Archive for October, 2013

October 13, 2013

MUSIC THAT TRANSLATES

As a musician, you start out by learning and conquering a musical style. You spend countless hours practicing and you make that style your soul purpose. As musicians, we all start that way and a lot of us continue with the goal of being the best in that certain style.

I started out that way, as well. But throughout my career, I found that heading off in different musical directions was both challenging and inspiring. Buying a new piece of gear can shed a new light and excitement on your musical experience. But shifting into a musical style that you have never attempted before can do the same thing.

When I started as a full-time composer and sound designer in the game industry, I was forced out of my musical comfort zones. Each game had its own direction and requirements. As I started to accept those challenges, I also started to really enjoy the diversity.

It was then that I realized how important it was to be able to compose in a wide variety of styles if I wanted to continue being a professional composer. Despite some success with various games, change was inevitable and I needed to widen the palette of music that I had to offer.

In my current full-time gig as composer/sound designer at IGT, I get to apply that diversity all the time. The games are distributed around the world and many are market-attuned to address regional customs. The video below contains clips from several IGT games I’ve scored, with a wide range of styles including electronic, cartoons, orchestral, South American, African, Chinese and Island. All of them are written to satisfy the requirements of being in a casino environment, but each has its own style.

What is surprising is how many games have been embraced around the world, not just in the targeted region and for the specific style of the music. It only goes to show that music is a universal language and can translate to a positive experience for anyone.

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October 6, 2013

HALLOWEEN

With October’s arrival, I’m starting to see Halloween decorations around Reno and I’m hearing radio ads for local haunted house attractions.  As anyone who reads my blog knows, I’m an avid fan of movie music and so this time of year also makes me think of the theme from John Carpenter’s 1978 horror film “Halloween.”

Carpenter co-wrote “Halloween” with his then-girlfriend Debra Hill and also directed the movie.  In addition, Carpenter composed the film’s music.  The opening theme from “Halloween” is one of the most efficient and instantly recognizable scary movie tunes ever.

Just listening to the ominous music, you immediately sense that you’re going to be jolted out of your seat as you watch “Halloween.”  This low-budget movie, which made Jamie Lee Curtis a star, was an unexpected box-office hit at the time of its debut. But more importantly, it has stood the test of time and still packs a punch no matter how many times you might have seen it.

“Halloween” is notable for being one of the first of many “slasher” films produced in the U.S. in the 1970s and ‘80s.  Yet even with its relative lack of gore, it is unique because it is so suspenseful.

Legendary movie critic Roger Ebert gave it four stars and described it as “an absolutely merciless thriller, a movie so violent and scary that yes, I would compare it to ‘Psycho’ (1960).”

Ebert also wrote, “’Halloween’ is a visceral experience — we aren’t seeing the movie, we’re having it happen to us.  It’s frightening.  Maybe you don’t like movies that are really scary: Then don’t see this one.”

In 2006, “Halloween” was chosen for preservation in the U.S. National Film Registry by virtue of being “culturally, historically or aesthetically significant.”

Would “Halloween” have had such a powerful and enduring impact without John Carpenter’s eerie theme music?  I don’t think so!

How about you?  When you think of scary movies and the music that helped to set the mood, which horror movie themes have you found the most memorable?