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Archive for February, 2011

Task 3 – Score for Psycho Clip

Task 3

For this task I set out to compose a soundtrack using just string instrument sounds to a clip from Alfred Hitchcocks movie Psycho. Paying particular attention to the production techniques I’d previously used on my version of the Batman theme.

I’ve tried to incorporate more variations of my original melody that I have used at toward the end of the piece as tension begins to rise seen below.


Only these 4 notes have been used through out the piece simply using different lengths and octaves to effect the mood of the clip. I’ve attempted to place hits at appropriate points to specific actions or scene changes. In particular, officer approaches, character awakes, officers presence. Also the moment the officer begins to speak. The main melody arrives as the officer become suspicious, the pace of the describes metaphorically the pulse of our characters heart rate. Naturally more intense moments are busier with faster/stronger note hits. I also fiddled around with the ADSR envelopes on some of the sampler synths and it was interesting to see how the different release times affected the mood.

I also looked at soundtracks to other horror films one in particular. Halloween, which followed a similar melodic pattern to that of Psycho. In the following video notice how the notes are repeated for a number of bars before changing key but the pattern stays the same. I’ve tried to implement this technique into my compositon.

I’ve tried to base my composition on the melodic patterns used by Bernarrd Hermann who composed the original score for the Psycho theme by sticking to the same 4 notes through out and just altered the arrangements of the notes to create variation but as not to lose that recognizable theme. I’ve used different note lengths, to increase and decrease tension where suited  in the same way the original theme creates tension through out building on your sense of fear.

<p><a href=”http://vimeo.com/21317108″>Untitled</a&gt; from <a href=”http://vimeo.com/user6328236″>daniel scarborough</a> on <a href=”http://vimeo.com”>Vimeo</a&gt;.</p>

I feel I’ve learnt a lot about which sounds work best for different instances i.e. short stabs are not appropriate for drawn out scenes like the arrival of the officers car at the beginning of the clip. Likewise long open notes don’t necessarily work with moments that are supposed to be calm instead short notes work better. It was interesting to see how the velocity of a note hits distinctly increase tension and have the opposite effect hit softly.

Based the assesment criteria I feel my composition is to a good standard and for this task I’ve achieved a 50-59% mark:

“Satisfactory use of learning resources. Acceptable structure/accuracy in expression. Acceptable level of academic/ intellectual skills, going beyond description at times.  Satisfactory team/ practical/professional skills. Inconsistent self-direction”


Task 2 – Score for Chase sequence

Task 2

Another Chase sequence I’m particularly fond of is from the Japanese hit film Tekkon Kinkreet. The soundtrack was produced by the band Plaid. Each track has be scored with a Grammatical role: I.e. The music remains unchanged through out despite changes in scene or action. Below is a clip from the film, notice how the music describes the pace. I won’t be applying this technique to my first piece but it is interesting to see the different ways composers can represent the feeling of fast movement or high energy.

<p><a href=”http://vimeo.com/21301527″>Untitled</a&gt; from <a href=”http://vimeo.com/user6328236″>daniel scarborough</a> on <a href=”http://vimeo.com”>Vimeo</a&gt;.</p>

Taking a clip from the Batman movie – The Dark Knight we were asked to compose a soundtrack using only Piano notes, emphasising different factors with in i.e. shots fired, people escaping, cars crashing etc. I’ve used a repetitive melodic pattern using just 4 notes in style of bernard hermann composer for the film Psycho applying this same melody to 4 different octaves to build suspense and excitement.

I was particular interested in accentuating note velocity and impact on such parts as the explosion of the glass at the beginning of the clip as well as the build up to and explosion of the wall about half way through. Also the silence that followed holds the suspense and is quickly followed by the higher pitch melody which shift the suspense of the chase sequence up a notch. I liked the way the notes describe the quick acceleration of the bat-bike as it resumes the chase. Similarly the build up to the crashing of the lorry.

