Matt Pollock directed this Gotye/Kimbra parody for which I had the pleasure of producing the music. Check out the original below to see how it stacks up. Kudos to lyric writer Emily Axford, producer David Kerns, DP Marcus McDougald, post wizards Mike Schaubach & Lacy Wittman & Amanda Madden, VFX gurus Gloo Studios, actors/naked people Kyle Mooney & Beth Dover, and many more.
I was lucky to have Ryan Hanifl on male vocals (not many singers can handle Gotye’s range/power, but he nailed it), Annette Frank on female vocals, and Max Crowe on (sexually ambiguous) guitars. Thanks also to Richard Howarth for his help with a few music production elements.
Before I talk about the track, I just want to give major props to the two amazing singers I brought in for this one: Maurice Smith and his friend Dejah Gomez. I can’t thank them enough for taking the time to bring their world-class musicianship to this ballad about cell phone technology.
You may remember Maurice from his amazing vocal work on the demanding Boyz-II-Men track we worked on a while back. Maurice was one of the first singers I worked with after moving to LA.. and was a real wake-up call to how insane the level of talent is out here. Here’s one of my favorite live clips of Maurice:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yoF6me0yffw#t=1m40s
Dejah is equally stunning… as you’re read in her bio, she’s sung with Justin Timberlake at the Grammys, Al Green, Smokey Robinson, Mariah Carey, and the list goes on. Here’s a hilarious clip of her signing a duet with the great Stevie Wonder:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0tbQ2k1T7Jo#t=2m18s
Making the backing track was fun, too: music-wise, Streeter wanted a RnB slow jam with a sort of sung-spoken approach to the vocals. So, I listened to a bunch of Usher songs and R. Kelly’s infamous ‘Trapped in the Closet’. Usher-y arrangements seems to be all about keeping the drums very tight/dry sounding, and the arrangement pretty minimal as most of the activity is in the vocals. This actually worked out really well in our case since we have a LOT of lyrics in this track and want to make sure they remain the focus. I threw in a musical accent here and there (piano, claps, whooshes, etc) and that seemed to do the trick.
I made a scratch track with some vocal melody ideas but Maurice and Dejah’s parts were largely ad-libbed. Directing world-class singers when you’re not a singer is equal parts embarrassing and hilarious :)
edit: as an added bonus, check out this video Maurice just released:
Above is a project I scored & sound-designed for CollegeHumor last year. Since I’m about to go into a lot of geeky detail I’ve mixed the music a bit higher in the above than CH’s officially released version so you can easily follow along :)
This was a nice challenge, as my goal was to create a score true to the classic cartoon style of the original 1951 Alice in Wonderland score by Oliver Wallace. It required 21 (!) cues in the span of about 2 minutes… just a few seconds each on average. I have to confess I LOVE this kind of music.. it’s so spastic, unpredictable and intricate. Carl Stalling, who did all the classic music for the Warner Bros cartoons, is another hero of mine. I suggest giving his music a listen without the context of cartoon sometime (you can do this on Amazon here).. it’s amazing how daring and downright bizarre it is!
Anyway, to do a thorough analysis I cut up the audio of the original score into small clips, labeling each with a stylistic description. (e.g. “mouse chase music” or “angry brass staccato” or “confusing rabbit - ascending chords." Then I placed these snippets into CollegeHumor’s video as a sort of "texture guide”. I also notated some of the chord progressions - not to duplicate them with my own music, but to learn what kind of progressions Wallace was using to generate each mood.
(CLICK to see clips from the entire scene labeled)—
Then I created an original score, using similar textures and instrumentation. The screenshot below is what my project looked like after finishing.. each of those orange/yellow blocks near the middle represent string parts. I’ve got the woodwinds, brass, and percussion parts minimized (each gray/blue block is an entire group of instruments) and the at the bottom you’ll see the three trumpet parts (played by the amazing Gerald Bailey). I recorded him using two mics at once- a ribbon mic gives the bulk of the sound, and then a large diaphragm condenser room mic is used to capture the brassy “bite” of the sound. In a perfect world I’d have an actual orchestra at my disposal, but to keep things simple and within our budget the rest is covered with Vienna Symphonic Library samples… Except for the “jug” track at the beginning, which I made by blowing into beer bottles filled to various degrees.
