I design and create most of the sounds I write with. I almost always incorporate psychoacoustic properties within my sounds to push the composition as far as I’m able to reach into the emotional direction each piece of music is headed. We have primal reactions to sounds and there are qualities we instantly find funny, sad, upsetting, agitating, triumphant, gross, etc. When my baby cries, I instantly feel stress. Just a hint of a baby crying built into a melody will invoke that same feeling when a scene calls for it. A lion roar pushes our button to recoil when layered into a scary sting for a bad guy. It worked in the 1920’s for MGM’s logo and it truly does get your attention. 30hz will make you feel sick to your stomach. When Hitler would address huge crowds, they would push that register in high amplitude when he would say something poignant like, “Vee Vill Conquer Z Verld!” People felt they were in the presence of a powerful force. “Sounds” are powerful forces and when doing complicated builds of layers and textures, you’re in the unique position to call on, manipulate and scale the intensity of many complex emotions. Quiet can be the most disturbing sound of all. Anechoic chambers are the quietest rooms on the planet and most people can only stay in a few minutes before they feel sick.
I’ve been scoring a new show called The Hundred.
This has been a challenging job for a few reasons. I’ve tried many different palettes, approaches and directions and there has been no easy way to make it work. In the end, the score is a little bit of everything and a lot of it. I have 5-6 days per episode to score 33-38 minutes of music. The score combines sound design oriented landscapes with electronics, rock band, world and epic orchestral elements fused with a range of intimate and choral vocals. I work 18 hours a day, 7 days a week. That’s 127 hours a week…all with my homemade psychoacoustic sounds. I use every device at my disposal and I write decisive music. My computer stays on round the clock and I sleep 10 feet away from it. I don’t escape my own manipulative sound palette. Ever! A week ago, I got the stomach flu and for 20 hours I stared at my computer and either vomited or felt like vomiting. I realized that after I felt better, I still felt lousy. I did it to myself. If I had just written music with normal sounds, I would’ve been fine and back to work. But another 4 days later, every other piece of music would make me sick again. There was no win for this situation because I have to deliver on time and I was finally on a roll with the sound of the score.
And then I realized why I was really feeling sick. It’s because the show is great. I’m entirely drawn in. Plus, everyone is working as hard as I am. You can see it right there on the screen. Intuitively, I think I get competitive with the rest of the production. When a scene is better than the music, I’ll rewrite until I feel I’ve elevated it.
I do have moments of relief. Babies don’t just cry in the score of the hundred. I’ll use cooing in romantic themes and laughing in playful moments. And when those scenes come, they’re hard fought and earned.
In the end, I’m my own lab rat…I am my own casualty in the name of your entertainment 😉