I feel my piece is more of an original piece as it flows souley around one melodic progression. I feel the changes in pitch and variation of note intervals create the suspense and prevent it seeming repetitive. My difficulty is knowing what notes work well with each other. Ultimately I feel I have done the task to good standard.

I’ve also learnt how to use the input step sequencer in the process and begun to understand a little more about musical theory, where notes are placed on the stave and how the treble cleff and the bass cleff depict the octaves or in my eyes frequency ranges.

Important Point;  The musical structure does not obey normal rules because the score is organised intrinsically to suit the timings of scene changes.

Task 1 – Theme and Variations

Looking at Danny Elfmans – Theme for Batman.

The following youtube video plays us the Batman theme. Notice how the melody through out changes slightly either in rhythm, key or timbre but sticks to that recognizable melody this is what creates the suspense and keeps the listener interested in the atmosphere that the music portrays. Not to mention that its recognizable even a drastic variation of the original melody and the listener will still depict it as the Batman theme.

Similarly the main theme tune from the 1977 hit Sci-Fi movie Star Wars composed by John William’s. Of which also has a strong melodic progression, underlying harmonics and rhythmic pattern residing through out.

Here I’ve tried to recreate a simplified version of the original melody using Logic which sounds as follows:

and the score:




From the melody shown above I’ve gone on to make my own theme following a similar melodic pattern.

and the score for it.



Variation 1.

and the score:



Variation 2.

and the score:


Variation 3.

and the score:

Variation 4.

and the score:

Variation 5.

and the score:

For this Task I looked at Theme and Variation.

Based on the Theme of a famous composer for film, in my case John Williams – Star Wars. I set out to create my own Theme tune that followed a similar melodic pattern, i.e. same timing and interval spacing but using different notes. I listened to John William’s theme and attempted to make my own version. I then planned to create 5 different variations of the original theme without losing that recognisable melodic pattern. Either by adding in extra notes between intervals, repeating different sections or lengthening individual notes.

The key notes in my theme are G, C & D Like in Alfred Hitchock’s film Psycho were the composer uses different variations of just 4 notes Asharp, C, E, Fsharp. I would see my theme vary around my 3 notes said before. With these three notes as the root as long as they stay in the same place for each hit point the theme will stay recognisable through out despite what other notes play alongside.

I also learnt about scoring in Notation format from this task and found it interesting how the notes on the stave relate to the notes in Piano roll, similarly how the different intervals in piano roll are portrayed in notation format. Something I’m beginning to understand.

Looking at how a variation of a melody can help change the energies of a composition without losing the original melody was difficult but through trial and error I was able to come up with 5 variations that I felt made good use of compositional techniques and subsequently I now have more of an idea of where I’m going to take my compositions for film in the future.

I felt I did this task well but possibly could have come up with a better theme that ended with a stronger note, be it the notes before did not build up to the crescendo I was aiming for or the melody was not strong enough in the first place, but either way the variations show that I have made an effort to manipulate the groove and feel with out losing the recognisable theme which was the main point. Therefore based on the Assessment guidelines I would give my self a mark of;

50-59%  “Satisfactory knowledge base that begins to explore and analyse the theory and ethical issues of the discipline”.


Music to Silent Movie

The Lumiere Brothers

Auguste and Louis Lumiere born in France 1862 & 1864 and were amoung the first film makers in History. Their Father Claude-Antoine Lumière (1840–1911) ran a Photographic firm where the brothers worked in the early part of their carreers. Louis as physicist and Auguste as manager of the firm. Through out the first part of their film making career Louis made advances in photographic technology by improving the still-photograph process and notably the dry plate process which was an important step toward the capture of moving image.

It was not until 1892 when their father retired that the brothers began to create moving pictures and building on the advances of Muybridge some 15 years before. They patented a number of film processes leading up to the film camera. One in particular Film Perforations aka perfs which were the cuts made in to reels of film tape to keep each frame perfectly aligned with the projector made for advancing frames on a reel through the camera and projector, this technology is still used today.

