Assignment Brief Create a minute and a half of music for an LED light show installation and follow the narrative instructions given for the shape and tone of the music.
For this assignment, we had a choice between two themes; Deep Space or Over the Rainbow. As the Star Wars fanatic that I am, I chose to do the Deep Space Installation.
I wanted to dive back into electronic music as I knew it would be appropriate for the guidelines given and that I could mix and master it to a high standard. My initial response was to use radio waves and frequencies as a running motif throughout the piece, alluding to the sci-fi themes. My first draft included two major "drops" and used ascousmatic sounds to replace other instruments e.g. a crash symbol was replaced by the sound of smashing glass.
Edits and Re-submission
On the Edit, I had feedback to get rid of the harsher sounds (in particular the glass smashing) and to make it feel more ambient and spacious in the beginning. I had to rework the piece a bit, getting rid of the piano loops and replacing it with pad like synths and arpeggiators. Looking back, this was definitely the right move and made the piece feel more like "floating in space" rather than being "trapped in space".
Link to Final Submission
I worked with ECU film students this semester alongside my friend Ethan on the soundtrack for
"Bird Meets World"
This collaboration was a blast to work on! I loved the basis of the film and its message, using absurdist humour for deep insight into important mental health issues. Our directions for the sound track were "acoustic instruments, mainly guitar, ukulele or piano" and the director gave us a Spotify playlist of references and influences. After chatting with her, she seemed to admire an artist I evoke quite strongly in my music; "Dodie Clark". This was pretty much a blessing as I knew exactly the direction the music could take.
Ethan's work ethic and input was invaluable for keeping us on track and creating a diverse yet cohesive soundtrack. We met up several times to discuss themes and ideas around character music and ambient music. After a bit of an improvisation session we came up with the main character "Bird's" leitmotif for the film and the kind of chords we thought we would e.g. "F sus 4 major 7" was the main reference for the film score process. During one of these sessions after getting a copy of the script, we read through and completely annotated it with musical cues to divi up the work. After recoding and mixing everything, we sent it off for evaluation from the director who gave us back a full and overall very positive review of each individual track.
Ethan suggested sending the annotated script over our sound production group chat. "Yeah if you can, that would be appreciated!" responded Jesse, the sound designer. "(It) will definitely help during the editing!". That was a happy little coincidence that I will definitely keep in mind for future collaborations and film scores.
"Hannah and Ethan were really easy to work with. They were professional and dedicated throughout, and carefully listened to any information I gave them. Due to getting very ill, I had to ask them to speak to our sound designer, Jesse, while I caught up, and they immediately adapted. The music they created suited the film perfectly , and their attention to detail on the final song "Meet The World" actually made me cry when I heard it because it was so perfect," Bethany, the Director on "Bird Meets World"
The track I was probably most proud of was the song for the final montage "Meet The World". I wrote it on acoustic guitar with the chords and lyrics in mind to reflect the scene and mood. The progression flicks between the F and C starting on the chord IV - I. Ethan plays parts of the piano and the spacious electric guitar as I sing. The melody for the start of the chorus is also the beginning of Bird's leitmotif and the turn around before the F chord is a D major. Ethan had stated beforehand that D major was supposedly the colour red and so I used this chord to symbolise the girl in the red dress that Bird briefly meets before the climax of the film and at the end of it. This is subtly symbolic that she helped to turn his perspective on things around.
Overall, this was a really rewarding process that was a blessing in disguise right before exams. Receiving the very positive feedback and enthusiasm from the crew was super uplifting to read after I feel like flopped a couple of exams. It's reminded me how much I love narrative tied in with music and that it is something that still engages and intrigues me. You can read the lyrics for "Meet The World" below and listen to the song "here."
Lyrics for "Meet The World":
Hold your tongue
Bite it tighter than you've ever done
Don't you hide
Today was a bust but maybe someday
You'll be much better and brighter
Hold it tighter
Picking it up
From where we are
Starting again just to
Figure it out
It's all up to us
Tough and remade
Gently you start to unfurl
So step outside and go meet the world
I did two collaborations with Design & Animation students from Curtin University this semester.
