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The Recovery Call - New OST Album

Discussion in 'Critique & Feedback' started by Dillon DeRosa, Sep 26, 2019.

  1. #1 Dillon DeRosa, Sep 26, 2019
    Last edited: Sep 27, 2019
    Hi everyone,

    I'm proud to release my newest OST for this dark thriller short film, "the Recovery Call". Thank you for taking the time to check out my recent work. Appreciate any and all feedback, especially if you hate my music please let me know why. :D

    As well, thank you to @Alexander Schiborr as always. Every excitement or anger I feel when writing a new score my best mate is the first to hear it. Thanks for listening as always mate.

    A Carolina man, haunted by his past, must pull a fellow alcoholic from the clutches of a hotel imprisoning him with all the powers of addiction and, perhaps, something even more sinister.

    I usually only share a few tracks on soundcloud, however, I wrote a bit small for this film. So here is the full soundtrack so I can hear everyone's full feedback.

    Track 1 is the opening titles with little narration, however, track 2 & 3 are heavy dialogue tracks. So there is a lot of dialogue writing in these two. Track 4 is a huge chase scene and basically the ending of the film. Track 5 is as the title says, the end credits haha.




    My own personal feedback was the struggle for a real memorable melody. I had some constraints from the director this time around which I feel hindered my abilities to really score the film I envisioned it to be. However, I still produced a score that works and is still my style of writing even if I was constrained a bit melodically from the director. There are two main melodic motifs that the whole film score is constructed around. There are also a lot of elements and orchestral ideas that I used thematically.



    Besides the restrained melodic approach what else I felt I failed on was an overall form from the beginning to end of the film. I think because of the shortness of the film, my focus on multiple projects at the same time, and the constrained melodic approach that defines how I write were contributing factors.

    I hope pointing out my own failures and shortcomings on this score is perhaps helpful but primarily will welcome others to be open to what they didn’t like about my score.

    Anyways, thanks for listening. Looking forward to some great feedback from the community.

  2. Hey!

    Just letting you know I will get thru all of the music and give you feedback.

    My initial response is just to say bravo, and well done! I got up to housekeeping. I'll give the last two a listen and give you any thoughts I have.

    I don't think you can really separate film music from the "function" of film music (ie. director), unless you are interested in taking the musical materials and using them for the basis of a concert work. Upon first impression, the more aleatoric sections sound more segregated and less inevitable than the other materials. Perhaps juxtaposing the effects with the more traditional spots would make it all feel more integrated. I don't know for sure.....just a brainstorm.
    Dillon DeRosa likes this.
  3. #3 Alexander Schiborr, Sep 28, 2019
    Last edited: Sep 28, 2019
    Hej Dillon,

    Congrats on another cool soundtrack output from you. And cool that you were able to share the entire work this time. However, as I listened to a few of these cues already, I took the time to listen to them again.

    Now where you mentioned that you struggled finding melodic material or memorability for this kind of music. I think it is not easy to make them both as strong and equal so that you are able to keep both things in line and balance. I think the struggle especially with these kinds of aleatoric suspensful writing is to keep the balance between lets say "clusters and effects" vs. "melodic material" or motivic anchors in line. That makes such music in general for me a bit difficult to grasp. Now..don´t get me wrong, I think you did a great job here and I am pretty sure you gave the director exactly the things what he / she wanted.

    Now disconnecting the music from the movie is this thing if it can keep the interest on its own. I would say here but also with other suspensful soundtracks which are not very melodic its a general thing of beeing in the mood of simply accepting to get lets say that kind sound spheres where you have to be really in the mood and respectful knowing that it isn´t that inviting melodic memorable. If I go and listen to your soundtrack with the expacation of heavy memorablity, I would be having hard times to remember something. Its simple of the nature of that requested music. I can listen whole day to Williams aleatoric writing and its sounds cool but does it stick to my brain? Nah..not at all..It´s in and out and 5 minutes I don´t know what it was like. And thats the little thing: I think here the music is (like I understood Doug correctly) inherently tied to picture and storyline but has hard times to live on its own. Now this is not bad at all because you are writing music specifically tailored to fit the movies drama and story.

