Yearly Archives: 2009

One of the big topics at GameSoundCon was interactivity, with composers thinking hard about how do they write – and implement – music which changes as the gameplay happens. Musical beds and loops with sudden transitions at checkpoints are seen as outdated.

On the other hand, there is a long way to go. This interview of composer Inon Zur discusses how his score for Dragon Age is not so focused on interactivity.

The music is squarely in the Carl-Orff-meets-Metallica genre. Which is my personal favorite. Trailer awesomeness follows:

Posted 9 years ago by John Piscitello

With the record industry sales collapsing, musicians – talented ones – are flooding into film scoring. But being a film composer is not the same as being a recording artist:

The emails arrive much more frequently now. They all say pretty much the same thing. Someone’s client is an incredible songwriter and film composer, and his new song sounds just like movie music.

“I get one about every 90 minutes”, says Fox Music president Robert Kraft in Los Angeles. “As the record business falls apart around us, unfortunately, everybody who’s writing songs and making his star turn as an indie artist thinks, ‘I got an idea. They still pay a little dough over in the movie and TV universe, so I’m going to reinvent myself as a film composer.'”

Read the whole thing (while you still can) in Google’s cache.

Posted 9 years ago by John Piscitello

While working on film music I’ve started to notice that a lot of movie characters have odd habits. They continually comb their hair, pop breath strips, or are concerned with astrological signs.Sometimes these odd habits feel tacked on, sometimes they don’t. I’ve concocted a simple test which can help a writer decide if an odd habit is working:

Does dropping the habit from the character affect this scene? If not, then it’s tacked on.

I know this sounds obvious, but it seems to work.
Here’s an example where the quirk is essential: Melvin Udall’s OCD in As Good as it Gets. His OCD drives conflict throughout the film – it causes his isolation (and thus his anger towards everyone), it drives his need for Carol to be his waitress (which causes him to hire a doctor for her son), and he has to overcome it in order to care for Simon’s dog.

Here are 2 scenes from the movie – can you imagine them without the OCD?

Posted 9 years ago by John Piscitello

This is sublime in so many ways. It’s got George Costanza. A Miami Vice wardrobe. A Footloose-inspired jingle. And ginormous, planet-destroying styrofoam packaging.It’s enough to make you hope they come out with a Mad Men: 80s edition someday.

Posted 9 years ago by John Piscitello
The director’s brother is a long-time friend, but I have to admit, Legend of Neil makes me laugh out loud.
Here’s one of my favorites – the closing webisode of season 1 (they just finished season 2). That dragon, he’s got the Shrek lady-dragon beat for personality in my book. Also check out how the last line of the episode is cutoff mid-sentence.
Posted 9 years ago by John Piscitello

Better than visual voicemail on the iPhone, because when you see the called in your list, you also see the text of the message:

Hi John, This is a man I had reached out to you about getting that base cabinet. I was wondering if you’re available anytime today after 5 if I could stop by and try it out and then possibly pick it up. If not, also what your availability tomorrow, but hopefully today because I have a car, so please get back to me. Thanks. My number is (*correctly transcribed* ). Thank you. Bye bye.

The only possible error was “base cabinet” instead of “bass cabinet”.

Everyone’s going to want this.

Posted 9 years ago by John Piscitello

I’ll be at GameSoundCon Friday and Saturday. I’ll try and post anything interesting from the sessions.
One interesting note – the con has a 2-day Rock Band development training session. Looks like Viacom is serious about growing Rock Band to cover the long tail of bands and labels, not just blockbusters like Aerosmith and the Beatles.

Posted 9 years ago by John Piscitello

I like Seth Godin’s blog. His posts encourage thinking critically about what you do while still feeling positive.

One post seems very relevant for indie filmmakers, about how to decide whether to take a gig:

The gigs you take early will almost certainly impact the way your career looks later on. If you want to build a law practice in the music industry, you’ll need to take on musicians as clients, even if the early ones can’t pay enough…

and this:

Maybe it seems like this gig or that gig is the best you can get because that’s all you’re exposing yourself to. Almost always, the best gig I could get is shorthand for the easiest gig I could get.

Read the whole thing.

Posted 9 years ago by John Piscitello
On many recommendations, I recently sat in front the TV for 2 1/2 hours to watch Mr. Holland’s Opus, a film about an aspiring composer who gets sidetracked into teaching. It’s sort of a mid-90s “Forrest Gump meets Dead Poets Society”.
Richard Dreyfuss’ title character has great symphonic ambitions, but marriage, a hearing-impaired baby boy, and work leave him with zero time at the piano.
He can’t write after school because he’s got to help a sobbing, geeky girl learn clarinet. One summer gets shot because he has to learn sign language.Mr. Holland occasionally stomps and whines about his predicament, but soldiers on. He proves to be an extraordinary music teacher, pulling off amazing marching band shows and Gershwin concerts, and the students love him.After 30 years, he gets sacked from budget cuts. Students and alumni throw a farewell assembly to thank him. That geeky girl is now governor, and gives a speech about how Mr. Holland’s real life’s work wasn’t to compose, but to “touch the lives of so many people” through teaching.

(Yeah, it’s sappy…you don’t know whether to roll your eyes, or let them tear up.)

The students surprise Mr. Holland by preparing a performance of his 30-year unfinished “American Symphony”: (there is a long lead-up of cheering, the music itself starts around 2:10).

And I’m thinking – 30 years for *that*? It sounds like the intro music to the Figure Skating Championship on NBC.

The great Michael Kamen wrote the music (he passed away in 2003). Kamen did many films, including Die Hard, X-Men, Lethal Weapon, Brazil, and a great WWII score for Band of Brothers. He was a rock guy, working with Pink Floyd, Queen, Aerosmith, Eric Clapton, and others.

Now the fictional American Symphony is extremely skillfully written, but why would a 30-year-old Mr. Holland write such a triumphantly triumphant triumph of a piece? And with electric guitar?

One supposes studio producers had a major investment in the film and wanted to keep things on safe, proven musical ground. And you can’t argue with the $82 million domestic box office. But I was disappointed.

Posted 9 years ago by John Piscitello

It really struck me the world could use a dead-easy audio hosting site. Just like YouTube, but without the video window. Bands would love it to embed players on their own sites. There are options out there, like Wimpy Player, but they are a little complicated and you need to spend money on a web designer to set it up.

I searched “YouTube for Audio” and came up with Houndbite. Not a bad name. It seems to work, but couldn’t they maybe include a volume control on their player? That’s a show-stopper.

Here are a couple of versions of a podshow theme I made for a friend…a short version with vocals, and a longer guitars-only version.

It would also be nice if the player showed the text and title of the track, without so much of their own branding on there. Also, the graphics on my monitor look a little smudgy. But, on the other hand, it does seem to work!

Do you know of any other alternatives for simple audio hosting and embedding?

Posted 9 years ago by John Piscitello