A New Year and Some New Plans

Well that was an interesting and busy 5 months. Things in my life have finally slowed down enough that I’ve been able to come back and write a few posts for my poor neglected website. It turns out that working a 40-50 hour day job, remodeling/setting up a studio space, writing news stories and reviews for the Original Sound Version gaming site, and attending conventions doesn’t leave a person with a lot of spare time. But I am finally back. A little tired out, but back.

One of the big things that happened recently involves my work on the Original Sound Version (OSV) site. I had known that this was in the cards for a while, but part of the plan with bringing me on the site was not just that I would be writing for it, I would also eventually be helping run the site. So starting this past January, fellow contributing writer Brenna Wilkes and I became the Co-Managing Editors of Original Sound Version. The original founders of the site have moved on to bigger and better things and they felt confident enough in Brenna and I that they have handed control of the site over to us. I’m honored and humbled to have been given the chance to do this and I hope to continue making OSV a great site to go to for game music reviews and news.

My full-time day job, which was seasonal, has finally ended, so now I’m able to focus on my music and working on OSV. For now, I’ll be focusing my music efforts on expanding and building my portfolio. Even though I didn’t have time to compose over the past several months, I continued to come up with ideas and tried to jot a lot of them down. The lack of original music that I currently have up on this site has been gnawing at me all winter and it’s the first major thing I want to tackle. So with a larger chunk of my time free, I’m going to go into full music production mode. I have some ideas for what I want to do, so hopefully I’ll have some more stuff coming to this site in the near future.

I will try to keep posting on this site when I get the chance. I said that last time of course, but at least I know now that I’ll have some actual time to do it. No more of this once every 5 months nonsense. As I said in my last post, anything involving game coverage that I do is going to be on Original Sound Version, so this site is really being transitioned into a blog/site for my music projects. Be sure to check out some of the stuff we’re doing over at OSV. For now, I’m going to get back to composing and I’ll hopefully have something more to tell you in the next few weeks.

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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.

Upcoming Events: Boston Festival of Indie Games 2013

If you’re looking for a new gaming convention to check out in the New England area, there’s a one-day gaming festival taking place in Boston, Massachusetts next month. On September 14th, the MIT campus will be hosting the Boston Festival of Indie Games 2013. The event is in its second year and will run from 10 am until 10 pm. The event features show floors for tabletop and digital games, a game jam that will go on for most of the day, an art exhibit, and screenings of feature films about gaming. There’s also an off campus concert in the evening running from 7pm – 11:30 pm titled Boston Plays Indies. The concert will feature music performances by Deadbeatblast, Darren Korb, Control Group, DJ Cutman, and Boston’s own Video Game Orchestra. The festival is free to attend, so if you are in the area on September 14th it will definitely be worth checking out. Tickets to the music concert Boston Plays Indies will require you to buy separate tickets and the concert venue requires you to be 18 or older.Boston Plays Indies

The primary focus of the festival is to promote the digital and tabletop games of independent game developers. Over 30 different developers will be at the show to feature their games, which you can play and help test out. The event also features guest speakers include Robin Hunicke, the executive producer of Journey, Chris Remo, a composer and writer currently working at Double Fine, and Brian O’Halloran, an actor/writer probably best known for his role as Dante Hicks in the movie Clerks.

It’s great to see more events taking place on the east coast, especially in the New England area. I’ll be heading to the festival myself and checking out everything on display, including the Boston Plays Indies concert in the evening. This will be my first time attending this particular convention. I’m not sure what to expect, but it looks like it will be a lot of fun. I’m especially looking forward to seeing groups like the Video Game Orchestra and Control Group perform. The last time that I checked, they are still looking for some volunteers to help them set up and run the festival. They’ll provide you with a t-shirt, food, drinks, and lunch for helping out. Be sure to check out their volunteer page if that sort of thing interests you. Again the main festival is free of charge, so give it a look if you plan on being in the area on September 14th. Hope to see you there.

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.

Mixing and Music Writing

The past few months for me have been an adventure into the complexities of the world of music mixing and audio design. As someone who always wants to learn and improve upon my current set of skills, I occasionally find myself exploring some avenue of knowledge that I have yet to truly master. For the past month or so I’ve been studying up on mixing techniques and just general information on how to better organize my studio setup. I come from a classical music background so the use of more modern technology in my creative process has been a very recent development. In most scenarios within the classical music world, I only had to worry about composing the music itself and arranging the parts for the performers who would be playing the piece. The music is looked over by the performers, details and errors are fixed, the piece is rehearsed, and if all goes well a performance of the piece results.

