Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Blackbird

We race through our lives like rats in maze – head down, focusing on getting through, getting to that other side. How will we know when we made it? With my blinders down, I find myself charging forward and often forget to put my head up and look around. In moments like these, I look to Wallace Stevens, one of the best insurance salesmen ever, to slow me down and give me perspective. Right now, I currently feel like Part II. Enjoy.

Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Blackbird

By Wallace Stevens

Among twenty snowy mountains,
The only moving thing
Was the eye of the blackbird.

I was of three minds,
Like a tree
In which there are three blackbirds.

The blackbird whirled in the autumn winds.
It was a small part of the pantomime.

A man and a woman
Are one.
A man and a woman and a blackbird
Are one.

I do not know which to prefer,
The beauty of inflections
Or the beauty of innuendoes,
The blackbird whistling
Or just after.

Icicles filled the long window
With barbaric glass.
The shadow of the blackbird
Crossed it, to and fro.
The mood
Traced in the shadow
An indecipherable cause.

O thin men of Haddam,
Why do you imagine golden birds?
Do you not see how the blackbird
Walks around the feet
Of the women about you?

I know noble accents
And lucid, inescapable rhythms;
But I know, too,
That the blackbird is involved
In what I know.

When the blackbird flew out of sight,
It marked the edge
Of one of many circles.

At the sight of blackbirds
Flying in a green light,
Even the bawds of euphony
Would cry out sharply.

He rode over Connecticut
In a glass coach.
Once, a fear pierced him,
In that he mistook
The shadow of his equipage
For blackbirds.

The river is moving.
The blackbird must be flying.

It was evening all afternoon.
It was snowing
And it was going to snow.
The blackbird sat
In the cedar-limbs.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Here's The Story . . .

I relish the opportunity to write music whenever possible, especially when there are constraints involved. The hardest thing about writing music is the vastness of possibilities. This is the nonsense, the space, the absence of form or wit. This is why I write my blog and my fascination with creation and form.

When I write music for myself, I start with the guitar – a riff, a chord change. From there, a melody is born. Out of the melody comes a mood and then words coalesce on the tip of my tongue. At first I usually mumble some sounds but eventually, meaning takes shape and I develop a theme. The rhythm of language and the melody, and the mood drive the lyrics and then the force of will and the cerebrum takes over. From there comes a song.

Working as a professional composer, the contraints are much tighter. Take Nickelodeon. Take irony. Nick at Nite bought the rights to play the Brady Bunch on the network but through some strange contractual snafu, they were not allowed to use the theme song in the promos. So they called me up and said – Tim, do what you do. The constraints this time was to create a piece of music that evoked the Brady Bunch theme song but did not impinge on the copyright. I must come as close to stealing as I possibly can without stealing.

Arrangement, rhythm, timbre, bpm, performance (in a manner), tonality . . . none of that can be copyrighted. So I take those things as much as I can and change the melody, which can be copyrighted. In the case of the Brady Bunch theme, I actually created a harmony part (mostly) and used that as a melody. This is probably pushing the envelope. No law suits yet (knock on wood).

This is the theme song we all know and love:

It's cool in a shitty 80's TV Theme Song kinda way. It's got a great white-boy groove. I can almost see the band – eyes cloyed, overbite in full force . . .

Here is what I wrote:

OK yeah I don't have a good white-boy groove, nor do I have a real drummer or horns. I mixed the horns low because frankly they don't sound that good. Fake horns never do. But I think I nailed the breakdown and the guitar/bass. That I can rock out on.

Here's the spot. The opening music is stock music.

And here's the spot with music only. I had to cut it up a bit to fit the spot, as you will see.

Friday, April 27, 2012


Can you say BOOM? This promo just drips with the Boom Sound Effects Library. In a pinch, that library can take you from zero to that's a wrap in less than 2 hours. That's about how long it takes me to mix a promo like this puppy.

Cheers to an awesome voiceover by the lead actor, Robert Taylor. Other than my killer SFX, the voiceover truly makes the spot. The music sets a nice mood too. Oh and the cinematography. Don't ya just love Wyoming? My favorite state in the Union, hands down.

"Watch the moon . . . smiling in the sky, hum a tune – prairie lullaby. Peaceful wind. Old coyotes cry. Song of home, my Sweet Wyoming Home." Cheers, Danny Gotham.

As always, here is the SFX split out. Boom. Boom.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

The Legend of Korra

From time to time, I have the privilege of working on some fairly high profile projects. Whether it's the launch of a new product like HBO GO, rebranding a network, or mixing a documentary on fallen soldiers in Iraq, there are some opportunities that come along that remind me that creativity and content creation can impact our lives in profound ways. Sometimes it's disruptive, sometimes it's fun, sometimes it helps to make us think and make us better people. It's a great feeling to be part of these moments.

When I was asked to mix some spots to promote a new Nickelodeon show called The Legend of Korra, I knew that this was a moment that would affect millions kids around the world. The Legend of Korra is a follow up of the critically acclaimed and widely popular series Avatar, the Last Airbender. I knew that the mix on the spots that I did for Korra were very important to help sell the excitement in the series so I really tried to push the envelope and make a dynamic and powerful mix on the promos. Here is one of my favorites.

The back end of the spot has a lot of loud/soft/loud/soft to increase the excitement and energy of the spot. Although the FX and music tail off a little bit, there is mostly absolute silence and dialogue right before the Polar Dog burst through the window. Hopefully I will knock some kids off the couch with that one. :)

Although a lot of the sound effects were from the series (and all the great music is from the show), I did add quite a few. Here is the SFX split.

Monday, April 2, 2012

Lost Girl

I'm not quite sure what this show is about. A girl who seems to have some sort of special powers. It's a little creepy, a little dark, a little eerie. Is she dead? Is she magic? Is she a lesbian? The world may never know the truth.

As always, here is the SFX only.

The sound I used when the light is coming out of her mouth is blended cymbal scrape, some whoosh action and a little electric guitar feedback.

Storage Wars Sweeps

Storage Wars. Reality television at its finest [note sarcasm]. Whatever, it was fun to make the sound effects.

No really! Here's the FX only mix.

I have been especially enjoying using the Sound Toys "Speed" plug-in to modulate whooshes and other FX to give them a little more movement and doppler feel. Sound tends to have a lot of pitch involved when moving quickly. Listen to the last sound effect on the SFX pass when the endpage comes on and you can hear some of that Speed working it's magic.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Dog the Bounty Hunter

Breakin' the law. Breakin' the law! Don't skip bail when Dog the Bounty Hunter is in your neck of the woods. I usually avoid him at all costs when I skip bail.

Cheers to the producers at A&E that always pick great music. Made this spot happen. I think this was Leigh Ornstein.

As always, here is the SFX split out. I had fun with this one. Guns, chases, drama. Gotta love it.