(CLICK to zoom)—
Now, if you’re really curious, here’s my score + sound design without dialog track so you can hear all the details exposed:[video src=“http://blog.sondrolmusic.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/06/MadTeaParty_No-dialog_Sondrol.m4v” poster=“http://blog.sondrolmusic.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/06/MadTeaParty_poster_500x281.jpg” width=“500” height=“281”]
Finally, for comparison, here’s a clip I found on YouTube of the original cartoon (at least until Disney takes it down)- the “Unbirthday Song” starts at 0:32, and regular score starts at 0:54.
This week I thought I’d do a quick write-up of a project completed before I had this blog called “Turn and Smile”. Basically, CollegeHumor asked me to make an 80’s sitcom theme a la Family Matters or Full House with piano, bass, and a scratchy soul singer. So, I listened to a LOT of sitcom themes on youtube, and did my best to incorporate the defining qualities of the genre into the above song.
My friend Hawk Colman is easily one of the best soul singers I know in Chicago and was a no-brainer for the lead vocal. I was dying laughing during the session, as Hawk is a natural with his delivery and knows exactly what lines to really sell and HOW to sell them (e.g. the way he sings “whichyo family” at 0:47, the slight character change at 1:10 for the “grouch” line, the airiness he throws in choice words for the outro at 1:26, etc). Also, when he sings “show’s created by THIS man” at 1:30 we discovered the way to get the perfect take was to have him VERY emphatically point at something when he sings “THIS”.
I remember the main note I gave him was “Hawk, that’s too soulful. Try to sound more like a white guy TRYING to sound like a black guy, and channel Rod Stewart”. And did he ever. I miss him greatly as a friend & musician out here in LA.
Max Crowe expertly laid down several layers of guitar, then I brought in a bunch of my best friends / neighbors for the gang vocals (Max, Alice Wedoff, Johanna Wiesbrock) and instructed them to sing as sitcomy as possible. Lastly, I added plenty of extra layers to stay true to the arranging style of that period: strings, french horn, and OF COURSE plenty of wind chimes.
Kudos to Vince Peone for directing, Dan Gurewitch for the lyrics, and to everyone else at CH for making such a solid video.
This project had some pretty interesting requirements:
A single singer to impersonate Katy Perry, Ke$ha, Lady Gaga, and Justin Bieber
Music production that switches to match each time the impersonation does
Enter Angela Ingersoll, one the most talented & hard-working singers I’ve worked with so far, below in gaga sunglasses:
In one marathon vocal session (the longest I’ve ever been in) she knocked out FIVE vocal impersonations (this includes a Taylor Swift section which was later cut for logistical reasons). She works really fast- vocal impersonation takes a long time no matter how you slice it. In this case we also had to make sure the characters were distinguishable from one another. Angela was constantly pushing for better and better takes to capture the subtleties of each singer, seemingly tireless even in a high key. As a producer I always hope for musicians with this kind of drive.
The shape-shifting music production was a nice challenge too. As this was very POP I didn’t need a lot of live musicians, but you’ll hear serial session player Max Crowe on guitar for the Katy Perry sections.
I’m very excited to announce that another short I scored for CollegeHumor is up for a Webby Award (considered the “Oscar” of the internet). We’re in a tough battle against a slew of celebrities (Steve Carrell, Zach Galifianakis, Justin Bieber to name a few) You can vote for “Grammar Nazis” by clicking HERE.
Here’s my original write-up on the project from May of last year:
I had a fun time scoring this pitch perfect Inglorious Basterds Parody. I even play a bit of accordion for the intro (a la the Nick Perito piece in the real film) over a whopping 3 chords by regular session player Max Crowe. For the rest of the score we decided on subtle tension building, with a big swell at the end.
I’m in total awe of Josh and Vince’s acting in this one.
