Carl Sondrol

Composer and music producer

Filtering by Tag: quirky

Here’s my score for the film Little Hero!

You can listen to it for free on almost any streaming service. If you love it, or you’re my Mom, you can buy it above for $4 (every bit helps me make more music!)

If iTunes is your thing, I’ll owe you a hug if you write a review (but don’t buy it there – those goofs want $7 for a 10-minute album!)

Little Hero is a short documentary in which a six-year-old explains her unique relationship with her twin brother, who was diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder.

The way kids communicate can be so unfiltered and pure. Directors Marcus McDougald and Jennifer Medvin honor this by showing Avery and Xander’s world from their perspective; there are no stats or soapbox to get you “riled up” about autism.

So my first thought on the music was “don’t mess this up!”


Xander at my studio

While we’ll never know what it’s like to be Xander, his story in the film is full of very relatable emotions. My aim with the music was to help us on some level feel what he feels.

The seven tracks trace the arc of the story, which goes something like:

  • contemplative on a swing
  • curious at an aquarium
  • playful while eating pizza
  • imaginative while underwater
  • uncomfortable while getting a haircut
  • stronger after overcoming a challenge
  • yay! (end credits)

Recording at Narnack. left to right: Eleanor Weigert (bass clarinet), me, Brandon Dickert (drums), Griffin Rodriguez (engineer, behind harp), Charissa Barger (harp), Paul Curtis (bassoon). (photo: Marcus)

We recorded most of the musicians live at Narnack Studios. Our engineer Griffin Rodriguez set up a bajillion mics and projected the film on a sheet over the control room window. We took a pizza break before recording the pizza cue, and everyone ominously rattled their instruments for the haircut (Xander doesn’t like haircuts!)


Pizza music


Griffin in the control room at Narnack (photo: Marcus)

Later at my studio I fleshed things out (with synth bass, accordion, percussion, etc.) and mixed.


Mixing (I love checklists)

The funniest part of this project was recording Avery back at my studio, cheering and yelling for “Yay!” I can say unequivocally that she is the most energetic performer I’ve had in the booth – she was literally jumping up and down while recording! Many thanks to Marcus for helping channel her raw energy into a performance AND preventing any microphones from toppling over :)


Avery’s vocal session (photo: Jennifer)


Avery, Jennifer, and Marcus getting some ADR

Finally, Rob Kleiner of Studio Edison mastered the album while I tried to stay awake after a months-long case of mono.


The master(-er) at work (sorry)

If you like the score, check out the film – Marcus, Jennifer, and everyone above did a tremendous job and it was an honor to work on.


Avery, me, and Xander at my studio (photo: Jennifer)

What is a Mullet?

Well, hello again. I had the pleasure of creating music and sound design for this charmingly funny video by my friend Giga Shane.. in which he interviews his parents to gather their theories on the age-old question: “What is a Mullet?”

I brought in some lovely live musicians for this one including:

Bass Clarinet: Eleanor WeigertBassoon: Brittany SeitsCello: Heather McIntoshVocals: Angeline Gragasin

I added some humming, then dusted off the accordion, broken guitar, and even some whole wheat spaghetti to season the music with the right mood for this bizarre conversation.

Special thanks to Richard Howarth for some very detailed work in helping get the dialog levels under control!

Speaking of… this conversation was recorded casually on an iphone, which presented some interesting challenges from a post audio perspective. Who wants to geek out!? Bear with me and I’ll reward you with a few pictures in a moment.

Usually when I’m processing vocals (from a singer tracked in studio for example), they’ve been recorded at a pretty constant distance from the microphone. Microphones will respond differently depending on how far away a sound source is, so this contact distance is helpful because it will yield a relatively consistent balance as far as low, mid, and hi frequencies in the voice. However, in this case Giga and his parents are at different distances from the iPhone which resulted in this scenario:

  • Giga (close to mic): More “harsh” or “bright” frequencies, louder volume
  • Parents (further from mic): More hiss and “muddy” frequencies (more of the “room noise”), softer volume

Since there is music underneath the dialog, it’s important for the speaking to be consistent as possible… from an EQ perspective AND a volume perspective. This will help it be more intelligible, and not as easily covered by the music.

Fortunately there are really cool “dynamic EQ” plugins built for just this type of scenario. I was able to apply a specific EQ setting for Giga (to tame the harshness) and a very different EQ setting to his parents (to reduce the hiss and muddiness).. and automatically transition between these in cases where the phone or the person speaking is moving. That is really really cool, right?

After improving the EQ balance of all the dialog, the overall volume levels could be dealt with using envelopes and compression.

Hmmm, as I seem to have gone on and on about the sound design / mix side, I will summarize the music side quickly: super fun! As promised, a few session photos:

Brittany Seits, Bassoonist Extraordinaire:

O, the delicate timbre of whole wheat thin spaghetti: