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074 This Planet Needs A Name – Trace Callahan – Within Gravity – How I Make Music

074 This Planet Needs A Name – Trace Callahan – Within Gravity



The piece of music we’re listening to in the background is called Within Gravity. It’s a relationship theme for Quill and Mandry, two characters in the hopepunk sci-fi audio drama This Planet Needs A Name. Today, we’ll break it down and look at some of the insights into why and how it was made. My name is Trace Callahan. I’m a composer from Florida in the United States, and this is How I Make Music.


01:39 Evolving

The piece Within Gravity begins in one of the prologue episodes for the show and evolves into its full form over the course of several episodes as the relationship between the two characters evolves. Within Gravity has its roots in American folk song, especially music of Aaron Copland. Very simple violin motives and melodies. Here’s a section from a piece called Appalachian Spring by Aaron Copeland. Take a listen and see if you can hear how it influenced Within Gravity. The idea of hope and exploration and openness that his music tends to evoke.

02:45 Sing along

So Within Gravity begins with a pulsing, slow rhythmic, not even quite melody, just a feeling that’s based on the idea of a radar or some kind of instrument in this ship. The feel of the piece is intended to be something like a lullaby. When I sat down to write Within Gravity, I played the scene that it was going under on a loop actually continuously while I played the keyboard along with it. The first layer of Within Gravity that was written was this set of floating, morphing chords that are very gentle and slow and soothing, kind of like the lullaby with a pulse on the root of the chord acting in a rhythmic radar like fashion. Sort of to emphasize the spaceship aspect of where their relationship takes place. While the scene was playing while the dialogue was playing, I would play the scene and plug my keyboard into my DAW and just sing different ideas along with what I was playing until I found something that I liked.

05:06 Viola for Quill

Once I was done singing my way through the melody and I was happy with it, I took it and transcribed it into sheet music which became the viola part for Quill in Within Gravity. In Within Gravity each separate piece of the music represents something the viola melody is quill. The radar pulse is the character of Mandry who is our pilot. The floating chords are gravity itself binding the piece and the melody and all of the other parts of the song together, like gravity binds us to the ground.

06:09 Dialogue clashing

One of the challenging things for me is that the instruments that I like to use tend to live in the same area as the vocal ranges of our actors. To demonstrate what I mean by the music and the dialogue clashing, here is me speaking in my normal voice against the melody of a viola. And here I am speaking against the same melody but in the range of a cello. So you can hear how much easier it is to hear me and understand me when I’m speaking over the cello.

06:50 Keep it simple

It would be very easy for me and it is my natural tendency to overcomplicate music and so keeping it simple and something that can exist peacefully in the background, while the scene is happening was something I definitely had to work on.

07:04 Wet keyboard

This Planet Needs A Name is a pretty emotional show. We sometimes say that it’s very effective free therapy for people who listen to it! And audio drama tends to be pretty emotional anyway, so the dialogue is already emotional and the story and then you’re adding the music. There is a lot of catharsis. There is a lot of crying. Sometimes happy tears, sometimes not so much. You have the occasional wet keyboard!

07:58 Layers

The background parts of the song are happening over several layers. You’ll hear several different instruments combined to create each part. But when you have a melody that’s representing one of the characters, that melody is always a solo instrument and the reasoning behind it being that space is big and made up of many, many things. And humans are very small.


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* Aaron Copland – Appalachian Spring
* Tomattka – Thunderstorm.wav


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