    There is this thing which I admired with Goldsmith quite a lot especially in some of his thriller soundtracks where he was to able find that balance pretty on spot between suspense effects music and still maintaining very strong motivic cues at the same time. I think to find that spot is the real struggle and to find that balance is probably the most difficult. Also to keep in mind that you have to come up with the directors vision what he has and you can´t simply do everything how you want it.

    Overall what I enjoyed surerly is the value of production here. I know how hard it is to mix that melange of regular orchestral sampling with aleatoric music writing and its always not easy to make them work. So kudos to you.

    What was the process like sketching out the cues? and lets say writing melodic motitivic aspects vs. that clusters. Did you feature the suspense moments tied totally to picture or did tried to make them more part of a development of your cues? I mean one thing I try to remember myself a lot: The more out I go lets say and leaving the conventional areas of melody, chord progressions and harmony the more time I need to establish something. These days I would tend to advice simply doing more recapitulations of the same ideas before heading on which might help to get an idea which sounds unusual for the common ear to get established. Or in other words: the more unusual the material gets the more of time it needs to get cemented in our brains. So at this point I would say: Doing less is more in the way of sticking to one idea and doing microchanges instead of going full blast. But there is this thing where you want to take of specifically when a scene needs that and the director tells you: Well man, now we have to fully go crazy here and then it becomes very hard to keep absolute control over both aspects: Supporting the picture vs. maintaining cohesive connected writing so that it can totally live apart from the picture. And I think in the end: You are writing for the picture and no symphonic suite for concert music so at least one thing you have to maintain is to support picture with your music. If you can make both work thats the final goal but at least one thing you should hit and I am sure you did.

    Hope my comment is well received, you know that I dig your writing a lot and I know what you can write very memorable material because I know some of your current and past motifs (you know for your own original symphonic music) so I know that you have a very strong ability to feature memorable motifs.

    One last thing: You absolutely didn´t fail. You are very humble and I love that on you that you always try to push yourself but also just try at the end of the day to be fair to yourself.
  4. Also.. I will promise to write shorter sentences and use more punctuation.
    Dillon DeRosa likes this.
  5. #5 Dillon DeRosa, Sep 28, 2019
    Last edited: Sep 28, 2019
    Hi Doug,
    I appreciate you taking the time to check out my music. Thank you very much.

    I agree that it's nearly impossible to separate music from the function of film. I think my best bet would to try and create concert music based on my film music. The results being the final music for the film score album and thus perhaps a more enjoyable musical album and less of just a film score which I would much prefer honestly. John Williams does this a lot with his albums and I only think is, where does this man find the time to rearrange his music for an album ontop of the hours of music he writes for the film? I need to work harder!

    If I'm understanding your comment, you felt that some of my aleatoric sections/gestures actually felt like they didn't belong at times and came from out of nowhere? If this is correct, I honestly feel you are right. Perhaps, this is where I failed most in that you can hear the hand of the director/film in these moments and my lack of better solutions. This is the grey area I could work on is trying to juxtapose the effects with the more traditional spots, or even build the drama and emotion to an exploding moment of craziness/aleatoric effects rather than throwing them ontop. I can and will practice this. I honestly think exploring deeper the traditional spots and building into the craziness of the aleatoric ideas would be nice.

    Any more thought or suggestion on taking some of these shit ideas I wrote and using them as a basis for concert work? You've really perked my interest as I've been trying to convert my old film scores into concert works slowly when I have the spare time or have any idea how to expand my ideas thoroughly. I would love to get into more concert work.

    Thanks Doug. Looking forward to any or more feedback. Especially, on taking anything to a more concert level basis as that's where I'm trying to bring all my music to.
    Alexander Schiborr likes this.
  6. #6 Dillon DeRosa, Sep 28, 2019
    Last edited: Sep 28, 2019


    Thanks mate. I appreciate you sitting through my album once again after some time of being free from the torture of my recent thriller music.

