Saturday, October 10, 2009

The Music Behind the Madness


Well, not much news this week. SuperHuman Times is still being recorded, and other Prometheus projects are in the works, too. (You can hear all about it from Promethean God Steve Wilson in his update, posted just days ago here.)

In the meantime, I am bracing for the inevitable call from Steve asking me if I’ve chosen the stock music for whatever the first Times show will be. It’s an interesting arrangement we have. He directs the actors, but lets me choose the music for each episode. Most of the time, he goes with my picks, because he knows I’m a nut for movie soundtracks and understand how pieces can be used to complement dialogue and establish mood. It’s pretty challenging, but it’s usually fun, and we’ve experienced some great results with the Times shows. So, this week, I thought I’d pay a little homage to our various musical sources, not just for SuperHuman Times, but also for other Prometheus shows, because -- speaking as a listener -- the music in those has been pretty impressive, too.

We use two basic types of music: original compositions and royalty-free stock music. Times is almost exclusively scored with stock music, but The Arbiter Chronicles and many other Prometheus programs are scored with original material.

On the original side of the street, the work of two composers has been prevalent:

Scott Farquhar, a friend for many years, is one of the most gifted composers and teachers I know. He wrote many of the pieces heard in Prometheus’ shows from (I believe) the first Arbiter episode up to the most recent season finale. He is also an accomplished local stage actor and has played numerous roles in Prometheus show, from midshipman Carson on Arbiter to two great heels in Times – billionaire Everett Mackenzie in “Risk Management” and spoiled actor Trevor Desmond in “Dashing”. Scott has moved beyond Prometheus to other musical enterprises in the past year, but we’re still pals, and I don’t think he’ll mind if I tell you that you can find out more about him and his music here. I suggest you do so.

• The other composer Prometheus works with is a gentleman Steve discovered online named Kevin Macleod. I know nothing about Kevin personally, but I know that I like his music. A lot! It’s solid material that fits every mood you could want to evoke, and he charges relatively little for his services (but if you use any of his work, be generous). Check him out here, or listen to his music during episodes 2-6 of the Arbiter finale, “Contents Under Pressure” . (If you want to hear some of Scott Farquhar’s parting music, and hear the entire story, start here.)

As for the stock music, we (I) have been using two key sources for scoring Times:

Elite Video’s Movie Mania – Not bad for a bunch of tunes conjured by a synthesizer (as all of these are, to be fair). They cover virtually every scoring need and have the dubious distinction of being the collection that provides the theme to SuperHuman Times. Expensive, like most pro royalty-free stock, but worth it. – Another great place to get a wide variety of tunes. It may not look like much, having just recently consolidated its numerous packages into one convenient “box set” (127 CDs worth of cues in one place for $75 – not bad). They also have occasional specials where you can download selected sub-collections at low prices. I’ve bought several of their collections this way and I recommend them highly, especially the Cinema Magic series, which had great action cues for “Dashing”

So that’s our orchestra, to date. Bear in mind that we are a troupe of limited resources (read: we have real jobs, real salaries, and real expenses to deal with before we get around to making these things), so don’t be surprised if you recognize a specific piece of music from one episode/series to another. It’s a grand old tradition that dates back to radio’s earliest days. Who are we to deny that?

You’ll be hearing more of this music with dialogue very soon. Promise. Please stay tuned. Thanks!

-- L.

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