072 Colin from Casual Magics by Jacob McNatt


The piece of music featured in this episode is called Colin. It’s a genre-bending piece which I wrote for the fantasy audio drama Casual Magics by Inside Fictions. The show tells the story of a young mage who must discover his identity as a freshman at The Weisz Institute, a college for mages. This week we’ll look at some of the insights into why and how it was made. My name is Jacob McNatt. I’m a composer from the United States, and this is How I Make Music.


01:23 Casual Magics is about young mages at a college for magical beings, and they quickly get swept up in danger beyond their abilities

01:52 The writer and producer, Steve Spalding, came to me with the idea of listening to Darren Korb as an influence. Darren Korb is an American game composer 

02:28 We knew we wanted there to be an element of jazz. I always want to incorporate the orchestra. In my head I kept hearing elements of hip hop, even though I have no experience in it. The result was a total genre mashup outside of my comfort zone. But original!

03:08 The tune plays whenever the character is narrating the story. He’s not as adept at magic as some of the others, and quickly gets taken advantage of by a barista that casts a charm spell on him. We wanted the music to reflect a ‘fish out of water’ feeling of naivete.

03:53 We established a jazz combo timbre with trumpet, trombone, saxophone. These instruments are used throughout the whole soundtrack.

04:23 I love imperfection. Because everyone uses the same sample libraries, music can become very samey. My goal is to use the samples in a different way. I intentionally detuned the trumpet alongside the saxophone. You don’t really notice it until it’s isolated.

05:07 To write a melody, I sit at the piano and begin playing. Colin’s theme needed innocence, so I centered it around a nice C minor ninth chord. I started writing an uplifting version in the relative major (Eb), but it drove me insane. I think the minor key still retains optimism. 

06:15 Colin’s theme uses traditional orchestral instrumentation. It was a challenge to tie it in with trip hop and jazz! Woodwinds, strings, low brass. The Cm9 chord really brings it all together and ties Colin to the story. The flute arpeggio represents magic. The tuba fulfils a comical role which suits Colin’s dorky side. 

08:37 Near the end, a distant piano plays the melody, which ties Colin to the secondary protagonist Kim. There’s also a swish effect which I made by recording my voice and running it through some weird guitar effects. 


* Listen to audio drama Casual Magics by Inside Fictions www.insidefictions.com/
* Check out other work by Jacob McNatt www.jacobmcnatt.com/


* Check out a video of Jacob doing a trombone/hip hop cover of the TwoSet Violin roast challenge


* Darren Korb – Old Friends
* The Pebble Shaker Jazz Band – The Jumping Jive
* Lil Miss Beats – Just Let Go
* Ludwig van Beethoven – 7th Symphony (2nd Movement) 
* Bernard Hermann – Vertigo Theme


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.

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How I Make Music is created by John Bartmann johnbartmann.com