Archive for December, 2012

December 30, 2012


In my last blog post, I mentioned pieces of music that never get used. I was curious to take a listen to those bits, so I booted up my master music library and revisited some old tunes. There were a lot of tracks that I loved hearing again, but I realized that I have come a long way since they were written.

Then I came across “Quartet” which I originally wrote for Rise Of Nations. After nearly 10 years, the details are fuzzy as to exactly why the track never appeared in the game. But the process I have always followed is to put together a “temp track” so that the producers, game designers, etc. can listen to it before going into full production. That means that Quartet, as you hear it here, was composed, performed, mixed and mastered by me on a digital audio workstation (DAW). Essentially, a DAW is a computer system that’s sole purpose is music creation.

To be honest, Quartet did have a small and rather obscure part in Rise Of Legends. Although it is never heard in the game, it appeared as a bonus track on the original soundtrack (OST) released by Nile Rodgers’ Sumthing Else Records. As we were putting together the project, Nile suggested that we include bonus tracks. I had nine first pass music tracks that I composed for the game before we shifted musical direction. So those pieces were added to the DVD.

The Rise Of Nations OST was the first game soundtrack to be released on DVD with both stereo and 5.1 surround mixes. But being the first of anything can be dangerous. It proved to be more of a test for other game soundtracks. When the first run of this soundtrack was sold-out, there were no reprints made. There are only a couple thousand in existence, making them very rare.

So now that I’ve exposed one of my little bits that has been hidden away, I wonder if I can persuade other composers to contribute to the “Unused Symphony?”


December 28, 2012


One of my favorite lines from the classic holiday movie Miracle on 34th Street is: “Maybe he’s only a little bit crazy, like painters, or composers, or some of those men in Washington.” (Referring to an old man named Kris Kringle who professes to be Santa Claus.)

Although the film was released in 1947, the same sentiment toward composers pretty much holds true today. When I talk to total strangers and they ask what I do for a living, they inevitably have that bewildered look on their faces when I respond that I am a composer. Some have even said that they never thought about the fact that someone actually does that for a living.

I guess it might be because composers work alone, behind closed doors. We create something out of nothing. It’s not tangible. You can’t touch it. You can’t see it. You can only hear it. While most people respond to music, they don’t necessarily think about or care about where it came from. It only triggers some kind of emotion.

So what is it about being a composer that makes us be perceived as a little bit crazy? Maybe it’s the fact that we’ve spent our entire lives eating, drinking, sleeping music. We are entirely consumed with creating sounds that will be interpreted by an audience.

And music is one of the most subjective things on earth. People tend to have strong opinions, even if they’ve never played music. They know how it makes them feel and how it is usually associated with experiences in their lives.

Just as the listeners have opinions about music, so do composers. I have written about 15 hours of published music that is heard in all sorts of media worldwide. But I have also written pieces of music that never saw the light of day. I loved it when I wrote it, but it just didn’t fit into someone else’s notion of good music.

Ah Ha! That’s it. After a while, those little pieces of music that were never used come back to haunt us. As a result, we go just a little bit crazy?

Mmm. Now I want to hear those pieces from other composers that were never released. Maybe we can create an entire symphony of music that has never been heard. It would certainly be unique.

December 9, 2012


Your work and personal environment can make all the difference in the world to your success. In the same way that environmentalists promote saving our planet, a negative or even toxic atmosphere at work or at home can make it extremely hard to do your best work. When I say this, I don’t mean that you won’t be moving forward. It just means that you don’t want to stay in that environment for the long haul.

Like most people, I have had my fair share of not having a lot of choice in where I had to work in order to pay the bills. And having the very specific goal of being a full time composer/musician, a field where that is almost unheard of, has always made it that much harder.

A few things from my past come to mind when thinking about achieving my goal. Despite some successes that led to very big let-downs, I always have to consider those times as stepping stones and times when I learned from mistakes.

I was in a popular, original, regional rock band that had enormous potential. Unfortunately, the leader of the group thought that he was the only person who could write a song and the band was only about him. When I found out that he was trying to get a record deal without the band, it was time to walk away and start again from scratch. But without that experience, I wouldn’t have been able to take those next steps that led to bigger and better things.

There have been other places where I’ve worked, where my talent was not appreciated and rewarded, or the politics became a toxic environment to creativity. However, I have always tried to learn what I could along the way and to keep moving toward my goal. No situation is all bad or all good. But at the very least, you should come away with more knowledge than when you started.

When you realize that you need to be in a better place, start researching your options. I’ve been caught more than once thinking that my job was safe, yet knowing in the back of my mind that it wasn’t a healthy place for me. Delaying your search only means that you might get stuck with no job at all.

And above all, don’t let obstacles discourage you. The most absurd thing I continually hear on reality TV shows is, “This is my final shot at making it.” A career in entertainment (or most any other career) is a marathon – not a sprint. You are not going to make it overnight. So when bad things happen, pick yourself up, dust yourself off, and start fresh in the morning.