Music writing before I discovered Logic 9.

Music writing before I started learning Logic 9

Usually the end goal or product to reach in the classical music setting is the actual performance of the piece in front of an audience. Getting the music recorded is often an afterthought. It presents its own set of challenges and requirements, but is usually fairly simple in its execution. Recording and mixing adds another series of steps to the process. So for me, it’s a new set of skills and disciplines that I’m still learning.

During my information scavenging, I’ve come across a variety of opinions and preferred methods for mixing. It’s been interesting to read the varied theories from different sets of professionals and experts on the subject. For the most part I’ve spent time testing out some of these methods on my earlier projects with some encouraging success. Most of this has been alternate ways of using EQ, compression, and reverb. Through some of these experiments I’m finding which methods I find more suitable for what I’m writing and how I want my mixes to sound. It’s been a time-consuming process, but I can’t really argue with the results.The Mix The improvements have been substantial enough for me to actually create alternate mixes of the pieces that I’ve had up on my Video Game Music page. The newer versions are much closer to what I ideally wanted in sound quality. Inevitably I will always have this feeling of wanting to tweak the older pieces more and more, but it’s something I’ve learned to avoid. It’s a phenomenon that many of my creative friends and peers seem to experience as well. That nagging push towards perfection is just something we’ve all had to learn to live with. So for now these new versions will stay to represent my mixing skills or lack thereof.

I have a few new projects in the pipeline. The first being a piece for a composition competition. The work in question needs to be written specifically for this event, so the immediacy of a looming deadline makes it my highest priority. There is no limitation on the style of the music, but it needs to be something you would theoretically write for or hear in a video game soundtrack. I’m definitely going to be trying some new things with this particular piece. My current plan is to write something in the style of a science fiction game or setting. Very atmospheric and much more experimental than what I normally write. I really want to push for originality in this project and hopefully I’ve come up with something that will separate my work from the rest of the pack. It is a piece that I will be showing off on a future post regardless of how well it ends up doing against its competitors. I am also working on a few other pieces that I plan to add to my portfolio. Their progress will obviously depend on how much time is taken up by the previously mentioned project. Until then I’ll try to keep posting updates on the music and get some other articles posted in between those. It’s going to be a very busy month.

Post PAX East update and Site Changes

Greetings everyone. I’ve recently returned from my trip at PAX East. It was my first time attending for the entire 3 days and I’m still feeling exhausted. I made some new connections, met some great people, and had a fun time. I’m still in the midst of processing everything that I experienced there. I’ll be posting a summary of some of what I saw in did in a few days, but for now I’m getting myself organized for the next set of craziness that I will bring upon myself. I am not going to GDC this year but it’s something I hope to do next time. I honestly can’t imagine how people manage to attend PAX East and then immediately head out to GDC without collapsing from exhaustion. Those of you that do, you are an inspiration and I wish you the best of luck. So like I said, there will be a write-up later on the events of PAX East, but for now I’ll be recovering and trying to get myself back on schedule.

After this trip I’ve decided to go ahead and start working on some changes to this site. I’m planning on creating a home page rather than using the blog section as the main page. This is something I’ve always planned on doing, but now seems like a good time to start looking at implementing it. Another change will be the Video Game Music section. I’ve featured two pieces I wrote on that page as a set of samples of my work. My original intention was to continue to add pieces on that page, as a digital portfolio for my work. That plan was derailed by other projects, including a game soundtrack and work on my album. So I will be making some efforts to beef up that section and create some more demo tracks. Primarily, I want to get a wider variety of my writing capabilities shown. I primarily write orchestral music, but I also mess with experimental and electronic music genres, so I’d like to get a fuller representation of my composition pallet up on display. This will most likely result in my original album being put on the back burner for now. I’ll still continue work on it, but I feel this is a needed shift in priorities for me. I will probably be looking at reworking some of the other sections of the site, but I’ll see how the rest of this goes. So look forward to seeing some more content and some changes on the site. There will be a PAX East post up soon, but in the meantime, I’m going to get some rest and get ready for the days ahead.