For collaboration one, I worked on a 30 second animatic (a moving story reel) with a passionate animation student using a scene from a table top roleplaying game. They were very specific with the mood and atmosphere they wanted from the music, using multiple references from soundtracks such as Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild (which was cool and very handy for getting an idea of the stripped back instrumentation they wanted). After I played around with the timing of the piece using Logic's movie mode, I did a spot of mixing and spatialising then submitted it, asking about feedback and any changes they wanted. They were extremely chuffed with it and asked for no further edits. It was really useful to have such specific instructions and being very familiar with the style of music they wanted me to create.
"I got the opportunity to collaborate with Hannah for one of my university assignments for animation and visual special effects. The music created for my project was brilliant in its simplicity and fit perfectly with the visuals I had created. Thanks to clear communication from both parties and understanding of what we wanted to create, we made a wonderful piece of art that I was proud of," Robin, 2nd Year Animator.
For privacy reasons, I won't post the full animatic itself, BUT you can listen to the track right "here".
The second collaboration was with another Curtin University student in their first year of Design and Animation. They had an interesting assignment that they chose to do - they did a speed paint of a score, missing the latter half of its lines and notes as audio plays of myself trying to sight read it to varying degrees of success. It was interesting how hands on this collaboration was. I am lead to believe my slight incompetence with sight-reading was entertaining and added to the art piece. As the notes slowly faded away, most of the sight reading became a memory test and guess work and where the notes where supposed to be.
"Hannah helped by collaborating with me for a uni assignment by sight-reading my art composition titled Coda. She was invaluable to the piece as she put her own interpretation of lineless sheet music at short notice!" Coda, 1st Year Design & Animation student.
The finished speed-paint / score I sight read can be found below; audio linked "here."
My first time working in surround sound with Spatial music this year resulted in a pretty cool track called "Are You Even Listening?". You can listen to the full track "here."
It uses the "cocktail party effect" to create a sense of chaos and confusion as there are too many voices surrounding the listener; all voices appearing to be important and unintelligible as they sound at the same level and shift from speaker to speaker. As the top end of these voices start to drop off and fade away sporadically, a very loud, very clear whisper tells the listener to "focus" again. The track eventually drifts off into a layered, electro-orchestral piece of music, using synthesisers, strings, drum machines and field recordings. The music builds to a climax and suddenly cuts off to the voice again reminding you to listen to the conversations, asking in the end as everything else fades away "are you even listening?" (roll credits).
For me, this is an audio insight into what it's like having ADD or ADHD. I was inspired by the interesting, personal Acousmatics assignment one of my friends made last semester, so I pushed myself this semester to create a piece that was more personal and philosophical. I wanted people to ask "what was that about" and discuss what they heard, how they interpreted it and how they related to it. Unlike most of my lyrical music, I wanted to make people think a little more than feel (as its an interesting topic that many people may have experience with).
The process behind it was fairly structured - I knew how the narrative of the track would play out and I knew the steps to get there e.g. loaning out a field recorder and recording a couple of dinner parties with my friends. However, there were a few rewrites along the way. Halfway through creating the musical section, I scrapped it and started fresh again. It felt boring and familiar like I wasn't pushing myself. So rather than doing a purely acoustic instrumental piece, I took a completely different approach which started by using synthesisers and "non-musical sounds". Yet again, I drew a lot of inspiration from my peers and their electronic music backgrounds.
This score was for my final Materials of Composition assignment. We had to create an original orchestral score of approximately 100 bars in length and using acoustic, orchestral instruments. A summary of the piece and its score can be found below. The midi audio for it can be found linked "here."
I lovingly titled this piece “Bubbles and Balloons” as I wanted to focus on timbre. There are 3 sections in the piece; Section A called “Bubbles”, Section B called “Balloons” and Section A/B called “Bubbles & Balloons”.
Structure and Intent:
In Section A, I focus on non-sustaining instruments and their upper registers to mimic the delicate and light “bubbles”. The marimba begins the piece in its upper register with a round, warm and percussive / “popping” timbre. It’s eventually joined in a canon by pizzicato strings and other light woodwinds as “bubbles fill the room”. This section concludes dramatically with everything popping at once and smoothly transitions into Section B with cello, marimba and bassoon.
Section B has longer, sustained phrases with rich and “rubbery” tones of the brass section and the lower registers of the strings and woodwinds to signify “balloons”. I had to keep in mind that these long phrases had to be “breathable” for the instrumentalists and used varied rests and smart layering to achieve the full, but playable sound (particularly within the bassoon ostinato). Added percussion on the repeat of the period increases the energy and tension, showing the “balloons” being stretched thin and about to pop.
