Join acclaimed composer Christien Ledroit in a trip into popular dark sci-fi audio drama The Program Audio Series. In a future time, protagonist Mira is a scientist whose work rattles the establishment. In this episode, hear how Christien combined mid-pandemic choir recordings and an electronic score to tell the story of Mira’s explosive discoveries. An immersive listening experience. Headphones recommended.
The piece of music we’re listening to in the background is called The Match and the Fire. It’s the final climactic cue I wrote for episode 19 of The Program audio series. The episode is called Abandonware. 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. Am I speaking too fast? Want me to do do that slower? My name’s Chris Ledroit. I’m a composer and sound designer from Hamilton, Ontario, Canada. And this is How I Make Music.
Welcome back to How I Make Music. Thanks for listening in. The Program audio series is a fictional podcast set in the future in which money state and God are fused into a single entity called The Program. This episode does contain some spoilers, so you might want to listen to The Program audio series.
This is all just entire serendipity. This all sort of happened in the span of like a year. Years ago, CBC, our national radio broadcaster, used to have a program called Monday night Playhouse, which was for all intents and purposes, audio drama, but really more in the style of the old radio dramas from the 1920s and thirties and forties and whatnot. And my wife started getting into them and she said, here, try this. So I put a few on my phone when I was commuting for work. I got hooked really, really, really quickly. And then this came around. I was like, this sort of reminds me of that. And I really, really enjoyed it. I came on board as a fan in the first place. Which is sort of a really nice way to come into it. I got in touch with IMS, and said, you know, Hey, are you looking for any original music for the show? And he said, as a matter of fact, yes, I would love it. And then it turned out he lives in Toronto. I’m in Hamilton, which is about 65 kilometers west of Toronto. He and I have got a really, really good working relationship despite the fact that he’s not musically trained. He’s got a very good ear for music and often knows in some cases better than I do what’s going to work and what’s not going to work.
I’ve played in punk bands, rock bands. Take a listen to this track. It’s called Blackout Love by the Castro Troys, a band I played in from 2013 to 2019. I’ve been a jazz trio. At one point I played in string quartets. I played in orchestra. Uh, I’ve done musical theater in the orchestra pit. I’ve done electronic music, whether that’s like abstract music concrete or EDM type music. The band I’m in now is country Southern rock. So I’ve covered pretty much everything except disco.
There have been a number of comparisons between The Program and Black Mirror. One of the things that I love about The Program that’s very unique is despite being set in the future, it’s neither dystopian or utopian. Black Mirror is very, usually very dystopian. The show doesn’t want to tell you ‘this is better or worse’. It wants you to consider it and decide for yourself. Is this better or worse? Would I prefer this or what? I prefer, how it is right now?
I would say Stravinsky’s a big influence. The Rite of Spring was one of those pieces that was a watershed moment for me. Mostly Stravinsky’s earlier ballets, not so much of his later neo-classical music.
For this episode of the program, we were very fortunate to be able to record a 40-member choir. So for anyone unfamiliar with the typical choir structure, you’ve usually got four sections, soprano, alto, tenor and bass. Going from high pitch to low pitch, let’s have a listen to the soprano part first. Let’s have a listen to the alto part of the same section. Now the tenor part. And finally the bass part of that same section. And here’s what it sounds like when they all come together.
So, what we have here are two separate lines of synth arpeggios. Really provide a rhythmic and textural contrast to what’s going on in the organ and in the choir, which is much longer held notes. Some surface rhythm, motion, propels the piece a little bit forward and helps bring things up a little bit.
So the choir was recorded all remotely in the middle of the pandemic. That was one of the last ensembles to actually be allowed to perform again. The choir is a local Hamilton choir called the Bach Elgar choir. They’ve been around for a century now. They’ve got a very long history in the city. So it was actually a real honor to work with them, which was really, really great – to be a part of that that tradition. This is the first time they’d ever worked on an audio drama. Each person was given obviously sheet music, but also a click track to listen to with a synthesized version of their part. And they would set up their cell phone or whatever on a music stand to record themselves. They all got submitted to a Dropbox. And then I spent hundreds of hours going through editing, obviously had to add the reverb because everybody was recording in their living room, their bedroom, some in some cases, their kitchen, their basement. I had one from a garage. The writing of the music was a walk in the park compared to actually producing the final scores.
If you had told me pre-pandemic that you can do this, I would have not believed you. Having seen a number of orchestras online, do it or choirs or whatever, I said, okay, can I try it myself. In the end, I think it was worth it because it sounds great. If it weren’t for the pandemic and the fact that this was all they could do, I’m not sure if it would have been so successful. I’m not sure if any ensemble would have been interested in doing it because you know, the podcast is doesn’t have the reach that a TV show would or a film or anything.
ABOUT THE EPISODE
How can I sum up this episode? This episode of The Program (called Abandonware) is about a boy named Mira who grows up to be a scientist and discovers ways of controlling the universe beyond what anybody would ever imagine possible. I created multiple themes to reflect both characters and situations. The first thing we hear is what we called the Eureka theme. Almost awe-inspiring, I would say in a few places. The second theme that comes back towards the end of this cue is the Mother Theme. At the top of the episode, we hear it in a very, very soft piano was very gentle, very soothing, very loving. Like you would expect a mother theme to be. Spoiler alert: when Mira brings his mother back from the dead, it takes on that revalatory, celebratory, awe-inspiring tone of the Eureka team as well, because the Eureka theme has produced the reincarnation of his mother. The Eureka moment has led to the reincarnation of his mother.
That’s about it for this episode, we’ll listen to the full piece in just a moment. But before we do that, thank you for listening to How I Make Music. Catch new episodes on HowIMake Music.com or wherever. We’ve been listening to music featured in the audio drama called The Program audio series. To hear the full story or to check out my other work, follow the links in the show notes. How I Make Music is created by John Bartmann. And now here’s The Match and the Fire, the climax of episode 19 of The Program audio series, in its entirety. My name’s Chris Ledroit. And thanks for listening to How I Make Music. Catch you next time.
The Program audio series home programaudioseries.com/
Christien Ledroit home cledroit.wordpress.com/
Music: Igor Stravinsky – The Rite of Spring
Music: The Castor Troys – Blackout Love
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 johnbartmann.com