Hope for the Hopeless

One of the highlights of the Fall 2022 Term was a collaboration that I did with fellow Berklee Online students Adriene Mixon and Parker Sanders as part of the Project Management For Musicians course we were in. 

The song features Adriene’s beautiful lyrics, Parker’s well-crafted guitar solo, and me handling the rest. I really like how this one turned out. 

Thank you, Adriene and Parker, for working on this with me!

Photo by Joseph Driscoll on Unsplash

Talk About It

One of the highlights of the Spring 2022 Term was a collaboration I did with fellow Berklee Online students Brianna Bernhard and Myrone Davis as part of the Songwriting for Film and TV course we were in.

The song features Brianna’s amazing vocals, Myrone’s keyboard parts and me handling the rest of the production. We each added bits to the melody and lyrics, but it was Brianna who brought it all together in the final version. I really like this and think it turned out well.

Thank you, Brianna and Myrone, for making something this cool with me!

Photo by Wilhelm Gunkel on Unsplash: unsplash.com/@wilhelmgunkel

Contemporary Techniques in Music Composition 2

I actually really enjoyed Contemporary Techniques in Music Composition 2, much more than CTMC1. Perhaps I already had an idea of what to expect this time around, or maybe it was due to the way the material was presented or just the type of material that was covered.

In any event, this course ended up being a highlight of the term for me and I really enjoyed the pieces that I came up with for it. I’ve added a SoundCloud playlist highlighting some of the pieces towards the end of this post.

Here’s what was covered in the twelve weeks.

Week 1 – “Extended Techniques for Strings, Winds, and More”, Apr 2 – Apr 8
Introduction, Meet and Greet, Writing for Strings: Expanding Harmonics, Glissando, Seagull Effect, Exercise 1.1: Transcribe a Melody with Harmonics, Discussion 1.1: Gyorgy Ligeti’s String Quartet No. 2, More String Effects: Pizzicatos, Bow Techniques, Beyond the Fingerboard, Bow Techniques, Extended Techniques on Violin, Discussion 1.2: Lachenmann’s “Pression”, Extended Techniques for Winds, Quiz 1.1: Identify the Extended Techniques, Extended Techniques for Harp, Extended Techniques for Accordion, Assignment 1: Compose Using Extended Techniques, Recap

Week 2 – “Microtonality and Tunings”, Apr 9th – Apr 15th
Introduction, Temperaments and Tunings, Equal Temperament and Just Intonation: a Brief Explanation, Workshop: Equal Temperament and Just Intonation, The Microtonal Pioneers, Ben Johnston and La Monte Young, Harry Partch and John Luther Adams, Alois Haba, Charles Ives, Ezra Sims, Enno Poppe, Jon Catler, Workshop: Microtonality Perception, Notation and Instrumental Limitations, Workshop: Order the Standard Notation Microtone Accidentals, Workshop: Order the Sims-Maneri Accidentals, Discussion 2.1: Limits of Microtonal Composition, Microtonality and Notation Software, Assignment 2: Microtonal Composing, Recap

Week 3 – “Writing for Voice”, Apr 16th – Apr 22nd
Introduction, How Our Voice Works, Vocal Registers and Ranges: A Quick Review, Vocal Registers, Bel Canto, Writing for Voice Today, Discussion 3.1: Vocal Techniques, Text Setting: Playing with Meanings, Discussion 3.2: Text Setting, Text Setting in Practice, Twentieth Century Text Setting, Exercise 3.1: Text Setting, Assignment 3: Vocal Composition, Recap

Week 4 – “Serial Music”, Apr 23rd – Apr 29th
Introduction, Historical Context: The Need for Something New, Discussion 4.1: Atonal Music, The Core Concepts of Serialism, Expanding the Row: Transposition and Canonic Transformations, Exercise 4.1: Transposition, Inversion, Retrograde, and Retrograde Inversion, Transformations and the Magic Square, Exercise 4.2: Twelve-Tone Row, Series as a Theme, Rhythmical Devices and Serial Counterpoint, Other Serialisms: Total Serialism and Beyond, Discussion 4.2: Serial Music, Assignment 4: Serial Techniques, Recap

Week 5 – “Process Music/Textures and Soundscapes”, Apr 30th – May 6th
Introduction, What is a Texture?, Monophonic, Homophonic, Heterophonic, Polyphonic, Quiz 5.1: Identify the Texture Type, Texture in the Twentieth Century: The Context, Composing with Texture/I: Morphing, Composing With Texture/II: Stratification, Micropolyphony, Discussion 5.1: Texture and Your Listening Experience, Assignment 5: Texture-Based Piece, Recap

Week 6 – “Minimal Music”, May 7th – May 13th
Introduction, Core Concepts/I: Silence, Limited Material, Repetition, Core Concepts/II: Texture and Tonality, Core Concepts and Techniques/I: Phasing (Steve Reich), Motive Transformation (Philip Glass), Workshop: Clapping Music, Core Concepts and Techniques/II: Motive Transformation (Philip Glass), Other Minimalists: Rzewski, Adams, Laurie Anderson (2.40 Glass), Discussion 6.1: Your Perception of Minimal Music, Assignment 6: Composing Minimal Music, Recap

