Friday, January 4, 2008

Christmas BTS #1

Ok, finally some BTS info ;) I'm going to start out of order this time, and this is a special edition BTS!!


I asked Caleb and Daniel Morris, the composers for this project, to give me some insight into how they go about writing music, and then to give me some specific details about writing for this project.

1. How did you get started writing music?
John-Clay asked us if we wanted to do the music for his first movie “The Price of Freedom” and we said yes, not really knowing anything about composing music, much less composing for film. We had done some arranging in the past, but composing was a whole new world to us. So basically it all started by just jumping in and trying to do our best.

2. Who are some of your favorite composers? Who do you study?
John Williams would definitely be on top of that list, also James Horner, John Debney and Jerry Goldsmith. I guess the “big J’s” are the favorites! As far as studying goes, we study who we like best so the list would be the same with John Williams being the one we study most.

3. If you could describe the way you write music in 5 steps what would the 5 steps be?
1. We normally try to come up with a main theme that captures the heart of the film.
2. Playing on the piano along with the movie or sometimes after we have watched a scene trying to come up with ideas and find the music that conveys the feelings and emotion of the scene. At times this can be very difficult when it is not really obvious to us what the music should be. It is essential at times to just trust our instincts in this part of the process.
3. After we have an idea of what we want the music to do with the video, we go back and organize our ideas laying out the temp track and deciding what shots we want to hit and points to emphasize.
4. Now it’s time to lay down a prominent part that we know we want, like the bass line, melody, or rhythm of the section. This gives us something to work off of, something to build the orchestration on. This brings us to the last point, orchestration.
5. This is where we add color and emotion to the basic outline, themes or motif. Deciding on what instruments make the music feel dark, light, happy, sad, or whatever mood we are trying to convey. Choosing the right instrumentation is a crucial part of how the music will sound. We play different instruments along with the main line of the section to decide on what instruments work for that specific scene, sometimes it’s just like trying to “fish” for different things to get just the right sound.
This is a high resolution screen capture of the Cubase program. (click to enlarge - it may take a second to load)

I had the guys describe what each window is used for:
1. The main project window all the colored tracks that you see are the midi tracks
2. The effects window with EQ and reverb plug-in
3. Video window
4. Mixer
5. Stereo enhancer plug-in window
6. Reverb plug-in where we can edit everything pertaining to reverb.
7. Transport panel, this has time code on it also has play, stop, record etc. It has info about the temp track where you can turn the metronome on or off, you can also set left and right locators, there is also a little dial that you can zero in on exact frames.
8. Just a little Mac widget, wasn’t supposed to be in the picture.

4. How do you write music with two people?
What we normally do is have one of us picking out ideas on the keyboard and the other working the computer. As we work through the scene sometimes what we’re playing on the keyboard just seems to fit. Like that’s just what it needs. Other times whoever is playing the keyboard will get a little bit right, but some parts just aren’t quite there yet. When that happens we switch. It seems to work quite well because we can give each other input and thoughts as we compose. With two people we’re able to see different things sometimes and it sure helps out when you get stuck and can’t figure out what comes next.

5. Are there any special instruments that you used for ‘Twas the Week Before Christmas’ and why?
We used a variety of chime sounding instruments to create a “Christmas” atmosphere. To name a few - Celesta, Hand bells and a Glockenspiel.

6. Any special feeling or emotions that you wanted to convey and what techniques did you use to do that?
At the very beginning you will notice high tremolo on the strings, we used this to create a “cold night” kind of feeling and brought in the high hand bell to let you know it’s the “Christmas Season.” On the part where he sees the note we used some lower strings on some dissonant chords to create a darker confused feel and ended the scene with sort of a minor chord. On the working scene we used a light feel with flute and horn doing a faster repeated note version of the theme. Also the guitar was used in this scene to give it a more motivated, diligent sound. We wanted the end to have a bigger “Christmas” feel so we used a larger orchestral setting still using some of the chime sounding instruments that you hear at the beginning with the theme coming in really slow before it says “Merry Christmas.”

Here are a couple of incomplete music samples from the project. I find it fascinating to hear music at different stages of completion. Clip #1 - Clip #2

7. How long does it take? (on average)
It all kind of depends, but I would say one minute takes us about 5-6 hours. (Lot of hard work).

8. Why do you write music? What is your purpose?
Our ultimate purpose in writing music is to glorify God. We want to write music for films that accomplish this goal. Music is a powerful element of film and can be used to communicate a message to the audience in a very compelling way. We want to use this powerful element of music to compliment and uplift Christian films that exalt the Lord Jesus Christ and hold up a standard of solid biblical truth.

Listen to samples of their music at the bottom of this page.

[UPDATE] Morris brothers music website - Shekinah Springs Studio

-Thanks to the Morris boys for the great information, and all their hard work!

1 comment:

Kayleen said...

Excellent post!!

The mind of a composer is fascinating to me. Great to get a peak into the Morris brothers' amazing minds for music!