This is one of my favorite recent projects, for a few reasons:
First, I got to write all the music and had a good amount of creative freedom. Expert internet humorist Streeter Seidell wrote the meme-packed lyrics and gave some basic direction (a deep sexy voice rapping the verses with occasional singing, a chorus that “swells”, etc). I had fun layering in different stuff to build as the song goes on… pianos, vibes, mellotron, synthesizers, and even brass.
Secondly, I got to work with some great musicians. Will Wheaton is featured in the verses, and seems to have the deepest sexiest voice in LA (he’s subbed for Isaac Hayes on Southpark if that gives you an idea of his caliber). He’s extremely hardworking and nailed all the details.
Singer/actor Matt Geiler is the prominent voice in the chorus and you can also hear him “emoting” throughout the verses. He had me laughing a lot during the session with his spot-on pop adlibs.
I also brought in my friend Greg Nicolett to season the last chorus with trombone and I played some trumpet as well.
Here’s an early score I did for CH, a little multi-genre challenge.
As I didn’t have any sailors handy, you get to hear my best attempt at some Gilligan’s Island style singing. I used a ribbon mic to make it sound more old-timey, and layered in a whole bunch of Carls to sound like the original.
I love working on animations, and the above sound design + music project was no exception.
I checked out a bunch of dragon ball z clips courtesy of youtube to get a flavor of their sound design. It’s largely a mix of explosions, jets, whooshes, etc. mixed with old-school sci-fi sounds (synthesizers galore!) I’m assuming the sonically dense fight scenes are the reason so many DBZ episodes consist of the characters just standing around grunting… their sound guys just needed some downtime?
The music mostly stays in line with the american DBZ music, which I must say is VASTLY inferior to the original Japanese music. Holy moly. In contrast, the former often sounds like some guy ham-fisting away at a casio.
Other than that, you can also hear me doing some vocalizations e.g. Goku yelling at 1:47 and Piccolo (the green guy) grunting at 2:15- probably the closest I’ll ever get to “acting”.
This project was my introduction to Jersey Shore, which I was quite fortunate to have never previously seen. This amazingly astute Netflix review (thanks reddit) pretty much sums up my feelings on the show ;) I have to say, putting a nice huge punch sound in at 2:21 was QUITE satisfying.
Here’s a Boyz II Men parody I produced for CollegeHumor featuring Romany Malco (No Ordinary Family, Weeds, 40-Year-Old Virgin). I was all of 12 years old when this song came out… working on this was such a bizarre way to be revisiting my childhood.
To keep things simple / affordable, I decided to tackle this using 2 singers instead of 4. I really lucked out: that’s the incredibly talented Maurice Smith on lead vocals + some harmonies, and another great singer, David Vines, filling out the rest (including the airy “super-bass” vocals during the choruses.)
They shot this one out here in LA and invited me out to the set! (which happened to be a crazy mansion) A few pictures:
Myself with Romany Malco & backup singers. Left to right: Nic Huffman, me, Romany, Jordan Carlos, ____ (name escapes me!)
Sam Reich directed this one. Here is he working with the backup dancers on some smooooth choreography.
Here’s another song I produced with lyrics by prolific parodist Streeter Seidell.
When I first started listening to music as a kid the only CDs I had were by the Beach Boys and the Beatles.. and to this day I never get tired of revisiting them. This was my first time, however, recreating a Beatles track from the ground up and it was definitely a good learning experience. There are some pretty bold creative choices in the original mix such as:
the bass and acoustic guitar are extremely compressed
the electric guitars are mixed very high towards the end
the vocals have a very strong slap-back delay (pretty typical for lennon, of course)
In my opinion, all this results in an overall sound that’s pretty compelling & interesting.. a nice reminder that experimentation and non-intuitive choices can lead to a much cooler result than playing it safe.
Props to Matt Geiler on vocals, Max Crowe on guitar & bass, Jon Steinmeier on drum sequencing.
Here’s something I scored for CollegeHumor back in 2009- a parody of one of my favorite childhood movies, Beetlejuice.
