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The Starchild

Discussion in 'Critique & Feedback' started by Alexander Schiborr, Sep 20, 2018.

  1. Hi Guys,

    Spent a bit time with that track the last 2 weeks and this is a first complete run of the track. Any suggestions / ideas on the sound and composition / orchestration? It all started with a template balancing with sample modeling brass and I mocked up a few bars of the olympic fanfare of Williams, but often when I balance templates I need to write something..so out of that thing that whole piece was created.

    Thank you guys.

  2. Dude, I don't have anything to offer in critique because I can't hold a candle to your level of skill, and hence I can't offer anything useful in the technical side of things. All I can say is that I absolutely loved this.

    You read all the time people saying "John Williams is my greatest inspiration, here's my track" and then you press play and it is the horn of doom and a string ostinato all over again. How refreshing to listen to something that actually sounds like JW. The level of skill in development and orchestration is just through the roof. Thanks for fighting the good fight.
    Paul T McGraw likes this.

  3. I've had the pleasure of studying with Alex recently and seeing many of his newer pieces (esp this one develop). The gap between the "horn of doom string bonanza" and something like this is stunning. The irony is, this piece, like what Verta would say, like what William's would do, starts out simple with a strong melody and modulates like crazy from there. It doesn't loose focus but boy does it have depth. Yeah and that sample modeling VI plus overall production value...damn.

    I'm really curious to see what the other veterans say as well.
  4. @Alexander Schiborr this is awesome. You have a very big future ahead of you. I listened to this with great pleasure and added it to my own list of favorites for regular playback when I need inspiration. What more can be said than that?
  5. Yeah Alex, remember your old friends when you're famous. :D
    Rohann van Rensburg likes this.
  6. #6 Alexander Schiborr, Sep 22, 2018
    Last edited: Sep 22, 2018
    Hey Guys,

    I thought the last 2 days a bit what to answer here really. I mean..on the one hand I feel totally flattened to read such praise on the other hand..I don´t feel the same in that regards.

    Now..I spent a lot of time with that track here and you all know that you lose some kind of objectivity on your written material when you work very intensive on it. Let me critic my own piece a bit:

    First what I find quite "in Ordnung" (is german and his "ok") is the fact I managed imho to have a pretty simple motif and stretch it over 8 minutes which I feel I put it into different musical contexts. It is a good exercises and so nothing wrong with that I woulsd say.
    Second is the sound that I feel the blending and sampled orchestra has good dynamic and goes really from quiter parts and is able to go to excessive loud and blends very organic for my taste. I think that new template feels more fluid and more expressive also than my older ones.

    Orchestrationally I have a lot of focus on the brass (probably because the initial idea was to start using SMbrass). Therefore it is at times pretty brass heavy and in a previous older version it was even more which I destressed a bit. Dillon and Aaron gave me some suggestions and pointed that out which helped me there. I actually wish to learn also to write with more colors in the orchestra and sometimes I feel I am too much at home when doing my brass sections. But I try to better that. I want to more diversity in orchestration.

    Now stylistically I reference here a lot..it is like you can hear that I transcribe stuff and use the devices from the composers I like..but it is not very original I would say because I am not yet there at a point where I can use those things that I learn and bring it to something new. I mean..it is anyways maybe not so easy to create something really new and as a matter of fact I do that now 4-5 years and I still need to find my own style and language but thats how I learn.

    I think some of the transitions in the first half sound a bit "clunky". There is this section where I do those crescendo with the violins playing like sequenced fast lines and they feel a bit out of place for me (2:14 min). I mean..they work probably on their own but structurally it is a bit setting me of. Also the dark theme or version of the motif sounds more like a batman kind of impression and vibe and that was not my plan actually there.I failed to bring in some vader vibe there (Is that failure..lets discuss that later). I mean..there is this fine line because they use both the same minor chord relations.

    The first opening could be also more effective, I feel some of the elements there are too much distracting or it could be still more pure in statement and clarity. (I have done of course the PIano sketch for that piece). I hate to fill in things just to let it sound good.

    Stylistically it is like a good friend told me: Star Park vs Jurrassic Wars. I think I also stole a device from Kings Row in a few bars..What do you want to be? And apart from that: Why doing that anyways? Are you wanting to write your own music or referencing other composers but not that cool. And there comes again the question what Doug mentioned in the other thread: Find a bit your own voice. Now this is something I think a lot of us still need to do and to learn to find their own voice. Because when you don´t do you end up just pastiching someone else work and this is maybe cool to do but not really original. Now..I write music not to invent the wheel new but it is a point to think about. I feel that you need sophistication in order to do that and you only sophistiaction and repeating things similiar in order also to develop a sophisicated ear for the harmony.

    I have a good mate composer who is very keen in doing all those action underscore writing stuff in the vein of JW. And while I think he does a great job and technically it is brilliant there this thing applies there too: To find your own voice more. Part of the process is to learn to pastiche others works because out of that you learn the things. But if you want to be recognized by the audience as "that is xy composer and his style" and not "Oh that is the guy who does the XY composers impressions" then you end up beeing always in the shadow artistically of someone else. Is that is your goal then more power to you and that is fine I think because when you enjoy doing it, mission accomplished.

    And another point: You will and I am here also just a shitty impression of JW. I mean..JW would do this motif so different I am sure because his sophistication is beyond the roof. The more you transcribe from him the more you realize: Oh..now why he did that chord progression and even more: How he did come up with such an idea for that kind of progression. I was recently transcribing the sand dunes cue from star wars. And there is this passage with this triadic minor chords going chromatically down and then he does an augmentic chord, followed by a major chord with I to IV and then a major 7th chord and half step down resolution on a Fmaj ending. So..I learned..oh you can do that and that is cool to learn, because I have no one more way to do a resolution in a different way but it also infused into me to tempt to copy those other things which he did prior the resolution as they are connected to the decision why he did that.

    Blabla..Hm..where we were? See..:D Enough :D
  7. I've just gone through the first listen (on crappy earbuds on my phone) and will listen again when I get home. So far though, I'm very impressed!
  8. @Alexander Schiborr I think people worry too much about finding their own voice. Write what pleases you and it will be your own voice.
    Alexander Schiborr likes this.
  9. Beware: the advantage of extremely simple progressions is that they make fast connections, but the disadvantage is that they burn out and become boring very quickly. Dramatically, major to suspended 4th has very little inherent drama in it, so after about one repetition it is desperately in need of further development. Here, you are attempting to push it the better part of a minute, and there's no way it can sustain that interest, despite your attempts to develop it vertically.

    Go have a listen to Disney's Beauty and the Beast song, Tale As Old As Time, which uses essentially the same progression for a primer on just how quickly you have to get off that idea and move on!

  10. Hey ! I'll reply in detail soon. I just fear it will be a long, long post.

    For now let me leave this

    Then know this lecture below was published about 2 years before the one above. (Point is we are all influenced. That's ok)

    Paul T McGraw and Dillon DeRosa like this.
  11. If you haven't, this is my take on the "finding your own voice" bullshit:

  12. Yes, I did some while ago, and thanks for sharing it. I think you made some good points in your video there which tells me also that I should not think too much about all of that.., maybe?
    Paul T McGraw likes this.
  13. @Mike Verta IMHO you nailed it with this one. I just checked YouTube and the official post of the soundtrack for "Fantastic Beasts" has 1.8 million views/listens. The soundtrack for Dunkirk 180,000. I do not know how to find out about CD sales, but I would wager that the CD sales might be even more lopsided in favor of "Fantastic Beasts." Anyone know how to look that up?

    I am not saying that Howard directly copied Williams, although he does quote Williams deliberately at least once. But perhaps Mike, since you have better ears than I have, you can elaborate further on this comparison.
    Rohann van Rensburg likes this.
  14. Certainly don't worry about the devices/Williams comparison aspect of it. The greater issue here is a dramatic/developmental one!
  15. Concur

    (Warning it will be a long post.)

    Ok...... Let me try and reply to this. (Keep in mind this is only my 2 cents. Not saying I am right.)

    First, I don't think I would have made the same comment to your piece. What I would comment on (aside from praise of your work continues to grow) is dealing with quotations. There are just a few spots that border on outright quotes. I think the Batman stuff is fine...... it's more general.

    The Stars wars/ Kings row is a little more on thin ice. You know, regardless of wether you like his work or not, Hans Zimmer has a very distinct in and original voice. He got into some hot water for Gladiator. It's also a pretty minor quotation in my opinion.
    Quotes, does not mean once does not have originality.
    It's more about covering your ass.
    For hundreds of years (cantus firmus, variations on a theme etc.) composers used found themes which to base their work on.

    This comes up a lot with Temp track love.

    My favorite way to "Hide my tracks" is thru altering the rhythms. Transposing to a new key can be useful, as well as inverting the theme, and then massaging it so it fits. Just have a set of tools you can use in case revisions are asked for.

