The first music video shot in space. Nice job. Watch in high def if you have the hardware for it.
May 13, 2013
May 8, 2013
May 6, 2013
April 17, 2013
And now for something non political. You’re welcome.
I saw this on Facebook this morning and it got me thinking about music, movie trailers, and communicating through art. Give this a few minutes. In fact, watch it once and don’t think about anything. Just watch it as you would any other trailer. Then watch it again and pay attention to the music.
Movie trailers are an art form in and of themselves. A good trailer can make or break a quarter-billion-dollar movie, making the lowest piece of dreck seem like a perfectly good way to blow ten bucks and two hours on a friday night. Similarly, a bad trailer can take the best piece of cinema and leave the audience with a deadly feeling of “meh” during the previews. This trailer accomplishes what it sets out to do perfectly. Posing spoken and unspoken questions in the mind of the viewer while building to an emotional climax that makes you feel better for having watched it.
First off, I really like what the the music isn’t. It’s not the typical BWAAAH… BWAAAHHHH that we’ve become accustomed to since Inception a few years ago. It doesn’t get in your face and say “I’M THE MUSIC!”. That works in some contexts and trailers, but this one called for a more reserved and traditional approach. From the quiet piano statement at the beginning with simple harmonies, the music is understated while still being regal. Then the light rhythm starts and we hear words of inspiration and aspiration. Slow build. Slow build. Good intercutting between the spoken words and the music. Good storytelling in a three minute format. The trailer is a mini-movie in itself. By the time the brass comes in full-tilt at the 2:00 mark we’re sold. Give us the bad guy, show us the digital FX. Explosions and mayhem. It becomes a big giant summer movie blockbuster but somehow seems like… more. Then we’re rounding back to the simple initial theme before ending with a punch. It’s a great trailer, and a fitting tribute to a fun standalone art form.
It is tough to connect with an audience when you have limited time and a small pallet. You need to tell a story, communicate emotions, manipulate (but in an honorable, allowable way), and leave the viewer feeling fulfilled and also expectant. It’s a difficult thing to do that often comes down to individual frames, beats, fractions of a second, and that ineffable thing that’s impossible to communicate but you know when it’s right.
I’m reminded of a story from Malcolm Gladwell’s book Outliers. A young theater director was having a hard time making a scene work with his actors in rehearsal. Not knowing what else to do, he called in a much more experienced director to watch the scene and make suggestions. After silently watching for several run throughs and getting a sense of things, the experienced director thought for a while and then pointed his finger at a prop and said “that towel should be yellow”. And that was it. After that, the scene worked. The audience loved it, and the show did well.
How did he do it? What was the mystical, magical thing that changed? I don’t know. And here’s the important part… the older director probably didn’t either. But somewhere in his brain was locked the accumulated experience of tens of thousands of hours laboriously adjusting, tweaking, massaging, and correcting performances until they felt right. Until something unknowable just clicked. And when asked to correct a scene for a younger director, that inner voice supplied an answer that didn’t make sense, but made the scene sing.
That’s what we do as artists. Whether it’s movie trailers, the written word, or Sing acts. Communicating with an audience through art is an act of constantly digging into the depths of experience and finding the yellow towel that makes something take flight. It reminds us that speaking through art is the hardest thing to accomplish consistently but also the one that touches us most deeply.
February 24, 2013
February 22, 2013
Some great pictures from All University Sing 2013.
I built 40 flintlock muskets and an 8lb Revolutionary War cannon for one of the acts. Here’s a look:
February 21, 2013
February 17, 2013
Ten years ago a friend and former Pit band member asked if his young daughter could sit on the piano bench in the pit with me during a show. Since it was Pigskin (and, if I recall correctly, a club night) I didn’t think it would hurt anything. I recall her sitting next to me with wide eyes as she saw my perspective of the action going on onstage. She was overwhelmed by the lights, the music, and the dance (to quote a certain song). College students singing and dancing! How wonderful!
Fast forward a decade and that little girl, Emily, sat next to me on the very same bench last night. Emily is now a student at Baylor and is one of those performers in the show. Maybe this week a little girl will sit on the bench next to me and dream about being up there someday.
December 22, 2012
December 13, 2012
I have to admit, it takes a ton of time and delving into oscillators and such, but writing Dub Step is quite fun.
