harry gold

 

A few months ago I had the opportunity to write some  music for the short film ‘Behind the Curtain’. Written by Colm Lennon and Rob Slattery, directed by Rob, this unique piece is a sort of character study of a motivational speaker called Harry Gold. I may be  biased but I think it’s an excellent film and I was delighted to collaborate with Rob on the soundtrack.  Colm Lennon also stars as Harry Gold and delivers a very convincing performance, inhabiting this unhinged, disturbing character completely. Rob and Colm are a great team and I wouldn’t be surprised to see future projects of theirs receiving wider acclaim.

Short films are a difficult medium, seeking to encapsulate an idea or reveal some kind of truth in a very limited time frame. Behind the Curtain does this for me and left me thinking there is scope for a feature about it’s main character. Although the film has a kind of reveal at the end, like many shorts, this time it was quite different, abstract almost. Rather than tying up the ends neatly and offering some kind of obvious conclusion, Behind the Curtain leaves you with an uneasy feeling, a question unanswered. This type of art is what I’m often attracted to. It stays with you after the fact.

The music I wrote was mainly made up of short cues with two slightly longer themes at each end of the film. Rob had a preference for the sound he was looking for, a vintage electric piano, which was the starting point that informed how the rest of the music would develop. I used the excellent Waves electric 88 plugin for this purpose, writing all of the melodic lines on this instrument. Other sounds used were some sampled strings which can be heard on both themes; Be your Desire and Seven Steps. Possibly my favourite track is ‘You are alone in the world’ which consisted of re-pitching some vocalisations of my own and using granular synthesis to stretch these recordings into a ghostly, inhuman sound. Thematically I tried to somehow tap into the mixture of menace and melancholy contained in Harry Golds character.

The full soundtrack is now on a Bandcamp page which I will dedicate to projects like this one in the future. The music is interspersed with outtakes from the film to add context.

 

waterfall

It is true to say that most sounds we hear are made up of many different frequencies and in my experience natural sounds contain a multitude. This was the case with recordings I made recently up in Glendalough Co.  Wicklow. I captured the sounds of the famous waterfall and also a particularly animated, bubbling stream that ran off it.  Even while recording I found myself tuning into the many different notes rippling out of the waters. Each time I go out to do some field recordings the experience becomes more meditative and immersive. It’s a unique way to experience a certain place by taking time out to really listen to it.

Later I took these recordings and used a technique I had recently learned to emphasise the notes within using EQ. It’s quite a simple process but basically it allows you to make a playable instrument from any source audio file. By applying an EQ to the water recordings I picked the note A3 which is found at 220 Hz and boosted this frequency using a notch filter until the note began to ring out. To further accentuate this I applied another notch at 110 Hz and 440 Hz. This gave me an octave below and above A3. I then duplicated this EQ to raise the volume of the boosted frequencies so I could now clearly hear a note emerging from the water. I then bounced this audio out and re sampled it, setting the root note of the sampler to A3. This new sound was now spread across the keyboard and I could play back the sound of the stream like a kind of water organ. I used the same technique with the waterfall recordings to create a hissing pad sound.  Below is an example of this technique. Every sound here is created using the water recordings as source. It still needs some refining but I can see many possibilities in this process.

Water music 1