Archive for the ‘danny elfman’ Category

theme one

November 27, 2007

welcome back.

i call this one “theme one” (click to listen) because i think of it as the first of a specific collection of “film music with no film.” i wrote it this weekend at my parents place in Missouri, on their piano, in a food coma.

i’ve been getting more and more focused on writing for picture, and at times when no picture is readily available, i’ve written a few things to mental pictures. this pieces mental picture isn’t as specific as some, but i think it leads the minds eye in a certain direction. while i was writing in MO, i started transitioning into entirely different music at the end of the piece, but in this case, chose and recorded and ending to it. in said film, it probably wouldn’t end the way it does in this case.  i dunno.


A. the main theme is presented right at the top of the piece, heard in the high voice of the piano…playful but with a bit of a “trouble in paradise” idea.

B. transition material darkens the character a bit, then redeems/lightens (“ah” vocals) the character a bit. this section acknowledges that something mysterious/questionable is abound i think.

A1. the main theme in a new key with slight alterations – a back and forth of light and dark ideas…using a whole tone scale at the end to add escalating tension.

C. transition/truncated theme brightens things up a bit, quoting the theme and creating a nice little “V I” to the end section. a “V I” (five, one) is basically a way to set up a new resting place, or harmonic “home” for the ear. it’s like the “amen” at the end of a hymn, with two chords (five/one or four/one) that say “all-done” or “your home” to the ear.

D. new material – we arrive at this “home” and slow the pace down. the character is tired perhaps, or contemplative. this section goes back and forth between light and dark versions of itself, nodding to that conflict still existing (whatever that conflict is). then, maybe the character falls asleep.

what do you think?

YOUR MISSION, if you choose to be awesome:

come up with a short narrative for this piece and post it as a comment. i have ideas, but they’re pretty open. i’d LOVE to hear yours.



carnival candy

August 8, 2007

hey kids! welcome back. this weeks song is called “carnival candy.”

it’s a piece inspired by the classic creepy circus idea, an old favorite. i’m not sure what specifically inspired me to write this in the last week, but it’s a character that i love to play with in general. it’s creepy, a bit off kilter harmonically, and kinda funny to me. i love the energy, and the scene it sets in my mind’s eye. a lot of the stuff i wrote for my college senior recital fit into this “circusy” category. it’s just something i dive into pretty easily for some reason.

WARNING: if you’re deathly afraid of clowns, don’t think about scary clowns while listening to this piece. also, if you’re deathly afraid of pianos, don’t notice that there’s a piano in the song while you listen.

this tune started with the bass line entirely, from front to back. the repeated pattern consists of an octave and a minor sixth (key of c – C and Aflat) that changes roots throughout, from c and back to c. the rhythm of the bass line is key to the “movement” and energy of piece. the idea is for it to sound like you (or some character) is moving in some direction, with some level urgency, or just that something “busy” is happening. someone is up to no good. i also used the even more repetitive percussion parts to lend to this movement, but i didn’t want them to get too big, for fear of going from sneaky and mischievous to a godzilla sort of creepiness. they’re all basically percussion “toys,” or tiny noise makers and bells. blabeebla.

so, piano gets melody AND bassline in this one. i filled some space with the pipe organ sound in the background, holding diminished chords to add to the tension and fit in with the harmonically off kilter piano material. and then i added the churchy chime in the background…another classically creepy and ironically devious gesture i think.

finally, i added a melodica and vocals in unison with a counter melody, as the form is bascially a big A A, and gets otherwise boring the second time around. i like this form though. same material TWICE, with new layers the second time around, or progressively thicker as you go, over the same base. there’s a lot you can do with whatever that first idea is. tons actually. and sticking to it as the basis for the piece is not only a good exercise, but also helps hold the piece together from point A to point B. SO, melodica, vocals, and…extra percussion. hm…what is that extra percussion that comes in half way through? any ideas team?

(insert Jeapordy music here)

what is: jonny’s chest?

that’s right!

for extra rhythm in the second half of the tune, i just played drummy stuff on my bare chest with my bear hands. not that many people have bear hands at their disposal, but i was lucky enough to find some at a garage sale last year in hammond indiana.

and…last and least: i wanted to play with this some protools effects (i know, not necessarily a good reason to write something) so i recorded myself saying “ice cream” repeatedly and added a funky time bender to it at the end of the piece. it’s sort of like the punchline to the joke to me. the moment where you realize that it IS a goofy piece, and i know it too. almost like the creepy circus has turned into a mere backdrop for sugary goodies. not so scary anymore, eh? it also fit into the “carnival candy” title, which i came up with before any of the writing really happened.

ok…boring. i know that’s way more material than anyone wanted to know about this tune, but that was basically the thought process for it. i’m pretty happy with it. i think that it sets a mood. i like that it’s light in step but dark in demeanor.

what do YOU think?

thanks for listening.