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Sabba4 (Draft 1.0) & Eliminating Emptiness

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The works below are licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License and ©2013 Gregory Weaver.

space colony

When I’m feeling a little down about new stuff that I’m making on a certain day, sometimes I tell myself to go work on a jazz-influenced piece since that’s the music that I have the most experience performing and listening to.  Sometimes forcing myself to work on a jazz piece produces the beginnings of a new tune that I like and sometimes it doesn’t; but when the results are positive, I end up with tunes like “Mr. A.C. (Keep Your Cool)” and my latest, the tentatively titled “Sabba4” (short for Sabbatical Tune #4, but I’ve also come to like it as a title ‘cause it sounds all space sector-y).

Here’s what I have so far for the first part of it:

Sabba4″ on SoundCloud

I pretty much got the first 30 seconds over and done with one day and then moved on to do the next bit a day or two later.  Using Finale I wrote the vibes melody first and then created the harmony, etc., and when I put it in Logic I noticed something: there was a distinct emptiness in the second part that wasn’t in the first (or so my ears told me—you may disagree).  Take a listen to the parts I’m talking about back-to-back:

OLD CUT: 

NEW CUT: 

Do you hear what I hear?  There is a significant energy to the piece that seems to drop out starting at :10, and it’s not because of the lack of a piano as a whole.  I chalked it up to the bass duplicating the vibes too much, the open feel of the drums, and the downward harmonic movement of the guitar chords leading into the open sound of the line after it (i.e., everything).

The question of whether it sounds fine as a piece of music wasn’t what was bothering me because yeah, I think that the old cut sounds good.  However, I think there is just too much space and the energy suffers due to it.

Writing for a game, that’s a problem.  Or, at the very least, writing a piece like this without a particular situation in mind from the beginning, it’s a problem.  Music for a game needs to continuously add to whatever the player is experiencing because it is tied to and thus affects that experience directly.  If the music somehow shifts the mood to an odd gear in the middle of a situation, it most certainly has the ability to detract from the situation and make it less believable or authentic. More

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Battle Theme – “Mr. AC (Keep Your Cool)”

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Creative Commons License

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License and ©2012 Gregory Weaver.

For the love of God please someone help me find better pictures.

After a weeklong vacation at the beginning of the month and a “catch-up” phase at work (not to mention a resurgence of urges associated with playing Civilization V), this weekend was a good chance for me to sit down and work on some stuff.  Naturally, my original plans for the days were laid to waste—I realized I had forgotten about a contest of sorts that I had set my sights on entering before vacation!

Someone who I follow on Twitter, Jack Menhorn, mentioned this contest the week before I took off—it’s called the TIGSource Musical Challenge IX.  TIGSource (TIG=The Independent Gaming) is “a community of independent game developers and players.”  On the website you’ll find a forum, and inside said forum there are all kinds of sections, one of which is Audio, and that’s where these challenges lie.  I haven’t had too much time to scour the entirety of the forum since I’ve been rushing to complete this project, but from what I’ve seen it looks to be pretty cool.

The rules of the contest were simple: The host (the winner of the previous challenge) comes up with a theme and the composers are given a certain amount of time to compose a tune with that theme (the compositions must be new and specifically made for this challenge).  The listeners will then critique others’ work and the host will choose a winner.  This challenge’s theme was: “Make a ‘battle’ theme for a turn-based RPG (any style: fantasy, sci-fi, realistic, Poke-ish). Loopable and 30-seconds or less.”  You may go to the thread here to read more and listen to others’ compositions.

I sat down to write my piece yesterday afternoon and just could not come up with any good ideas.  It turns out that, before I had left, I did a couple of bars of something.  I had totally forgotten about writing them; in fact, I went into Finale to work on Fanfare and Jubilee and was like, ‘What is this…?  Uh-oh!’  Anyhow, I decided to scrap that stuff, thinking that it wasn’t really a good path to take.  I then listened to what had already been submitted and then was influenced to do an electronic piece since I hadn’t for the blog yet.  It turned out to be a failure as well.

The challenge is really interesting because of the time limit that Jack tacked on.  A loopable thirty-second tune has to do many things; namely, it was to grab the listener from the beginning, say all that needs to be said, and then be accessible enough for the player to want to listen (or not to care about listening) to the piece over and over again.  You might have noticed, having listened to the tunes I’ve posted, that I’m a fan of building up my music—I always have been.  In fact, I often think about how I need to do less building up and start with more head-on action.  Needless to say, thirty seconds doesn’t beget a build-up; therefore, not only was I pressed for time, but I was also thrown out of my comfort zone.

There was one other thing that was on my mind while I was reeling in turmoil: I really wanted this piece to be a “random encounter” type of battle theme rather than a boss theme.  A thirty-second piece may not be typical for a boss theme, so already one might say, “well, duh, random encounter,” but for me the brevity wasn’t what I was focused on.  Random encounters and boss themes have completely different feels.  One just has to look to Final Fantasy VII for easy examples.  Here’s the random encounter theme and here are two boss themes from the game: the general one and JENOVA’s theme (two of my favorites from the game, and two of my top VGM pieces ever, probably).  The moods they create are completely different; the sense of urgency in the latter two is a lot more desperate, etc., etc.  So, my goal was to write something that wasn’t too heavy—something that didn’t scream danger, but rather would shake someone into a state of alertness while still getting him or her amped up.

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VGM or Not? #2: Merry Christmas!

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Okay.  Right.  I KNOW YOU KNOW.  I just had to put that [ultra killin’] Christmas cheer out there.  I hope everyone has a wonderful Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, Festivus, etc., and an exciting New Year!  You’ll likely get a number of posts from me after today (since I have multiple days off from work), so look forward to them.  This year I’m resolving to post at least four times a month (most months).

And to close out the post… one of my all-time favorite Christmas songs…

HIT IT, STEVIE!

VGM or Not? #1

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I stumbled across a track that I thought could serve a dual purpose as both VGM and in a general musical capacity, such as an audio recording on an album to which people would actually listen.  Check it out, formulate your own answer, and then read the whole post to reveal the truth.

What say you?  Is this track a trick or a treat? (sorry… had to put Halloween in here somehow; also, the tune, whether it’s a trick or not, is a treat… so… anyway just keep reading!)

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