In 1892 the first moving picture camera and projector called a “Cinmatographe” was invented by a Leon Bouly but was later patented by the Lumiere brother 12 Febuary 1893 because Bouly was unable to afford the rent on the patent to his invention. Although a much disputed topic of the time Louis Lumiere was the first to come up with the idea for capturing moving image and together the Lumiere Brothers shared the patent. In 1894 they produced their first film called “Sortie de l’usine Lumiere de Lyon” a film capturing workers leaving the Lumiere Factory. The film was publicly screened at L’Eden, the world’s first Cinema, located in La Ciotat in southeastern France, on September 28, 1895. This same year the brothers went on to produce 9 other short movies each lasting between 38 and 49 seconds and was publicly presented to an audience where people were charged to view on the 28th December 1895 at the Salon Indien du Grand Cafe in Paris.

See below the footage:

In 1896 the Lumiere Brothers went on tour with their Cinematographe machine and visited Bombay, London, New York and Buenos Aries. The movement of image had an immediate effect on popular culture and gave rise to the future of cinematography.

Steering away from the advancements in filming technology and the influence on popular culture we look toward the music that went with the silent movie.

Since the birth of motion picture in 1880 up until 1908 composers and musicians improvised with Pianos simply playing popular and or orchestral music of the time but in 1908 a composer called Camille Saint-Sans composed a score specifically for the use with film and gave rise to new methods of composition for this purpose, looking at melodic progressions to represent different moods, emotions and atmospheres.

In particular was the production of the “The Sam Fox Moving Picture Music Volumes” by J.S. Zamecnik.

A catalogue of musical scores used by Film producers and musicians to represent scene changes, their emotional impact and atmosphere.

J.S. Zamecnik (1872-1953)

John Stepan Zamecnik (ZAM-ishnick) was a remarkably prolific American composer of the early 20th century, and was a major composer of “photoplay music,” the vast, forgotten genre of music used by silent film theater orchestras. Zamecnik was born and raised in Cleveland, studied with Antonín Dvorák in Prague, and returned to America as a professional musician and composer. He composed music in many genres including songs, dances, salon music, and pieces to be used in compiled silent film scores, composed a few significant complete film scores, and retired not long after the arrival of sound movies.

Some examples of different melodic patterns that destinctively represent the mood.

The Hurry Sequence:


The Sailor Sequence:

The War sequence:

The Cowboy sequence:

The Hurry sequence:

It wasn’t until 1927 with Al Jonons film The Jazz Singer that sound was brought to film. Provided by Warner Bro’s this film involved singing, dancing, drama and most importantly synchronized sound.

It would lead the way for a new breed of movie.




The birth of Film.

During our lectures in Music for Digital Media we have begun to look at Film History and the evolution of sound to film. Looking back at early Silent Movies and how composer of the time came up with different melodic progressions to emphasize the different feelings and emotions portrayed in the film. In the early stages it was simply a case of composers improvising with what they saw on the big screen. Taking note of their surrounding and working with what they had. This was quickly overtaken by scoring to film and Cue points.

Before there was DVD, 3D cinema and all manner of exciting video progection that we see today, way back in the late 1800’s the very first methods of motion picture was invented.

A photographer called Eadweard Muybridge in 1878 invented a machine capable of taking lots of photo’s over distance very quickly, These photos could then be viewed back in quick sucession so an audience would see the movement as you would see it in real life. The first capture of movement to film was instigated by a query scientists and mathmeticians had been questioning at the time; does at any point a horse in full gallop leave the ground. Muybridge set out to answer this with aid of his Photographing technologies that were funded by the state. He lined up a number of Cameras side by side over over a set distance and devised a way to trigger of each camera in sequence using string pulls. He than had a Horse and Jockey ride past them in full gallop as he attempted to snapshot each point. Of course each photo could be view individually but Muybridge soon realised he could produce a means to view the photos in quick succession and recreate the phsyical movement of the Horses gallop and this as we know gave us the first recorded film.

See video below:



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