I’m starting a podcast about creative pursuits vs. sanity called Timeboxing. Here’s episode #1 where I talk to filmmaker and illustrator Patrick Horvath:
Why does this exist? Over the past few years I’ve found myself compulsively pulling friends & collaborators into conversation about how they balance creativity, productivity, and sanity. Many people seem to have some useful perspective or personal angle on this stuff, and since I would be having these conversations regardless (almost as a form of therapy) I decided to start recording them.
After the interview I hired Patrick to do the cover art :) Check out more of his illustration work at soundofblunder.com
In other news, it’s been a great start to 2014.
2 of David Fishel's films which I created music for had the honor of screening at Lincoln Center in NYC! A short called Natural Selection and a feature documentary involving dance, horses, and autism. Here is the trailer for the latter:
I’ve been mixing/scoring a video by Eric McCoy & Justus Meyer for Chicago’s Museum of Science and Industry. Here’s Eric with actress Nicky Hawthorne in our VO session:
In February, I traveled to NYC to finish vocal recording with Angeline Gragasin for an upcoming project:
While in NYC (and then Boston) I also caught up with other friends and filmmakers:
I recently completed a score for a DVD series by DawnSignPress. Here are some of the session photos (Paul Fuller: banjo, Sasha Birrittella: guitar, Allen Fogle: french horn, Eleanor Weigert: bass clarinet, Jaimie Lee Mendoes: flute)
We’ve got some catching up to do! A few projects I’ve scored lately include:
The Pact II
This feature horror film is being released by IFC Midnight and hitting the festival circuit shortly. I had a blast working with directors Patrick Horvath and Dallas Hallam. They are ideal collaborators: sweet, hard-working, and creative as hell! It was also a treat to work with producer Ross Dinerstein and team. I’m a fan of their work (e.g. Jiro Dreams of Sushi) and they are total pros.
Here are Dallas and Pat playing a “vent hood” (a weird piece of metal traditionally used on rooftops). We recorded some cool and very “stereo” sounds by super-close miking it while they tapped, scraped, etc.
My elite squad of musicians included Joe Mendoes (cello), Lauren Baba (viola), Pasha Tseitlin (violin), and Brandon Dickert (drums):
The score also featured chromaharp (but played with a pickle jar lid instead of picks), radiator cover (e.g. low metallic BOOOOMs- don’t tell my landlord I ripped it off the wall), and piano (many thank yous, Dory Bavarsky, for letting me record your beautiful baby grand):
Here are audio gurus Rob Chen and Joe Loera at Lotus Post locking in the sound mix:
The last step of the score was naming the 40+ cues. ”The Ghost Who Messed Up the Stuff” is probably the leading Grammy contender:
That’s all the PACT 2 news for now!
Another collaboration with the wonderful Celia Rowlson-Hall, which featured accordion, synthesizers, and more chromaharp. I don’t have a clip since it is hitting festivals soon, BUT here is a kickstarter video for her debut feature film MA:
Check it out and consider supporting if you find her work as exciting as I do!
This playful short by my longtime collaborator David Fishel features the amazing dancer Carlye Eckert. It will have the honor of screening at Lincoln Center in NYC in February, and you can watch it online right now here:
Breaking Bad parody (SPOILERS! Don’t be stupid- watch Breaking Bad first.)
Directed by the talented Oren Brimer, who is now kicking ass at the Pete Holmes show- congrats Oren!
Oren moved to LA from NYC this year, and at his housewarming I found this in his bathroom. That is some mega Comedy Nerd Cred.
Also, here’s Alex Wand deftly playing his National Steel Guitar for my BB-esque theme song:
First Dates with Toby Harris
It was a treat to create some “Planet Earth” style source music for this episode of First Dates.
In my opinion, it is among the best-crafted web series out there. It’s rare to see this sort of tone pulled off so well (and consistently), but director Elliot Dickerhoof nails it. And of course, actors Seth Morris, Joel Spence, and Anna Wenger are hilarious.
It’s been a busy couple of months! Some highlights in reverse order:
Composed a solo violin piece for an upcoming film by Jeff Lamb. Here is the excellent violinist Barry Dillo after our recording session.
