View Full Version : GOS Meet the Artist: BILL BROWN: Questions from forum members invited

06-16-2002, 10:13 PM
We are pleased to announce our fourth guest in the series of GOS \"Meet the Artist\" Interviews: BILL BROWN.

Bill is an award-winning film and interactive media composer. He has recently finished \"The Sum of all Fears\" PS2, Gamecube and X-Box releases. It is an honor to have him as our guest.

We are now inviting questions for Bill from members of the forum. Bill also has some music he would like to share with the group in order to give examples of his MIDI orchestration techniques. If you would like to ask Bill any questions about the projects he is working on, about his use of GigaStudio, arranging, scoring, MIDI orchestration, composing, the music business, or have any other questions; please post your questions here or email them to me at gary@garritan.com.

Once we gather your questions,they will be presented to Bill. We will then post his response in interview form here.

Thank you for your participation,

Let the questions begin!
Maestro Gary

06-16-2002, 10:21 PM
Hey Bill, when do you plan on quitting so I can get some of your work images/icons/tongue.gif MWAHAHAHAHAHA

I\'ll have some real questions later, just thought I\'d welcome ya to the NS forum with a little ribbing images/icons/smile.gif

06-17-2002, 12:28 PM
Hi Bill. Thanks so much for giving us the chance to ask questions! I\'m VERY curious about the part of the process where you\'re mixing down your various samplers to the multitrack. Do you do this in one pass or multiple? Your music is very dynamic--do you ever worry about recording a track at too low of a volume (especially relevant when it comes to analog signals coming from the hardware samplers)? What multitrack do you mix your samplers to? Do you mix down each track separately or do you submix sections? Do you automate volume/panning in your MIDI tracks (pre-mixdown) or after mixdown, or both?

Thanks again--great work my friend!

06-17-2002, 12:33 PM
Another question from me: do you use a master wordclock generator like the Aardsync II? I\'ve heard rumors that it actually improves the overall sound quality in a DAW-based multitrack--although I\'ve also heard that this mainly relates to live sources coming from the analog domain. If you do use one, do you find that it makes a difference in a MIDI-based (sampler) environment?

06-17-2002, 01:01 PM
Thanks for setting this up, Gary. And thank you Bill for answering the questions.

Do you record live orchestra tracks along with your MIDI tracks? If so, what are some of the technical issues that you have to deal with when syncing the live musicians to the MIDI tracks and what solutions have you arrived at to assure a smooth session?

What does your gigastudio setup look like? Do you run multiple machines for different instrument groups? Could you explain the thinking that went into laying out and organizing your current MIDI setup?

What are some of the sample libraries that you use often, and what is it about these libraries that appeals to you?

How has sampling, sequencing and other music technology affected your composition and arranging techniques?

06-17-2002, 11:44 PM
How\'d you get your foot in the door in the music biz?

Brett Rosenberg
06-18-2002, 04:32 AM
Thanks for your time Bill, I have a rather specific question. On your website you have a short piece called \'Earthquake Escape\',can you tell me where the drum/percussion sounds are from and how you process them?

06-18-2002, 08:23 AM
After years of writing music with a deadline for money, do you think you\'d be able to still write if the day ever came that no compnay wanted to use your music (hence no deadline and no money)?

Do you ever write music for yourself or family/friends for the fun of it...not expecting any material gain in return?

06-18-2002, 07:01 PM
Can I have your brass library?
But seriously, I am also very interested in your final mixes. They all have that \"Bill Brown\" feel to them...what sort of template do you use when you mix? Do you always EQ certain instruments a specific way?
Thanks so much for taking the time to do this interview!

06-18-2002, 09:44 PM
For everybody else reading this: Bill knows I am an unabashed big fan and admirer of his music. I often listen to his work for fun and inspiration. He is also a source of frustration: many times I have listened to something of his that was particularly good (which he does with depressing frequency) and my eyes squint, my lips curl, my face goes white and I snarl at the monitor, “How the HELL did he do THAT??” images/icons/wink.gif Bill’s compositions are not only inspired, but his sonic environment is unique, powerful and expressive. I have poured over his equipment list and spent hours of careful listening to his music. I have tried to duplicate snippets of his music just to try to duplicate the sound and sonic ambiance of his work. I may not have succeeded, but I always learn an awful lot. Bill has helped me become a better musician.