Week 7 – “More Rhythmic Devices”, May 14th – May 20th
Introduction, Expanding Meter/I: Polymeter and Charles Ives, Expanding Meter/II: Metric Modulation and Elliott Carter, Expanding Meter/III: Metric Modulation in Practice, Exercise 7.1: Metric Modulation, Other Uses in the Twentieth Century: Serial Rhythm, Accelerando/Rallentando Patterns, Rhythm and Meter/I: Polyrhythm, Rhythm and Meter/II: Hemiola, Rhythm and Meter/III: Polyrhythm and Non-Western influence, Discussion 7.1: Rhythm and Pitch, Exercise 7.2: Compose a Polyrhythm, Assignment 7: Rhythm, Recap

Week 8 – “Postmodernism, Musical Quotation, and Appropriation”, May 21st – May 27th
Introduction, What is Postmodern Music?, Quotations and Classical Music: a Never-Ending Idyll, Quotation in the Twentieth Century/I: The Early Years, Quotation in the Twentieth Century/II: After 1945, Exercise 8.1: Identify the Quotations, Pushing to the Limit: Multiple Quotes and Humor, Quotation vs. Music Appropriation: Imitating Style, Discussion 8.1: Quotation, Assignment 8: Past as Present, Recap

Week 9 – “New Tonality, New Spirituality”, May 28th – Jun 3rd
Introduction, Looking at the Past, Hinting at Tonality, Discussion 9.1: Neo-Tonality, Tonality as Spirituality: Pärt, Tavener, Discussion 9.2: New Spirituality, Assignment 9: New Tonality, Recap

Week 10 – “Spectralism”, Jun 4th – Jun 10th
Introduction, What is Spectralism?, The Precursors: Proto-Spectralists, The Spectral Composer at Work: Basic Techniques and Terminology, Discussion 10.1: Grisey’s “Partiels”, More Techniques and Terminology, Software Tools: Preparing for your Assignment, Assignment 10: Sound Analysis Composition, Recap

Week 11 – “The Early Pioneers of Electronic Music”, Jun 11th – Jun 17th
Introduction, Noise, Electricity, and Experimentalism: Electronic Music and Sonic Arts, The Early Electronic Instruments: Theremin and Ondes Martenot, Discussion 11.1: The Role of Technology, The US: Minimalism and other Experimentalisms, Germany: Elektronische Musik, France: Pierre Schaeffer and Musique Concrète, Hands-On: The Key Techniques of Early Electronic Music, Workshop: Composing Tape Music Today, Assignment 11: Compose a Collage Piece, Recap

Week 12 – “Looking Ahead”, Jun 18th – Jun 24th
Introduction, Tape, Instruments, and Live Electronics, Composing with Live Electronics, Music and Multimedia, Music Installation, Beyond Spectralism and Minimalism: Saturiation Music and Totalism, Discussion 12.1: The Future of Composition, Assignment 12: Write for String Quartet, Recap

Music Composition for Film and TV 2

Music Composition for Film and TV 2 was the other class that I took during the Fall of 2021. As with other courses authored by Ben Newhouse, this was a great class that went over everything in a clear, logical and methodical progression. It was nice having Ben as an instructor again as he always provided useful, helpful, and thoughtful feedback.

Here’s what we covered during the twelve weeks.

Week 1 – “Slow Drama”, Sep 27 – Oct 1
Introduction, Meet and Greet, Course Structure, Slow Drama Cue: Deadline Main Title, Harmony in Deadline Main Title, Melody in Deadline Main Title, Rhythm and Tempo in Deadline Main Title, Orchestration in Deadline Main Title, Score Analysis: “Giza Port” from The Mummy, Slow Drama Cue: “Wreckage” from Alien 3, Melody in “Wreckage”, Harmony in “Wreckage”, Rhythm and Tempo in “Wreckage”, Orchestration in “Wreckage”, Discussion 1.1: Analysis “The King Dies” from Atlantis, Slow Drama Cue: “Mr. Gateau” from The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, Melody in “Mr. Gateau”, Harmony in “Mr. Gateau”, Rhythm and Tempo in “Mr. Gateau”, Orchestration in “Mr. Gateau”, Exercise 1.1: A Dramatic Progression, Slow Drama Cue: “Run to the Church” from The Sixth Sense, Harmony in “Run to the Church”, Melody in “Run to the Church”, Rhythm and Tempo in “Run to the Church”(Page 4), Orchestration in “Run to the Church”, Slow Drama Cue: “Tender Dismay” from Women Warriors: Voices of Change, Harmony in “Tender Dismay”, Melody in “Tender Dismay”, Rhythm in “Tender Dismay”, Orchestration in “Tender Dismay”, Slow Drama vs. Sad, Slow Drama Template, Quiz 1.1: Slow Drama, Assignment 1: Score a Slow Drama Scene, Recap

Week 2 – “Playful Comedy”, Oct 2nd – Oct 8th
Introduction, Comedy Cue: “Toy Store Jam” from Mr. Magorium’s Wonder Emporium, Tempo and Rhythm in “Toy Store Jam”, Harmony in “Toy Store Jam”, Melody in “Toy Store Jam”, Orchestration in “Toy Store Jam”, Exercise 2.1: Write a Comedy Vamp, Comedy Cue: “Triscadecaphobia” from Mr. Magorium’s Wonder Emporium, Tempo and Rhythm in “Triscadecaphobia”, Harmony in “Triscadecaphobia”, Melody in “Triscadecaphobia”, Orchestration in “Triscadecaphobia”, Activity: Score Analysis of “Mr. Magoriums Wonder Emporium”, Score Analysis: Mr. Magorium’s Wonder Emporium, Comedy Cue: Alf Clausen’s Car Scene, Tempo and Rhythm in Alf Clausen’s Car Scene, Harmony in Alf Clausen’s Car Scene, Key Movement in Alf Clausen’s Car Scene, Melody in Alf Clausen’s Car Scene, Orchestration in Alf Clausen’s Car Scene, Discussion 2.2: The Simpsons, Comedy Cue: “A Note from the Teacher” from Peter Pan, Melody from “A Note from the Teacher”, Harmony from “A Note from the Teacher”, Tempo and Rhythm from “A Note from the Teacher”, Orchestration from “A Note from the Teacher”, Comedy Template, Quiz 2.1: Playful Comedy Music, Assignment 2: Score a Comedy Scene, Recap

