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Advent 2021 day 11

 

Mamie Fletcher's House 11

The music

Tony volunteered to compose music for Mamie Fletcher's.

I told him that I only wanted the ambient sounds (footsteps, camera, etc) during actual gameplay, but I took him up on his offer to create a theme for playing as the game starts up, and in the menus.

I suggested something most likely with a piano and bass (well, synths). He asked for some ideas for inspiration, so I offered:

  • Haunted (Shadow Gallery)
  • I Hate The Way (Polly Scattergood)
For the main inspirations, along with:
  • The Haunting (Avantasia)
  • Haunted (Poe)
  • Crystal Images (Weeping Silence)

You might, uh, spot a bit of a theme!

Anyway, he thought about this a while, and threw together a demo playing something on his guitar, I think he said he recorded that at two in the morning, and totally nailed it.

He revised it into a proper piece rather than a "something like this?" demo, and that's the version that you hear in the game. The quiet lonely melancholy, that serves as the perfect introduction.

 

As this particular entry is short (I didn't do the music), I asked Tony if he'd like to say a few words about the composition of the piece. He...did. ☺

 

The Mamie theme (by Tony Bartram)

Whilst I've had singing lessons, I'm self taught on guitar and piano. I do have some understanding of theory, which I've picked up from friends and family, videos and reading around over the years (including some nice old music theory books).

 

Compositional Approach

When I write, I don't think of the theory or what I'm doing really. However, I can use theory and references to explain what I "think" I've done afterwards. That's why most of my composing is late at night, when my logical mind is likely to stem the flow of stream of consciousness thinking.

Part of the inspiration and feel is beginning of Pink Floyd's "Is there Anybody Out There?". Specifically the acoustic guitar from the start. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JlDnevvKud0

It is not the same chord progress. Pink Floyd's music for the beginning of "Is Anybody Out There?" in slash notation is Am Am/F Am/F# Am/F Am Am/D Am/C Am/B Am.

The guitar is "finger picked" so each string rings out individually providing a rhythm and texture to the piece.

I have synesthesia so I see colours and patterns in sounds and to me that kind of pattern of playing looks (flashing spots of light and is orange) and feels somewhat atmospheric, nocturnal (e.g. Chopin https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_fsjNfffknA).

Rather then the ascend and descend Roger Water's used I tried to evoke the slightly menacing feel brought out by some dissonance on the E string by sharpening the note to F and then ascending to G playing against A sustain 2nd. Also the finger picking is interleaved and not ascend/descend.

The structure of the chords is designed as what could be described as a call and answer. It is written so that the call/answer is over a 4th interval (tonic to sub-dominant) which is quite a common interval in music, especially on guitars as the strings are the top two strings are tuned to E and A.

When I chose a chord progression, I do it based on how it makes me feel. So the detail of the progression is chosen based on my emotional response to the progression. When Simon and I write together we always discuss how the chords make us feel.

So in Mamie Fletcher's the emotions I feel for theme are : fear, anticipation in the first progression (the call) and hope and relief in the second (the answer).

The tempo is slightly raised over a resting heart rate to create a slight feel of urgency.

The chords I finger pick are based on a pattern where I use the low E string to provide a bass line against the top 3 strings. I tend to think of finger patterns when I write and I'm quite focused on using my thumb to provide the low F.

The chord progression, in slash notation, is : Asus2/E, B7sus4b5/F, A7sus2/G, Asus2/E, B7sus4b5/F, A7sus2/G then Am, FM7, A7sus2/G, Am, FM7, A7sus2/G.

 

Recording

Unfortunately the power supply for my mixer died, so I spent around an hour searching for a generic one. This meant I recorded the theme around 3am. It also meant that I didn't have much time.

The theme was recorded on a Sigma electro-acoustic guitar. This is an acoustic guitar but with a built in pickup and pre-amp, so that you don't need a microphone to record it. I ran this to my little Alesis I04 (which I will soon hopefully be upgrading as I setup my new studio). This was then recorded on a very battered Windows 7 laptop as an audio track onto a fairly ancient copy of Cubase 5.

Because it was late and I wanted a hypnotic effect (which often occurs via repetition), I decided to copy the single play through forward, lining up the repeats by ear and eye on the waveform display. This is in contrast to the recent Spy Mission game where the guitar is played straight through, as that's more of an up tempo track track with drums and accompaniment.

I applied equalisation, light reverb and some delay (echo) in Cubase. I then did the post processing in Audacity, including adjusting the volume levels, adding more bass and treble adjustment (until it looked/felt right). Then I added a slow fade out.

 

Thank you Tony, for that.
Tomorrow, fun with the development builds!

 

 

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Last read at 05:27 on 2022/07/05.

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