    You're absolutely right as it's not easy to keep a balance of "aleatoric effects" and "melodic material" and have it be so memorable. I love the score to "Close Encounters". I can hum the famous 5 note melody, and I will always remember the huge brass chorale section with the melody; however, the rest is not memorable but amazing still. Nonetheless, John Williams still through all the craziness of that score gave us a memorable melody which is what I wanted to achieve but struggled to. The same with Goldsmith. However, I do think and consider the weight each of their directors had and I can't rule out that they had a feature and I was working with a short film with not as much time to truly develop. I think it's incredibly hard to achieve this fine balance but keeping in my focus will push me to the next level hopefully. However, as you mentioned, the struggle to keep the director's vision and achieve this makes it that much harder. The difficulty is a joy as I appreciate a good challenge.

    Thank you for comments on mixing. It was challenging to mix the aleatoric effects & ideas. A lot of times I was creating my own original patches. That's the main reason I struggle and hate writing "horror" music in the sense of aleatoric music is that I can't hire an orchestra and have fun with effects and stuff. I'm stuck with these pre-recorded effects. As well, personally, I hate that these sample libraries never explain how they recorded it and what the effects/players are actually doing. I would love to see more notation and as I notate my scores. So, as you can imagine, I had some struggle trying to notate what I was writing with those effects on my score. I had to study a lot from the greats of this music to learn how to notate my ideas.


    I come up with the motif's or suspense gestures or aleatoric effects that I want to feature more first. I wrote the two motifs and a few orchestral gestures that were repeated throughout the film. Swelling low rumble textures to feature the growling demons from the hotel, handbells which was a joke but effective in the film of me being "on the nose" with the concierge desk bell, and lastly a searing headache pain to help smear the idea of this character not being able to tell what's real and what's not. Oh, one last thing, the director wanted a slow solo string note to build and then cut back on a harsh marcato. So you'll hear a cello line repeated throughout doing just this.

    The same process as before as I scope out the scene, In/Out Time codes, major hit-points, and then I sketch in Sibelius first. I'm still making my way to a complete piano sketch first as sometimes it'll still be half piano and half fully orchestrated on Sibelius. After I'll export a midi export of the piano sketch or audio bounce from Sibelius into Cubase to make sure it lines up with the film and my idea works. If all is well, I start replacing it with the better samples.

    In answer to your suggestion, I wanted and should've found more ways to recapitulate my ideas better. Even though the score was short, I could've found more ways to repeat to build memorable ideas. In my initial sketches, I ended up repeating a lot more than the final product. This could've been the restraint of the director not wanting me to repeat and be a bit more random. However, even with restraints of directors/producers and the film itself, I feel it's my job to find a way to achieve cohesiveness and music. However, then comes the part as you said that this is not my symphonic work and yet the director and his vision. Even though this film may have had some struggles with serving the directors vision over my own, I can't deny that I've had experiences where directors have had better ideas. Even though I wish it was my symphony and concert works, sometimes I do rely on the director to push me into a better direction. If it weren't for the director, I would score every film like a Joe Hisaishi Studio Ghibli film, or a Final Fantasy Nobuo Uematsu video game.

    Thanks again mate. Your comments were perfect.

    Also, I'm sure you, Aaron, and definitely Rohann know I write way too much in conversations. So never feel the need to apologize for long sentences or punctuation haha!
    Alexander Schiborr likes this.
  7. I'm not sure if this is interesting to anyone. However, here is the very first draft of "Room 217".

    The final version of Room 217 during the first segment (0:00-1:44), a lot of what you'll hear in the track below got scratched. The director just thought it would be creepier if I wasn't so vocal during the dialogue, and just entered and exited at certain points during this long conversation. However, during my first attempt, I wrote a lengthy dialogue track which I feel personally was more developmental. The final result in the film is better for the film, however, my first draft still worked for the film and develops more in my opinion. Listening to my initial draft now though, I do feel at times I'm treading water however writing dialogue music is tricky.