Week 3 – “Moderate-Intensity Action 1”, Oct 9th – Oct 15th
Introduction, Moderate Intensity Action Cue: “The Myrmidons” from Troy, Melody in “The Myrmidons”, Modes in “The Myrmidons”, Harmony in “The Myrmidons”, Rhythm and Tempo in “The Myrmidons”, Orchestration of “The Myrmidons”, Exercise 3.1: Listening and Discussion of “Tunnel Chase”, “Helicopter Ride” from “Underworld: Evolution, Harmony in “Helicopter Ride”, Rhythm and Tempo in “Helicopter Ride”, Melody in “Helicopter Ride”, Orchestration in “Helicopter Ride”, Exercise 3.2: Add Rhythm to a Chord Progression, “High Wire Stunts” from Jurassic Park, Melody in “High Wire Stunts”, Harmony in “High Wire Stunts”, Modulation in “High Wire Stunts”, Rhythm in “High Wire Stunts”, Orchestration of “High Wire Stunts”, Score Analysis of “Helicopter Ride”, Score Analysis: “Helicopter Ride”, Moderate-Intensity Action Cue: “Hook-Napped” from Hook, Melody in “Hook-Napped”, Harmony in “Hook-Napped”, Tempo and Rhythm in “Hook-Napped”, Orchestration in “Hook-Napped”, Assignment 3: Score a Moderate Intensity Action Scene, Recap

Week 4 – “Moderate Intensity Action II”, Oct 16th – Oct 22nd
Introduction, Moderate-Intensity Action Cue: “Duel of the Fates” from Star Wars: Episode I, Melody in “Duel of the Fates”, More Melody in “Duel of the Fates”, Harmony in “Duel of the Fates”, Tempo and Rhythm in “Duel of the Fates”, Orchestration in “Duel of the Fates”, Exercise 4.1: Write an Ostinato, Moderate-Intensity Action Cue: “Capitol Hill”, Harmony in “Capitol Hill”, Tempo and Rhythm in “Capitol Hill”, Melody in “Capitol Hill”, Orchestration in “Capitol Hill”, Score Analysis: “Bible Study” from Yuma, The Moderate-Intensity Action Template, Sneaking Around Example: “Stealing the Game” from Zathura, Harmony in “Stealing the Game”, More Harmony in “Stealing the Game”, Melody in “Stealing the Game”, Tempo and Rhythm in “Stealing the Game”, Orchestration of “Stealing the Game”, Discussion 4.1: Analysis “The Package” from Psycho, Sneaking Around Cue: “Huh?” from Flight of the Phoenix, Melody in “Huh?”, Harmony in “Huh?”, Tempo and Rhythm in “Huh?”, Orchestration in “Huh?”, The Sneaking Around Template, Quiz 4.1: Terms and Concepts, Assignment 4: Moderate-Intensity Action, Recap

Week 5 – “Lyrical Grandeur”, Oct 23rd – Oct 29th
Introduction, Lyrical Grandeur Cue: “Flicka” from Flicka, Melody in “Flicka”, Perfect Intervals in “Flicka”, Harmony in “Flicka”, Rhythm and Tempo in “Flicka”, Orchestration in “Flicka”, Discussion 5.1: Analysis “Grow to Hero”, Lyrical Grandeur Example: “Camelot” from First Knight, Melody in “Camelot”, Harmony in “Camelot”, Tempo and Rhythm in “Camelot”, Orchestration in “Camelot”, Score Analysis: “Fanfare for the Common Man” by Copland, Lyrical Grandeur Example: “American Hero”, Melody in “American Hero”, Harmony in “American Hero”, Tempo and Rhythm in “American Hero”, Orchestration in “American Hero”, Exercise 5.1: Compose a Lyrical Grandeur Melody, “Light of Olympia” Trailer, Melody in “Light of Olympia”, Harmony in “Light of Olympia”, Rhythm and Tempo in “Light of Olympia”, Orchestration in “Light of Olympia”, Orchestration in “Light of Olympia”, Lyrical Grandeur Template, Quiz 5.1: Lyrical Grandeur, Assignment 5: Score a Lyrical Grandeur Scene, Recap

Week 6 – “Action Heroes and Villains”, Oct 30th – Nov 5th
Introduction, Action Hero Theme: Indiana Jones, Melody in Indiana Jones, Harmony in Indiana Jones, Tempo and Rhythm in Indiana Jones, Orchestration in Indiana Jones, Activity: Score Analysis of “Going After Rourke” from Atlantis, Score Analysis: “Going After Rourke” from Atlantis, Action Hero Theme: Star Wars, Melody in Star Wars, Harmony in Star Wars, Rhythm and Tempo in Star Wars, Orchestration in Star Wars, Exercise 6.1: Compose a Heroic Chord Progression, Action Villain Theme: “Imperial March” from Star Wars, Harmony in “Imperial March”, Tempo and Rhythm in “Imperial March”, Melody in “Imperial March”, Orchestration in “Imperial March”, Orchestration in “Imperial March”, Activity: Score Analysis of “Evil Doers” from Hellboy, Score Analysis: “Evil Doers” from Hellboy, Action Villain Theme: “The Mummy” from The Mummy, Melody in “The Mummy”, Harmony in “The Mummy”, Tempo and Rhythm in “The Mummy”, Orchestration in “The Mummy”, Action Hero Template, Action Villain Template, Discussion 6.1: The Hero/Villain Dichotomy, Quiz 6.1: Action Heroes and Villains, Assignment 6: Score Action Hero and Action Villain Cue, Recap

Week 7 – “Action Adventure I”, Nov 6th – Nov 12th
Introduction, Action Adventure Theme: Jurassic Park Theme A, Melody in Jurassic Park Theme A, Harmony in Jurassic Park Theme A, Rhythm in Jurassic Park Theme A, Orchestration in Jurassic Park Theme A, Exercise 7.1: Compose a Heroic 8-bar Phrase, Action Adventure Theme: Jurassic Park Theme B, Harmony in Jurassic Park Theme B, Melody in Jurassic Park Theme B, Rhythm in Jurassic Park Theme B, Orchestration in Jurassic Park Theme B, Key Points in Jurassic Park, Activity: Score Analysis of “Crimson Gump” from Forrest Gump, Score Analysis: “Crimson Gump” from Forrest Gump, Action Adventure Theme: “Flight to Neverland” Theme A, Melody in “Flight to Neverland” Theme A, Harmony in “Flight to Neverland” Theme A, Rhythm in “Flight to Neverland” Theme A, Orchestration in “Flight to Neverland” Theme A, Exercise 7.2: Orchestrate a Heroic 8-bar Phrase, Action Adventure Theme: “Flight to Neverland” Theme B, Harmony in “Flight to Neverland” Theme B, Rhythm in “Flight to Neverland” Theme B, Melody in “Flight to Neverland” Theme B, Orchestration in “Flight to Neverland” Theme B, Discussion 7.1: Listening, Beethoven Symphony #3, Assignment 7: Compose an Action Adventure Theme, Recap

Week 8 – “Action Adventure II”, Nov 13th – Nov 19th
Introduction, Action Adventure Theme: “Back to the Future” Theme A, Harmony in “Back to the Future” Theme A, Melody in “Back to the Future” Theme A, Tempo and Rhythm in “Back to the Future Theme” A, Orchestration in “Back to the Future” Theme A, Score Analysis: “Main Title” from Zathura, Action Adventure Theme: “Back to the Future” Theme B, Melody in “Back to the Future” Theme B, Harmony in “Back to the Future” Theme B, Tempo and Rhythm in “Back to the Future” Theme B, Orchestration in “Back to the Future” Theme B, Exercise 8.1: Compose a Lyrical Theme B for an Action Adventure Cue, Action Adventure Theme: Star Trek Theme A, Harmony in Star Trek Theme A, Melody in Star Trek Theme A, Tempo and Rhythm in Star Trek Theme A, Orchestration in Star Trek Theme A, Discussion 8.1: Listening, Polar Express, Action Adventure Theme: Star Trek Theme B, Harmony in Star Trek Theme B, Melody in Star Trek Theme B, Tempo and Rhythm in Star Trek Theme B, Orchestration in Star Trek Theme B, Exercise 8.2: Orchestrate a Lyrical 8-bar Phrase, Action Adventure Template Theme A, Action Adventure Template Theme B, Quiz 8.1: Action Adventure, Assignment 8: Score an Adventure Scene, Recap

Week 9 “Practical Logistics in Film Scoring”, Nov 20th – Nov 26th
Introduction, Responsibilities of the Composer and Orchestrator, Examples of a Composer’s Sketch, The MIDI Orchestrator, Exercise 9.1: From a Composer’s Sketch to an Orchestrated Score, Music Supervisors and Music Editors, Exercise 9.2: Music Supervision and Editing, The Recording Session: The Musician, The Recording Session: The Engineer, The Recording Session: The Conductor, Exercise 9.3: Music Preparation, Timelines, Quiz 9.1: Practical Logistics, Assignment 9: Scoring Cops, Recap

