Yearly Archives: 2007

Well, would be the “Amen Break” from the 1969 song “Amen, Brother” by the Winstons. It’s so famous it has its own wiki entry.Yes, you’ve heard it, thousands of times. Many composers have borrowed it in many genres. It’s a 6-second drum solo which got sampled and became very popular in hip hop in the late 80s, and then in the UK jungle and D&B scene in the 90s.

A fellow named Nate Harrison created a video about it which is now on YouTube, showing the history of the sample, with a number of very interesting musical examples, including NWA’s “Straight Outta Compton”, leading up to increasingly crazy recut versions of the beat in various jungle tunes.

After 11 minutes or so the video goes into meditations on copyright and ownership, etc, which is still mildly interesting, but the musical examples are all before the 12th minute of the video:

Posted 11 years ago by John Piscitello

The annual NAMM show is the get-together of all the musical gear makers and their retailers. Lots of guitars, amps, synths, and software. The show is big – nearly 85,000 registrants

this year

The Retro Thing blog has some coverage of new synths from the show. MatrixSynth also pointed out that at NAMM, hardware synths seem to be making a bit of a comeback.

While the world has definitely gone host-based – you can get some incredible virtual instruments these days – there are still great synths to be had (for a price). Virtual instruments are way cheaper and easier to use.

However eventually your computer *will* run out of power, and then what will you do?

For some good-natured general coverage, check this LA Times article.

Posted 11 years ago by John Piscitello

FYI – here is the full list of Oscar nominations

Posted 11 years ago by John Piscitello

What? You haven’t downloaded it yet? Like, get on it man!

If you want to see an electronic musician drool, just tell him or her to read this from

FutureMusic :

The Graintable oscillators applies techniques as those used in granular sampling and pitch-shifting algorithms to synthesizer Wavetables. It opens up a whole world of new possibilities. Imagine bending any Wavetable far beyond what is sonically possible with common Wavetable synthesizers. It all happens in realtime and of course all parameters can be modulated in realtime as well.The formant-based oscillators work in a similar fashion, only with one crucial difference: the formants remain fixed as you play. This effectively turns the oscillator into a filterbank on steroids comprising up to 256 resonant bandpass filter poles, whereby the cutoff of each virtual pole is determined by the harmonics in the current Wavetable index.


Actually, the description is very tech-heavy, but it’s hot – the bottom line is “…it’s like turning a nice ambient patch into a dark, gritty sonic monster by only changing one continuously variable parameter.”

(I would have by now, but my brand-spankin’-new Virus Polar is in the shop getting a brain replacement…)

Posted 11 years ago by John Piscitello

World of Warcraft’s expansion pack shipped this week. You can play up to level 70 now. And there is new music, a lot of it.

The composer for previous World of Warcraft editions was Jason Hayes, but he left Blizzard, so the expansion pack was scored by Russell Brower, Derek Duke and Matt Uelmen (according to here).

All 3 are experienced – Matt U. did the music for Diablo II (very hard to find unless you resort to allofmp3 before it gets shut down). Dark, twisted ambient horror music, great stuff (Derek Duke also has some sound design credits on Diablo II).

Russell Brower wrote an article about the sound development process for Delta Force: Black Hawk Down, and was sound director for Typhoon Rising. Some clips from both are on the Novalogic site. Typhoon rising’s main clips are a little more contemporary, basically extremely heavy techno grooves with Indonesian gamelan instruments. Brower has an interview talking about the music and sound – scan about half way down the page here for info about the music for the game.

You apparently won’t be able to purchase the soundtrack for Burning Crusade until the WOW Collector’s edition comes out.

But in the meantime you can check out a couple of Jason Hayes’ WoW tracks free – very dramatic, very action movie.

So how did Jason Hayes get such a great gig? WoW is basically the biggest thing ever.

Well he didn’t know anyone at Blizzard, he just had a great demo reel. From an WoW Source interview:

I sent out a couple introductory letters to game companies via e-mail from my apartment in Lafayette, Louisiana (a southern state in the U.S., near the city of New Orleans). About two or three weeks later, someone from the corporate offices at Sierra On-Line in Seattle, WA wrote me back, saying they had forwarded my inquiry to the Oakhurst, CA division (right outside of Yosemite Valley), because they thought that team was looking for a composer. I couldn’t believe it! Soon after that, I got another e-mail from Human Resources in Oakhurst saying they had received my letter from their corporate headquarters and would like me to send in a demo. I was thrilled, and promptly sent in a CD of music representing a variety of styles.

Another 3 weeks went by, and I was starting to wonder if I’d ever hear from them again. Then all of a sudden came one more e-mail from HR, asking if I could send in another demo, this time focusing on orchestral music. I replied enthusiastically, assuring the representative that it would be in the mail right away. I then proceeded to panic because I didn’t have any more demo material to send in!

