You immediately have to shelve your ego and say, what’s the best thing for this whole artwork? Rather than what’s the best thing for my track? How am I plus one-ing rather than deterring, or covering something up?Sam Boase-Miller, composer “Marsfall” audio drama
Join Sam Boase-Miller, composer for audio drama Marsfall in a quirky cello crossover soundtrack to a trial scene. An immersive listening experience. Headphones recommended.
The piece of music we’re listening to in the background is called The Trial. It’s featured in the soundtrack from the fiction podcast Marsfall. 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 the music of a fictional podcast and take a trip into how it was made. My name is Sam Boase-Miller. I’m a composer, producer and voice actor from the US and this is How I Make Music. Welcome back to How I Make Music, The Trial by me Sam Boase-Miller. Thanks for listening in.
Marsfall is a sci-fi/fantasy story about the first colonists to settle on Mars. We follow them starting in the year 2047. So maybe 2047 is actually the year that we’ll get people on Mars. Mini helicopter that’s flying around from the Perseverance lander. And yeah, it’s pretty incredible the strides that we’re making. Life imitating art!
The scene takes place in the trial for ANDI, our colony AI. It’s his trial for closing the door on a particular colonist who was about to create havoc for the rest of the colony. That philosophical debate, the trolley debate: should you pull the lever and try to avoid most people knowing that you’ll kill one person? Or should you just let the trolley kill all five people to save the one. So this was the trial that we’re all of our main characters kind of come together for the first time. And in this scene, we hear interjections from several of our characters.
I started playing cello in school. Sort of like a string music petting zoo. My good friend at the time was playing viola. And so I thought, I really want to play viola. So I expressed this to the director of the orchestra and she was like, “no, you don’t want to play viola. Your hands are big. You should play the cello.” So I was already at nine years old being told what to do! Like what musical instrument I should be taking up. It’s actually the closest instrument (other than the trombone) to the range of the human voice. Both really, really low and it also gets into that high coloratura kind of soprano end of things
4:38 P-FUNK & INFLUENCES
I’m a big George Clinton fan. And part of what I love about Parliament Funkadelic is that they’re very imaginative harmonically and melodically and rhythmically. Yeah, I just I love that era. funk music from the 70s. Right around, you know, ‘75, ‘76. The orb is an electronic music group, I really got into their ethereal and ambient music where you’re just like taking on a whole journey. The place where you end up is certainly very different from where you started.
6:03 ERIC SARAS
My co creator and music editor, he’s director extraordinaire, Eric Saras. He’s also one of our writers of the show, he and I first connected through music, we both went on an orchestra tour to China together. And as you can imagine traveling to another country and touring and performing music brings people close together pretty quickly. And so I met him and we realized that we were very similar in our outlook on music, and that just got a lot of things kind of kicked off creatively. We wanted music to be featured really heavily. He kind of realized that there was more or less these like kind of pillars or buckets that the majority of our music was falling into. And we called them a numbering system essentially like one through six being silence to total music taking over and being the focal point of the scene. So going through that and knowing that ahead of time helps me really plan. Okay, my workload, is this seen a one or is it a six? Or is it somewhere in between that, and the way that
07:15 LEITMOTIFS & MUSICAL TRANCE
I write music in leitmotifs, which are little motives for each character or place or emotion. What you’re hearing now is the claps. I picked up clapping after cello, you know. I phased it so that it’s actually kind of moving around your ears. Even though you’re hearing that over and over again. Since it’s panning around and moving around your head a little bit subconsciously, it’s keeping the rhythm driving and moving. This point, I would consider myself a professional clapper. There are several speakers during the scene of the trial. We’ll hear interjections from Jeff. He’s the finance officer of the colony. That low cello by being that that’s actually one of the first themes that I wrote of the entire series. We hear Kyla, our medical doctor’s theme. She’s got several horn pads. So you’ll hear those horn chords. Chip Huddleston, the character I actually play, he interjects a couple of times. So you’ll hear this kind of muddy patch just really jokingly kind of come in and dip out because all of his interjections are just jokes, they’re just little quips. So I wanted the attitude of the character to be represented or representative of the music that you’re hearing. You know, the beats that I sampled from Ableton and bring in drop in and then highlight at different times, they help to kind of break up you know, the monotony of that clapping rhythm. There’s a whole cadre of composers from the 60s 70s 80s that was using minimalism to try and get you into musical trance almost like you’re looking through a kaleidoscope. So a lot of what I tried to do here was take this continuous beat and then add a little something to it, or take away a little something that would highlight or dampen the inherent, strong or weak parts of the beat that you’d hear.
10:11 PLUS ONE
With podcast or film or television, all of that is collaborative. And so you, you immediately have to shelve your ego and say, What’s the best thing for this whole artwork? Rather than what’s the best thing for my track? Or what’s the best thing for, for me as the composer, none of that matters? What matters is how does the whole thing come together? And how am I adding to it? How am I plus one-ning rather than deterring, or covering something up? That seems to be of the main thing that I’ve learned over the last…this entire project working on Marsfall. Sometimes I just want people to just listen. The best way for you to know me and to know my music is to just like, check it out. Just go and slap on some really good headphones, or go stand in the dark with some giant speakers and like, you know, close your eyes and like, just get swallowed up by the sound. And then you’ll know. The one thing about music is the ability to communicate with people around the world on a different level that almost has nothing to do with what language you speak, but it is that other language right?
11: 42 OUTRO
And that’s about it for this week’s episode. We’ll listen to the full track in just a moment. Thanks for listening to How I Make Music. Catch new episodes on HowIMakeMusic.com or wherever else you get your podcasts. We’ve been listening to music featured in the audio drama called Marsfall. To hear the full story or to check out my other work, follow the links in the show notes. We video recorded the making of this episode, check it out and support the musicians of audio drama by becoming a patron at patreon.com/howimakemusic. Top tier patrons get mentioned right here in the credits of every episode. How I make music is created by John Bartmann. And now here’s The Trial, a quirky, minimal electronic soundtrack in its entirety. My name is Sam Boase-Miller, and thanks for listening to How I Make Music. Catch you next time.
Music: Sarabande in D Major from Suite No.6 by J.S.Bach (performed by Sam Boase-Miller)
Music: The Cave Paintings by Sam Boase-Miller
Music: One Nation Under a Groove by Funkadelic
Music: Little Fluffy Clouds by The Orb
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