Finally met VFX Wizard Mike Ritchie of Gloo Studios after five years of working together. One of the nicest guys in the biz.
Found a new use for the first tie I ever owned: foley for an animation by Ahmad Al-Awadi celebrating the Muslim holiday of Eid.
Rented some fancy API pre-amps…
and used them to record 7 songs in a single evening (!) with Brandon Dickert, a drummer of the highest caliber.
Recorded bass with Griffin Rodriguez - an inspiring engineer/producer/mixer (Icy Demons, Beirut, ..) and person. He actually suffered traumatic brain injury in a bicycle accident not 2 weeks later. As I’ve been mentioning on facebook, you can help support him here. Get well soon, Griffin!
Drove into the mountains on my birthday and bought a chromaharp from a nice banjo player named Dave.
Found out I am KILLING IT in Bosnia and Herzegovina.
Back in July I visited Chicago, caught up with a lot of old friends and did a bunch of recording (thanks to engineers Dan Smart and Max Crowe). I am humbled to have some truly world-class musicians involved…
Long-time collaborator Max Crowe on guitars & bass. (photo: Mikel Pickett)
I also recorded more vocals with my favorite soul singer on the planet, Hawk Colman, but we forgot to take a picture! I can’t wait to write & share more about the project all this recording was for :)
Before the recording kicked off, I also…
Did live sound at the Museum of Science and Industry for my friends Eric McCoy & Justus Meyer as they interviewed neuroscientist David Freedman about his work with “categorization”. I had a fun chat with David about James Brown, and enjoyed working with our cinematography/lighting team Mike and Leland.
Saw David’s band FuzZz (which consisted of him on guitar, another neuroscientist on keyboards, and KILLER rhythm & horn sections) with my friend and colleague Paul Lazarre. Paul is an entrepreneur and science enthusiast, and conceived of the interview video in the first place.
The otherwordly Harry Partch Ensemble (featuring the talented Alex Wand).
My friend Gina and I saw Björk! One of my creative heroes… an Artist with a capital “A”. I feel bad haven taken a photo after she asked the audience not to, but I promise my flash was off as to not distract anyone from the fireballs!
It’s May once again.. which brings me up to 7 years as a composer! Many thank yous to my friends, family, and collaborators who have been so supportive all the while.
As time goes by, I find myself increasingly interested in the “craft” of creative work… How do I push myself to continously improve? How do I maintain balance and “long-term hustle”? How do I become more brave, honest, and original in my work? What mindset & conditions best allow me to do so?
That last question is an interesting one, since we’re all humans who get excited/bored/happy/depressed/hungry/inspired/lazy/distracted/etc for a multitude of reasons. That’s why I love this talk by John Cleese. It isn’t about *how* to be original but rather *how to make circumstances ideal* for generating the most original ideas. If you do any sort of creative work, I think you’ll find it pretty excellent.
(I’m late to the party on this one- thanks to my friend Spencer Griffin for putting this on my radar)
This project was a fun challenge as the Marilyn Monroe song it parodies features a kickass big band. One thing I CANNOT STAND is the of use virtual instruments for jazz horn parts (if I am allergic to a sound.. this would be it), so I knew right away live horns were a must.
We obviously couldn’t afford to bring in a 20-piece jazz band (someday!) so I opted for the happy medium of a small but efficient live horn section (trumpet, trombone, and sax) accompanying a sequenced rhythm section. We also recorded a few overdubs (2nd horn parts, solos, etc) to fill things out a bit.
It’s a real treat working with musicians as skilled as Walt (trumpet), Dan (sax), and Ryan (trombone)- many thank yous, guys.
A few photos from the session, courtesy of my friend Vivi Hoang:
Here’s an episode of Fact Checkers Unit featuring the amazing James Franco as a shapeshifter. The LA Times even gave it a nice write-up here.
I had fun creating lots of chase cues as well as some evil lab music for unstoppable director Dan Beers. Scoring scenes with actors as skilled as Franco, Pete and Brian is a real treat. Their timing & performances open a lot of doors for the score as my job becomes much more about complementing the energy onscreen than driving it. So fun.
