April 2017
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Cue of the Week: “Morituri Te Salutant”

This orchestral and choral piece opens up Empire Earth 2 with a healthy serving of sturm und drang. Both ensembles were both recorded in the beautiful renovated Magyar Radio studios in Budapest.

One question that arises with archetypical “chanting chorus” music is what to do about lyrics. One school of thought is to not bother, since the listener only hear the vowels for the most part. But not wanting a stream of nonsense syllables, I took it upon myself to cobble together a miniature Latin war poem. Finding words that both made sense and fit musically was quite an effort, but I pulled through thanks to generous assistance of some Latin scholars I reached online.

April 2017
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Scoring Cassock: Lyrics and Language

One of my current scoring projects is a visual novel (a story-driven game) called Cassock — Myghin’s Song. Set in 19th century Britain, the story blends celtic folklore with a dark Lovecraftian twist.

The first element of the score is an eerie folksong that will be used in the trailer and early gameplay. I’ve had the pleasure of collaborating with a group of talented specialists who’ve helped give the tune both regional flavor and the living quality of recorded performance.

First was the matter of lyrics. The song takes the perspective of a malevolent kelpie, who at the start of the game has been dragging children to a watery grave at the bottom of a supernatural lake. (I did say it was a dark story!) I decided to give the lyrics a cruel double-entendre. A sample stanza:

Come take my hand
Let's be unseen
Where the stars cannot find us
Where the dreamers go

At first blush it seems to be an intimate love song, but in context the true meaning becomes clear: it’s an invitation for children to drown.

For authenticity we decided to have both English and Irish Gaelic versions of the song. For the latter translation we tapped into the talents of Eamonn Costello, a specialist in Irish folk music at the University of Limerick.

Translating a song is rarely as simple as word substitution. Some terms require synonymization in order to ease their way across the language barrier. And even when a word is directly translatable, the syllable count or placement of accents can differ. As a result I had to compose an altered version of the melody in order to accommodate the natural rhythm of Irish Gaelic. Here’s an example of how the two versions contrast:

(The same line in English and Irish. Note how the melody was changed to match the rhythm of the Irish language. Below needs its second syllable on a strong beat, whereas the Gaelic aoibhinn needs its first syllable accented.)

Once the song was done and the lyrics were squared away, we faced our next question. Who was going to be able to sing the tune in two languages? For the answer, stay tuned for the next blog installment.

April 2017
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Cue of the Week: “Above the World”

When it comes to orchestral cues I’m more inclined to share live recordings than those made with digital instruments, since the former are evergreen and the latter tend to show their age as technology advances. However, I liked this map view music from Empire Earth 3 so much that I gave it a sonic makeover, including a touch of analog tube emulation for warmth.

Accompanying a screen showing the contested Earth from orbit, this cue’s focus is conveying both tension and the panoramic sweep of the view.

March 2017
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Cue of the Week: “Catherine’s Test”

This week’s selection comes from the feature documentary Touché: A Blind Fencer’s Story, whose subject matter is as inspiring as it is surprising. (If you’ve never heard of sight-impaired fencing, you’re not alone!) The film also documents the struggles of day-to-day living for those who have lost their sight in adulthood.

This cue for nylon string guitar develops the film’s fencing theme (presented earlier on cello), which here reflects the optimism and never-say-die attitude of the film’s primary subject, blind fencing champion Catherine Bolton. Guitar performance courtesy of Tom Strahle.

Morituri Te Salutant // Michael Gordon Shapiro - HOMEPAGE MUSIC
  1. Morituri Te Salutant // Michael Gordon Shapiro - HOMEPAGE MUSIC
  2. Emerald, Texas // HOMEPAGE MUSIC
  3. Mythic Battle // HOMEPAGE MUSIC
  4. The Yard Sale // Michael Gordon Shapiro - HOMEPAGE MUSIC
  5. Investigations // HOMEPAGE MUSIC
  6. Home Room // HOMEPAGE MUSIC
  7. Sands of Arabia // HOMEPAGE MUSIC