Week 10 – “Long Term Form in Jurassic Park”, Nov 27th – Dec 3rd
Introduction, Leitmotifs in Film Scoring, Jurassic Park: Positive Action Adventure Theme, Positive Action Adventure Theme: Statement 1, Positive Action Adventure Theme: Statement 2, Positive Action Adventure Theme: Statement 3, Positive Action Adventure Theme: Statement 4, Positive Action Adventure Theme: Statement 5, Positive Action Adventure Theme Summary, Exercise 10.1: Theme and Variation I, Jurassic Park: Hymn Theme, Hymn Theme: Statement 1, Hymn Theme: Statement 2, Hymn Theme: Statement 3, Hymn Theme Summary, Exercise 10.2: Theme and Variation II, Jurassic Park: Moderate-Intensity Action Theme, Moderate Intensity Action Theme: Statement 1, Moderate Intensity Action Theme: Statement, Moderate Intensity Action Theme: Summary, Jurassic Park: Velociraptor Motive, Velociraptor Motive: Statement 1, Velociraptor Motive: Statement 2, Velociraptor Motive: Statement 3, Velociraptor Motive: Statement 4, Velociraptor Motive Summary, Discussion 10.1: Find a Leitmotif Statement, Recurring Musical Templates, Recurring Musical Template: Slow Drama, Slow Drama: Example 1, Slow Drama: Example 2, Slow Drama: Example 3, Slow Drama Summary, Recurring Musical Template: Mystery and Awe, Mystery and Awe: Example 1, Mystery and Awe: Example 2, Mystery and Awe: Example 3, Mystery and Awe Summary, Discussion 10.2: The End Credits, Recurring Musical Template: High-Intensity Action/Chase, High-Intensity Action: Example 1, High-Intensity Action: Example 2, High-Intensity Action: Example 3, High-Intensity Action: Example 4, High-Intensity Action Summary, Discussion 10.3: Additional Music for Special Circumstances, Jurassic Park: Long-term Form Summary, Assignment 10: Scoring Cops, Recap

Week 11 – “Long Term Form in Atlantis”, Dec 4th – Dec 10th
Introduction, Atlantis: Positive Action Adventure Leitmotif, Starting the Journey, Progressing on the Journey, Moments of Triumph, Emotional Triumph, Positive Action Adventure Leitmotif Summary, Exercise 11.1: Theme and Variation I, Atlantis: Awe Leitmotif—City of Atlantis, Discovering Atlantis, Learning the History of Atlantis, Atlantis Finale, Atlantis Leitmotif Summary, Atlantis: Awe Leitmotif—The Crystal, Crystal Leitmotif Scene 1, Crystal Leitmotif Scene 2, Crystal Leitmotif Scene 3, Crystal Leitmotif Summary, Exercise 11.2: Theme and Variation II, Recurring Musical Template: Playful Comedy and Mickey Mousing, Playful Comedy and Mickey Mousing – Example 1, Playful Comedy and Mickey Mousing – Example 2, Discussion 11.1: Listening, Mickey Mousing, Recurring Musical Template: Gamelan/Orchestra Hybrid, Gamelan/Orchestra Hybrid – Example 1, Gamelan/Orchestra Hybrid – Example 2, Exercise 11.3: Blending World and Film Music, Recurring Musical Template: High-Intensity Action Chase, High-Intensity Action – Example 1, High-Intensity Action – Example 2, Discussion 11.2: The End Credits, Atlantis: Long-term Form Summary, Assignment 11: Scoring Cops, Recap

Week 12 – “Long Term Form in Back to the Future”, Dec 11th – Dec 17th
Introduction, Back to the Future: Action Adventure Leitmotif, Action Adventure Scene 1 – First Time Travel Trip, Action Adventure Scene 2 – Escaping the Barn, Action Adventure Scene 3 – Return Trip, Action Adventure Summary, Discussion 12.1: Listening, Action Adventure Final Scene, Back to the Future: Action Chase Music, Action Chase Scene 1 – The Terrorists, Action Chase Scene 2 – The Terrorists Revisited, Action Chase Scene 3 – Skate Board Chase, Action Chase Scene 4 – Return Trip, Action Chase Summary, Exercise 12.1: Theme and Variation I, Back to the Future: Mystery Suspense, Mystery Suspense Scene 1 – Past Neighborhood, Mystery Suspense Scene 2 – In the Barn, Mystery Suspense Scene 3 – Town Square, Mystery Suspense Scene 4 – Uncovering the Car, Mystery Suspense Summary, Discussion 12.2: Additional Mystery+Leitmotif Cues, Back to the Future: Moderate Action, Moderate Action Scene 1 – Preparing for Time Travel, Moderate Action Scene 2 – Preparing for the Trip Home, Moderate Action Summary, Discussion 12.3: Listening. The Picture Motif, Back to the Future: Intimate Ballad Theme A, Intimate Theme A Scene 1, Intimate Theme A Scene 2, Intimate Theme A Scene 3, Intimate Theme A Summary, Back to the Future: Intimate Ballad Theme B, Intimate Theme B Scene 1, Intimate Theme B Scene 2, Intimate Theme B Scene 3, Exercise 12.2: Theme and Variation II, Back to the Future: Source Music and Songs, Source Music and Popular Songs – Example 1, Source Music and Popular Songs – Example 2, Source Music and Popular Songs – Example 3, Source Music and Popular Songs – Example 4, Source Music and Popular Songs – Example 5, Source Music and Popular Songs – Example 6, Source Music and Popular Songs – Example 7, Source Music and Popular Songs – Example 8, Discussion 12.4: The End Credits, Back to the Future Summary, Long-Term Planning in Film and TV Scoring: Tools and Techniques, Assignment 12: Scoring Cops, Recap

Orchestration 1

This was the class that I had been looking forward to taking ever since I was accepted into Berklee Online’s “Music Composition for Film, TV, and Games Degree” program. It took me five terms to complete the prerequisite courses in order to take this class. The best part is that this was my favorite class so far.

Everything about it was as good or better than I had hoped for in a class. The teacher, Ben Newhouse, who is also the author of the course, was fantastic in every regard. He gave really helpful, useful and timely feedback on all assignments and communications, and was very inspiring as an instructor. The course materials were clear, coordinated and well thought out. Each week built logically on the previous and everything made sense to me. I can’t say enough good things about this class and feel very fortunate to have studied with Professor Newhouse.

