The piece of music featured in this episode is called The Fugue. It’s an atmospheric piece which I wrote for the sci fi season finale of the audio drama The Big Loop, which follows a ship’s peace officer sent to investigate strange visions haunting the crew. This week we’ll look at some of the insights into why and how it was made. My name is Daniel Birch. I’m a composer from Somerset in England, and this is How I Make Music.
IN THIS EPISODE
01:59 For this episode of The Big Loop show creator Paul Bae wanted a mix of ambient drones and haunting sci fi horror themes.
02:33 Influences include the score for Ex Machina by Ben Salisbury & Geoff Barrow. I’d heard they used a plugin called PaulStretch, which influenced me to create ambient tones of The Fugue. I retained certain childlike qualities using an instrument called a celesta. Clint Mansell’s score for Moon is another influence, and uses sparse instrumentation to create a powerful score.
04:43 Show creator Paul Bae sent an email requesting [quote] “Something beautiful, ambient, reflecting the vastness of space and human sacrifice. I want to bring the listeners to tears with this one.” I only had a few weeks, but I find having a short deadline really helps.
05:09 I subscribe to the YouTube channel of Christian Henson, the co-owner of Spitfire Audio. I was inspired by his use of various pedals to resample and manipulate audio, turning them into sampled instruments. I thought “I could do that!”
05:21 I ran some of the sounds through my pedals. I ran my Arturia Microbrute through the AMA’s AC Noises pedal, which is a spring reverb with a bitcrusher and oscillator. By the end of it, I had a totally new skill.
06:37 I am also a vocalist. I included vocals into the compositions by singing along without a clear melodic line, just capturing my emotional response to the story. It’s definitely an organic sound, with some granular digital static.
08:09 During the intro to the track, you hear a combination of a patch called the ‘unstabler pad’ with the celeste and vocals to create a nice mellow bed.
09:16 There’s a heartbeat-style sound which plays throughout parts of the track. The sounds are a sampled instrument called Native Instruments’ “The Grand”. It sounds like the side of the piano is being tapped, drenched in reverb. I wanted this to symbolize the humanity of the lead character.
10:23 The synth lead was a mangled, distorted version of a simple saw lead. I used a plugin called Reels to provide tape emulation.
10:57 Another influence was Mica Levi’s score for Under The Skin. Very dark and atmospheric.
11:47 In episode 59 of How I Make Music, David Devereux cites Disasterpeace as an influence, and I also love his use of ambient washes and synth darkness.
* Ben Salisbury & Geoff Barrow – Skin (from Ex Machina)
* Clint Mansell – Welcome To Lunar Industries (from Moon)
* Mica Levi – Lipstick To Void (from Under The Skin)
* Disasterpeace – A Chorus Of Tongues (from Hyper Light Drifter)
ABOUT THIS SHOW
How I Make Music is where behind-the-scenes musicians tell their own stories. Every Wednesday, we break apart a song, soundtrack or composition and investigate the insights into how it was made.
How I Make Music is created by John Bartmann johnbartmann.com