To make a long story short, I worked around the clock on a new demo, sent it in, and eventually was flown to Oakhurst to interview with Sierra On-Line. I was hired about a month later. I’m very grateful to them for giving me my start in the game industry!

How cool is that?

Posted 11 years ago by John Piscitello

If you typed John “Piscatello” and found this page, the person you are looking for is John Piscitello, (Piscatello is a common misspelling of my last name).
Welcome to my blog, and enjoy!
-John “Piscatello”

Posted 11 years ago by John Piscitello

Winners are listed here.

Alexandre Desplat won for “The Painted Veil“, the score features Lang Lang playing piano.

And Prince won best song for “The Song of the Heart” in “Happy Feet”. Very old school, it’s Prince being Prince while playing it very safe…check out this dancing penguin music video using footage from the movie.

Posted 11 years ago by John Piscitello

Spore is a highly anticipated video game from Will Wright, the creator of SimCity, The Sims, and other Sim-games. Brian Eno is creating the score for the game.

Spore will let players create microbes which evolve into interplanetary civilizations (check out the Flash intro at the official Spore site or the Google Video of a demo by Will Wright…it’s cool).

Eno’s score for Spore will reflect the algorithmic nature of Sim worlds, where simple rules give rise to complex, elegant systems. Eno is using software to generate ambient clips which plan to never repeat during your lifetime (much less during gameplay).

There’s a Brian Eno / Rob Wright podcast talking about all this at recent a Long Now Foundation seminar (down street here in San Francisco). Start 4 minutes 50 seconds in, where they start speaking.

Eno talks about the experience of “generating” the music from the bottom up, using simple rule-based models to explore ideas rather accidentally. “It’s making seeds rather than forests”, says Eno. He cites wind chimes as perhaps the simplest example of such a “generative” musical system.

WWMNA wrote about the event:

(Eno) went on to demonstrate a simple software called “The Shuffler” which he uses to create fragments for the soundtrack of Spore and which even with a simple combination of samples possibly would never create the same composition twice within a lifetime.

All rather opposite from traditional top-down method of having an idea in your head and sculpting it in the studio. I found it an interesting discussion for composers, they’re brilliant guys to listen to.

(Also you can check out some of Eno’s ambient albums here…)

Hat tip: Eno to generate Spore soundtrack – Joystiq

Posted 11 years ago by John Piscitello

24 is about to start its new season… the best blog post I’ve seen is from Ken Levine, who made up a hypothetical 24 spec script rejection letter. Read it, it’s funny.

24 gets its big hybrid orchestral / synthesized sound from Sean Callery. I was surprised when I learned the show does not use a real orchestra, but just Sean working in his home studio. The soundtrack album is lovely stuff, you can hear a little from the album in this 24 parody on YouTube.

It turns out Sean Callery got his start at New England Digital, the makers of the Synclavier, the $250,000 digital recording solution that was the high-end machine to use in the 80s. Sean was a product specialist, and got involved with hands-on productions and sound design early on.

I met another Synclavier vet this past week, at an excellent 2-day seminar on Logic Audio led by Bruce Nazarian, who has a digital media consulting practice in Las Vegas. Bruce has a number of sound editing credits on IMDb, many done on the Synclavier. As Bruce was training us on Logic, he often noted how easy things are today vs. the Synclavier back in the day.

The Synclavier is a classic, check it out the here and here. (I assume you all know where to find 24…)

Posted 11 years ago by John Piscitello

You don’t have to be all that young to enter this…just 18-35. If you win, you get the “opportunity” to produce a score for the silent movie “Beau Brummel” and TCM will put it on the air. Congratulations, you’ll have your first IMDb entry! 😉

Here’s what you need to do according to the rules (they’re a little long but here’s the rough version):

  • Go write yourself a 60-second score to one of 4 Beau Brummel clips on TCM’s site.
  • Upload your score here by March 31st.
  • Judges will choose 10 semi-finalists in April.
  • The semi-finalists find lawyers among friends and family to review legal releases to keep TCM’s legal department happy. (Also they will have to send in written scores of their 60-second demos).
  • The judges cull the group down to 5 finalists.
  • In May, finalists receive a new 90-second clip to score by June.
  • Finally, in August, judges pick a winner.

The champion composer gets a 4GB dual CPU Intel Mac, an extra copy of Logic Pro, and an “opportunity” to complete a score to “Beau Brummel”, which, if not blown, will result in the composer inviting friends over to watch it on TCM.

In past years it says Hans Zimmer has served to “mentor the winner, shepherding them through the composing process and sharing his enormous experience with the lucky individual.” It’s not crystal clear from the Web site that it will happen this year, but even if it’s just over email, that’s pretty cool.

Posted 11 years ago by John Piscitello