This was my first foray into interdisciplinary work and the brief was to provide a games student with 1min of loopable French Café music for his project Missile Command. The games students had to do a remake of the classic ‘shoot em’ up’ game, missile command with a twist; they were each given an artist whose style needed to be blended into their remake and our man Tristan Shaw was allocated René Magritte, a Belgian born surrealist painter. At the initial meeting we were given the below reference track:
Our team consisted of Shay, Brenden and a late addition of Simon who came in to assist with guitar which was the first track we recorded and became the foundation of what was to follow. Communication in an interdisciplinary project is key as each modality has little understanding of what the other requires to achieve their charter. To this end, we immediately formed a Facebook group to stay in constant contact and give and receive feedback to ensure the brief was met to the highest standards.
As you can hear from the reference track, the star of the plate is the piano accordion, so Shay and I set about finding a suitable piano accordion sound on his Juno synth. Most music of this genre is in 3/4 and features the classic ‘boom chi chi, boom chi chi’, as its foundation, so Simon and I figured out a chord progression which he then played on his telecaster. We spent quite a bit of time getting the guitar tone correct to compliment the genre, making it sound as much like an acoustic guitar as possible. From here it was time to compose the main melody so I took the looped .wav of the guitar part home, had a couple of glasses of fine ‘student grade’ red and whistled a tune into my phone that I believed would suit the brief.
One of the concerns raised by our client, was that as the melody was to be looped over the duration of someone playing the game, that it not be too monotonous or annoying. We decided to reduce this risk by extending the loopable section from the commissioned 1 min, to 1 min 30 secs allowing extra time to allow the melody more variety. We ran the hardware synth (on a piano accordion setting that matched the brief), directly into the desk and I laid down the melody line. Now that we had the main melody line and supporting guitar tracks down it was time to approach our games student for his feedback. We explained that we had not completed what we had planned yet and still had work to do but he was super stoked with what we had already! We could have just left it there given he was already happy, but Shay and I had discussed ideas for including a cello and double bass into the tune to fill it out and really wanted to deliver our best.
We chose a cello sound within the Native Instruments ‘Kontact’ plugin as it would sit nicely between the double bass sound we had planned and the high frequencies of the accordion melody. Shay played an accompanying part to compliment the primary accordion melody using MIDI and we then edited the length and velocity of the notes within the midi editor of pro tools. Now came the challenge. We all agreed that each of us should have a hand in the composition and Brenden was to generate the double bass part. Brenden is not a musician and was suitably daunted by the task, however under our guiding hands and with a little help from some masking tape identifying the notes and order of play, Brenden was eventually able to get something down that resembled our goal!
This was a real challenge for Brenden and he was suitably inspired once he had completed this task. My history in teaching piano really came to the forefront here and I deployed these principals to get Brenden’s confidence up in increments. It was a blessing in disguise for Shay and I also as we had an opportunity to further develop our midi editing skills. The take needed some massaging to fit the rest of the tune but after some fiddling, we nailed it. That was it. The parts were laid down and the only work to do now was to get the loop end and beginning silky smooth in addition to some basic mixing (tape saturation, compression, panning & a little reverb). Everyone left on a high that night especially Brenden who was grinning ear to ear.
The final feedback from the client was glowing and he felt we really had gone above and beyond his expectations. The time frame was tight from the outset but we all worked well together to get the job done within the time allotted. It was a successful project not only with the quality of the deliverables, because:
- We had worked well as a team
- We had adhered to our plan adjusting where necessary.
- The communication between us as a team and also with our client was consistent and effective
- We had all learned a great deal about the tools we use, and
- We had the opportunity to assist one of our colleagues overcome a fear of the unknown and have the pleasure of seeing the positive effect this had on him