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The piece of music featured in this episode is called Are You A Memory. It’s a traditional jazz piece which I wrote for the comedy/horror audio drama Mockery Manor by Long Cat Media. The show tells the story of an amusement park set in Britain in the 80s with a dark and thrilling history. And furry mascots. This week we’ll look at some of the insights into why and how it was made. My name is Laurence Owen. I’m a composer from the United Kingdom, and this is How I Make Music.
IN THIS EPISODE
01:23 I was a child actor when I was a kid. It all came together recently when I thought actually, I should be making audio dramas!
01:37 This song, Are You A Memory is from the podcast Mockery Manor, which is set in a theme park in 1980s Britain. There’s a lot of music in the show, including songs by fictitious pop stars of our own invention. In reality, they’re all just me singing in different voices.
02:21 The piece was designed to sound like an old scratchy jazz shellac record on a gramophone. It’s a weird thing to do in the 20th Century using computers and software. It’s formal and influenced by British jazz performers like Henry Hall and Al Bowlly.
03:51 Mockery Manor is influenced by the horror films of the 80s, particularly The Shining. There’s a lot of the same territory, with a creepy haunted hotel and jazz pouring in through the foyer. We also pay tribute to the Tower of Terror rides from The Disney theme parks around the world.
05:00 Are You A Memory often plays in the background of scenes in Mockery Manor. We wanted it to be unclear whether or not the music is diegetic.
05:51 The first step was to write out all the chords on the piano. It has a straight, deliberate functional rhythm. Then I added drums and double bass, both software instruments. In the spirit of the recording practices of the day, there’s very little expression to the rhythm section.
06:47 The violin is the Spitfire Audio Solo Strings software instrument. Tasteful, and not as bombastic as the Hollywood sound. Sounds realistic! I added live guitar and lead vocal.
07:46 I added vintage orchestration in the form of brass, a small string section and a sax choir. Then I aged it by applying gross EQ to make it sound boxy and horrible. Originally, the whole orchestra would have been crowded around a single microphone.
09:06 A major challenge was making orchestral instruments sound live. Jazz is hard to do on synths! Another challenge was imitating the sound of playing. I had to add fake vibrato to the saxophones. I was trying to remove any aspect of the digital.
09:45 I’m a singer. This was still out of my comfort zone because I had to sing in this polite, flutey voice. If you feel like you’re taking the piss, you’re probably doing it right.
10:23 The guitar wasn’t sounding right. I had to hammer it because the guitar is one of the quietest instruments in a vintage jazz ensemble, and that’s how they would have had to have played it in the early days of jazz.
11:18 In the B section, the piece modulates. The harmony is super simple. No Herbie Hancock or Jacob Collier chords here! Towards the end, the piano does some flourishes. I imagine that to be the fictitious bandleader Alfred Mockery taking liberties on the piano that the others can’t.
12:59 I play the theremin. Here’s a piece I wrote called Sonate D’Une Autre Epoque.
* Want merch? Get the (physical) pop magazine from inside the Mockery Manor universe longcatmedia.bandcamp.com/
* Listen to audio drama Mockery Manor by Long Cat Media pod.link/mockerymanor
* Visit Long Cat media www.longcatmedia.com/mockery-manor
* Check out other work by Laurence Owen www.laurenceowen.co.uk/
* Laurence Owen plays George Gershwin’s Rhapsody In Blue on the theremin
MUSIC & SFX CREDITS
* Henry Hall – The Teddy Bears’ Picnic
* Al Bowlly – Midnight, The Stars and You
* Thaighaudio – Concert Applause 4.wav
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