    Now the more philosophical

    "Find your voice"

    I think the prime factor is what your goals are. I try and make comments as "prescriptive" as possible.
    So my advice might be 180 degrees different based on who I am speaking to.

    I don't live in LA, so please know I certainly think there is a wide world outside of a "Hollywood" sound and that you can carve your own path without moving.
    If someone is writing music and not looking to make a business out of it, I would never mention the following.

    My brief time in LA

    Now this is only geared towards anyone who wants to do the hollywood things. Ie. you have a career goal. The "getting work" is paramount to you)

    Back when I was an aspiring film composer, I was mentored by Christopher Young.
    It was interesting to watch him work, and speak with him.

    (He was very kind, and I only have positive memories)

    He has had a great career, but it is harder to pin down his sound.
    Williams, Elfman, Zimmer, Newman, Horner, Silvestri all have a signature.
    Yes, they are capable of much more, but they have a calling card.

    Are they clearly influenced by others ? Of course. But there is a "trademark" sound they became associated with, and now they can charge a premium for this. Simply put...... you can't get it, at it's source, from anywhere else.

    (Again, my experience is a limited one, so this is a small sample size.)

    With fellow friends, people whom I knew, you know what the number 1 reason I heard for aspiring composers getting rejected by agents ?
    Had nothing to do with sophistication.

    "We have that already"

    (you don't have enough credits was number 2)

    Now this does not mean you go and do something totally weird.
    This does not mean you deny to yourself what you really like in order to fit in or please other people.
    In fact you don't have to do anything original. (as stated above we are all influenced by others)

    For example, you know who has done something very smart. Alex, this guy who makes tutorials on 1950's "light music". In a million years I would never think of that genre. His videos are fantastic, and it's very easy to recall "That 50's commercial music guy". Most of the original composers of that era are dead, and if I needed that done...... he pops right to mind.

    He sticks out. He is the expert at that. If I needed 1950's commercial music (hope I never do) then he pops right to mind.

    I know for my own career I began asking the question "what problem can I solve". Then further asked, how many others are doing XYZ.

    I began telling colleagues, "hey, if you ever need it...... I do XYZ". They thought it was interesting, and would keep it in mind. Last week when I got the call to work on the Romanoff's, I specifically was brought on for this one reason, and one reason alone. (not telling !!)

    I had the email chain to know. There are dozens of highly skilled people who could have been brought on. But I made a point to emphasize this one thing.

  16. Why I made the comments I did in the previous posts:

    Upon reflecting why I made some comments, and also intentionally not commented on some pieces.

    Yes, the aesthetic is hard on my ears, but it is also as much, if not more an issue of form vs. harmonic language.

    There are simply repeated schemes and I struggle listening to that. The dark side of form is formula.

    It sounds formulaic.

    (Remember too...... we are hearing seemingly aspiring film music without a film.
    If a visual image, or within a context of a story..... whole different experience of the music)

    In particular (and forgive me for sounding snarky, but I want to be forthright) what I call the

    "Public Service Announcement for Stupid people"

    That is ...... a 20 second --- bare bones theme, that gets presented over a basic progression, just so the composer can take off somewhere else as soon as its finished. I think it's meant to make the music easy to follow, but the pieces never take you anywhere far.

    This is really a problem when the total duration of the work is 2 minutes. Ok...... your piece is 8. The Race is over 6 I believe. Then the proportion is in line.. the balance is in order.

    The result is we get a 2 dimensional piece that sort of conveys one emotion. Never secondary themes, never any kind of disruption. It only wants to be liked.

    We end up with a piece of music that always pays it's bills on time, ties it's shoes, doesn't run with scissors, care full to itemize everything on it's taxes.
    aka Ned Flanders doing a cameo on "Saved by the Bell"

    I had to be a judge once and listen to dozens of demos in a single sitting, and for me pieces that take a long time to begin are harder to stick with.

    Why not grab them right from the get go? Think Beethoven 5th. Can you imagine if he went the other way.

    It very well is just me. It reminds me of sitting in a jazz club. After a few tunes a playing "The head" and then everyone taking turns shredding, I begin to wonder ....... why do they even begin with the melody. "All the things you are" becomes just an excuse to rip solos..

    Lastly, I will again say I am of the opinion, that it is wise to distinguish what you are working on for your craft vs. what you will write in a gig.

    Film music is a process of collaboration anyways. Far too often I get the impression people are just staying in their comfort zone. (not directed towards anyone in particular) Since film is about story, why not look at what are typical scheme of a story:

    A generic outline could be

    1. main characters: Why have just one ? How about 2 or 3 ?
    2. Theme and place: Most people do this well. (let's leave aside theme writing
    3. The Disruptive: This is what often gets omitted. Don't we need a villain ? Break your patterns, confound us in some way.
    4. Multiple meanings: In music craft terms transform your material. yes, modulate (or other tricks)
    and show us different sides to your main theme.
    5. Suspense, and final resolution: Think of the "Hero's journey". Isn't there a moment when we are supposed to think it will all fall apart ? Of course this is followed by our hero rising to the occasion and everything working out.

    Lastly, I recall the words of Richter's piano teacher.

    Thesis + Antithesis = Synthesis
  17. Hey Alexander, I've listened to this piece many, many times now. Your pieces often really grow on me over time and this is no exception. A lot of the comments I had have already been made by others, but here we go anyway:

    Let me start with all the things I like. First of all I like your core idea: it's easy to follow, easy to get in to and as you demonstrate in your piece it's very flexible.

    If I had to pick a favorite part it would be 5:32 hands down. It's just so good! I was immediately reminded of David Newman's Matilda score, though I had to browse a bit to find the part it reminded me of. Now, I should note that David Newman really throws a lot of different styles together in that soundtrack but there's a part in it that has a similar vibe to what you've written here. Here's the part that it reminded me of:

    By the way, I should make two additional notes there. One: the Matilda score is fantastic and I can highly recommend listening to it (David Newman is criminally underrated imo). Two: when I am pointing out the similarity here I mean it in the best of ways. I just love the vibe you have going on there just as I love that part in Matilda. So, just to be clear, this isn't me trying to bust on you, I mean this as high praise for what you've written there.

    I agree with your point that you managed to stretch your main idea over 8 minutes. It's definitely an accomplishment to be able to say the same thing in many different ways, yet therein lies one of the 'problems'. As Mike pointed out there isn't much in the way of dramatic development. Now I'llbe completely honest here: if Mike hadn't put that into words I wouldn't have been able to tell that that was the issue, but I did feel it somehow. The main way in which I noticed this is that I often found my mind wandering about halfway or two thirds into the track. This isn't to say that any of those segments were wrong, but just that they couldn't hold my interest.

    For a sampled performance the whole piece is indeed very expressive so I completely agree with your own assessment there, though I would note that the dynamic range of the piece itself seems to be largely mf+ most of the time. I'll get into this later.

    I'm not so dismayed by the heavy use of brass, though it does often seem to play a big role in your compositions. I can understand why you want to diversify though as an argument could be made that the use of brass more easily pushes you into "loud" territory. Funnily enough I'm personally moving in the opposite direction and trying to use brass more in my own doodles.

    To the point of originality: I think striving to be truly original is a monumental waste of time. In fact, most of the music that truly makes my ears bleed is often accompanied by BS buzzwords like "innovative and originals works by douchebag #2345". Now, of course I don't mean to disregard originality completely, but my feeling is that originality stems from the unique blend of influences that you bring to the table. There is so much music (and other influences) out there that it seems to me to be much harder to become truly derivative. In plain English: I wouldn't worry about this aspect at all, especially not if you keep exposing yourself to new influences.

    I would also add that I think you very much have an own voice already. Maybe you don't see/hear it yet, or maybe you're too literate and too aware of your own influences to be able to hear it, but I'd like to think I could pick out a Schiborr piece any day now if it was playing on the radio!

    I don't necessarily agree that this applies to the opening, but I was going to say that I do feel you're erring close to overwriting in certain segments. Your self-diagnosed "clunkiness" might also come from this.

    The impression I get is that you're after a "big" sound and maybe that's leading you down a rabbit hole of making pretty much everyone always play something throughout the piece. Okay, that's a bit of a hyperbole, but I feel there are definitely areas where you could drop a lot of instruments out and still say what you wanted to say. Heck, I think it will be all the more sexier for it because it will also make the changes of color that happen in the piece even starker.

    To make this more specific: you very often have the violins playing in very high registers at a loud dynamic marking and with what sounds like molto, molto, molto vibrato going on. In the notes I made I wrote "hyped string sound" and while I think your choice to play the violins so high and loud can in many cases be justified, I feel it's actually a very harsh, mean, almost unpleasant sound. Since my guess is that you're aiming for a big, rich sound in those areas, a possible solution might be to simply drop the violins an octave (maybe two?)? They won't be so harsh and piercing then and they'll thicken and warm the sound which I think is what you're actually after. (2:37 -> ~3:00 could be a good place to try this?). Another example is the almost constant use of timpani. Do you really always need it?

    Okay, now let me take a step back before I go on to my final point and emphasize that I think you have many fantastic ideas in this piece. It's just the way you're stating them (orchestrationally) that I feel improvements could be made.

    The final thought I have to offer is that I feel this piece needs some space to breath. It's a long stretch of bombastic fanfare, which is totally cool, but the stretches are too long for me personally to sustain my interest. This is why I think my mind wandered ocassionally as I listened to your piece. As a totally not famous composer once said: music is the silence between the notes. For my personal taste I feel like this piece would really take it to the next level if you backed off from the fanfare in places and really dial back not only the number of instruments playing, but also dropped the dynamics into mp, p and even pp range.

    Here's a thought: you say you write for brass a lot, maybe you can find a place in this piece to use the softer sounds of the brass section? Brass can really sound gorgeous in the lower dynamics and since this piece is already brass heavy, it may be the easiest to integrate?

    All of that said, I very much enjoyed this piece and it seems to me you're already very aware yourself of the areas where you could develop.
  18. @Matthias Calis I agree with almost all of your post. I really liked what you had to say about finding your own voice and also about the need of the listener for contrast in dynamics and orchestration. I would also add the that the listener needs contrast in harmonic rhythm and in new material versus repeated material. I also agree that @Alexander Schiborr really has his own voice already.

    @Alexander Schiborr you have a group of folks on this forum spending a lot of time listening and thinking about your music. All of this attention is far more than the average person on this forum or VI-Control is going to receive. That should tell you that you have something special to offer listeners. You are getting a lot of thoughtful advice. Some posters would be depressed that others are finding fault. I hope you do not fall into the trap of thinking that way. If your music was not already good, all of these folks would not bother to listen and carefully respond. I hope you will use what you can of what is offered but do not be discouraged. You are not perfect, but no one is, and you are getting better and better.
    Matthias Calis likes this.
  19. #19 Rohann van Rensburg, Sep 26, 2018
    Last edited: Sep 26, 2018
    I find it invaluable to hear both Doug and Mike's opinions in these situations, as they both seem to be more or less on the same page (or very close, at least) despite appearing to offer differing ideas.

    Bear in mind my complete and utter lack of credentials or experience, but just as a listener who's been fascinated by this for a long time, the idea of the deep roots of structure and form influencing a person seem to be more the key, with aesthetic components being less important. When Doug has commented on pieces sounding imitative, it doesn't sound different to me than Mike talking about people paying too much attention to Williams' devices and orchestration, and not enough attention to the deeper elements of form and structure. If I'm understanding correctly, the essence of the issue seems to be the very same -- a shallow internalization of influence. I find myself getting the same impression of Willimitation pieces (Alexander's isn't in this category, for the record). It's the same impression I get when I've had friends show me "This guy plays a riff in the style of X band" videos -- they've got the shallow impression there, but none of the depth. For the record, not to knock on the people posting, they're braver than I've been and much further along in many aspects. I'm just speaking conceptually.

    That deep internalization and understanding of craft, combined with multiple (and hopefully disparate) influences, tend to be what makes a composer/artist interesting. One of my favourite musicians carved a very unique, respected name for themselves because they came from a metal background but were most heavily influenced by progressive rock, folk, and elements of jazz, the result being the aesthetic of their background but the form and structure of their other influences. I think this combination of deep understanding and internalization of varying influence, combined with one's own personality and affinities, tends to be what people refer to as "their own voice", even though most of the people I respect most in this regard have very traceable influences (Steven Wilson won an award for artist of the year in the Progressive Music Awards not too long ago, and in thanking them for the award he added "I won this by, let's be honest, ripping off everyone in this room"). I like what Doug said about "quotes" -- I've heard disguised Abba vocal melodies used very tastefully in a relatively heavy metal tune, and that was a fascinating way to quote one's influence.

    Now when it comes to true originality and creativity -- I'm not sure this is worth striving for, because this tends to be so incredibly rare. Furthermore, the people who achieve it generally don't try to.

    @Alexander Schiborr : Please disregard any of this as having anything to do with your piece, as I really don't have anything worthwhile to contribute to your level of writing. I more find the discussion here interesting and helpful in informing the goals of my craft (good distinction too there above).
  20. Thank you guys so much. Will reply soon, just had a bit crazy work here ongoing (Soundtrack + Mix / Master for a band + preparing something for a meeting). Just that you know.

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