New Opportunities and Some Changes

Over the past few months I’ve been given some great opportunities to pursue my passions, both as a musician and as a writer. The first of these came when I entered a piece of music into the GamerCon-pilation 2013 competition. I wasn’t expected anything to happen with it, but it was a fun challenge. Much to my joy and surprise, my piece was selected for the album and suddenly I had my first published piece of music. Published at least in the sense that it was mastered and put on an album on Bandcamp, rather than something I put up on Soundcloud myself. I talked about it in more detail back when the album launched during the San Diego Comic Con, but long story short it was a real morale boost for me as a composer. It was a moment where I was able to look back at how much I had improved over the past few years in terms of my writing and mixing. It was great to have my work acknowledged and it has encouraged me to continue pursuing a career as a composer. As part of that, I began working on re-arranging and improving my studio setup. The studio will ideally serve as both a recording/studio space and as a teaching space, when I have time to take on students. It will be a big project that will potentially disrupt my other activities, but I think it will be worth it in the end.

While all of this was happening, I was informed that the website Original Sound Version (OSV) was looking for people who could help out with the site. If you’ve never been to Original Sound Version, it’s a site dedicated to reviewing video game music, interviewing composers, and discussing anything that falls into that specific field of the gaming industry. There’s a talented group of people writing for it and it’s definitely worth checking out if you’re a fan of game music. Much like the GamerCon-pilation I figured it was a shot and the dark and there was no harm in at least sending them an email telling them about myself and this site. After having an interview, discussing different things about the site, and several rounds of emails, I was brought on as a contributing writer. My first review, for the game soundtrack Monaco: What’s Yours is Mine, is already up on Original Sound Version with more on the way. It’s an honor to have been brought on as a contributing writer and I’m look forward to writing more articles and reviews for the site.

In addition to all of this progress, I managed to find myself a full-time job for the fall/winter season. It’s nothing music related unfortunately, but it will help me pay the bills. While this is good for me financially (those student loans aren’t going to pay themselves), it is going to throw a wrench into everything else that I’m doing. I’ll still be able to work on my projects, but I’ll have a lot less free time to focus on everything. Obviously any time not spent at the new job is going to be dedicated to my work for Original Sound Version. As far as I’m concerned, my work for them gets priority. I want to take the opportunity they have given me seriously, so no slacking off. Any remaining time I have will be dedicated to my music. I still want to get work done towards producing my solo album, in addition to some other smaller projects. All of this is going to be a lot to juggle and hopefully I’ll have enough time for everything.

So what does that mean for this site? Well, unfortunately it means that I will be posting less frequently here. Any type of review or game music industry related article I write will likely be content that goes up on Original Sound Version. I had always planned to shift this specific site away from covering game industry content and put more focus on my music projects. This latest series of events has propelled it towards that design. You will still see some occasional content, most likely a glimpse at some of my projects or experiments. I will also make any announcements about conventions I’m going to and any other big things that are happening, in terms of my music. With all of that said, please be sure to check out everything happening on Original Sound Version. I’ll also announce any of my writing activities for this site and for OSV on my twitter account, so feel free to follow me there for updates. With any luck, I should have more things coming down the pipeline soon. It’s been an exciting few months for me and I can’t wait to see what happens next.

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Derelict Ship track

Last week I had the privilege of having one of my pieces featured on a new compilation album of video game composers. Titled the Gam3rCon-Pilation Album 2013, the album features a collection of original pieces by composers from around the world. Originally I wanted to have a post up on the day of the album’s release, but I decided to wait until I had a chance to listen to it in its entirety before commenting or discussing it and my piece. Today I want to present my thoughts about the project and give you a small glimpse into what went into the creation of my track¬†Derelict Ship.

I originally heard about the Gam3rCon-Pilation Album through some people on twitter who had posted a web link for the project. The members of Slightly Ajar Treasure Chest and Gam3rCon were looking to gather submissions of new music by game composers for an album to be released and played at Gam3rCon 2013. The only major requirement, in terms of style of music, was that it had to be a piece that you would hear played in a video game. It could be in any genre and I could use any tools that I had available to create the piece. Given that I am still working towards earning a living as a composer, I didn’t want to pass this opportunity up.

One of the first things I needed to decide was what type of piece I wanted to write for this album. My first thought was to do a big orchestral piece, primarily a boss or battle theme. I felt that, with my classical music background, it would be better to go with my strengths in orchestral writing, rather than working in a genre outside my discipline. However, I began to question if that was the best approach. In some previous composing competitions, I had seen a lot of orchestral composers write big, dramatic, attention grabbing pieces. Many of them were good, but it seemed to be the default approach for a large number of people. I wanted to do something that was different from what others would write. With that thought in mind, I started thinking about alternatives. I began looking at some of the older games in my library, particularly games that I had played over the past decade. One franchise that I’ve really enjoyed, especially in terms of the music, is the Metroid series. Super Metroid and the Metroid Prime games have some amazing atmosphere and the music plays a huge roll in setting the tone of the player’s experience. At that point I decided to try writing a piece for a game in a science fiction setting.

