Music Blog

It's lockdown season once again here in Amsterdam, and after months of classes and adjusting to life overseas, I figured it's about time for an update.  Since moving in last August, classes have covered a range of topics from the musical stylings of Ennio Morricone to John Corigliano's score for The Red Violin to spectral analysis in digital audio workstations.  In addition to weekly classwork, I have also been composing music for several collaborations and short films, so let's dive right in.


My main subject class, composing for film, has been focused on the work of Bernard Herrmann in such classics as Vertigo and Psycho, and more recently we have shifted focus to Thomas Newman's score for The Shawshank Redemption.  If you have not listened to the scores for these films, I would strongly encourage you to check out Herrmann's theme for Vertigo and when you watch The Shawshank Redemption, pay attention to what emotions and ideas the score draws out.  These are both impeccable examples of visual/psychological music, which, rather than simply telling us what's on the screen or what the character is feeling instead tell us about their motives, inform us about dramatic irony and foreshadowing, and heighten the emotional experience to draw the audience in.  For a specific example, check out the beginning of this scene from Shawshank Redemption and listen to the two main musical ideas present in this scene: the basses slowly and purposefully repeating the same 4-note motif, and the high, carefree violins which float over the top of the piece.  These motifs represent the repetitive hopelessness of life in prison (Red's attitude), while the high violins represent Andy's potential innocence and hope to escape Shawshank.  The two characters haven't even met yet, and already Newman is showing us foundational traits about the two main characters rather than simply repeating the emotions and visuals present in the scene.


Since March, I have been working with director Meredith Slifkin on the score for a short film entitled When the Lights Hit, a 20 minute drama about the world of competetive ballroom dancing.  The musical stylings for this project range from cha-cha to bolero to orchestral film music, and I am very excited to see the final cut reach a public audience.  This project is in the final stages of development, and more details including the release date will be made available very soon!


In September, classes in harmony and analysis began in earnest with a look into the legacy of Italian film composer Ennio Morricone, who took much of his inspiration from 18th century classical music.  As a part of that unit, the other film music students and I were assigned to compose a short theme for strings and oboe as close to Morricone as possible.  You can hear my composition "Omaggio a Morricone" on SoundCloud, where much of my work in film music and jazz is also available.


Finally, my most recent project has been made available at and on YouTube: The Grump Who Sacked Greatland.  This anti-Trump/get-out-and-vote video was directed by Jennifer 8. Lee, and I was contacted by director David Shayne to write musical underscoring accordingly.  It was fairly straightforward as far as filmscores go-- as a narrated cartoon, the emotional undertones did not have to be as subtle or complex as, say, the score for The Shawshank Redemption or Vertigo, so I used a full orchestra to heighten the drama of each scene without getting in the way of the dialogue or foley, keeping everything fairly light and comedic.  The main sample library I used was Spitfire Audio's recently released BBC Orchestra, which produced impressively realistic results for its $800 price tag.  As one of my first paying film projects, I relished the opportunity to poke fun at the Grump while getting paid to do the craft I love.  If you have not done so, please take a listen, share, and get out to vote before polls close next week!