The Music of Bastion

For a soundtrack that was entirely recorded in the composer’s closet in a NYC apartment, Bastion’s soundtrack exceeds all expectations. The core aspect of Bastion that made it such a memorable game was innovation. Not only was the gameplay fresh, but the universe and mood were very well crafted, in large part due to the music.

The two most prominent themes in the game each represent a character. The first one is Zia’s theme:

And the second is Zulf’s:

The two themes come seamlessly together in this final theme:

The composer, Darren Korb, set out to create a soundtrack that would feel like the American West, but also depict a strange fantasy environment. I think the mix of the guitar and the electronic synths did a good job of achieving that timbre.

The Dark Knight Rises

Deshi deshi basara basara!

That is the chant that you will hear at the full height of Bane’s glory in the newest Christopher Nolan Batman movie, The Dark Knight Rises. Having loved the previous two films, especially The Dark Knight, I was thrilled to go see the Dark Knight Rises with my friends at the midnight showing.

Hans Zimmer, having scored the previous two films, scored The Dark Knight Rises as well. For The Dark Knight, he used the shrill sound of the high notes on an electric cello, slowly escalating in pitch, to convey the tension created by the Joker (the villain):

So I knew that he would do something just as iconic for this new film, and he certainly did. The Dark Knight Rises starred the antagonist Bane. This massive figure of solid muscle exuded strength and power, not only physically but mentally as well. Hans embodied this character in the chant:

This chant, meaning “He rises,” was actually created using the voices of the fans who recorded themselves doing the chant. A quote from Wikipedia:

When asked about the chant for clarification, Zimmer said, “The chant became a very complicated thing because I wanted hundreds of thousands of voices, and it’s not so easy to get hundreds of thousands of voices. So, we Twittered and we posted on the internet, for people who wanted to be part of it. It seemed like an interesting thing. We’ve created this world, over these last two movies, and somehow I think the audience and the fans have been part of this world. We do keep them in mind.”

Throughout the film, Hans uses the easily recognizable rhythmic motif to signal the listeners: Bane is coming. As soon as I heard that motif, whether it would be low and slow or furious and loud, Bane would appear. The repeated use may seem overdone if you consider the fact that the film is over two and a half hours long, but somehow Hans managed to find a different way to present the motif each time.

Of course, Bane’s chant was not the entire score. There were numerous other cues throughout the film for Batman and some even for the new Catwoman. The soundtrack did not disappoint, and nor did the movie. It truly was an epic conclusion to a grand trilogy.

Oklahoma!

I trudged in through my front door and dragged my tired limbs to my room. I propped open my laptop for a routine check of my email as I do after every game. Expecting nothing but the usual wash of unimportant emails, I was all but ready to jump into the shower. But one email had been prioritized by my inbox as important and came from a name I was not familiar with. Hm.
To my delight, this email was an invitation to play with the pit orchestra of the local theater company called Running to Places. They needed a bassoonist for their production of Oklahoma! Needless to say, I was stoked. Anything to keep me playing rigorously through the summer.

This was last Friday, and today is Monday. From Sunday to Sunday there were five rehearsals and three shows (the first rehearsal was eight hours long!). The week was a lot of fun; I got to play with some old friends and makes some new ones. The conductor/pianist was absolutely delightful and it was nothing but fantastic to work with him. Although by the last performance I had started getting bored of watching the same show over and over again, the music was challenging enough to keep me occupied. For a week’s worth of rehearsals, I’d have to say the performances went quite well.

Props to all the cast and crew that were involved in the production, and hats off to the members of the pit orchestra, who never get enough attention for what they do in theater. 

Finding Your Voice

To a young composer, arguably the most important thing to do is to find his or her own voice. It’s a search for a goal that still eludes me. But yesterday, as I was reading a book on writing college essays, I discovered an inspiring quote by Pablo Picasso:

“You should constantly try to paint like someone else. But the thing is, you can’t! You would like to. You try. But it turns out to be a botch…. And it’s at the very moment you make a botch of it that you’re yourself.”

Whether it’s painting, writing college essays, or composition, it’s very relevant. Especially because I often try to emulate my favorite composers in my music, but it never turns out quite the same. Now I know that that doesn’t mean I’m lacking in skill; it just means that I’m that much closer to finding my own voice.

Choir Piece

For some strange reason, it feels as if I’ve put in a tremendous amount of effort into this one piece, almost enough to say that this was my most laborious achievement. But that’s not exactly true, I’ve certainly spent more time on some of my other band pieces, and this piece wasn’t even the most challenging one to write. Perhaps it’s the fact that I learned a tremendous amount while writing this piece, or maybe it’s the fact that this piece went through massive revisions, the likes of which I had never previously taken the time to complete. It could even be the fact that I worked on it almost weekly with my composition teacher, giving me a regular checkpoint so that I would never quite feel too far detached from the piece. It’s most likely all of those things combined.

That said, the piece is now done and ready for performance. Considering that this is the second choir piece I have ever written, this is in no way a masterpiece. However, I do believe that it is a beautiful piece of music with some great sonorities. My main inspiration was Eric Whitacre’s Sleep. Just like Sleep, the piece is not rhythmically complex, but rather aims to amaze with its chords. The interplay of dissonance and consonance makes or breaks these types of pieces.

Now the challenge is finding singers who can perform the work. I could wait until school comes around and ask the choir to perform it, but I’m quite impatient and also a little hesitant to ask the choir, for various reasons. Another option is to find some singer friends and ask for their help, but I would need at least two singers for each voice part, and that may be a difficulty.

More to come on the status of the performance and the details of the piece.