Archive for the ‘orchestration’ Category

Travelers of Tyme present “Music for Lovers!”

February 14, 2011


Travelers of Tyme engineer music precisely for holidays such as St. Valentine’s Day, a complex and contradictory day. For some, it is a day of romance, of flowers, sweet kisses, and nostalgic, warm conversation. For others, it is a day of heartache, of loneliness, and perhaps dark fantasies involving the Hallmark company and the calling of robotic minions to do biddings against the makers of cards. Regardless of where you find yourself this February 14th, we encourage you to lower the lights, pour a snifter of wine or whiskey for yourself and your special friend, if you have one, and switch on “Music for Lovers.” The Travelers cannot guarantee you will enjoy all of your experiences on this planet — but we CAN guarantee that we will make them sound better!

So go ahead, talk softly over “Music for Lovers.” Clink your glasses, kiss your kisses, whisper your sweet nothings into real or imagined ears. “Music for Lovers” is music meant to sway softly in the background, like a silhouetted palm tree in a warm, sea breeze. It is music to live to and, of course, music to love by!

(Note: listen at work and watch your productivity increase by 40%!)

Thank you, as always, for choosing Travelers of Tyme for all of your musical wallpaper needs. And Happy Valentine’s Day to you and your beloved, whether in flesh or fantasy.

Professor Yaya & Doctor Klem
The Travelers of Tyme


Attack of the Synthestra 2 – “Willie Steals a Horse”

April 9, 2008

Note: A close Detholz! confidante (and former Detholz! bookie), Lena, needs your help in an excellent cause. After having her spirit broken by the VORTECS Corporation, the business arm of Detholz!, (just kidding) Lena decided to go into nursing and has worked at a hospital for the past year. Utilizing her training, she will be traveling to Nepal this Fall to volunteer and assist needy orphan children there (no kidding). She needs to raise $5,000 for her trip. Visit this link and donate, would you?

Any little bit you can spare will help immensely– no gift is too small!  Help Lena help orphans in need!  Thanks.  -Detholz! and the Maplewood Continuum

Welcome to the Detholz! Mp3 Blog, Episode XXXIV!

This week, we continue with our bloody orchestral onslaught of General MIDI madness with:

ATTACK OF THE SYNTHESTRA Part 2 : “Willie Steals A Horse”

For an introduction on this month’s Attack, check the last post.


This week, the vampire character we introduced last week is reminiscing about his misspent youth on Maxwell Street in Chicago, remembering an afternoon when he earned his nickname. On a dare, he creeps up on a fruit vendor and steals his horse, after which he removes the testicles and sells them to a restaurant in Chinatown (his nickname is “Potatoes,” har har). The scene depicted here is Willie sneaking up on the vendor, then untying and making off with his horse.


A lot of the ideas from this orchestration come from critical listening to Bernard Herrmann’s score for “The Trouble With Harry.” There’s a lot of call-and-response across the orchestra, which is a great trick. You can repeat the same phrase over and over and it takes on an entirely different character if played by different instrument families in different registers.

The core of the composition is a series of intervals– a major third and a tritone. I take a lot of liberty with the intervallic series, inverting it in a few instances, mixing it up in others. The most blatantly obvious examples can be heard in the quiet middle section of the piece– first in the woodwinds, then in the lower instruments as the piece revs up towards the end.

I purposely chose a brighter, “happier” scenario this week for a challenge. As most of you know, my default setting when writing music is either “Fire and Brimstone” or “Gloom ‘N Doom,” so I decided to take a trip to the Happy Store and see what happened.

The practice and obsessive listening is paying off– I’m finding it’s easier to make good choices vis a vis instrument combinations. One of the most difficult aspects of orchestration is balance– take your run-of-the-mill C7 chord, for example.


Which notes go where across the orchestra? What notes are doubled? By which instruments?

In my reading about this, I’ve discovered the 1357 rule. This means, in general, you want to give the most weight to the first note in the chord (otherwise known as the “root.”) In this case, C.

C = 1

So, given your average orchestra, you’d put C’s in the bass instruments (like the string basses, cellos, tuba, bassoons and bass clarinets) and in the primary melodic instruments (1st violins, trumpets, horns, flutes and oboes).

E = 3

This is the third of the chord– what gives the chord its character, major or minor, so it’s second in the pecking order. I would probably assign it to the 2nd violins, 2nd/3rd horns, and 1st clarinet)

And so forth and so on. You plug in the rest of the notes according to the 1357 principle until you’ve got a balanced-sounding chord across the orchestra. If it sounds complicated, that’s because… well… it is! I’ve got a lot more practice ahead of me before I master writing balanced orchestral scores.

So there you have it. Tune in next week for the next wave of Attack of the Synthestra, Part 3: The Rape of General MIDI!


April 2, 2008

Welcome to Detholz! Mp3 Blog, Episode XXXIII!

Also, welcome to April 2008, in which I will be incredibly selfish and depart from regular Detholz! programming to bring you the… ATTACK OF THE SYNTHESTRA!