Here’s what we covered during these twelve weeks.

Week 1 – “Technological Considerations”
Course Structure, Samples, Samplers, MIDI, and Sequencers, Signal Flow in a MIDI Orchestration Studio, Signal Flow in a MIDI Orchestration Studio, How Sampling Patches Are Constructed, Trumpet Patch, Bass Drum Patch, Sequencing with Patches, Creating Dynamics in Your Sequence, On-Velocity, Beethoven Passage, Volume, Lyrical Melody, Expression, Separating Mixing and Dynamics, Dynamic Layers and Modulation, Workshop: Working with Dynamics, The Two Rules of MIDI Orchestration, Samples as Performers, Listening Exercise, Assignment 1: Technical Considerations

Week 2 – “Musical Considerations”, Jan 16th – Jan 22nd
Orchestral Sizes, Woodwinds and Percussion, The String Section, Historical Use of Orchestral Resources, Mozart Symphony, Tchaikovsky Symphony, Mahler Symphony, Movie Score, The String Section, Listening Exercise, Clefs, The Percussion Clef, Transposition, Transposition, Common Instruments and Transpositions, Title Page, Instrumentation Page, The Score, An Orchestral Score Page, Transposed and C Scores, Equivalent Scores, Multiple Parts on a Single Staff, The Part, Notation Programs, The Overtone Series, Checklist for Notated Scores, Assignment 2: A Notated Score

Week 3 – “String Writing I”, Jan 23rd – Jan 29th
String Instruments and Their Ranges, The Violin, The Viola, The Cello, Double Bass, Open Strings, Notating String Preferences, Strings and Key Signatures, Double-Stops, Effective Double-Stops, Shostakovich Symphony, Viable Triple-Stop Triads, Viable Quadruple-Stop Triads, Sample Types: Sustained, Using Sustained Samples, Sample Types: Tremolo, Sample Types: Staccato, Sample Types: Pizzicato, Sample Types: Crescendo and Diminuendo, Sample Types: Trill, Sample Types: Runs, Sample Types: Articulations, Transition Sounds, Repeated Notes, Sample Types: Additional Samples, Long and Short Samples, Phrase Samples, Sample Types: Conclusion, Combining Samples: Alternating, The Violin I Part, Combining Samples: Key Switches, Combining Samples: Layering, Acoustic Bowing Techniques, String Notation, Slur, Detache, and Staccato, Spiccato and Slurred Staccato, Bowing and Dynamics, Choosing Bowings, Sequencing Implications, Additional Playing Techniques, Jete and Sul Tasto, Sul Ponticello, Col Legno, Con Sordino and Trills, Tremolo, Natural Harmonics, Artificial Harmonics, Reconciling Acoustic Playing Techniques and Sample Types, Listening Exercise, Assignment 3: String Writing I

Week 4 – “String Writing II”, Jan 30th – Feb 5th
String Writing II, Jan 30th – Feb 5th, Introduction, 4-Part Writing, Haydn Symphony, Tchaikovsky Symphony, Five-Part Writing, Brahm’s Symphony, Doubling and Divisi Writing, Doubling and Divisi Example, Sequencing Divisi Parts, Presenting Melody, Presenting Melody: Violin, Presenting Melody: Viola, Presenting Melody: Cello, Presenting Melody: Bass, Presenting Melody: Octave Doublings, Voicing Chords, Key Points, Harmonic Treatment, String Movement, Harmonic Treatment Guidelines, Incorporating Solo Strings, Text Requirements in String Notation, Listening Exercise, Assignment 4: String Orchestration

Week 5 – “Brass Writing I”, Feb 6th – Feb 12th
Brass Section Introductions, Brass Instruments and Their Ranges, The Horn, The Trumpet, The Trombone, The Bass Trombone, The Tuba, Sample Types, Sample Type: Sustained, Sample Type: Staccato, Sample Types: Crescendo and Diminuendo, Sample Types: Articulations, Trombone Repetition Samples, Sample Types: Additional Samples, Common Phrase Samples, Combining Samples: Alternation, Combining Samples: Layering, Dynamics, Workshop: Sequencing Dynamics, Brass Melodic Presentation, Horn Melody, Trumpet Melody, Trombone Melody, Brass Mutes, Trumpet and Trombone Mutes, Cup and Harmon Mutes, Tuba and Horn Mutes, Stopped Horn Passages, The Cuivre Technique, Listening Exercise, Assignment 5: Brass Arrangement

Week 6 – “Brass Writing II”, Feb 13th – Feb 19th
Brass Section Size, Subgrouping, Acoustic Articulations, Workshop: Brass Articulations, Glissandi, Less Effective Glissandi, Horn, Trumpet, and Tuba, Chordal Voicings, Voicing Major Triads, Other Brass Voicings, Chordal Voicing Inversions, Bad Voicings, Chordal Voicings Wrapup, Using Brass for Harmonic Support, Using Brass to Support Strings, Exercise 6.1: Harmonic Support, Using Brass to Create a Climax, The Brass Fanfare, Brass and String Combinations, Text Requirements in Brass Notation, Listening Exercise, Assignment 6: Brass Writing II

