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Last post I indicated that I was planning to write a tune to a picture.  I actually had planned to do such a thing for, I don’t know, a couple years, probably, but never really got around to it.  The drafts that you’ve heard on this site so far have come from general ideas; for example, “Theme for the Woods” was originally based off a flute lick I heard in my head and for “Monday’s Theme” I was thinking about life on a farm.  Using a picture grounded me a lot more, and you’ll read why below.  Here’s the picture off which I’ve been writing:

The picture depicts my girlfriend Jen, Mog, and me as the authorities in sleuthing.  It was drawn by none other than the [Score.] logo artist, Natalie Parisi, who drew it for me because I was one of the first five to solve the first puzzle on her mystery/puzzle blog, Clavis Cryptica.

I decided to use this one for my first picture-to-audio project because, one, it was recently done; two, I like it; and three, because it threw me into an unfamiliar genre.  Out of all of the compositions I’ve ever done – and I’m not just talking about ones done for this site – I’ve never been focused on ‘mystery.’  In fact, I’m not sure that I’m even that close to the music of many puzzle games.  Tetris notwithstanding, the only audio that comes immediately to mind is Professor Layton and the Curious Village.  My tune has a similar vibe to the beginning of “Professor Layton’s Theme,” I guess, but it certainly isn’t half as killin’.  Who wrote it…?  Tomohito Nishiura.  I’m going to have to check out more of that guy’s stuff, holy cow.  And in case you want to compare that live version to the in-game, here it is.

And then, here is mine in all its Finale/Garritan sample glory:

Not even close on the scale of killin’!  But I like the direction that my tune is headed, so I’ll keep it for now.

Originally titled “Sleuths” (and changed because that’s the title of Natalie’s picture, not to mention gumshoes is a pretty cool word), I first started writing by fiddling around with the Steinway in Logic.  It didn’t take very long, as I recall, to come up with the first fourteen measures of the right-hand part (before the woodwinds and viola come in).  In fact, the evidence is in my Logic file; it’s essentially those measures out of time with corrections embedded within.

The left hand was a different story, as always.  The simple beginning came quickly enough, but all of the movement did not (as an aside, after I wrote the left hand in Logic and I continued writing in Finale).  Again, I’m a stickler for trying to make the harmony of my tunes interesting to the point where it’s a flaw, I think.  Luckily, I didn’t spend forever on this and came out with some decent stuff, in my opinion.  The actual order of writing for the first section (before the lone flute note and viola melody) was left hand, simple right, most of the woodwind/viola parts, and then the spots where I knew I had to figure stuff out and fill in space in both the right hand and the non-piano parts. And actually, I have some non-piano outtakes that I may share on here another time…

As far as the instrumentation and the vibe goes, I wanted to write to both the theme of the picture and its details.  For the theme, I wanted something that sounded older–something that embodied old England a bit.  That’s where the piano and viola came into play.  What would be playing as old Sherlock Holmes smoked his pipe and studied evidence?  Something mysterious, yet refined.

But the picture isn’t just about Sherlock Me; clearly, he is only one piece in a team of three.  So first, I thought that I would add some flute flourishes in there for Mog, as he is undeniably a cute little creature that flitters about.  “Flourishes” became an excuse for just adding flute, basically.  Then, Jen became the viola, which I think is pretty fitting given the demeanor that she exudes in the photo, and I added in a bassoon to represent myself.  I really love the sound of the bassoon and have been wanting to write some nice melodic content with it, and while it still serves as a support instrument in this tune so far, its tone stands out and… well, I’m just happy to be writing for bassoon.

Let me know what you think!  Here are some things that I am looking at doing:

  1. I’d like the initial right-hand melody with the non-piano support to be longer before there’s a transition into the viola-centric section.  I enjoyed writing the support and want to use it to embellish the main melody more and in different ways early on.
  2. At a little past :20, when the left hand rises and then falls again, I might add a counterline to set up the held dominant b9 chord.

Look for another draft in a week or so!  Thanks, as always, for listening and reading.

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*Side note:  I’ve been really into accordion lately.  From “Layton’s Theme” to Maria Schneider’s music, to Vince Mendoza’s writing, to the crazy action of the Claudia Quintet, modern writers are really getting making some beautiful parts for such an unappreciated and rather misinterpreted instrument (what I mean is, I would guess that 90% of people that read this thought of something like this… not that there’s anything wrong with that!).

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