Join composer Aaron Weatherford of audio drama Entropy and take a trip into the epic cinematic music of a sci-fi story. An immersive listening experience. Headphones recommended.
The piece of music we’re listening to in the background is called Deneer Death Experience. It’s an action cue from the sci fi audio drama Entropy, which tells the story of a group of people working to find a new habitable planet. I would describe this cue as an action cue that kind of dips and turns, slows down speeds up. 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 Aaron Weatherford. I’m a composer from Summerville, South Carolina. And this is How I Make Music.
The name of this audio drama is Entropy. And it’s about a group of people trying to find a new habitable planet. Within that, there is a little bit of conflict between colonies. My favorite character is actually the villain Deneer. His full name is Pron Deneer. The name of the piece that we’re going to be breaking down today is called Deneer Death Experience. Very funny. Nobody dies. It’s okay. Everything’s fine. You’ll just have to watch the audio drama … listen to the audio drama in order to find out what happens.
One of my main influences is Michael Giacchino. He did Ratatouille and a lot of Pixar movies. The Incredibles, Star Trek scores. And what I really like about him is his sense of storytelling. It’s really really cool and the fact that he manages to be both old school and new school at the same time, fresh and new. John Williams style orchestrations, like very golden era silver era mixed with stuff like synths.
The context of this piece is during when the main character Jan is in the middle of having a conversation with her mother. And it gets very rudely interrupted when the ship blows up, and there’s a hole in the ship and they almost fly out and die. And then this whole battle ensues, then Deneer comes in and gives this speech. And then Jan and a couple of other crew members have to escape. Really slow and kind of menacing and has a little bit of kind of these weird orchestrations that can tell you what type of guy Pron Deneer is. Here’s what his theme sounds like. More of a motif than a theme because of the fact that it’s only a few notes and it’s so short, you know.
OFF THE GRID
So the escape stuff, the escape juice, all of a sudden are these kind of magic. Measured trems that start going. And it gets faster and faster and faster. And it builds up and builds up and then stops. That’s when the piece finally ends. There’s a part in there in the piece where the tempo starts to ramp up here, take a listen. You don’t really hear this sound of tempo ramps often in modern film scores. I feel it kind of adds motion and emotion. And it kind of needed that ramp. It’s one of those moments where it’s like, here goes nothing, and then they blast off. For me, everything is about story and emotion. And a lot of stuff stays the same tempo for a really long time. And it kind of gets it kind of gets boring after a while. Alexander Desplat brings this up a lot, the fact that we’re really attached to the grid and we don’t like to get away from it. Sometimes I don’t do a metronome at all, I just play and whatever happens happens.
MOTHER KNOWS BEST
So there’s actually another piece in the audio drama Entropy called Mother Knows Best. And it’s actually the talk that happens right before the battle scene that consists of Deneer Death Experience. And it’s just really slow, no tempo, just piano. And it has this little like pad synth under it. And really, that’s just those two things. And that kind of made up this little. This motif that I come up with for the relationship between Jan and her mother, they’re obviously very close.
Orchestration is basically the way that you use instruments. There are rules sometimes. Other times, I personally don’t care about the rules. There are two things that I use in all of my scores, the electric bass and the kick drum, which would be like a synthetic kick drum. Giacchino, he adopted this technique of using the electric bass as kind of like a hype method. But you hear it in chasing the dragons in Jurassic World. And it’s like this slap bass in the background. You’re thinking like, what the hell is this? But it makes it so much cooler! It’s not used enough.
So 39 seconds into Deneer Death Experience, there is this cymbal thing that happens. Coming in and out, like switching like… It was like I was trying to do two cymbals at once. And I meant to fix it. And I never did. But you may not even notice it. It may just be me. I don’t know.
NO NARRATIVE MISTAKE
Entropy episodes are actually really, really short. They’re under 20 minutes each. I really like that. One of the challenges that I had was that I had to start scoring with nothing, no audio, no narration, no anything. I was basically writing a piece of music with nothing attached to it. And I just wrote the music based off of what I knew happened in the script. And that was a very hellish experience. I had no narration I had no audio. It was basically like I was just going in and writing a piece of music to nothing. And that was a that was a big no. That was big challenge.
STRINGS & WOODWINDS
I’m really proud of the string runs I usually don’t do string runs because I can never get them right. I recently got Cinematic Strings 2. It works beautifully. Here take a listen to this section with the string lines. I’m a really big fan of woodwinds to the point so much so where I used to forget about them and feel bad for it. I try as much as possible to specifically in the near death experience. There’s a couple parts where you hear like flutter tongue flutes. I want to show how some of the woodwinds work in this piece. We’re gonna go through and we’re gonna play them all one by one just to show the different roles that they play. Take a listen. Bass clarinet and bassoon both serve as a sort of kind of color for the for the cellos and the double basses. They add a little bit of color, add a little bit of bite. Clarinets add a little more of a rounder sound to the strings. Flutes add a little bit more of a airy sort of light silky sound to the strings. The oboe is really pretty. I don’t use it that often. I just pair it with the flutes whenever I can. But it is a really pretty instrument on its own. The piccolo actually as a very exciting instrument for me just like a burst of like, Ah! It just pierces right through the mix. It’s definitely not something you can hide from. Here’s some highlights of the brass from the Deneer Death Experience.
EMOTION OVER EVERYTHING
So there’s another audio drama similar to ours called Starcalled. The music between the two has some similarity in the approach and whatnot. So if you like what you heard today, go check out Starcalled. “Emotion over everything”. To me that speaks to how I feel about film scores. If there’s no story, there is no score. I’m the type of artist that can’t work on something unless I feel something from it. And that’s kind of what I mean by “emotion over everything”.
MUSIC & SFX CREDITS
* Michael Giaccino and Jay Bocook – Symphonic Suite from Star Trek
* Michael Ciaccino – Chasing the Dragons from Jurassic World
* “Metronome, 168BPM.wav” by InspectorJ (www.jshaw.co.uk) of Freesound.org
ABOUT THIS SHOW
Discover new fiction podcasts in an immersive, sound-designed listening experience with their music composers. In this show, we challenge audio drama music makers to break apart a song, soundtrack or composition and get into why and how it was made. Immersive listening. Headphones recommended.
BECOME A PATRON
Patrons get early access to all future episodes, full video interviews with contributors, a listing on the Wall of Fame, immersive podcast editing tutorial video livestreams and resources, access to the show’s hidden back catalog, bonus material for creating your own show and a massive thank you!
Become a patron patreon.com/howimakemusic