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#091 The LaFresian Chronicles: Arsen – John Bartmann – King Arsen Approaches – How I Make Music

#091 The LaFresian Chronicles: Arsen – John Bartmann – King Arsen Approaches

Join John Bartmann, composer for audio drama The LaFresian Chronicles: Arsen in a majestic cinematic soundtrack to an urban fantasy story. An immersive listening experience. Headphones recommended. 



The piece of music we’re listening to in the background is called King Arsen Approaches. It’s this regal fantasy theme, which I wrote for the audio drama, the LaFresian Chronicles: Arsen. Today, we’ll take a very quick look at the behind the scenes of why and how this track was put together. You’re listening to How I Make Music, where audio drama composers tell their own stories. My name is John Bartmann, and I’m a music composer from South Africa. And this is a little show called How I Make Music.

1:02 ABOUT

So today’s show is a little bit different. As you might know, I usually speak to other audio drama composers and then edit my voice out entirely. But to be perfectly honest, I was dropped by a few contributors this week and I had to plug a gap so I’m forced with the happy task of interviewing myself today! I’ll keep it shorter than usual, and hopefully I can convey some of my own passion for the music of audio drama. The LaFresian Chronicles: Arsen is a full cast fantasy audio drama written by Nicole Tuttle and edited by Mariah Clawson. A fantasy fairy kingdom where a young orphaned woman seeks to find the truth about her parents death. Writing for the show has put me into the space of cinematic composition. I’ve had to come up with numerous themes throughout the series, which is now 12 episodes. Themes like this one, which is got an action and tension feel. I do love the team that I work with. Brad Holbrook does the sound design. It just feels like I’m basically a part of something that’s really working. That’s what I love most about this job. 


The piece that I wanted to look at today is called King Arsen Approaches. And it’s a moment where the Royal Guard is confronting the king, having found the young Fae woman Aurelie. It’s all set up the palace, and the scene is described as having ‘floors of white marble that you can see your face in.’ This really royal atmosphere. It’s at this moment, that we meet King Arsen for the first time. And he proceeds down the set of stairs to stand right before Aurelie. To convey this feeling of majesty, I knew it had to be a really slow composition. This is 40 BPM which is way slower than a heartbeat (unless you’re Bruce Lee). The percussion does a lot for this piece because they start to like field drums and timpani drums convey a military field. And the king obviously being the head of the kingdom comes with that authority.


I have a bias towards strings because I am an amateur violinist. I play violin every day. Paying attention to melody and bow articulation and things that can be done with the software instruments. The library that I use is sort of an entry level library. It’s called Native Instruments Symphony Essentials. It’s a good starting point for me, I mean, I’m actually fairly new to the world of, orchestral composition. Aside from the percussion and the strings, this piece, King Arsen Approaches also contains a wind section. Here’s what the wind and the brass sound like together in this piece. Those little brass flutters are called triple tongues. So next time you watch a movie, and you hear Ba Ba Ba, it’s usually like action or something significant happening. And right at the outro here, we’ve got a beautiful, pretty oboe. Just carrying the final notes of the cadence. 


I want to play a piece now from a different part of the series, which has a much more tense feel. And I’ll include the narration too, so you have a sense of what’s going on. We immediately start with the action. If you want to create tension in your cinematic music, use brass swells like this. Another great trick is the use of tritones. Tritones are the flat five interval. Sounds horrible. So if you don’t resolve it, then it creates an ongoing sense of tension, a super useful tool. And that’s better. Feels like I can relax. 


Now, I just want to do a little rapid fire sort of showcase of some of the other music I’ve written for the show. What we’re hearing in the background now is majesty or grandeur. If you listen closely, you’ll hear it’s actually also the intro theme for the show, which I slowed down. I use the piano mostly when we have diary sequences, very tender moments where she gets to sort of do a monologue, often to her deceased parents. That piano is very soft. It sounds funny to say, but I picture of the bedroom of a young woman where she’s got some privacy to sit down and confess her feelings. I turned to the piano again, when I was asked to write a piece for a magical folk story retelling. A scene where the librarian is telling the history of the fairy people. And I got in some typical kind of chord progressions of this type of genre, but very simplistic, very minimal.


Conflict drives a narrative, and I’ve had to write a piece which underscores conflict between the characters. Often they’re having an argument or there’s a sense of betrayal. And that’s what this piece is. The challenge with these scenes is that you often have to end it on a positive note, like some kind of resolution has occurred. So you’ll notice the change here from a minor sad sound to a more triumphant major sound. And here’s one last piece, it’s got the silver bell sound almost like a monastery bell. I use that little touch. Just as a way of conveying some of this almost spiritual power that we come to realize that Aurelie has, I wanted to convey a sense of spirituality. And I found that that bell patch worked quite well. 

11:05 OUTRO

So that’s about it for this episode, I’d love to go into way more depth about my own music. But that’s not really what the show is about anymore. If you are interested in how this show How I Make Music came to be, the first 58 episodes of it were me doing what I did today, which is just basically deconstructing my own compositions, go to and you can access the first 58 – the first year of the show, the lost hidden year – for just a couple of dollars. So that would really help me out. Thank you. How I Make Music is created by John Bartmann. For audio experiences that keep people listening, head over to And now here is King Arsen Approaches in its entirety. This fantasy themed music composition that I wrote for the LaFresian Chronicles: Arsen. Thank you guys so much for tuning in every week. There are about 50 of you at the moment and I love all of you. Keep making your audio dramas and I’ll catch you next week Wednesday.


* The Lafresian Chronicles: Arsen podcast
* John Bartmann audio & license-free music asset packs


How I Make Music is a dramatically edited sound experience where behind-the-scenes musicians get to tell their own stories. Every Wednesday, we challenge audio drama composers to break apart a song, soundtrack or composition and get into why and how it was made.

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How I Make Music is created by John Bartmann. For audio experiences that keep people listening, visit