At the second turn around, the balloons don’t in fact pop but are let loose and fly around the area as the orchestra modulates chromatically. This leads into Section A / B where bubbles & balloons are filling the room as the A and B Sections combine for interesting motivic variations and timbral mixing. The piece slowly winds down as different sections of the orchestra get to have semi-solo phrases e.g. brass in bar 86-89. Eventually, I end on a sort of gag with the last soloist being the lone marimba that started it all.
I had a bunch of fun (and stress) making this piece and am glad I got to see it come together how I imagined it. The irregular time signature was interesting to work with and I learnt a lot with my lecturer about grouping it idiomatically for the players and conductor to feel the pulse. This was super important to the piece as the weird and changing time signatures gave the piece a continuous rolling / tripping over itself sort of feel that I loved. I had to read up a LOT about what each instrument could and couldn’t achieve e.g. the trombone could only slide a tritone and that a flute could actually pitch bend (thank you Samuel Adler).
When it eventually came to editing, I admit I did have to pull a late night in the midi labs where I ran into a couple of third years doing the same. This made me feel a little better with a funny, silent show of camaraderie. I definitely felt the stress with this one and know that I should’ve started work much earlier than I had - however given the circumstances under which I completed it, I am overall chuffed with the work.
This score was for my Materials of Composition assignment 2, where we were instructed to compose an original string quartet. My analysis for the piece and the score can be found below. The link to the Sibelius audio can be found "here."
My artistic intentions for this string quartet was to blend my style of contemporary composition with traditional baroque structure and styles. I use similar tropes of baroque / classical composition such as outlining the chords I-V-I to start off the piece. However, I was influenced by contemporary harmonic progressions near the end, heavily revolving around chords IV and vi. Although the melody is simple, I mix it up with a counter melody by the 2ndviolin, using rhythmic motifs to align them e.g. triplets.
I’m not as familiar with writing for strings so this was an interesting challenge. I’m unsure about how I’ve blended the ranges of each of the instruments, however I made sure to chat with string players to discuss what pieces are easiest for them to play e.g. where to put rests, using interval jumps alongside crescendos etc. From this information I tired to write as idiomatically for the instrument as possible.
Initially, I created the melody using solfege. After giving this to the 1stviolin, I worked out the bass part given to the cello. This gave me the basic harmony I was working with and allowed me to fill in the 2ndviolin and viola part accordingly. The rhythm isn’t too complicated as I didn’t want to overcrowd the piece and so I could focus more on harmony. This also means that simple rhythmic motifs are easier to identify.
I used pizzicato in the viola and cello at the start of the piece to have a nice contrast to the B section an give the piece somewhere to build to. The final A section is then the same motive with bowed strings instead, swelling to a sweet and “vocal” conclusion. I wanted the piece to feel lively, so I decided to keep vibrato throughout it’s entirety.
The formal structure is approximately based on ternary form with an A section; The Exposition where the main motive is identified outlining chords I – V – I.
It then moves into the B section in which I explore the main motive and it’s variations. I decided to keep the rhythm mostly the same as that’s the most identifiable aspect of the motive. Putting it in the relative minor differentiates it from the A section and builds it to the last section.
The last section is back in the home key (Bb major) and is the A section that moves somewhere else and resolves differently to the first A section. This gives the piece a sense of finality in the musical narrative returning to the home to a “new normal”.
Setting up this event was a stressful, stunning and ultimately rewarding experience.
On the 18th of August, my band and I ran an event at the Fremantle Fibonacci Centre called "Funkin' Up The Fib", featuring my band, "Charlie & the Keepers of the Groove" alongside support acts from WAAPA. Initially, my band and I were keen to run this event simply because we wanted to perform a set long enough to play all the music we love. It gradually morphed into a community event, with many friends, families and Fremantle musos diving in to help with sound mixing and door sales etc.
As the band manager and the one pushing the idea forward, I became the de-facto event organiser. The task I had set myself was trickier than I first thought it would be (although I already knew it would be difficult whilst also balancing uni and general life stuff). It became quickly apparent I was not the best at asking for help. I was great at delegating roles for the gig, but when problems and stressors would arise my communication skills would falter.