Props as always to the rest of the team: editors Kyle Gilman and Steve Makowski, exec producer Thomas Bannister, producer Larry Laboe, and many more.
Last but not least, thank you to spy guitar-ist Max Crowe for his work starting when Franco flees his lab at 3:16.
Hey socially conscious friends, do you know of a tragedy / travesty / suppression / coverup that hasn’t seen enough publicity?
reason is: I’m working on a song which is at times very delicate/pretty and other times horrifying. I would like to find audio from a real-life tragedy to add in somehow.. audio clips such as civil unrest, chilling testimony, eerily calm news broadcasts, etc..
A few more well-known possibilities i’m considering are: north korean suppression vs. the beauty of their “mass games”, final moments at jonestown, lost boys of sudan… but am open to ideas- it could even be something affecting a single person.
It’s been a very fun but busy month. I spent the first two weeks on the road- first on a relaxing family vacation for my Dad’s 65th birthday and then straight to Austin for SXSW (after a 4 hour nap on the floor of LAX).
As mentioned last time, I was there with Celia Rowlson-Hall's film “Si Nos Dejan”. (I'll be posting session photos from the score at some point). Our screenings went well and people gave some very nice feedback about the film. Since Celia lives in NYC it was fun getting some time to hang out with her and her co-star (and husband) Andrew :) Here's Celia with the most interesting lady we found in the Mexican restaurant where we were eating:
Narrating my entire trip would probably take about 5 hours to write (at my blogging pace), but here are a few of the highlights for me:
A panel with indie animator Don Hertzfeldt, Dimitri Simakis of Everything is Terrible, and Hadrian & Bret of Cinefamily. In my opinion, Don is one of the most uncompromising artists in any medium today. His latest feature (which I highly recommend) is available to stream on vimeo for just $2- trailer above.
The stop-motion short “Oh, Willy”- visually stunning and the story goes in directions you would never predict. I can see why it won Best Animation.
Pixar’s new short, and the fact that director Saschka Unseld was gracious enough to stick around and sign a poster for EVERY person in the theater, what a class act!
Julia Pott's terrifying and moving animation set to a Tom Chivers poem. I love how it blends animation and live action (shot by the talented Adam Wissing).
Stephen Finnigan’s HAWKING. The film tells Professor Hawking’s life story in his own words (and voice!) I found it to be very personal and moving. Also, here’s a video I took of the audience filming a hello to Professor Hawking.
Black Metal by Kat Candler (produced by Kelly Williams, who also produced the SXSW feature Pit Stop) explores some very interesting territory re: the terrible actions of a fan “inspired” by a band, and how it affects a metal singer and his family.
SXSW’s “Best Narrative Short”: New Zealand native Michelle Savill's Ellen is Leaving. A well-deserved award, IMHO. When I sheepishly told Michelle that my primary NZ reference is Flight of the Conchords, she laughed and assured me “that's a good reference” :)
Sarah Gertrude Shapiro's Sequin Raze is a narrative short set in the reality TV industry, from a perspective I was SO happy to see- as were the judges, because it garnered an honorable mention for Best Narrative Short.
Lauren Wolkstein's Social Butterfly, a very human story inspired by a personal experience she had in France. Great performances & story.
Jason B. Kohl's The Slaughter. This one is QUITE intense/graphic, but in a way that serves the story. As with many of the shorts I'm linking to, great acting & production quality.
Caleb Johnson's Root, a film he explained he had to make because he “couldn't get the idea out of his head”, ha! One of the best “Midnight Shorts”.
Hugo Vargas-Zesati’s Boy Friends was another of my favorite “Midnight Shorts”- unpredictable, ridiculous, and hilarious.
I’m excited and humbled to announce that I’ll be attending SxSW this year with a director I immensely admire, Celia Rowlson-Hall!
We’ll be there with her film Si Nos Dejan (pictured above)- “a love story flooded with good intentions and missed connections.” I composed the music and look forward to writing about the scoring process here.
She also has a 2nd film in the festival, which sums up the audition process in a bold and painfully accurate way: