Monthly Archives: January 2007

Ennio Morricone is a film composer who has has scored over 400 films, some of the more famouser ones are “The Mission” and “The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly”.

“The Mission” is the first film score I ever listened to. I was introduced to it by a researcher at MIT. He worked on computer generated music in a dungeon beneath the MIT Media Lab, outfitted with Unix workstations and a pair of Bosendorfer grand pianos.
One day he played the score from “The Mission”, asking what I thought of it, and wondering how he might replicate a full orchestral sound on the computer (technology has come a long way since then, nowadays they can fake an orchestra about as well as they can fake sugar).

Anyway, hearing Morricone’s music that day turned me on to film scoring for the first time.

Now there’s a new tribute album called “We All Love Ennio Morricone”, which the NY Times article covers. Metallica is contributing a cover of “The Ecstasy of Gold” from “The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly”. Metallica has used the original version of the track to open their concerts for over 20 years. Which leads us to this priceless quote:

“To me his music is just absolutely inspirational, corny as that may sound,” said James Hetfield, Metallica’s singer and guitarist. “He has taken so many risks, and his music is not polished whatsoever. It’s very rude and blatant. All of a sudden a Mexican horn will come blasting through and just take over the melody. It’s just so raw, really raw, and it feels real, unpolished. You hear mistakes in it, and that’s just great — if they are mistakes. Who knows? There’s so much character in it, and I appreciate that in such a polished world of soundtracks.”

That is some seriously high praise. And a reminder that it’s not always good to be overly polished.

Posted 12 years ago by John Piscitello

A video is going around the Internet by a Mark Erikson, who claims on his vlog “Infinite Solutions” that you can get a double-secret Google TV beta account.

Google TV supposedly will let you log into Gmail and watch any primetime show from Fox, CBS, and NBC for free (ABC and the CW are inexplicably not in on the deal…)This has the hallmarks of a virtuoso Internet prank, complete with laughably complicated instructions to obtain your secret access via logging in and out of GMail a dozen times.

But it’s produced “just so” that it puts a twinge of doubt in the viewer..

…ok, this is definitely a hoax…

…but there have been reports that media companies are talking with Google…

…maybe this is Google’s clever way of generating buzz….

…stranger things have happened….

…remember how Google launched Gmail on April Fools’ Day???…

…and how did this guy get rights to include a clip from “Heroes” in his vlog, anyway?…

But enough of the conspiracy theories. Mostly I got a good laugh from Eric’s videos. I love the idea people out there are logging in and out of Gmail.

And if I want to watch Heroes, I can always check it out 9pm on Mondays on NBC. Or on YouTube, of course! 😉

After the jump, the embedded videos, including Heroes…(via TechCrunch)…

The original “Google TV” video by “Infinite Solutions”…

The update, responding to accusations of a prank:

All over the world, people are waking up with strange, new powers….

Posted 12 years ago by John Piscitello

I wrote recently about Brian Eno’s composing work on the upcoming video game Spore, and linked to a talk in San Francisco of Wil Wright & Brian Eno talking about developing the algorithmically-generated musical score for the game.Well since then I bought some of his albums and was surprised by a couple of things.

One, the music appears to have been hugely influential – listen to any number of scores from films in thriller and horror genres, and you hear sounds resembling stuff on “Ambient 4 On Land”, which Eno composed 1978-1982.

Two, think of the era where he came up with the stuff. Jimmy Carter is president. There’s no Internet or CDs. Hardly anyone gets cable. Record shops and radio stations have Blondie’s “Rapture” and The Clash’s “Combat Rock”.

Along comes Brian Eno with this slooow, spooky, new age music composed mostly of gongs, gurgling, electronic fuzz and the occasional frog. And he gets a record contract. I’m kind of curious who the A&R guy was who discovered him and what the story was there….

It’s awesome stuff. Not exactly dance floor music. and you wouldn’t want to blast it out of your car. I’ve heard Brian Eno say once that he created ambient music partially is because he wanted something to listen to while working that wouldn’t break his concentration.

(Of course, Stephen King listens to Metallica while he works, so I guess YMMV…)

Here are a couple of YouTubes…

The first talks about his “Music For Airports” project, where he came up with music to be played at O’Hare airport, and what kind of music you might want to hear when getting on and off planes:

And another called “77 Million Paintings”,which is related to the algorithmic music stuff that is going into Spore. Enjoy!

Posted 12 years ago by John Piscitello

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 12 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 12 years ago by John Piscitello

FYI – here is the full list of Oscar nominations

Posted 12 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 12 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 12 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 12 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 12 years ago by John Piscitello