“When we first got into doing the audio drama thing, it was very clear immediately how supportive the community was. Made us feel a lot better about getting our feet wet and just like diving into this madness.”Spacemerica! composer Ian McGowan
Join Ian McGowan, composer for audio drama Spacemerica! in a blastoff soundtrack to a comedy sci-fi story. An immersive listening experience. Headphones recommended.
The piece of music we’re listening to in the background is the main theme for the audio drama Spacemerica!. Today, we’ll break it down and get into why and how it was made. You’re listening to How I Make Music, where audio drama composers get to tell their own stories. In this show, we break apart a song soundtrack or composition and take a trip into how it was made. My name is Ian McGowan. I’m a speech and language therapy student and musician from St. Louis, Missouri, now based in Scotland, and this is How I Make Music. Welcome back to How I Make Music Episode 95, Spacemerica! by me, Ian McGowan. Thanks for listening in. Spacemerica! is a space opera sci fi comedy about a group of people – a ragtag motley crew – that ends up going on the hunt for a treasure. And when you set things hundreds of years in the future, high jinks ensue. And there’s some pretty good comedy in there. So I guess the goal for me is to put the audience in the room with with whatever’s happening.
The piece that we’re hearing now is called Panoramic by Atticus Ross, who composed the soundtrack for The Book of Eli. I was always interested in it because they use a lot of electronic stuff. And they create these really beautiful soundscapes these textures with a lot of really simplistic individual parts that build on each other. Pretty dystopian. There’s a little bit of grunge, a little bit of distorted guitar. I think I was probably always gonna pull from that. Another influence is the soundtrack for Oblivion, which M83 had a heavy hand in. Because the story that we set out to tell in Spacemerica! is pretty epic. I wanted to make sure that the intro the outro really set up that kind of feel for the audience. Those two were main influences and building the space for a theme that really takes you on a journey, rather than something that’s kind of tight together and makes you feel like you’re kind of in a closet.
4:59 ELECTRONIC TOYS
On a whim I purchased this Akai XR20 beat development machine, whatever the full name is. So when I was starting to work on Spacemerica!, I knew it was going to be epic futuristic. To me that sounds electronic. You think robots you think cyborgs you think electronics. I was always going to start there. And so I kind of messed around with a few beats. It took me a while to come up with the backing beat that you hear. I turned off all the lights in the room, I shut the blinds. The Akai has a three by three pad grid and they glow. I just sat there and just kind of let that run to get this feel of drifting through space. I purchased a Mother32. A Mother32 is an analog synth. I don’t actually know a ton about analog synths and so when I recorded, I hooked it into the Akai and played the the melody part of the Akai melody through the Mother32, there’s just a slow legato, an ethereal melody in the background. And that’s courtesy of the Mother32. Almost a ghost like feel like you’re kind of drifting, which I loved. I might not ever be able to recreate this exact thing, but that just makes me appreciate it that much more.
8:46 BASS GUITAR
I needed to create a bigger boomy sound behind everything. The bass on it just wasn’t quite enough; it wasn’t round enough. I that’s when I got out my my bass guitar – my Fender five string – and I just added those notes which ended up actually being an octave lower to make to really kind of fill it out. I then added some distorted guitar chords in a slow build. I added an airy synth sound like B-movie, sci fi kind of stuff.
10:04 FLOOR TOM
I searched desperately actually for a good sample of a booming drum. My friend Daniel is a drummer, and he has very large drums. His floor tom is the size of a kick drum for most people. It’s absurd. The sense of trepidation of apprehension. And that was it. You know, I was like, hey, let’s add something that’s a little bit more real to this. Can I use your drums? He’s like, Yeah, okay.
11:03 ORPHAN SYNTHS
Since I moved from the US, I’m now in Scotland, I had to get rid of a lot of stuff. It’s something that I do regret, but I ended up selling both the Mother32 and the Akai to a good friend of mine. They’re both getting a lot of love and a lot of use. And he knows what he’s doing with those things. I was like, Hey, man, are you interested? I know you have a good home for these things.
12:03 CIRCLE OF FOURTHS
Something that I have kind of touched on a little bit before is this, this lack of resolution, this kind of apprehension, this building. I started with circle of fourths or fifths however you want to look at it. So a circle of fourths is a group of intervals should resolve but you can keep it going for ever and ever and ever and ever and ever and ever and ever and ever and ever and ever and ever and ever and ever and ever and ever until you get through all of the notes in the standard Western scale.
That’s about it for this week’s episode. We’ll listen to the full track in just a moment. But before we do that, thank you for listening to How I Make Music. Catch new episodes on Spotify, Apple, or wherever else you catch podcasts. We’ve been listening to music featured in the audio drama called Spacemerica!. To hear the full story or to check out my other compositions, follow the links in the show notes. We video recorded the full interview for this episode. Check it out and support the show by becoming a patron at patreon.com/howimakemusic. Visit HowIMake Music.com for more info about the show. How I Make Music is created by John Bartmann. For audio experiences that keep people listening, contact John Bartmann via the show notes. And now, here’s the main theme for Spacemerica! in its entirety. My name is Ian McGowan, and thanks for listening to How I Make Music. Catch you next time.
Panorama by Atticus Ross
M83 – Oblivion (feat Susanne Sundfør)
Listen to music by Ian McGowan:
Spacemerica! is created by Calamity Cast, St. Louis-based comedy podcast network. Visit calamitycast.com/
ABOUT THIS SHOW
How I Make Music is where audio drama composers get to tell their own stories. In a dramatically edited sound experience, we challenge 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 johnbartmann.com