Puzzles in space – on creating the Patterna soundtrack

A short while ago I teamed up with programmer Sebastian Schoener to create some music and sound for his new game Patterna, and with its release last week, I wanted to document some of the thoughts and processes that went into creating it.

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Sebastian and I first met when we were both working on the popular Company of Heroes community project Eastern Front, back in 2012. After finishing our respective contributions, we remained friends on Steam and it was through here that he got in touch about Patterna. He was building a puzzle game in Unity inspired by HexCells and wanted an ambient/minimal soundtrack to go with it. The build that I played at the time was a fair bit simpler than the upcoming release, visually in particular, but it was still an intriguing concept that contained depth and a desire to eliminate guessing. The nodes and their visual information were part of a system that was fun to learn and was presented in ‘levels’ that could be procedurally generated for never ending play, and at a difficulty and format customisable by the player. ‘Count me in!’ I said.

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Working on a new game score

Started working with programmer Sebastian Schoener to create music and sound for his upcoming logic puzzle game ‘Patterna’. Here’s a peek at the cerebral sounds incoming!

Sebastian and I met whilst we were both part of the Company of Heroes: Eastern Front team and it’s great to be working together again. Keep an eye out for the final release if you enjoy games like this – he’s making something impressive.

 

Tablet of Destiny Kickstarter – my first feature length film

(Originally posted 17th May 2014)

 

I’m working with director David Wilks on ‘Tablet of Destiny’ a new scifi chase film about an ancient, globe-trotting conspiracy – the Black Knight Satellite.

It’s my first chance to work on the soundtrack for a feature length film, so I’m really hoping this kicks off! It’s literally just started so please consider pledging and supporting us – thanks.

The Canterbury Tales – my second foray into theatre

(Originally posted on 7th March 2014)

It’s great to be working again with the passionate theatre community of the University of Liverpool. Some of you may remember the otherworldly Goblin Market put on by award-winning LUDS and my eerie Balalaika-infused score that went with it. Well, this time they’re teaming up with The Liverpool University Players to put on Chaucer’s Middle English classic The Canterbury Tales and I was invited on board to write some music for them once more. That means familiar faces! So I’ll be collaborating with harpist Sarah Peverley again (who is helping produce the show), as well as Director Rio Matchett and Musical Director Darren Begley.

The Canterbury Tales follows a group of pilgrims on their way to the shrine of St Thomas Becket as they take each other on in a story-telling contest.

It was quickly decided to keep the instrumentation simple – I was to draw from a small selection of forces to create a medieval palette for the show and the plan involved having musicians on stage, delivering the score diegetically. Originally we tried to get a hold of a lute for me to play, but ended up settling on a Psaltery which I was to pick up, learn to play, and then compose for within the space of a matter of weeks, complimenting the rest of the lineup consisting of an Irish Flute, Bodhran, Harp and vocals. As a result, the compositions are generally very simple, making use of the dorian-mode style of the medieval era and ensuring that vocal pieces reflect the base comical nature of the text. When you’ve got cast members singing ‘I have a gentil cock’ then it’s best not to get too pretentious with your writing. Inspiration came from traditional English and Celtic Folk songs as well as contemporary recordings (thank you psalterygirl!) and I found myself developing a newfound respect for the proto-Renaissance compositions that were emerging in the Middle and High Medieval period.

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Taking The Plunge: Going ‘pro’ + the EFP

(Originally posted on 20th January 2014)

In August 2013, a couple of months after I graduated university, I decided to commit myself to becoming a full time musician. After nearly 7 years of being a dedicated hobbyist alongside my education, it felt like it was now or never. I’ve decided to give you an update on how it’s going and write about a few things I’ve learnt along the way.

The first thing was to establish myself as a professional and get the right mindset – we become what we think on a daily basis. Initially, I tried to whip myself into a self-motivated fervour, watching videos and writing little messages to myself, but it didn’t really stick. I had lofty goals, but not quite enough discipline to get anywhere near completion. And this impacted more than just the music, so I changed strategy to focus on some basics first. I started meditating daily to help clear my mind of anxieties and did as much reading as I could. If you’re interested in writing music for a living, two books I’d definitely recommend are The War of Art (not the Sun-Tzu one) and The Emerging Film Composer. Day by day, I felt more confident in my ability to put in the hours, even if I wasn’t yet at the level I yearned for in my mind.

You don’t become a full time musician simply by sitting in your studio from dawn till dusk, trust me I’ve tried.

Then, in November, I registered as a business and right up to the end of the year started attending workshops and speaking to business advisers. It slowly dawned on me that there was no way I could make enough money to survive off my music just by sitting in my studio and writing – I needed to know what it took to be a real working business, I needed to network and contribute in the creative community. I was bombarded by talk of plans, financials, marketing…this was scary at first and more than once I felt overwhelmed by all the necessary steps ahead of me. I didn’t want to relapse into my earlier mistake. Psh, I’m a musician not a business, I work on my craft, people will discover me and want to work with me ’cause I’m really good, right? Wrong. I care a lot about the music I create and how it projects itself amongst the rest of the current musical landscape, but that’s not all one must do to make headway. I’m also not ashamed to admit my mistakes in places – I’m young and have a way to go, but I know I will always put the work in to learn and grow. I remembered what I’d read and practised and continued on…..

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BBC Radio 3 feature, Goblin Market coda and new projects

This will be my first piece on a BBC broadcast.

(Originally posted 7th September 2013)

A couple of bits of exciting news from the past month or so, and some others concerned with what’s coming next.

First off, the piece ‘Transitions’, written by myself and Sarah Peverley for harp and piano, is going to be featured on BBC Radio 3’s Words and Music programme on the 29th September. This is my first foray into major public radio so I’m very excited to get national airplay.

Secondly – The Reader Organisation, who were the recipients of 50% of the proceeds from the Goblin Market soundtrack, got in contact with me and ran an article about the music from the LUDS production that delved into the creative processes that brought it to life. Check it out on The Reader Online’s Blog.

On top of that I’ve been doing some more work for Savage Mojo and elsewhere another video game soundtrack is in the works. The big personal project I mentioned a while back is still making progress and coming along very nicely, but I’m still not ready to say more than that just yet.

To finish, I’d just like to say a massive thank you to everyone I’ve worked with and those of you who have bought, listened to or otherwise supported my music over the past couple of months. My new project studio is now complete and it’s been a big transition period for me since finishing university, so thanks again for everyone who has helped me along the way.