Here’s my screen:
Just learned that the Rice project (STEMScopes) I’ve been working on for the past two years or so has been heard by over 1 million students (and counting)— just in Texas! So nice to have my work be so widely distributed. Thanks to Andrew Ginakis for the great opportunity, and for being such a wonderful collaborator to work with.
December 10, 2012
AAARGH! My UPS battery has gone bad and the UPS is chirping once every two seconds. I can’t leave the house because I’m on a huge deadline and have to write music with a *chirp chirp chirp* going on ten feet behind me. HELP!
November 29, 2012
October 28, 2012
The island of magnificent sculpts. Great 10 minute interview with a wonderful subtle music cue starting around 5:50.
October 16, 2012
Experience: a head injury made me a musical prodigy | Life and style | The Guardian: “It’s as if my knock on the head unlocked something latent, or enabled me to use some part of my brain I simply couldn’t access before. But I still can’t read or write music conventionally, and have to rely on special software to translate what I play into scores. I’ve played alongside a classically trained concert pianist, who was fascinated by my technique – in some respects, I play like someone who has just started learning, in others my skills outstripped his. It can be exhausting, though. The music often keeps me up at night, and I’ll sometimes wake my girlfriend by ‘playing’ her arm in my sleep. “
September 15, 2012
So what was the fuss all about anyway?
I’ve done a fair amount of studio work to know that studio time is when you get everything right. If you have a project to complete, you want to make sure that all of your performances are as good as they can be because, as the saying goes, film is forever (or vinyl, or cds, or mp3s or whatever). If it wasn’t right you redo it. This goes double if you know millions of people are going to listen to your end product. I just finished a project that might have upwards of a million listeners throughout its lifespan, so you can bet that I did my very best to make sure that every aspect of it- the performances, the sounds, the mixes, the vocalists- were as high quality as the budget allowed, and I wrote some of the largest checks of my professional life to make sure that the vocalists were as good as possible. Film is forever and my audience was worth the work.
So I’m listening to a track from the Beatles’ mid-period right now and thinking about how so many Baby Boomers worship at the altar of John, Paul, George, and what’s-his-name. One thing I’ve noticed is that the drum track- the drum track, for crying out loud, the track that acts as the foundationally foundational foundation of the rest of the song- drifts in and out of time as if it’s being played by someone with a pair of rubber sticks attached to their elbows with sodden bungee cords. As if I’m playing it.
I’ve read Malcolm Gladwell’s Outliers where he talks about the Beatles and how they gigged for years and years in obscurity to perfect their sound. How they labored in the salt mines of Hamburg to bring us the Holy Grail That Is Rock and how they were greatly responsible for modern music and we’d all still be hopeless squares without them so bow down, bow down.
But I don’t see it.
The song I’m listening to starts at 114bpm and within two measures drops to 108bpm. stays there for a while without commitment and then meanders around 112 like it’s early for a train and needs to wander around the platform looking for a bathroom. It’s horrible. I know anyone can have a bad day, and obviously these guys could play (Sgt. Pepper, blah-blah-blah), but even with the clunky 1960′s studio technology, if you lay down a drum track and it varies by 6bpm you lay down another track. Film is forever.
Or maybe they should have just kicked old Groucho out of the band.
September 3, 2012
“I’ve never understood it.
My whole life I’ve seen hearing people make a fool of themselves singing their favorite song or gyrating on the dance floor. I’ve also seen hearing people moved to tears by a single song. That was the hardest thing for me to wrap my head around.
I was born profoundly deaf and all music sounded like trash through my hearing aids.
That is until a couple days ago when I put on a new pair of hearing aids for the first time in years…..”
July 24, 2012
July 8, 2012
“Too many people think speed is the hallmark of a good musician. It’s understandable. But how quickly you can finger notes is the smallest part of music. The real key is timing.
It’s like telling a joke. Anyone can remember the words. Anyone can repeat it. But making someone laugh requires more than that. Telling a joke faster doesn’t make it funnier. As with many things, hesitation is better than hurry.
This is why there are so few true musicians. A lot of folks can sing or saw out a tune on a fiddle. A music box can play a song flawlessly, again and again. But knowing the notes isn’t enough. You have to know how to play them. Speed comes with time and practice, but timing you are born with. You have it or you don’t.”
Patrick Rothfuss, The Wise Man’s Fear, p 53