Scrounging for Inspiration

Dave Business, Cracked Up (Blog), Creating, Music/Audio Leave a Comment

It’s freakin’ cold in Vancouver … well, at least by Vancouver standards … and I’m sitting with a puppy on my feet waiting for the coffee to brew with my layers of clothes and my fancy-dancy obligatory Roots Canadian-wear on my head.

It’s been a day or so since I’ve posted something in this series.  I’ve been a tad busy.  I still haven’t gotten the ever-elusive “It’s perfect! I love it! Don’t change a thing.” feedback … nor do I actually expect it.

Sure, there are directors out there that you work with that will take anything you hand over as long as it doesn’t sound like muzak and doesn’t break any intellectual property laws.  There are others that, try as you may, you can’t seem to bring them the right sounding cue … ever.

I’ve worked with this director in the past, so I know he’s definitely in the middle of the spectrum.  Even though he might not be able to articulate things in musical terms, he knows what he wants but isn’t obsessively rigid about his ideas.

I’ve decided to tackle the big cues first.  Anything that’s hitting or above the 1.5 minute threshold gets on the list.  The big ones, at least in this film, are the ones that correspond to key moments within the film – transition points, overcoming odds, failing… all those good chewy plot changing elements.

Creative Juice Maker Please…

The problem I sometimes encounter is a form of “writers’ block”.

The issue – how do you fill up the empty page … or well, “Arrange Window” with all those empty tracks of instruments?  That’s what I’m paid to do isn’t it?

Usually, things will start popping into my head, sometimes just noodling around with a melody, rhythm or chord progression will start something off.

But, there are times, when none of that seems to get things in gear.

It’s the age-old dilemma of how to find inspiration.  Unfortunately, with the amount of cues to write and the time left, I don’t really have the luxury of taking the day off to come back to things later.

I found myself in one of those situations yesterday.  I was starting a new cue where I’d written: “epic!” in the music notes column of the spotting notes.

I wasn’t getting anything. I played the scene multiple times, I placed appropriate markers at transitions, hits, focus points, etc. and I’d set out a tempo map that seems to suit things.

Nothing, Nada, Zero.

Bombastic Neo-Arena Rock to the Rescue.

It could have been that the kids were home and doing their expected job of providing useful and opportune distractions, or it could have been that I just needed to get up and clear my head, but I wasn’t able to jump-start anything that I liked.

Fortunately, it was about time that I had to start getting dinner on, so I started looking for something I could listen to that could defibrillate my inspiration.

What’s suitable for helping get inspired to do epic, aggressive, big orchestral stuff?

I pulled out Bigelf‘s “Cheat the Gallows”.

Not orchestral, by any means, but definitely big, aggressive and kind of epic.

If you’re not familiar with them, take a bit of Deep Purple, Pink Floyd, ELP, David Bowie, Genesis and a touch of Golden Earring, then you kind of get what Bigelf is all about: big, retro arena-based prog-rock sound.

After dinner, and the bedtime routine, I was able to sit down and bang out some cool (at least I thought they were) ideas against the scene and start filling in the orchestration a bit.  Things were rolling again.

I’ve come to kind of learn that, when I get into those kinds of situations, playing something that exactly matches the genre, style, sound and all that of what I’m trying to go for, doesn’t help that much.  Getting my head into a space where I can start processing new elements seems to help out.

I don’t find that going to the total opposite end of the spectrum (if I’d put on Sade instead of Bigelf for instance) is helpful.  Thank goodness for a deep and diverse music collection!

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