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The piece of music we’re listening to in the background is called Unsealed. It’s the mysterious title theme for season three of the audio drama The White Vault. Today, we’ll break it down and look at some of the insights into why and how it was made. You’re listening to How I Make Music, where behind-the-scenes musicians get to tell their own stories. Every Wednesday, we break apart a song soundtrack or composition and get into why and how it was made. My name is Brandon Boone. I’m a composer from Cincinnati, and this is How I Make Music.
IN THIS EPISODE
I used to have a cello that I rented for like a year for some projects and people would see it in my room like oh, you play cello. I’m like, no, I just use it. I just use a cello. I don’t play it. I took lessons with the strictest teacher from Russia who had like the old school like slap on the wrist if you do it wrong.
02:13 Two versions
So today we’re looking at two versions of the song unsealed from the white vault. There is the first version that was used in season one and two and then the second version and season three and four. For season one, we were going for a more isolated cold feeling in Antarctica with these researchers. Whereas in season three and four, we wanted to do something more South American and so we started to introduce more instruments from that region.
What’s most noticeable about the theme song is that heartbeat that’s throughout the whole piece. We drew on that from Ennio Morricone’s title track for The Thing. Here’s how that sounds. This desolate, lonely research facility. So I kind of tried to start with that heartbeat feeling and glass sounds, sounding as cold as possible. While still having a melody to it. That simplicity kind of lends to being kind of memorable and you recognize it when you hear it. Separating our found footage story is a documentarian who’s compiling it together. As she speaks, we have the drone from unsealed playing underneath, to glue the production together.
05:00 A 40-person choir
The expression on my face when Travis called me he’s like, how do you feel about writing for a 40 person choir? And I’m just like, yeah, I’ll figure it We’ll figure that out! We worked with a friend – Steven Melin – quite a bit on this piece. Travis mentioned that there was a choir. And so I wrote the choir piece on my computer and then sent the score to him.
05:32 Remote recording
Steven did the orchestration for the choir. He’s very much a classical musician. So you can’t just write notes on a paper, there’s actually a lot that goes into it. And the directing session also was quite terrifying because I was suddenly directing a choir for the first time in my life. And it was quite the experience at four in the morning. They’re in Hungary. They have a unique Skype-like service that has zero latency, perfect audibility of exactly what your wave will sound like, in real time. It’s both exhilarating and terrifying. With 40 people, you’ve got a split of gender, and you’ve got a split of alto, soprano, etc. We had different variations of the arrangements. So we’ve got one where it’s just the women doing the higher end voices, whereas there are a lot of rest notes for the lower end. So there are a lot of variations within the choir.
06:54 South American version
For season three and four, we wanted to do something more South American, and so we started to introduce more instruments from that region. What you’re hearing right now is a live guitar played by Steven Melin for a track. Hearing the scrapes and taps and breath of an actual guitar is something that’s very difficult to fake. Even with high quality samples. There’s also an ocarina , which is a small handheld wind instrument. You’re probably familiar with it if you’ve played Zelda. There’s some really cool percussion. There is some brass and an actual flute. Breathy and emotive.
We have two approaches to the strings, one that we considered more tense and another set that we considered more scary. Brendan also snuck in a number of really cool synthetic layers like this one. We wanted to add some sort of creepy pitch shifting notes as well. As the note is held, the pitch will shift and that’s what you’re hearing now. This one is the kalimba instrument, which resembles a thumb piano. This is played by Steven Melin.
You know, it went from just me working on this thing on a computer to 40 person choir to Steven playing these instruments. When I tour with the No Sleep podcast, five times a show people will come up and complement either The White Vault or Vast Horizon so I’m very happy with both of those.
The White Vault has won one our second Webby honoree for music this year – 2020 – for the songs you’ve heard, as well as our musical episode. We’ve actually been collaborating for a number of years on a couple of different projects such as Liberty Tales From The Tower, Vast Horizon and Dark Dice. Here’s another piece of music that Stephen and I worked on with the Budapest scoring choir called Weaver Of Fate for our podcast, Dark Dice, which Brandon Boone is also a part of.
* Listen to audio drama The White Vault thewhitevault.com/
* Check out other work by Brandon Boone bbcomposer.com/
* Check out other work by Travis Vengroff travisvengroff.com/
* Check out other work by Steven Melin www.stevenmelin.com/
MUSIC & SFX CREDITS
* Ennio Morricone – Title Theme from ‘The Thing’
* Jeffreys2 – Wind_Heulen_Wind Howling_.mp3
* Grez1 – Scream14.mp3
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