Archive for the ‘Film’ Category

Why I Will (Probably) Never Be a Stock Music Library Composer   Leave a comment

Awhile back, a contest was posted that called for composers to write variations on a theme, and one (or maybe a few? I don’t remember) would be chosen for a job writing music for a stock music library loosely associated with a prominent film composer. Several friends sent the contest my way, and while I was very grateful that they thought of me and my interests, I pretty immediately decided against partaking in the competition.

Why would I cut myself off from a potentially lucrative career option by choice?

The short answer is, I’m just not interested in making generic music.

For those of you not familiar with libraries of stock music, composers write pieces of music that convey a particular emotion, mood, genre, or energy; sad, action, drama, horror, upbeat, funky, epic… you get the idea. Filmmakers, marketing agencies, television shows, and whoever else can then pay a flat rate to use these pieces of music to use in their TV shows, commercials, movies, games, or other purposes. It can cut production costs significantly, as there’s one less skilled crew-member to pay. They also know exactly what they’re going to get… but it comes at a bit of creative cost.

By definition, this stock library music is generic. That’s why people purchase it. Clients want music that they can choose from a long list of tracks that will convey the atmosphere they’re looking for (or at least get close enough). These libraries tend to reflect popular music and soundtrack trends; dubstep and Hans Zimmer knock-offs are probably the two most common tracks one would find. While there are near-infinite variations on these tropes and others, this method of “scoring” takes away any potential distinctive character that a video or what-have-you might have were it to be given a totally original score. The composer’s agency is nearly completely denied and replaced with a prerogative pre-determined by set genres and moods. Composers hired for specific projects often have to follow directions of clients rather than follow their creative whims, but in most cases they still are given the opportunity to use more of their own voice than is often allowed in stock music libraries; it’s why their client hired them rather than buying stock music!

This isn’t to say that all stock music or the composers that write it are inherently bad, or that the filmmakers who utilize it are cheap or lazy. Stock tracks can be very effective (see the popular indie game Braid, which utilized only stock library music), and the practice is inherently similar to the use of licensed tracks by established artists used on soundtracks (see Guardians of the Galaxy for an obvious, recent example), and many composers for these libraries are extremely talented. Still, I see it as more of a personal decision than a judgment on those that partake; it’s just not something I can see myself doing effectively or happily.

Now, I say “probably” up there in the heading because I like to be in the habit of never saying never. I might very well change my mind at some point as my values and the industry change. But at this point at least, I’d rather work at a(nother) day job and make the music I truly want to make for the projects I really believe in than make cookie-cutter music made to fit into whatever narrow little genre-box clients are looking to fill.


2013: A Recap   Leave a comment

2013-12-29 22.22.25

I’ll be honest: I kind of hate tooting my own horn. I’m always, always, always wary of becoming “that guy” (ie, an arrogant bastard) who’s always self-promoting and overly proud of himself. However, I’m just honestly so excited and humbled by all the crazy stuff that’s happened to me this year, and I can’t help but think that it’s mostly dumb luck and being surrounded by awesome people. I’d like to recap this year mostly as a record for my future self, but also to show to any potential employers looking for a composer to give money to (HINT HINT directors, developers, everyone).

I managed to write music for 6 shorts:

…4 promotional videos:

…2 video games (still in progress!):

  • Tower of Innocence
  • Out of Time!

…3 EPs with VR Trainers (which were critically acclaimed!) (in addition to a handful of live shows and a feature article):

1 pep band halftime show

…and 1 senior recital (which received rave reviews from peers and mentors!).

I graduated magna cum laude and was named Presidential Scholar of the College of Fine and Performing Arts at WWU.

I co-taught a music education technology class.

I started grad school, was awarded an awesome assistantship, and when, er, the poop hit the fan, I took over full teaching duties for Music 101.

I was hired on to the crew of an awesome feature-length documentary as a musician supervisor and score consultant.

I started my first symphony and finished the first movement.

I went to my first video game convention!


2013-12-18 12.21.50I started this year out not sure of myself, just trying to graduate from college and stay afloat. I end it with a more confident stride and looking towards the future brightly, to use a handful of cliches. I’m really proud of everything I’ve accomplished this year, and I’m excited to try to make next year even half as exciting as this one. Thanks to the countless people who made this trip around the sun as awesome as it was.

Posted 31 December 2013 by jonbash in Film, Games, Music

Mlogs 8 and 9   Leave a comment

Welp, I’ve been off the ball! I did take one week off a while back just because of all the stuff going on in my life (gee, I never would have imagined grad school + long distance marriage would be difficult!), but I’ve been slacking on updating this. Out of curiosity, I checked the stats on this blog, and… look at that, basically no one is reading it. Looks like I need to either stop updating it or work a little harder at getting people to read it.

In any case, here’s the past two little pieces of music I’ve posted. The first is just a little thing I did in Ableton Live (finally) mostly to get a feel for the program a little better. Quite simple, but I played around with some non-traditional harmonies and such. I really like the atmosphere I achieved; it reminds me a little bit of 90s JRPGs and strategy games for some reason.

The second is a short credits track I did this past weekend for Seattle’s 48 Hour Horror Film Project. It was a ton of fun, and I’ve come to learn that sometimes improvising and pushing myself to just get something good that works can produce some pretty sweet results. I was rather satisfied with what I got given the 6 hours I had to write music (I didn’t get a rough cut until the last morning, and they needed enough time to edit the music and sound design in and submit it). You can check out the full film here. I was super stoked about how well the music and sound design worked together despite the sound designers and I never really interacting with each other’s work.

I’ve noticed that a lot of the stuff I’ve been posting has been pretty dark. I think this is partially just the kind of stuff I aesthetically prefer, but I definitely want to work on creating more upbeat stuff that I enjoy, so I hope I can come up with some more cheerful music in the future.

It’s also worth noting that I just finished my first project with the team at Hand Crank Films. They’re a great and talented team of filmmakers that have been producing some of the finest videos in the state for the past several years, and I’m so honored to be working with them. Hopefully I can share this first video with you all soon, and it sounds like I’ll probably be working with them more in the future, which I’m very excited for!

Posted 14 November 2013 by jonbash in Film, Games, Mlog, Music

Mlog 7 – River Tam Beats Up Everyone   Leave a comment

The title of this week’s little piece* is a reference to this classic xkcd (which itself references Joss Whedon’s Serenity and Firefly).

But basically it was an excuse to play with Stormdrum.

I kind of wish I would have recorded a video of myself writing this one, because a lot of it was just me pounding away on my MIDI keyboard like a child. It’s a good thing my roommate wasn’t home because it probably sounded like I was just throwing a tantrum or something. I hope this is how people do it in Hollywood.

Anyways, there’s really not much else to it. Subtle as a brick.

*sidenote: Before I entered the composition program at WWU, I wrote a few short pieces of music as a “portfolio.” I had no idea what I was doing, but one of them was a percussion quartet with this same title. It might still be on my computer somewhere, but honestly, it was pretty bad. But hey, it got me into the program, so whatever!