Song for Feet

I normally don’t share works in progress, but then again I guess I haven’t normally been a blogger.  So, in the spirit of the online documentation of ones everyday (or hopefully not so everyday) existence here’s what I’m currently up to:

(Please note that this is just the virtual instrument version, which I use for the sake of editing timings and arrangements when I actually get to see footage.  I know fake guitar sounds fake ;p)

It’s for the current Full Sail DIY club project slated for October.  It’s a touching story about a pair of feet, journeying through life and all it’s treacheries situated 1′ off the ground or less.  In other words: a short film about the life, death, and passing down of shoes told from low camera angles, sound, and music.  After hearing the pitch meeting I went home and picked up my guitar and tried to think of a song that could be easily molded to fit a wide variety of situations while still conveying some form of existential hope.  The following chord progression that serves as the foundation of the song just sprang out (albeit it is quite basic).

They wanted the movie to be told without dialogue whatsoever, so I felt that I would need some wind instruments to ‘talk’ for the film.  I’ve always loved the combination of flute and oboe (plus my wife plays both of them) so I thought this was as good of a time as any to give my first crack at a guitar, flute, and oboe trio.  I’m also planning on adding some accent instruments like brass or xylophone when I actually get to see the scenes that the song goes to.  The idea was to make a strong template that can be easily adjusted to a specific scene in the film to cater specifically towards the scene.  I think that the guitar chords can be tweaked (and obviously the winds too) pretty easily to tap a wide range of emotion.  I’ll be sure to post the final product when it is arranged!

Shorts Soundtracks: upShot

This was the first soundtrack I composed for the Do It Yourself Film Club at Full Sail University.  The short is called upShot: directed by Terell Grice.  It’s a neat little club for getting your feet wet with a few shorts made at a frantic pace (3 shorts were put out in the month I worked on this).  I took a jazzier approach to the sound design, and played all of the instruments myself (even the fun Rhodes lovin’ music).  The short sort of takes place in a mental ‘time loop’ of sorts, so I made repetition of events share musical threads (the piano bass line, the electric dance beat).  Fun side note, my wife and I are sitting on the couch in the party scene and I get to voice the protagonist’s lackadaisical boss.  I had not learned the wonders of MIDI for arranging for film yet, so this soundtrack was very improvisational and raw (well, jazz raw) at times–as I was just recording audio while watching the short.

Merchants & Liars

Merchants & Liars by Hot Cognition
I thought this would be a fitting first post to my portfolio.  This is a composition from my progressive rock band Hot Cognition.  I remember wanting the string trio I wrote in the song so badly we delayed the entire album several months to find students to help us play it.  I really like the juxtaposition of the strings to the rest song.  I wrote the original “give back what you owe” motif in my first ever music theory course at Hendrix College.  I held on to it for over a year in my head before finally getting to re-arrange and use it here (it’s at 1:57 and 5:57).  My band-mate, Reed, is responsible writing for the 6/8, 8/8 alternating time signature riff around 2:47–very cool stuff.  The “big rock” sound (3:47) was also a ‘legacy’ motif from my younger days, I always joked it was my “invincible star” theme if I ever got to write for a video game.  Turns out later at Full Sail University I got to do a short for a student film club that was video game inspired, and I finally got to use it as my invincible power-up.

The poly-meter near the end (5:01) was originally a super-ambitious idea that we felt was just too inaccessible to do (yes more inaccessible than a poly-meter!).  If you are of keen ears, you may have noticed near the end that the piano and guitar are no longer doing the 6/8, 8/8 alterations that they used to the first time you heard the motif.  They now each introduce a third variation, neither 6/8 or 8/8, that displaces them rhythmically from the drums & bass.  Adding convolutions, piano’s displacement riff does not match the guitar’s displacement riff.  The original idea was to have the piano, guitar, and bass all have three different variations of different time signatures and to select which one to play at random on the fly.  The result would mean after about 5 loops, there is almost no chance of playing the song the same way ever again.  As a band, we really liked it this way, but if you didn’t know what was happening then it sounded too chaotic (the non-random poly-rhythm present in the song already looses most people the first time they hear it).

Anyways, like I said, a introductory post because it captures a lot of the elements that I desire when composing.  The string trio represents my love of counter-point and textured movement as studies in the form of beauty.  The chorus represents my love of rock and roll, the lyrics are a glimpse into my own personal philosophy, and the poly-rhythms represent my dedication to exploring and personalizing musical complexities that are all to often neglected.

Pleased to meet you, I’m Philip Spann.

Hello world!

Here is the inaugural post of SpannSounds, my new digital ‘blogfolio’.  Here I will be sharing some of the projects I am working on in various audio positions, so expect some soundtrack compositions, Foley, sound design, and any recording/mix engineering projects I might be working on.  The purpose of this blog is to showcase some of the work I do, and give me a chance to network with any other industry professionals that are mutually obsessed with the audio realm.  So, thanks for dropping in!

~Philip Spann