29
February 2008
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Cue of the Week: “Final Victory”

It’s a bit of a joke to name a cue “final victory”, given that everything from computer games to wildlife documentaries invariably features a piece of music by that name. This particular final victory comes from Empire Earth II; it opens with the themes for the American region (or “faction”, to use contemporary parlance) which is combined contrapuntally with the game’s overall central theme, connecting the particular wrapped-up mission with a sense of the game as a whole.

I’m a big fan of the dramatic pause as a musical technique, and not just because the wind players inevitably complain if you don’t get them a chance to breathe. In endings like this one, I imagine a hypothetical narrator speaking a final word of a monologue in the gap left in the music – even though in this case there’s no actual voice-over.

(Click on the play button to stream, or the cue title to download.)

Final Victory
 

15
February 2008
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Cue of the Week: “Dennis and Lauren”

This cue is the romance theme (now there’s a term you don’t seem to hear in film score descriptions any more!) from the film The F-Zone. I was beyond thrilled to have wind virtuoso Jon Clarke in my orchestra, having admired his oboe performances in Thomas Newman’s scores, and couldn’t help but write him a solo here. (I can’t quite tell if this is the oboe or the rarer oboe d’amore.)

(Click on the play button to stream, or the cue title to download.)

Dennis and Lauren
 

01
February 2008
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Cue of the Week: “The Industrious Villagers”

A few months prior to starting work on Empire Earth 3, I composed a few preliminary music cues to help establish the overall artistic direction for the score. These were free-form pieces inspired only by my imagination of what gameplay might be like; they were especially fun to write because they were so unconstrained.

At the same time, I had to maintain a certain balance between between musical interest and unobtrusiveness. A gameplayer, unlike a moviegoer, may potentially have to sit through the same music four hours on end. And more to the point, he or she also has access to an options screen with a “mute the music” button. A score needs to offer both artistic enjoyment and extreme re-listenability if it’s going to survive in such a capricious environment!

Here’s one of my “prototype cues”, meant to evoke scurrying woodcutters and other inhabitants of a forest settlement.

(Click on the play button to stream, or the cue title to download.)

The Industrious Villagers
 

25
January 2008
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Cue of the Week: “The Storm Gathers”

This cue is technically a rerun, as it was originally posted on the earlier version of this blog, way back in fall of 2005. But since most of the readership here has joined since then, I figured it wouldn’t hurt to cheat in this case.

I’ve always had a predilection for the “stormy” school of programmatic orchestral pieces. (I am a big proponent of the rarely-performed original version of Mussorgsky’s Night on Bald Mountain, which is far more impassioned and cinematic than the Rimsky-Korsakoff remix we’re all used to hearing.) Here’s one of my stabs at writing in this genre.

(Click on the play button to stream, or the cue title to download.)

The Storm Gathers
 

18
January 2008
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Cue of the Week: “The Audit”

This week’s cue comes from the film The F-Zone, wherein an innocent businessman’s life is ruined by the IRS. (Perhaps a bit topically premature for January, but I figure I’ll want to play more cheerful music when tax season does roll around.)

When recording this cue, I found that due to a timing change it was one measure too long. Having no time to rethink the music while standing in front of 60-some-odd very expensive session players, I simply lopped off the first bar. This gave the cue’s opening a dissonant, off-balance feel that I like better than the more on-the-nose intro I’d originally written. Chalk one up for serendipity!

Fabulous multi-instrumentalist Jon Clarke plays the english horn solo at the close of the cue.

(Click on the play button to stream, or the cue title to download.)

The Audit
 

11
January 2008
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Cue of the Week: “Star Trek: Stardock Refuel”

Here’s another selection from the Wii/PS2 game Star Trek Conquest. In contrast to last week’s anthemic musical selection, this cue has a more anticipatory flavor.

We composers often have to get creative in renaming cues for the listening public. Technically this piece is called “Menu Music Cue #2”. This is useful to the developers, who need to organize their game’s audio assets, but doesn’t quite inspire that sense of far-reaching wonderment we associate with the Star Trek franchise.

Film often presents a similar challenge; almost every cue starts out with a name like “Travis Shoots The Guy On The Motorcycle”. It’s up to the composer or album producer to add a little poetry to the soundtrack titles, while at the same time letting fans have a clue what the music originally accompanied. I might therefore rename the cue “High-Speed Pursuit”, but not Threnody On The Horrors of Violence in D Minor”.

Enough digression! Enjoy the music of… space.

(Click on the play button to stream, or the cue title to download.)

Stardock Refuel
 

04
January 2008
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Cue of the Week: “Star Trek Conquest”

This week’s music selection is the introductory theme from Star Trek Conquest, a game for the Nintendo Wii and Playstation 2. While I’m not a hardcore Trekkie, I’ve always been a big fan of the original-cast movies (particularly Star Trek II, which I regard as one of the best sci-fi movies ever) and the inspiring adventurous spirit of their scores.

My challenge here was to write something that fit in with a the existing Trek musical tradition, but also stood on its own legs as original music. I had hoped to drop in a nod to Alexander Courage’s classic theme, but alas, legal complexities prevented it. That aside, this score was a real treat to write.

(Click on the play button to stream, or the cue title to download.)

Star Trek Conquest
 

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