One of the elements that I really wanted to emulate from the Metroid series, Metroid Prime in particular, was the mix of acoustic and electronic sounds. I wanted to have an acoustic instrument provide the melodies and have the rest of the piece built around it. I spent some time exploring my instrument libraries and eventually decided on the Shakuhachi, a Japanese end-blown flute, for the featured instrument. A majority of the writing process involved experimenting with different melodies against a set bass line. Once that was all figured out, I began fiddling with different electronic and bass instruments. The organ and low synth pad were brought in first, with the harp and electric bass added once I decided at what points I wanted them to enter in the piece. I ended up adding a majority of the higher pitched instruments much later in the project’s development. The high synth pad and the voices helped add a more foreboding and tense feeling to the track. I spent a majority of the writing process trying to find a good balance between the shakuhachi’s tranquil passages and the more dissonant synth and vocal sections.

Most of the mixing process was very straight forward. The two instruments that took the longest time for me to finish adjusting were the drums and the shakuhachi. I experimented with a lot EQ settings and reverb effects for these instruments. I wanted to give some reverb to the drums to help give a cavernous sound to the piece, while making sure the drums had enough presence so they wouldn’t get washed out against the other instruments. The EQ for the shakuhachi was something I spent the most time on, out of all the elements in the piece. In the final version I boosted some of the high-end frequencies, which brought out the breathier sounds of the flute. This also helped separate the instrument from the rest of the mix. Once I was finally satisfied with what I had, I submitted Derelict Ship and waited for the verdict. A few weeks later, I received confirmation that the piece had been selected.

The album was released on July 17 on Bandcamp in time for the Gam3rCon in San Diego. This was the first time that I was able to hear everyone’s piece with the final mastering touches that Nate Herrera, aka N8bit, implemented. The Gam3rconPilation Album 2013 has a very diverse collection of styles from the different composers. The genres range from chiptune, orchestral, to electronic. I can honestly say that N8bit did a great job with mastering the Derelict Ship track. He brought out all the elements of my music that I wanted to have stand out and gave the whole piece the extra audio polish that it needed. Every piece on this album sounds excellent and each composer has their own unique sound and style on display. Give it a listen if you are a fan of video game music of any kind. There’s something for everyone to enjoy.

I would like to thank everyone at Slightly Ajar Treasure Chest, including N8bit, and the people from Gam3rCon for putting together this Gam3rConpilation event. It’s been an honor to have been selected for the album and it was a great learning experience for me. I look forward to seeing them continue this as an annual project that helps showcase a diverse range of new artists. Again, if you haven’t checked out the album yet, it’s available on Bandcamp for free at name-your-own-price. Any money put towards the album will be used to support the next album and a portion of the proceeds will also go to the Child’s Play Charity. I had a lot of fun creating the Derelict Ship track and I hope you all enjoy the album.

Gam3rCon-Pilation Album 2013

I mentioned in a few of my previous posts that I was working on submitting a piece of music to be considered for part of a compilation album. There were a few guidelines for the piece. It had to be an original work made specifically for this collection, it had to be written with the idea in mind that you would hear this piece in a video game soundtrack, and it needed to meet some basic guidelines for audio quality. After sending out my track and waiting out the judging process, I am happy to report that my piece, Derelict Ship, was chosen to be included on the compilation album. This will officially be the first time that one of my pieces is getting mastered and released on an album.

The album, as you can probably guess from the title of this post, is the Gam3rCon-Pilation Album. The album is a concept that has been organized by the San Diego Gam3rCon and Slightly Ajar Treasure Chest (SATCh) and features original music from artists all around the world. The tracks are being mixed and mastered by Nate Herrera, aka N8bit, of the SATCh Team. Once finished, it will be uploaded to Soundcloud, Loudr, and Bandcamp on July 17th. It will be a pay what you want deal on Bandcamp and 10% of the proceeds will be going to the Child’s Play Charity. The main idea of the album is to help promote up and coming artists, such as myself, and of course raise a little money for charity. For those of you unfamiliar with the Child’s Play Charity, the group works with over 70 hospitals from around the world to provide toys, books, and games to sick children. These are often expenses that hospitals can’t fit into their own budgets. This helps provide valuable relief and distraction for children who are going through a tough and stressful experience.

If you happen to be going to the Gam3rCon this year, which runs from July 17th to the 21st, the SATCh Team will be there handing out some download codes for the album. I was offered a chance to attend the Gam3rCon out in San Diego this year. Unfortunately, I won’t be able to fly out from the state of Maine on such short notice and financially it just isn’t possible for me this year. If you are a gamer and are in the area, definitely check it out. The convention features tabletop games, tournaments, an arcade, game industry panels, and even an art exhibition. It looks like a lot of fun and I wish I could attend this year.

As of now, I haven’t heard the mastered version of my track or any of the tracks submitted by the other composers. I’m certainly looking forward to hearing the album in its entirety. From what I’ve glimpsed of the other composer’s profiles, it looks like we have a very diverse group of artists contributing to this compilation. When the Gam3rCon-Pilation launches on Wednesday, the 17th, I will be posting links to the sites where you can listen to and purchase the album. I will also be talking about my piece, and be providing some information on its origin and creation. It’s a great honor to have my piece chosen and I’m looking forward to seeing and listening to the finished product.