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New Band Commission, part 6: Bleep, blip, ding (Second Movement)

Updated: Jan 9, 2022

Tuesday, December 28, 2021

I spent the afternoon listening to a bunch of video game music so I could get some ideas for the second movement. I figured it might be easier to end the first movement if I know where I’m going next. On tricky thing I realized is that a lot of video game music is pretty minimalist (I remember attending a conference session about teaching students to compose video game music, and one of the important points was that the music had to be complex enough to be interesting, but simple enough that people wouldn’t notice that it was playing on a continuous loop.) I found a couple chord progressions that felt very “video game-y,” or at least cinematic, and I scribbled down a couple musical ideas. I know at some point in this piece I want to feature the low brass and give them something melodic to play. I came up with sort of “Mission: Impossible” idea for them, although I’m not sure that’s the right mood to contrast with the first movement. Maybe I can start out happier and then get there eventually. I think tomorrow I’ll need to listen to some old school upbeat video game music that’s less cinematic, like Mario Brothers or maybe even older?

Sunday, January 2, 2021

Listened to a bunch of old school video game music today, and some new stuff that the Bristow 8th graders had recommended: Mario Brothers, Zelda, Animal Crossing, and Minecraft, among others. There is so. much. video game music on YouTube, and finding a bunch of many-hours-long compilations meant I could skip through a single video and get lots of different music. So much of the sound of the video games, or at least what makes them sound different from movie soundtracks, is the 8-bit sound. I considered using some kind of synth to get these authentic sounds in the piece, but that seems gimmicky so I think I’ll just try to convey the vibe as much as possible. There are some sounds I think I can get with percussion, like the imitation snare drum-like sound that could maybe be done with a cabasa. I think I might include some “you won” sound effects, like “tadas” in the trumpets, dings on glock, and maybe even a choral “wow” if I can get it not to sound too cheesy.* There’s a lot of harmony made up of just two notes instead of the usual three (probably due to limitations of the original technology), and there are some rhythmic ideas (offbeats, triplets mixed into duple meter, and accents on beat 3) that I can use, as well as some common harmonic progressions. I took some notes and sketched out a few musical ideas. I think the movement needs to start cheery so it actually feels like we’re escaping for a bit, then somehow we’ll make our way to the more serious-sounding game music as the “are you trying” motive returns. It’s a little unconventional in terms of shaping a three-movement piece, but maybe it will work?

*got a second opinion on this and decided that yes, indeed, it's too much

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