Review the Past, Plan for the Future
I had a quiet morning in the studio. The main project I am working on right now (4 distinctly different sounding cues in a 2:30 second promotional film for Sprint Business) was sent out to the client. I got some positive feedback and I am waiting for notes.
I had a chance to do something I rarely get to do: Review my work.
I absolutely love working on spots and promo films. I love collaborating with other creatives, creative directors, art directors, editors. I thrive with deadline pressure and I always try to deliver the very best score for any given project. But to be honest, I didn’t know if the outcome of the musical work still had my compositional “DNA” in it. After all, I am writing in many different musical styles, specifically to fit a products demographic.
Reviewing my past work.
I went through the last couple years of my custom music / original score for advertising clients and narrowed down what I did and didn’t like about the music.
I made a playlist of the Top 12 favorite scores I had created for advertisements (youtube playlist link) and then reviewed them as a collection. Although I know the value of the music working properly along with the VO and sound effects, when creating the playlist I used version without voice over when possible, so I could just listen to the music.
I didn’t judge the music based on the visuals, I just listened.
I narrowed down the last couple years of work on spots, commercials, branding and promo films (over 50 projects) down to just 12 Favorites.
I heard little things I would change if I had the chance. But I wasn’t to hard on myself for those things, after all, I wrote, programmed, recorded, mixed and mastered 90% of these projects . . . a few in less than 48 hours. And I had passed the real test. All of the clients I had worked for have asked me back to work on more projects!
This exercise was one way for me to review my work for advertising clients that I felt was the most rewarding musically and see if I had any take-aways that would help me moving forward.
What did I find?
What I discovered is that even though I love writing in many different genres ( like the Yamaha Outboard promo composed in a Brazilian style) I am still drawn to dark, dramatic hybrid orchestral-electronic score as a listener. You know, spy music, sci-fi music. This is the style I set out to establish my career with on Greed, Lust and Cloning – my very first composition demo, turned album, that has gone on to be licensed for usage in dozens of TV, film and commercials.
I am frequently asked what my favorite music to write is. Hybrid Orchestral/Electric used to be my go-to answer. Lately I haven’t had an answer at the ready. I familiar with so many Hybrid composers who my style differs.
And I always feel the term Hybrid Orchestral / Electric score is so vague. I guess I need a new elevator pitch!
Theme is King
Everyone of my Top 12 has a clear theme. I am drawn to the most melodic or clearly defined rhythmic themes of my past work. Some I even caught myself singing along to. And the spot I won the Hollywood Music in Media Award for best Score for a Commercial Advertisement, Verso: Features, I even found myself doing a little dance.
Contrast Makes the Moments
Just as there is no forte with out pianissimo. There is no drama or excitement without musical contrast. If you want to end big, start small. The best example I found was my work on the Land Cruiser 150: Safety film. This plays into the hybrid orchestral / electric by contrasting the “real word” parts of the film with more “real world” instrumentation, then in contrast when the world breaks down to a CGI environment, the music focuses on the electronic instruments used in the score.
Although the Sprint Hit the Ground Running spot and the cartoon series Toyota: Reasons To Own Series are the only work presented that a little of my quirky side comes out, I’m ok with that. I realize that jazz isn’t for everyone, especially when your making commercials.
I am taking away a re-newed since of what my “favorite” kind of music to write / listen to is. As well as that my main sound is: thematic, hybrid score with defined theme and dramatic contrast.
I got into scoring because it is what I love to do. It is painless. I have re-written a cue 11 times for a director and enjoyed each part of the process. But by doing this review I am more clearly defining what styles I love to write. If I can convey “this is what I love to do and this is how I love to do it” more clearly, perhaps hope my unique voice will resonate with creatives on the same frequency, seeking out just the kind of music I love to create.
But most of all I think I learned I need to write a more compelling elevator pitch.