    Compared to the original one, a small harp introduction is not included. 30 seconds into this track is where the material that was cut out starts, and at 1:44 is where the "album track" picks back up with some slight orchestration alterations.

    Alexander Schiborr likes this.
  8. #8 Alexander Schiborr, Sep 30, 2019
    Last edited: Sep 30, 2019
    Definitely the first initial version I prefer somehow due to the more musical material you simply "wrote there" using conventional techniques, mate. I can´t evaluate how effective it would support picture at that point but just listening in isolation it is more interesting to me specifically 37 seconds and further where you present some melodic dark string writing with the winds which I think is cool.

    Overall I would say after re-listening again to some of the cues, there is a technical difficulty or thing to employ those "recorded" clusters in your composition so that they make sense and become a part of meaning in your track. I know that this might sound hilarous but ever thought about using these clusters as the base center motif or a kind of thematic material and adapt your own composition and ideas and weep around them? The problem is when using libraries with that effects putting them over your motifs there is a chance that they sound "like additive" effects but nothing more.
    I mean that is fine and the common consumer who watches the movie will not ever notice anything which is disconnected. Now we are here the composer / developmental nerd bunch and we all seek for cohesiveness. So by saying that I thought about that technique so that such pre-recorded phrases and clusters are closer connected to th thematic material and then the normal "orchestral palette" ideas are simply parts of their development? Which I believe might bring more cohesiveness into the writing as you employ your own material to support them rather than the opposite writing cool material but there is no connection then?
    This thought just popped up this morning after I thought about when I would have to write some kind of score like that. In case that these clusters were important to me beeing part of the movie, so that I would take lets say 2 days and simply browse through all of them and decide which of them can create a sense of motivic idea, for instance also combining different patches together. I mean..depending on the libraries you have they are mostly these crescendos and scriabin promethean chords anyways but maybe there are some in the pools which are useful. Even the promethean chord in the beginning from the "room" cue is something what you could employ to use a motif, for instance what using conventional orchestration and regular patches to make an abstraction of your first cue swell cluster:

    I don´t know if that makes sense, but just think about it maybe to use this technique for your future movie scoring in case you find it useful.
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  9. Makes perfect sense mate. Thank you for sharing. Any and all thoughts I always remember and work on for future scoring so always feel free to share.

    I think you're right that I could've found more organic ways to envolve these clusters and perhaps build motif's or thematic moments from this. I can't deny that I tried to do exactly what you described but perhaps it just didn't sound like that in the final result. Every cluster I used was programmed by myself using the scales or my motif squashed into a close voicing or wide voicing cluster. Now, that was probably my extent to actually organically envolving it in my score since writing atonal/aleatoric music isn't my playground of choice. I should and need to listen to more of the music and just have it seep in my head more. In the end, I need to find better cohesiveness with those elements.

    Did you write that example? That was tight mate. Thanks for sharing. :D
  10. Didn't have a chance to listen to all of it yet, but what I heard sounded great, very nice template too! It inspired me to dig out the aleatoric stuff in my sample libraries again and give it another shot. So far I was never able to wrap my head around writing with them.

    That is a great idea! I will try that, thanks.

    I happen to have tabs with youtube links to my favorite aleatoric soundtrack open, so here they are, in case you need some recommendations:

    The third one comes with the disclaimer that I haven't listened to it yet because I only just started playing Dead Space 3 and I had finished the other two games many years ago and only ever listened to the first two soundtracks.
  11. Thanks for your comments Martin. This is hilarious that you linked Dead Space as I am a huge fan, used this as some inspiration for my score, and even emailed Jason Graves asking some thoughts, and I got some great feedback from him because I was struggling with this score. He's such a nice guy and basically told me to just dive head in into this music and eventually it'll start to naturally form in your writing.

