Tuesday 13 June 2017

Beginning the Music Score for St. Faustina Film

Saint Faustina
This week, I started writing the music score for our latest film 'Saint Faustina and the Divine Mercy'.  I set up a new template from the previous score - Saint John Bosco - as I liked the sounds I had used.  I was looking for some Eastern European instruments but I did not want to specifically load up RA as I had already so many samples loaded, I did not want to push the computers capacity. 

So I bought the Cello once again to the forefront.  I thought about Russia and the war, Poland and their history and really got in the mood.  Before I was given the completed film, I decided that I would write an opening theme in advance, like I did with St. John Bosco.  I began with strings and soundscapes and added some phrases with Mystica - voices of female chants - as well as Cantus - male chants, subtly in the background whilst using the cello for the main theme and the piano as motion and movement, very eerie.  I have spent the whole day so far mostly in building up the main titles. 

I have the avi file of the film loaded in now so it gives me the correct time frame.  I've added double strings, symphonic choirs, French horns, 2 or 3 types of pads, voices, piano, harp and baroque guitar and am finally now pleased with it; it is rich enough for an introduction.  It's got the entire atmosphere of the Polish setting and is taking shape.  I am very pleased to finally be working on the music for this film as it's been in the making for a while.

Check out all our films on DVD at www.marysdowryproductions.org

Wednesday 7 June 2017

Writing the Music Soundtrack to Saint John Bosco Film, Dreams, Soundscapes, Inspiration and Ideas.

Last week, I was gearing up to write the music score for our new production on Saint John Bosco.  This was our biggest challenge in filmmaking in the past 10 years and I was looking forward to trying something new.  We covered several of St. John Bosco's dreams in the film and I was contemplating how I would go about getting the separate dream segments across with the music score.  As the film was in the final stages of editing, I set up the Cubase project and loaded up some samples that I thought I would need.  I turned to Omnisphere because it has some fantastic soundscapes, so many I have not had a chance to really scratch the surface of them.  I loaded up samples such as 'Bowels of Hell', 'Requiem' and some spooky boy choirs.  I knew we had portrayed St. John Bosco's dream on the journey to hell and back so I wanted to be prepared!  I thought the boys choirs would be a good touch if used subtly as it would hint at his working with educating boys and caring for their souls. 


In addition to Omnisphere samples, I used Desert Winds and Forest Kingdoms and Era II by Eduardo Tarilonte.  Whatever samples you get from Eduardo Tarilonte there are always some fantastic soundscapes included.  I loaded up Ancient Spirits and I think Desert Longing.  I decided to make use of the samples that I have so brought the flute, harp, cello, baroque guitar, nylon guitar, strings and symphonic choirs 'mm' samples to the forefront, rather than looking for a new lead instrument.  I also loaded in Altus and Cantus for voices as well as some of the new Vocal Codex samples I have not had for that long.

Screenshot of Opening Titles in Cubase
Over the past couple of months we have been watching The Man in the High Castle and I have been listening to the atmospheric music.  In particular I listened to the more exciting faster-paced scenes, analysing how Dominic Lewis managed to keep the tension building.  I listened to how he had hits on every beat and every other beat and how this made the tension grow.  I also liked how the opening titles had a simple song but gradually in the background a sinister soundscape grew, even though at times it caused a bit of dissonance, it portrayed through the music the tension and background threat.  I noted all these points because of the upcoming St. John Bosco score which I knew was to be a longer production and what is most difficult about these is keeping the interest of the audience.  I have a tendency to lapse into morbid reflection which I find really easy, but sometimes it just needs a bit of gripping tension.  I loaded up some pizz strings with the idea of using them on every other beat taking The Man in the High Castle tension scenes as an example. 

The film was not yet complete but I decided to do something I had never done before and start the music score in advance.  I experimented with harp with pizz strings on every other beat to begin with.  With this sequence started I overlaid some strings and then recorded in a lead tune with cello.  I added guitar and layered this up with Altus phrases and flute.  The result was an atmospheric yet tension-building sequence.  When the film was complete and I dropped it into the project, I was able to continue the tune for the opening titles easily as most of the hard work was done.

Everything was pretty straightforward from then on.  A score gets much easier once the narration starts and it is mostly musical underscore.  When the dreams started, I had all my samples ready and I found that dropping most instruments out and bringing in the Ancient Spirits and soundscapes created an immediate dreamlike atmosphere.  I kept this up and added some ambient drums from StormDrums for depth.  I also added some sound effects of wind and thunder which was great.