During these times, I had my band and my family to keep my arse in check as they would point out how easily a problem could be solved by simply asking for someone's help; definitely a learning curve from this whole process. The actual night itself went down fantastically! The amount of support in the room was heartwarming to say the least. There truly is nothing like performing original music on stage and realising that people are singing your lyrics and dancing to your groove.
Next time I organise an event like this (which I hope to do so in the future) I'll take note and remember to split the managerial roles evenly and ask for help, even if I don't think I need it.
Hannah (AKA Charlie)
The first half of 2019 has been a rollercoaster of ups, downs and turn arounds. Starting out in a new course and feeling like I've just gotten over the hill of getting to know most of the classical students (or at least names and faces). My band, Charlie & The Keepers of The Groove (which I am currently managing) released our first single at the start of this year called "Saving Face" (link here). I had the great honour of participating at the Global Student Strike for Climate Action in Perth on the 15th March - performing our song with a crowd of over 2000 people. I've achieved great personal goals during this time, including music theory tutoring for high school kids. And somehow - amongst all of this - I've managed to keep close ties with my family and the friends I made in the music artist course last year.
Most poignantly - I've written many compositions; too many, probably.
All of this has been a little overwhelming. It still boggles my mind to think that I was on the news this year (for the climate strike). I've faced some disappointments along the way. The delays and miscommunications with some collaborations have been dicey at times and I was let down by the 2019 WAM Song of The Year Award. However, plans for the future are in motion and there are many more things I've got to look forward to!
GIGS & UPCOMING PERFORMANCES:
My band and my solo act Call Me Charlie have got some pretty exciting gigs for the next few weeks / months. These include:
RECORDING & WAAPA WORKS:
I am booked in again to work with the sound production students - for a band recording this time! It's always exciting getting to record with lots of people as it makes the process much more bearable and fun. I'll also get to have some fun asking around for collaborations with other students (which I am trying to get a head start on) for next semester's assignments. It would be awesome to work with a visual artist next semester as I am a very visual composer. I see scenes and colours and action when I write music, especially when it's very expressive music so I'd love to work with a visual medium and create something for it.
At the moment, I am waiting for a response from Nanga Music Festival as to whether I was successful with my scholarship entry. I met with the coordinators several times over the course of this year as they were talent scouting when I was busking or performing around. From the sounds of it, they were extremely keen to get me engaged with the scholarship and sent me an email to remind me of the due date.
Other projects I have waiting in the wings includes the "Saving Face" music video. The massive delays of the release for this music video has been both a blessing and a curse. I underestimated the stress of uni combined with managing my other music platforms, posting many promises of the music video but failing to upload it anywhere. However, because I postponed the release, I now have more footage from the student strikes I can to add to it.
Some composing exercises and habits I try to keep up include writing and recording a minute's worth of music in an hour. This comes in the form of a deal I have with my brother. He is an avid fan of Dungeons and Dragons and has a long running campaign he plays with his friends. I'm not a big fan of role playing (as it's way too stressful to me), however, I do love the stories and scenes that arise from the game. So my brother has given me a list of scenes from his campaign which I can write a minutes worth of music for. I consider this little exercise as practice scoring for film / television, as that's always been a pretty big and consistent goal for me. You can have a listen to some of these tracks on this Soundcloud playlist here.
My Ascousmatics composition for Sound Spectrum was a sound art installation titled "Summer Study". I came up with the idea for it thinking about studying and wanting to make a piece that was physical and self sufficient (didn't need me to run it). That came in the form of an oscillating fan with spoons hanging from it, gently gliding across full and half full mugs - of course. This was an interesting assignment that stretched my knowledge of art and composition, and allowed me to garner a stronger appreciation for ascousmatic works. A video of my installation can be found here (the blurb for the piece can be found in the description).
This composition is titled "The Tiger and the Butterfly Net". I was fairly excited that I could finally write some lyrics for a composition assignment. For this piece, I went back to a ye olde' story telling like delivery of lyrics (heavily inspired by Dr Suess' style of writing). The jazzy chord progression sold the subtext of the story of a woman (the elusive tiger) "uninterested" in the company of men being seduced by another woman with a softer approach to flirting (the butterfly net). The score can be found below and a recording can be found here.