  12. That's cool, excellent choice! I gave your score a couple listens on spotify today and listened to the whole Dead Space 1 soundtrack in between and while I was listening to music in the background, no longer quite sure what was actually playing, I thought "hey, that's cool, what's that?" and it was your "reflection man" track. Very nice work indeed! I think the Dead Space influence shows in a good way, without it feeling derivative. Well done!

    He really is! I watched a couple of his videos and briefly talked to him on VI:C, such a cool dude!

    Thanks a lot for relaying his advice to me! That's motivating to hear and I'll give it a go. I always thought this style of music sounds super cool but I felt so lost trying to make anything remotely similar myself. Like, where the fuck do I even start? But a couple days ago I think something clicked and I think I really just need to dive in and write a bunch in that style and follow my instincts. I had a feeling that it excercises a kind of "writing muscle" that would be tremendously useful in all kinds of music and is very underdeveloped in my skillset (which is why I never got a grip on writing in this style before).
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  13. Wow! That's is an incredible kind compliment and you made my day with reading your kind words. I'm glad my influences are showing up in a natural way. Thank you so much. :D

    Every time, I need to write this style of music it's the exact same words, "Where the fuck do I even start?". I'm happy to share any advice I recieved and I hope it helps. I know it's not a secret solution but I think it makes sense. Just like if you don't speak Japanese but you're forced to live in Japan for a year, I think eventually you'll start just picking up on the language because you're surrounded by it 24/7.

    Feel free to share some of your work @Martin Hoffmann , I'd love to hear what you output after being inspired so much by Dead Space and this horror-esque atonality type of music. :D

    Martin Hoffmann likes this.
  14. Hi Doug,

    First off, thank you very much for taking the time to listen through my tracks and reply with an infamous Doug special. I heated up some popcorn, and had my pencil and notepad ready. Thank you so much for doing this.

    To reply and answer some of your questions:

    Ha! I believe it comes from my father about self-flagellation. Yes, indeed I am 100% italian and catholic. I always refer to my music as shit as well as my father when I ask his advice or feedback, he grdugely replies, "Let's hear your newest shit piece today". It's become a running joke and perhaps motivation for me to always write something better than the last. My father isn't an ogre or tyrant, it's just a joke between us. However, I laughed out loud as well as when I told my father about you calling me out about self-flagellation.

    Baked in aleatoric effects. I admit to using some, but a lot of it is not as much as you think. I hate using pre-baked samples and one-shot recordings and thus why I'm bothered when I'm asked to write this type of music because I can never really hear what I want, because I'm usually forced to use what the samples provided. However, I tried my absolute best to A) create my own effect or B) if I used a sample effect I would notate it and try to change it to my own, so a live performance would be a bit different and unique to me. Jason Graves actually gave me this advice since that was one of the questions and complaints I asked him is how he gets around the one-shot recording aleatoric effects. His response, "Create your own, even go buy a cheap violin and record yourself doing dumb stuff". I didn't do the latter, but I definitely tried to create my own.

    Here are some spots where I tried to notate my thoughts and effects I created.
    Here is an example where I wanted to use a multiphonic but I didn't know how to properly notate it. As well, I'm forced to what the Berlin WW recorded only. So here is an example where I had no choice, but I wanted to notate what I wrote.
    Here is one last example of me doing random pizz's based on my pitch classes or as you enlightened me hexachords. I actually played in all of these and went to town on a few takes trying to make it real'ish. Haha!
    Now, I'm openly willing to say that everything you hear in Reflection man cue during the chase scene is a lot of pre-baked samples. The orchestration and composition is all mine, but because of time restraints (I'm a slow composer of sorts,) I needed to just rush and finish it. So I didn't even get around to yet notating the full orchestral score like I usually do. This cue I wrote the piano sketch in Sibelius, and then had to go to straight to Cubase to orchestrate it. But, I'm confident to say at least 90% of the effects in all the other tracks I custom made myself. I really do hate one-shot effects because I want to separate myself somehow from every other composer even though random pizz will always be random pizz in a sense.