The fun part began with the long Hell sequence.  I built up the tension with Bowels of Hell from Omnisphere and it was really quite scary; scary and interesting.  After a while I realised the Hell sequence was longer than I expected.  I felt it needed something else. 

From the Hell Sequence

It was at this point that I remembered Trilian.  I use Trillian simply for bass but it can do so much more.  I loaded up 'Burning Victims' and 'Apocalyptic Message' which sounded apt.  One was a pulse/beat and added just the right touch.  At this point in the film 'words' were popping up on the screen and it just felt right to go in a more modern and experimental musical direction.  I used the beat on and off and when it came into the score it added the perfect attention-keeping element.

I have been reading a lot of Pope Francis' writings recently and they are so inspiring.  I was pleased to be working on such a powerful presentation of the dreams and instructions of St. John Bosco and I wanted the score to be both shocking and moving.  The seriousness of Hell was interspersed with the kind face and caring persona of Don Bosco.  Sacred Art of the Heart of Jesus really inspired me to portray with cello, string and soundscapes how much Our Lord loves us and aches for us to turn to him, turn away from sin.  The whole sequence was extremely gripping and challenging.  The final touch was Ambient Largeness drums with Thunder Clap and Metallic Doors clanging for the Portals of Hell, with the sounds of fire crackling for the wall of Hell when Don Bosco has to touch the walls and awakens from his dream with a burning hand. 
After this the film showed how easy it is to be a saint and touches upon Saint Dominic Savio which was very uplifting and inspirational.

The film left me moved and inspired.  Writing the score was a rare event, having the opportunity to use so many interesting soundscapes and have a lot of freedom with this.  I also found it really easy which is rare too.  The previous score for Jacinta Marto was really difficult for me. 

For the entire score I had been looking for an opportunity to use my new sample from Vocal Codex 'Salve Regina' but I had not been in the right key to make it work.  I put in a phrase of it here and there.  At the end credits I decided to play in the entire thing and lo and behold it fitted perfectly.   This film is now available on DVD worldwide through Amazon and www.marysdowryproductions.org

Saint John Bosco DVD


Saturday 3 June 2017

Holy Spirit of Serenity, New Instrumental CD Album Release.

After 6 months of on and off writing, ideas, struggles, writers block and inspiration for the final push, Holy Spirit of Serenity is now complete and available!

I started this series in 2010 when I was inspired to present some instrumental peaceful tracks on CD compilation.  I improvised 10 tracks for each CD album with a range of instruments centred around nylon guitar, strings, piano, cello, pads and soundscapes, with flutes and harps and other instruments coming and going.  Holy Spirit of Peace was first.  For two of the tracks I took some themes from 'The Shining Pearl of York' film and the album turned out to be atmospheric and very listenable.

It all flowed very easily and Holy Spirit of Gentleness and Holy Spirit of Joy followed swiftly upon the heels of Holy Spirit of Peace.

A while later in 2012 I was inspired to add to the collection Holy Spirit of Calm.  I wrote all the pieces and then named them afterwards with relevant quotes and passages from scripture.

I did not add any more to this series until 2014 when after a long illness I came out of hospital with renewed vigour and wrote Holy Spirit of Tranquility. 

In December 2016 I decided to start Holy Spirit of Serenity, thinking it would be as easy as the others to do.  However, being so busy, with so many productions on the go, a busy schedule, tired and also quite burned out from so many music scores, it was slow going.  I also had a new studio setup and just could not get my ear in gear!
You can imagine how pleased I am to have struggled through with long breaks and finally complete the album.  Towards the end, I decided that I needed to go back to the roots of my writing which always stemmed from inspirational images and titles.  Whereas in this particular Holy Spirit series I had just written and improvised easily, I felt for Holy Spirit of Serenity I needed some visual inspiration, I asked my sister to write the track titles for me first so for the last 3 tracks I took the titles and this helped me to write.  The last 3 came much more easily and the album was complete!

The CD turned out really great, very interesting, a little bit different.  It gave me an opportunity to use some new soundscapes and different instruments.  Holy Spirit of Serenity is available from our Online Shop and also through Amazon.
Pick up your copy today!