Week 7 – “Woodwind Writing I”, Feb 20th – Feb 26th
Woodwind Background, Instrument Structure, Instrument Categorization, Woodwind Instruments and Their Ranges, The Piccolo, The Flute, The Oboe, The English Horn, The Bassoon, The Contrabassoon, The Clarinet, The Bass Clarinet, Common Sample Types, Sample Type: Staccato, Sample Type: Trills, Sample Type: Runs, Sample Types: Crescendo and Diminuendo, Sample Types: Legato Articulations, Sample Types: Repetition Articulations, Additional Sample Types, Acoustic Articulations, Woodwind Solos, The Flute, The Oboe, The English Horn, The Bassoon, The Clarinet, Listening Exercise, Assignment 7: Woodwind Solos

Week 8 – “Woodwind Writing II”, Feb 27th – Mar 5th
Woodwind Doublings, Possible Doublings, Doubling to Create a Unique Tone Color, Doubling to Create Growth, Doubling to Create a Climax, Doubling Woodwinds with Brass and Strings, Woodwind Chordal Voicings, Enclosure and Overlap, Creating Blend, Chord Tone Spacing, Counterlines, Textural Flourishes, Runs, Exercise 8.1: Using Woodwind Runs, estatement, Harmonic Arpeggiation, Harmonic Support, Listening Exercise, Text Requirements in Woodwind Notation, Assignment 8: Melody, Countermelody

Week 9 – “Percussion Writing I”, Mar 6th – Mar 12th
Percussion Categories, Pitched and Non-Pitched Percussion, Non-Pitched Membranophones: Snare Drum, Bass Drum, Tambourine, Additional Non-Pitched Membranophones, Non-Pitched Idiophones: Crash Cymbal, Suspended Cymbal, Tam Tam, Wind Chimes, Triangle, Woodblocks, Additional Non-Pitched Idiophones, tched Membranophones: Timpani, Impossible Timpani Passages, Reasonable Timpani Passages, Timpani Sample Types, Pitched Idiophones: Xylophone, Marimba, Glockenspiel, Tubular Bells, Pitched Chordaphones: Harp, Harp Pedal Positions, Notating Pedal Positions, Notating a Pedal Change, Enharmonic Spellings, Unorthodox Chord Spellings, Glissandi, Harmonics, Pitched Chordaphones: Keyboards, Celesta, Additional Pitched Percussion Instruments, Listening Exercise, Exercise 9.1: Percussion Arrangement, Assignment 9: Final Project

Week 10 – “Percussion Writing II”, Mar 13th – Mar 19th
Notation Considerations, Staff Types, Mallet Types, Workshop: Notating a Snare Drum Part, Percussion Uses, Accent Highlights, Harmonic Support, Exercise 10.1: Short Percussion Sequence, Reply , Builds and Climaxes, Dynamic Extremes, Solo Statements, Doubling for Color, Listening Exercise, Assignment 10: Final Project

Week 11 – “Expansions of the Orchestral Sound”, Mar 20th – Mar 26th
Expanding the Orchestra with Choir and Ethnic Instruments, Using Choir Samples to Create Grandeur, Choir Parts, Ethnic Instruments, Drum Loops, Saxophones, Guitar, Overdubbing Soloists, Listening Exercise, Review of Key Points, Woodwinds and Percussion, Assignment 11: Final Project

Week 12 – “Full Ensemble Orchestration”, Mar 27th – Apr 2nd
Foreground, Middleground, Background I, Mahler Example, Orchestrating for a Larger Ensemble, Foreground, Middleground, and Background Material II, Mahler Example, Foreground, Middleground, and Background Material III, Full Piece Listening and Analysis 1, Full Piece Listening and Analysis 2, Full Piece Listening and Analysis 3, Full Piece Listening and Analysis 4, Assignment 12: Final Project, Final Exam

Here’s the notated score:


Found this really useful formula for determining a song’s total time in the Songwriting Sourcebook by Rikky Rooksby (page 170):

  1. Determine the number of beats per minute (e.g. 96BPM).
  2. Determine the number of measures per minute by dividing the BPM by the number of beats per measure (e.g. 96/4 = 24 measures per minute).
  3. Then take the total number of bars in the song and divide it by the number of measures per minute. E.g. 104 measures/24 measures per minute = 4.5m for the total time of the song.

Thanks Rikky!


“Enchantment” is the first song from the upcoming “Equinox” album. It is also the first symphonic piece that I’ve done in a long time.

Video footage taken while visiting Mt Tamalpais (Marin County, CA), Municipal Rose Garden (San Jose, CA) and the Pulgas Water Temple (Redwood City, CA).

Here’s the backstory…

I had been wanting to do an orchestral/symphonic piece for many years now. Fortunately some of the tools available nowadays makes it possible to create something that sounds pretty compelling in terms of authenticity. 

This song started as a simple chord progression with me humming the melody. Here’s the original sketch:

Once I had decided that I was going to work on this song idea for the concert, I made a full chart with lead melody and chord progressions:

While working on pre-production of the song I watched two very helpful video courses on Groove3:

Creating Realistic MIDI Strings

Creating Epic Cinematic Compositions

The latter being particularly useful as I ended up mirroring a lot of the approach outlined in the course. 

