I am distracted from my exploration of “In C” by a very exciting remix contest offered through Soundcloud. The prolific film composer, Hans Zimmer, has recorded a tune called “Destiny’s Door” and he wants me
to use at least one stem from the original work and create my own tune. (Stems are the individual tracks that are mixed together to make the recorded song.) Three remix composers will be chosen for an interview for a job with Zimmer’s music studio, Bleeding Fingers Custom Music Shop. Wow! Whoa! Hmmmmm…. Dream job or Nightmare? For starters, the studio name suggests a work ethic much more hard-core than my own. Plus, I love living in Durham. I am getting ahead of myself.
So lets take a look back.
This is my third remix contest, sort of. The first one was Erin Barra’s “Good Man” remix. While the subject matter was a bit uninspiring, Erin’s plaintive voice and boisterous back-up singers lent themselves to a tribal lament. I missed the entry deadline. I wasn’t thrilled with the final product. The tune bogged down in the middle.And those background singers speaking in tongues should have come in waaaay sooner. So, here for the first time is “Straight Grrls Lament:”
Then Kenna offered up his song “Love is Still Alive” for a remix. I enjoyed working with the concept of being out of one’s mind in love for “Alliwanishu:”
And now this epic, cinematic, fantastic opportunity has presented itself. I know that at some point in the future, I will be creating sound scores for films and video. This remix opportunity is a dream come true for me. Just to get a chance to work with the stems created by Hans Zimmer is unbelievably exciting. So lets get to it!
First have a listen to Hans Zimmer’s “Destiny’s Door”
It is beautiful-particularly the strings and the rich wall of sound for the end swell. What I ended up creating has the same harmonic feel because I used the same stems Zimmer did EXCEPT for the brass. I did not like the brass stem and felt that it shattered some of the vibrancy of the end swell in the Master mix.
Zimmer’s “Destiny’s Door” is made up of nine stems. There are the string, percussion and brass track, which figure prominently in the original.There is solo female voice, a male choir, flute, bells, a trumpet and a gritty bass. Once the tracks are downloaded to my computer, I listen to them carefully. I listen for the story each track is telling, for the movement and feeling evoked in the track. In this case, the title “Destiny’s Door” provides much inspiration. I was immediately drawn to the percussion, the solo female voice, the trumpet and, of course, the strings.
The female voice and the trumpet are playing the same theme which is one of the primary themes of the piece. The theme is a pentatonic scale ABC#DE laid out in octave and half step/whole step intervals. There is something about that tonal move up an octave and then a half step/whole step that conveys a feeling of having gone the extra mile. It feels like throwing the javelin or jumping long-the octave is the long sprint and the half step is the jump release. The feeling is of moving through Destiny’s Door, so the title of this theme I am developing is Leaping the Threshold. I like getting a title early on in the process cause it gives me a template for making choices.
Even though the solo voice and the trumpet occupy some of the same frequency territory, they have a nice blend. Putting these two voices together will challenge me to improve in quantizing and warping audio. In Ableton Live, I can import audio clips and Ableton will identify transients ( the loudest moments in an audio recording) and synchronize the clip to the overall session tempo. This method is effective because the loudest moments usually happen on a beat. Ableton is really good at syncing percussion clips but somewhat challenged by more legato voices. For example, the solo female voice track had some vibrato which was picked up by the warp engine as transients. When there are a lot of identified transients the audio has little glitches in it. Since part of what I am going for here is a strong, pure tone, these glitches must be dealt with. So it seems to be a process of weeding through the transients, setting the warp markers correctly, then placing the audio so that it syncs with the other parts.
After quite a bit of trial and error time, I found an over layering of the tracks that I liked. The voice and trumpet come in ahead and behind each other in what is an echo at times and sometimes a call and response. I came up with two samples from the percussion stem that work as a kind of galloping beat. The much faster strings also drive this galloping feeling. While the harmonic feel is similar to the original end swell- I invite you to listen to and feel the very different pace, energy and space in the sonic field.
Working with “In C’ these last few months has really opened my ear to all the harmonic and rhythmic possibilities that can happen when you change the relationship of musical phrases to each other. You can take the same few notes and make wildly different songs from them.. I am more and more interested in making little phrases and setting them in conversation with each other.