Waves Audio has published an article in which award-winning TV and film composers Michael Josephs and Nick Murray share some tips for mixing film scores. Tips range from experimenting with the stereo image to layering of the frequency ranges of your percussion, how to make pianos sound more intimate and less MIDI-ish, and more. These […]
VST Buzz is offering a 91% discount on StudioWeapon Underscore, a Kontakt sample library developed specifically for composers who write underscore music for film, TV or video games. Underscore is a sample library designed for writing underscore music for film, TV & video games. It’s a rhythmic juggernaut jam packed with features perfect for filling […]
“I don’t know what I’m doing,” says artist and composer Allee Willis. Yet her output ranges from Earth, Wind, and Fire’s “September” to the theme song of Friends. If you don’t know Willis, you should – and her story might inspire yours.
Behind all the cheery social media these days, most artists you talk to have struggled. They’ve struggled with creativity and sobriety, mental health and creative blocks, unfriendly industries and obscurity. And sometimes they’ve struggled just to get by – which is where Allee Willis was in 1978, living off food stamps and wondering what would happen next.
What happened next is a career that led to an insane number of hit songs – along with plenty of other fascinating side trips into kitsch and art. (There’s a kitsch-themed social network, an artist alterego named Bubbles, and a music video duet with a 91-year-old woman drummer on an oxygen tank, to name a few.) But what it hasn’t involved is a lot of widespread personal notoriety. Allee Willis is a celebrity’s celebrity, which is to say famous people know her but most people don’t know she’s famous.
At least it’s about that gap. The odds that you don’t know her? Decent. The odds that you don’t know her songs? Unlikely.
Let’s go: Earth, Wind & Fire “September” and “Boogie Wonderland,” The Pointer Sisters’ “Neutron Dance,” Pet Shop Boys with Dusty Springfield’s “What Have I Done To Deserve This.” The theme from Friends, recorded by The Rembrandts (if you knew that, which I suspect you didn’t)… all these and more add up to 60 million records. And she co-authored the Oprah Winfrey-produced, Tony and Grammy-winning Broadway musical The Color Purple. More songs you know in movies: Beverly Hills Cop, The Karate Kid (“You’re the Best”), Howard the Duck.
The Detroit native is an impassioned use of Web tech and animation, networked together machines to design an orchestration workflow for The Color Purple musical, and now lives in LA with … Pro Tools, of course, alongside some cats.
But this isn’t about her resume so much as it is about what she says drives her – that itch to create stuff. And for anyone worried about how to get into the creative zone, maybe the first step is to stop worrying about getting into the creative zone. We value analysis and self-critique so much that sometimes we forget to just have fun making and stop worrying about even our own opinions (or maybe, especially those). In the end, it was that instinct that has driven her work, and presumably lots of stuff that didn’t do as well as that Friends theme song. (But there are her cats. Not the Broadway kind; that’s Andrew Lloyd Weber – the furry ones.)
There’s a great video out from CNN-produced Web video series Great Big Story:
And her site is a wild 1999-vintage-design wonderland of HTML, if you want to dive in:
Time+Space has announced the release of DRONAR Vintage Synth, a new module in Gothic Instruments’ critically acclaimed product line of atmosphere creation tools. Vintage Synth comes with a retro futuristic vibe reminiscent of the classic 80s synth from which the sounds were derived. Transport your audience into an epic audio universe brimming with trepidation, tension […]
Before it reverted to Internet age-blandness, American kids’ TV enjoyed a golden age of music, scored by oddball indie composers and legends alike.
And, wow, it could even teach you about synthesis.
Perhaps the most famous of thesse moments is when none other than Suzanne Ciani went on 3-2-1 Contact in 1980 to step inside her studio:
Fred Rogers of Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood fame was actually a composer before going into television, and the show’s deep commitment to music education reflected that. That music was generally of the acoustic variety, but he did one day tote a rare ARP Soloist synthesizer along with his trademark shoes and handmade sweaters – and his message and song about “play” might well be an anthem for us all.
Canadian-born composer Bruce Haack made an epic appearance on that same show in 1968, where he demonstrated a homemade electronic instrument. Haack himself as as prolific a composer of far-out sci-fi music for children as he was (much darker) experimental compositions and psychedelic works.
The best all-time “Fairlight CMI on a kids’ program” (because, amazingly, there’s been more than one of those) – Herbie Hancock, Sesame Street, 1983. Herbie keeps a terrific sense of cool and calm that all kids’ shows could learn from in this day of cloying, sugar-sweet patronizing programming:
Synths were all over vintage Sesame Street, often providing sound effects as in this oddly hypnotic Ernie puzzle:
Steve Horelick, the composer behind Reading Rainbow, showed off his Fairlight CMI and how digital sampling worked. (I have vivid memories of watching this as a kid – sorry, Steve.) Steve apparently came up at a time when Fairlight ownership was rare enough to get you gigs – but a good thing, too, as a whole generation still sings along with that theme song. And you probably got a second educational gift from Steve if you ever followed one of his brilliant video tutorials on Logic.
Even better than that is Reading Rainbow‘s synesthesia 3D trip – John Sanborn and Dean Winkler’s Luminaire, which was made for Montrea’s Expo ’86, to music by composer Daniel “No, I’m not Philip Glass” Lentz.
Better video of the actual animation and music, which – sorry, Mr. Glass, I actually kind of prefer to Glassworks:
Somehow this looks fresher than it did when it was new.
A young, chipper Thomas Dolby explained synthesis to Jim Henson’s little known 1989 program The Ghost of Faffner Hall!:
More obscure, but clever (and I remember this one) – from HBO’s Braingames (1983-85), evidently by a guy named Matt Kaplowitz.
Not growing up in the UK, I’d never heard of Chocky, but it has this trippy, gorgeous opening with music by John W. Hyde:
American composer Paul Chihara’s 1983 score for a show called Whiz Kids is hilariously dated and nostalgia-packed now. But the man is a heavyweight in composition – think Nadia Boulanger student and LA Chamber Orchestra resident. He has an extensive film resume, too, which now landed him a position at NYU:
From Chicago public access TV, there’s a show called Chic-A-Go-Go, which in 2001 hosted The Residents.
But The Residents were on Pee-Wee, too:
Absurdly awesome, to close: “The Experimental Music Must Be Stopped.” This one comes to us from 2010 and French animation series Angelo Rules:
VST Buzz has launched a sale on the Dronar & Sculptor Bundle by Gothic Instruments, a unique bundle that allows you to create everything from vast evolving atmospheres to monstrous slamming impacts and strikes. The bundle comprises Dronar Hybrid and Sculptor. Primarily aimed at Film, TV, Video Game Composers and Sound Designers, together they form […]
Impact Soundworks has released Momentum, a new percussive sound design instrument library for Native Instruments Kontakt and REX/WAV. The library is the ideal rhythm collection for film, TV and game composers. It comes with over 2,500 truly unique, organic percussion performances, categorized and tagged with extensive sound design tools. Besides the powerful Kontakt patches it […]