Here are some of my notes that I referenced while bringing the track up:

  • Follow the “Rules of Harmony” (this video by Rick Beato was particularly informative: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HuSKULck394)
  • Determine parts per section (e.g. Strings, Horns, Woodwinds, Percussion, misc.)
  • Create new alternate version in Logic per section (to free up CPU resources when using the virtual instruments)
  • Stack multiple virtual instruments per section w/ different articulations to create a fuller sound
  • Quantize, humanize then scale % of quantization applied
  • Use mod wheel to write expression automation
  • Bounce to align (if necessary) 

Parallel Processing

In the past, I was pretty much an “all or nothing” type of person when it came to studying, writing, recording or performing. Meaning, I would exclusively focus on one area, say studying, for an extended period of time, at the expense of the other areas that are important to me. The great thing about that is you get really focused on a particular subject. The bad thing is all forward motion in any other areas stops completely.

For a long while, I had been wanting to divide my time between study and production. Ideally studying early on in the day with some sort of production later.

So one of my main goals for the first quarter of this year was to do exactly that. Once I got a workable schedule in place, I loved it. It was tremendously rewarding to see progress being made in so many different areas that interest me.

I think the key to allowing all of that to happen was to limit how much time I gave any one area of focus. That made space for everything else.

For my studies I continued with my 5 minutes per subject approach for a variety of subjects: ear training, guitar studies (music reading and chords/rhythm parts), bass, keyboards (scales and chords), songwriting/chord progressions, notation and vocal exercises.

Along with that I started incorporating online studies with courses on Lynda.com (Photoshop, Omnisphere, Battery, Performing with Ableton Live) and Groove3.com (Superior Drummer, Ableton Live 10 Explained, Creating Realistic MIDI Strings, Creating Epic Cinematic Compositions). These were super helpful in preparing for the album and concert.

I also began alternating days of focus. One day of new material, with the next being review of what I had already done. This kept everything very manageable and enjoyable. So much so that I looked forward to studying every day.

For songwriting/production I would do something similar by only allowing 30 minutes per song per day. This helped keep the songs new and interesting throughout the process. It also helped get me “unstuck” when I felt blocked. As soon as the timer went off I would move on to the next song and get positive momentum going again. By the time I came back to the song I was having an issue with I was in a different space and usually found a solution within minutes.


(Continuing on from the “Welcome to Real World” post…)

Before even meeting my collaborator for Beatcamp @ RealWorld 2018 we received an assignment from the camp director Marc Langsman: select an image from the National Geographic archive that would serve as the basis of inspiration for the song that we would produce during the workshop. 

At first this felt a bit daunting, as there are well over 9.3 million images in the archive, but I held the attitude that I was going to find it quickly and that I’d know it when I saw it. Within 10 minutes I came across this fantastic photograph taken by Oliver Apicella:  

To me, it said everything about what we would be doing for the project: casting our nets, hoping to catch the big fish – inspiration.

Fortunately my collaborator, Patrick Hill, agreed and suddenly we were working together in the same direction. (Great idea, Marc!) We also agreed to create a completely new song, just for the camp and that everything would be done from scratch.  

From there the song came together rather quickly. We had the chord progressions, riffs, melodies, lyrics, arrangement and drums all done on the first day of the camp. The next day we built the song up by tracking bass, guitars, piano and vocals. The final day of the camp we recorded a violin solo, edited the tracks, mixed it all down and gave it the name “Nets”.

You can listen to the entire BeatCamp at Real World 2018 album on Spotify or iTunes/Apple Music.

Aside from having a dream come true (getting to make music at Real World) the camp taught and reminded me of quite a few things:

1) To stay focused on the goal and feel as if it is already done. I’ve been doing this with great success for a couple years now and it helped a number of times during the camp. Particularly given the time constraints and the ever-present temptation to try too many things.

2) Strive to hear my inner voice even in the midst of chaos/activity all around, as well as differing opinions. This doesn’t mean “ignore everyone else”, it simply means don’t forsake my own intuition/vision just because of what’s going on around me.

3) Go with the path of least resistance. E.g. don’t insist that I do something myself if someone else can do it better/quicker. Early on in the camp I made a conscious decision to involve the studio musicians as much as possible. Normally I would opt to do everything myself but here we had a small army of professional musicians/engineers/producers ready and willing to help out. I realized that I should make the most of this opportunity, particularly if I wanted the track to be finished on time.

4) Be open to seeing how someone else might do something. Originally my plan for mixing was to do a first pass myself and then get feedback as to what should be fixed. Then I had the thought “I pretty much know what I am going to do and how it will sound, why not see how a pro would do it”. So I asked the Head Engineer Oli Jacobs if he wouldn’t mind handling it while I looked over his shoulder and he said “sure”. Turns out that this was one of the highlights of the entire camp for me. It was fantastic being able to see his workflow, his choices/decisions and being able to ask him questions as to why. He was super helpful, responsive and kind throughout the process. 

Thanks again to everyone involved in making “Nets” a reality. Here are the credits:

Glenn Schoonmaker (Composer), Patrick Hill (Composer), Nicole Fermie (Vocals), AD Chivers (Vocals), Howard Gill (Drums), Paul Whalley (Bass), Graham Kearns (Guitar), Jonathan Page (Piano), TiiT Kikas (Violin), Oli Middleton (Recording Engineer), Oli Jacobs (Mix Engineer), Tim Oliver (Mastering Engineer), Marc Langsman (BeatCamp Director), Rena Biring (Beatcamp Organizer) 

Chord Wheel

This is another book that I’ve had for years and only recently discovered it’s true value/usefulness. Aside from being helpful in determining what scale to use when soloing/improvising or transposing a progression into another key, it’s super useful for songwriting as it can show all the keys that a particular chord can be in. Really glad that I picked this up all those years ago.