wikipedia and the Elgar society’s web site. But these sources both provided only comprehensive, chronological catalogs of his works.
It’d be nice if someone had a database of the past programs of all the major symphonies in the world. I’d check the data on what’s performed most often. No luck there.

So by accident I discovered that the auto-suggest in the Google search box in Firefox gave me these suggestions:
elgar cello concerto
elgar electronics
elgar enigma variations
elgar society

elgar nimrod
elgar violin concerto
elgar pomp and circumstance

It turns out Nimrod is one of the Enigma Variations. And there’s an electronics company called Elgar. They make power sources.

After a little more research, I decided the Cello concerto and Enigma variations it is!

Posted 11 years ago by John Piscitello

TV Squad has a nice summary of a new Lost video podcast where Michael Giacchino gives a tour of the soundstage and the process for scoring Lost:

Lost video podcast recap

Of note is the orchestra instrumentation – 4 trombone players, strings, percussion, harp, piano. No woodwinds or higher brass. The choice of instrumentation can give a show its unique sound.

Also note that Giacchino composes for each scene before even watching the next one. This apparently is to give more of a “What the hell?” feeling to the music – he doesn’t know where things are going, so the music can give the audience even more of a feel of being jerked around.

Annoyingly, the video is not embeddable – not even directly linkable but you can find it here if you click “video”, then scroll over to LOST: Podcast: Michael Giacchino.

Posted 11 years ago by John Piscitello

The Hollywood Symphony Orchestra Society is dedicated to putting on live concerts of symphonic film music. It’s a new thing – the inaugural concert in LA was just this past May.

For such a new group, they have an extensive web site, where I stumbled on a reading list for film music. I can vouch for this list only by saying I own a few books already, and I subscribed to a film music journal they listed…
Hollywood Symphony Orchestra Society Film Music Links

Posted 11 years ago by John Piscitello has a photo set of the team hard at work recording the orchestral score – in Hollywood, by the way – for the new Mark Wahlberg film “The Shooter” (composer Mark Mancina, director Antoine Fuqua).
Get a glimpse of the photos from the session, they’re good…

(The trailer by the way looks great…however this being a Viacom / Paramount production, it means I can’t embed from YouTube, you have to click over to Yahoo Movies to see it…)

Posted 11 years ago by John Piscitello
I was surprised today to learn that one of my favorite composers created one of my favorite scores (funny how that happens. 😉 ).

The score is Medal of Honor: Frontline, a PS2 World War II game. The composer is Michael Giacchino, composer for LOST.

What surprised me playing Frontline was the game’s emotional depth. It’s serious and very sad at points, akin to Saving Private Ryan (not a coincidence, as Spielberg’s Dreamworks Interactive teamed with EA on the Medal of Honor series).

As a WWII game, the orchestration in Frontline leans LARGE: action cues feature chorales, big brass fanfares, piccolo flourishes, cymbal crashes, etc.

LOST’s action is more about terror and fleeing, and everything is blankin’ strange, so the music is quirkier. Non-Western drums suggest the jungle, and the orchestra slides and tremolos its way to creep things out.

But if you ask me, LOST’s ratings are down because we’ve heard less of the longing, sweet Oceanic 815 main theme. It represents the emotional center of the show, and I think the audience may miss it. To be fair, there’s not much sweetness to be had when the main characters are locked up in zoo cages. But the producers say we’re “back to the beach” now, so I’m hope to hear it more this season.

Not surprisingly, the best and most listenable part of the Frontline score are two cues echoing the sweet side of LOST’s music.

The main theme “Market Garden” (iTunes) is below, the other is “Arnhem” (iTunes

). They’re both worth the 99 cents.

For a free listen, someone created a WWII photo essay around “Market Garden” on YouTube. I should warn the images get a little heavy, but it’s a nice way to experience the music.

Michael Giacchino – Market Garden – Medal of Honor: Frontline
Posted 11 years ago by John Piscitello

My girlfriend recently showed me some Russian cartoons she grew up with, and I soon wanted to share with her my favorite childhood cartoon: ” Rabbit Seasoning“, where Bugs Bunny repeatedly tricks Daffy Duck into being shot by Elmer Fudd.

While she marveled at the gun violence, I couldn’t help noticing the score makes productive study for film composers. The Looney Tunes cartoon musical style is very familiar: every action on the screen is extravagantly cued, down to the last footstep and blink. Popular songs are quoted for Paul-Schaffer-style musical puns (such as H.R. Bishop’s “Home Sweet Home” accompanying Elmer and Daffy’s arm-in-arm stroll to a mountain cabin – where Daffy is promptly shot).

Composer Carl Stalling’s style may seem overly literal and hyperactive today, but it’s extremely clever and the orchestration is rich. And the music moves so quickly, it’s like studying a score on fast forward. 6 minutes and you’ve covered a hundred bases – fanfare, confusion, intimidation, flirting, rage, the list goes on…

Of course the music is only there to serve the dialogue:

Shoot him now! Shoot him now!BUGS
You keep out of this. He doesn’t have to shoot you now.

He does SO have to shoot me now! I DEMAND that you shoot me now!

My favorite musical bit is the little flute trill when Daffy pulses his eyeballs as he’s up in Elmer Fudd’s face…

AOL has the legal version of it freely available online, albeit with a preroll ad. But it’s worth it:

Rabbit Seasoning

Posted 11 years ago by John Piscitello
Posted 11 years ago by John Piscitello