*cue screaming hordes of Japanese businesspeople flooding the streets in terror (and the trombone section)*

Seriously, folks, I am doing a crash course in orchestration and scoring to image (film, TV, etc.) and need some honest feedback. This is largely “Dark Territory” for me, and my MIDI piccolo is essentially whistling in the digital dark. Since I need some outside opinions, I thought: what better place– what better PEOPLE– to go to, hat in hand, MIDI cables in hat, than the venerable, trusty readers of the Detholz! blog?

So. Every week during ATTACK OF THE SYNTHESTRA, you can expect:

1. A customized orchestration of an imaginary scene/character

2. Discussion of instrument/color combinations & composition

3. Discussion of synthestration techniques (toward the end of the month)

…and so much more! You’ll think General MIDI hisself kissed you full on the lips!

Egads! Run for your lives! It’s ATTACK OF THE SYNTHESTRA Part I: “Willie Feeds”


Though I’m a little embarrassed to admit it, for the past 6 months or so, I’ve played in an online RPG forum– more like collective story-writing than role-playing, hack, cough– and have developed an old-school-mobster-cum-vampire character. Since I have no images to write to yet and need a lot more practice at orchestration, I decided to use his story as fodder for these initial forays into underscoring a scene.

In the scene depicted here, our hulking antihero prowls the greasy backstreets of Chicago in search of a midnight snack. He pauses by an alley and spots a drunkard mumbling to himself, who immediately senses danger and looks up. Alarmed by the menacing aura of the vampire, the drunkard springs to his feet (as best he can) and makes a sloppy break for it. Of course, the gangster/vampire catches up to him, collars him, and drags him, kicking and screaming into a dark doorway, where he bares his fangs… A few seconds later, the drunkard falls to the ground, devoid of blood. So long, drunkard.

Yes, yes, the scene is a cliche. I thought it best to keep things relatively simple for practice.


Note: I am inches away from owning a new studio system which will endow me with the CPU balls to make these synthestrations sound much more believable. For now, however, I am stuck with what I have. Please listen THROUGH these demos and try to imagine what they would sound like played by red-blooded humans. I’m doing a lot of reading about various orchestral instruments and have attempted to write idiomatically for them. Also, as a side note, let me say: I can’t believe it took me this long to switch to Steinberg Nuendo as my primary Digital Audio Workstation. Being a creature of obsessive habit, I had been using a 4-year old version of Emagic’s Logic Audio Platinum (which is no longer made for PC). It’s really a great program, especially with respect to these MIDI-strations I’m doing.

Those of you who are familiar with Bernard Herrmann’s music will recognize a lot of Herrmann-istic elements in this little score: lots of thirds and tritones, so-called “cell” composition (where large portions of a piece are based on just a few intervals), repeated figures, heavy usage of bass clarinet, contrabassoon and other “darker” elements of the orchestra, etc.

Orchestration is a game of combinations. What I’ve been doing lately is saturating myself in film music– even from composers I don’t particularly care for– to get fresh ideas about orchestral instrument pairings. Herrmann, in my opinion, is the king of film orchestrators– cf. his score for “Torn Curtain,” which famously called for sixteen French horns, twelve flutes, nine trombones, two tubas, two sets of timpani, eight cellos and eight basses…! Also, I have a lot of respect for the late Jerry Goldsmith, who scored “Star Trek: the Motion Picture.” (You know. Sexy bald lady.) The sound of that resonant industrial spring (or whatever it is) was burned into my brain as a kid!

In this little practice score, I’m experimenting with brass pairings– horns plus muted trumpets, trombones bleeding into horn blasts, etc. Other useful combinations: flute and harp (harp goes well with just about any woodwind or string instrument), double bass + cello + contrabassoon + bass clarinet (one of my favorite Herrmann combos), and I’ve just started to get the hang of flourishes in the piccolo, which go well just before or after large stabs.

The muted trumpet represents my vampire character– a stereotypical Chicago mobster turned into a vampire during a stretch at Joliet in the ’70’s. There’s a faux jazz element with the trumpets, walking bass and triangle figure. Underneath it, however, are tone clusters in the strings– first in the cellos, later in the cellos and violas– to let the listener know that despite the whimsical “walking jazz,” that all is not well with the world. This idea is copped from Howard Shore’s excellent soundtrack to “Naked Lunch.”

Is it Beethoven? HELLS no, but it’s good practice, and if a few of you get a chuckle or two out of it, then, to quote our esteemed President, “mission accomplished!”

Tune in next Wednesday for the second wave of ATTACK OF THE SYNTHESTRA!

*Narrator explodes into flames*

p.s. Here’s what I’m listening to to prepare for these, in case anyone is curious or looking for new music. Also, please bear in mind that some of these movies, in fact, suck a monkey teat. No composer in the world could redeem them. Still, if taken on their own or examined for how they interact with a film, I would recommend these scores:

Bernard Herrmann – “Psycho,” “Vertigo,” “North by Northwest,” “The Naked and the Dead” etc.

John Barry – “The Black Hole,” “Man with the Golden Gun”

Goblin – “Suspiria,” “Zombi” [you Detholz! graybeards would love this stuff]

Jerry Goldsmith – “Logan’s Run,” “Star Trek: the Motion Picture”

Howard Shore/Ornette Coleman – “Naked Lunch”

John Williams – “Memoirs of a Geisha”