The dialog is so fast-paced (that’s the amazing Josh Ruben as the titular character) we opted to just give it a little intro and outro music score-wise. In any case, Elfman is one of my idols so it was a lot of fun.
Then there’s the end tag in which I do my best to sing like Harry Belafonte. Funny story… when I was working on this video the REAL Harry Belafonte just happened to be in town for a screening. I managed to get his agent’s assistant on the phone on the off chance he’d be interested in stopping by to record. As expected, they told me Harry’s about 80 years old now and doesn’t sing much anymore. Worth a shot!
I produced the music for this parody of Summer Nights from Grease, with lyrics by Jake Hurwitz.
This was the last project I made before moving from Chicago to LA, and was very glad to bring in one of my favorite singers, Leslie Beukelman as the voice of Sandy (Oliva Newton-John). You might want to listen to the original song again first… she is EERILY accurate, and nailed every nuance we could find.
Lucky for me, she brought her friend John Tashjian along, who did a great job on the Danny (John Travolta) part. I was shocked when he whipped out a dead-on Kineckie (thick Brooklyn or Bronx-ian accent) so I had him cover that part too.
Longtime friends Nick Thompson and Max Crowe respectively/respectably played saxophones and guitar/bass, and Josh Sauvageau was interning like crazy. For the gang vocals I layed in a bunch of other fun people: Caroline Davis, Noel Taylor, Alice Wedoff, Jacob Carlson.
I don’t have anything Thanksgiving-themed to post, but I do have something holiday-related. This is a piece I did music and sound design for earlier this year.. a parody of Tim Burton’s Nightmare Before Christmas.
As with Web Site Story, I:1) didn’t have sheet music so did my best to recreate all the parts by ear. (I’m of course using samples and a few great musicians rather than a real orchestra) Here is the original if you’re curious to compare.2) thoroughly enjoyed dissecting this track and figuring out what makes it work. Danny Elfman is one of my all-time favorites and this was a real joy to work on. A very intensely-fast-paced-race-to-the-deadline kind of joy.
That’s Jacob Carlson on vocals (as Danny Elfman!) and one of my Chicago favorites, Gerald Bailey on trumpet. Last, and surely least importantly, I cameo (vocally) as a drunk priest at 0:55.
The lovely claymation is by Chelsea Manifold, and a few nice visual effects are by the wizards at Gloo Studios.
As for my friends at CollegeHumor: Josh Ruben and Vincent Peone directed, Ben Joseph wrote & produced, and David Fishel edited.
I got a request for some Dark Knight-ish music last year for this CH sketch. I checked out a few Hans Zimmer cues and created a similar sort of “stuff’s happening!” pulse accompanied by appropriately ominous low brass swells.
Featuring Pete Holmes as Batman (with a spot-on subtle lisp… “lightly irradiated bills-ss”, ha) and the very funny Matt McCarthy as Gordon.
“Scare Tactics” is a live action puppet piece co-directed/co-produced by the great Frankie Cordero and the also-great David Fishel.
This was a lot of fun to sound design.. my favorite part was recording the vocalizations (vocal parts besides the actual narration, which is by Andrew Schoen). Turns out my go-to guitar/bass expert Max Crowe is great at screaming so I had him handle the numerous freakouts for “Charlie”. I handled the narrator character’s vocalizations (e.g. grunting for the fence jumping at 0:47, ugh!’s and such for the fight scene at 1:20)
Chicago has been a great place to build momentum over the past 4+ years, but the timing feels right to get out where all the film infrastructure is (NYC was very tempting too). I’ll miss all the talented musicians and filmmakers I’ve had the pleasure of working with here.
I’ve somehow managed to trick my great friend Jason Jackson into co-piloting a moving truck across the country so I’ll have some entertainment for the trip. Speaking of Jason… I had the pleasure of recording him recently, as the operatic voice of a (usually) inanimate object:
Kudos to Dan Gurewitch for writing the song (and starring in the video for that matter), and to the following killer musicians for some very fun sessions:
Man Vocals - Jon SteinmeierHoodie Vocals - Jason JacksonCello - Lilianna WoskoGuitar/Bass - Max Crowe