    Wow! I really love that you pointed this out to me. Do I know what a Hexachord was before you explained it, Yes. Did I know consciously that was the device I was using, obviously no or I would've developed it better. I love that you pointed out what I was doing, and with your examples and books, I can look further into developing my music using Hexachords. I'm definitely the type of person who likes to just write and use my ear and not think about stuff until after I've organically done it. So, now that I've fucked with Hexachords I'm all about getting into some studying and really learning how the masters fooled around with it. Thank you very much, Doug. Feel free to point more stuff like that to me.

    Also, I admit that my chords are a lot simpler in my melody A when I wrote it initially. I definitely used different chords through-out, but my first rendition which is the Main Title cue was the following:
    I wish I knew about the hexachords as the score would've been a lot different. I found it fascinating and enlightening how you were talking about different resolving chords.

    I agree 100% that I should've ventured out of my hexachord pitch classes more for the melody to give it even a more creepier spooky vibe and it would've given me contrast and perhaps a better memorable melody. Also, I appreciate the tip about changing my bass notes so it doesn't become so much of a drone because I stayed in my hexachord pitches for so long.

    Lastly, I love me Liszt and Bartok. Thank you for the suggestions.
  15. GDC released a panel talk from 2017 where Jason talks a bit about his work on Dead Space. I thought you might be interested (his part comes towards the end, feel free to skip ahead if you want to just hear his part):

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  16. Awesome find Martin. Thank you for sharing. This was great to watch this morning with my coffee. Jason is such a giddy, nice, and talented guy.
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  17. I listened to these tracks and they sound extremely good, and must be very effective in creating atmosphere and intensity for the film. In fact it makes me wonder if the film is as good as the music. You were talking about not creating a memorable melody, but that seems very secondary in a lot of scores. It can even be a distraction. The composer who to me is the greatest of all film composers - Bernard Herrmann - almost never created a melody. The ending of "Fahrenheit 451" or Main Title of "Jason and the Argonauts" are exceptions but he usually created only short motifs along with his tonal/bitonal harmony and supreme orchestration as the entire focus of his writing. And on the other hand a composer who sometimes irritatingly created elaborate melodies - Max Steiner - didn't do the films any good by distracting the audience with them (though many of his scores were great ones of course).

    Though these references are very old compared to what you guys are talking about - probably too old, right? Have I done wrong again in a forum? Probably.

    Anyway I can't believe you would say you failed - this is great stuff. I would feel relieved and happy if I had come up with it for a project...
  18. Not at all! I may not be familiar with a lot of Bernhard Herrmann's work yet, but I'm sure Dillon is and I've seen the name used frequently, both here and on VI:C.

    He sure is, I'm glad you liked it! I have bookmarked another video interview that Daniel James did with him, but I haven't gotten around to watching it yet:

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  19. Thank you for your kind words William. I'm an old soul and very familiar with Bernard Hermann and Max Steiner. Herrmann is my main inspiration for these type of dark, thriller/horror scores and if you look deep into how I develop and orchestrated my motif's you would find some inspiration from Hermann no doubt.

    I respect your opinion and can see how some long elaborated themes could do harm to a film. Sadly, you might not enjoy most of my music then since I do come from the other side of things. I am more of a Steiner vs Herrmann in this case and really relate to Tchaikovsky because my themes are in full and elaborated. This score here is perhaps the least melodic I've gone so far in a film score.

    I find it funny Herrman would get mad at the thought that someone would call him a great melody writer because he himself didn't think so; however, I can't forget Herrmanns' themes and would have to argue that he wrote a lot of melodies (just not in the sense of a Tchaikovsky or as you said Steiner). Vertigo, Psycho, Marnie, the Ghost and Mrs. Muirs just to name a few of my favorites.

    Thanks for listening, and apologies I haven't had a chance yet to listen to much of your music and comment. I just moved into a new home, starting a new job, and writing a lot. Just a busy time and now holidays are coming up.

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