So Bill! Thanks you for granting this opportunity to interview you. (And thanks again to Gary for setting all this up!) You have many fans and admirers here among your peers. And you know me: I always have questions. images/icons/wink.gif Sorry for any duplication of others questions. Time to play 20 questions. Let us begin:

1) You mentioned to me that you would be scoring a movie very soon. You also mentioned you have already sent out some demos for this project. Tell us about how you prepare for such a project, the level of detail and finishing you do for the demos, and how you will orchestrate it. And, will you be directing the live sessions?
2) What do you do for inspiration before tackling a project? Do you do some listening or reading?
3) What is the largest number of musicians you have directed?
4) What is your main musical instrument? I am guessing guitar, but really, what?
5) I don’t know about you, but for me, the hardest part of a project is getting started. Do you ever suffer writers block, and if/when you do, how do you escape its clutches?
6) In the “Intro Movie – Castle Wolfenstein” cue, please tell me that is live brass playing? If not, how the HELL did you do that? What libraries did you use? As a matter of fact, when you are doing virtual orchestrations, what brass libraries do you use? And those flute runs? Live, right? Right?
7) While we are on the subject of Brass, in the “Ghost Recon” main cue you have some amazing brats: they come from the left and I hear a strong reflection on the right. How did you do THAT?
8) How do you set up your reverb/room environments? Are you processing the whole final mix as well as individual instruments? Maybe you can shed some light on the huge surrounding “Bill Brown” sound? I listened to the guy that did the “Covert Ops Essentials” (Mikael Sandgren), and while the music was good, your “sound” is head and shoulders above those mixes. How Bill, how? images/icons/wink.gif
9) I have heard you using more rhythm beds in your music lately. (SOAF, for example) When you are composing, are you using any library loops? Do you do your own rhythm construction? If so, with what libraries?
10) Many working composers build up their own sample libraries. To what extent are you using your own custom libraries?
11) That duduk in “Undying Immortal Soul”; would that be from Rare Instruments?
12) I think “Trapped” is some of your most inspired and sensitive work. In “Main Titles”, there are some very nice violin slides. If these were not live players, how did you achieve this? Were you using GOS?
13) When composing your more sparse works (you really get more out of less than most composers), how do you keep time? Are you working off a metronome?
14) A rundown of the software you use would be nice. Which are your main tools?
15) Do you use a midi control surface for expression?
16) What hardware are you using with GigaStudio? In particular, what sound card are you using? Do you have more than one GS computer?
17) Just what the heck is that funny box on the upper left of your keyboard?
18) What choir libraries do you use? For that matter, what are your favorite libraries?
19) Have you gone interactive in games to the point of using, say, Microsoft Producer?
20) And Last and most important, what does “Oh-spear-oh-sparrow” mean? images/icons/wink.gif (Hint: Undying )

If I can think of more questions, well, you know….

John DeBorde
06-18-2002, 11:11 PM
Hi Bill,

I\'m about to start developing a personal sample library, and am wondering if you can offer any insight/guidance from having done so yourself.



06-19-2002, 11:30 PM
Bill--all of your music sounds very \"organic\" (for lack of a better term) to me. I find myself wondering how much of it is sampler-derived and how much is live. Your hand percussion for example (aside from loops) sounds like it was played live in several of your cues. Is that true? Also--how important do you feel your education (Berklee etc.) was to your ability to write the music you\'re writing now?

06-20-2002, 08:59 AM
Hello Bill,

First I\'d just like to say your music sounds great on your website!

My main question is regarding midi mockups for movies that are budgeted for a real orchestra.

Since you have major deadlines, how \"perfect\" do you try and make your mockups sound? Do you spend alot of time tweaking for realism (ex: getting string legato to sound as real as possible, etc.) or do you spend more time just mostly on composition realizing that the orchestra is going to just be doing the score anyway.

Basically, I want to know how picky directors and producers are when they hear midi mockups. Do they actually point out and say things like \"Well, I dont think that the strings sound very legato. They dont connect fluidly. Work on it some more. Also, the horns should sound like they should be coming from the back of the hall, they sound to upfront now.\"
Are they that intelligent about listening to mockups and do they drive you crazy at times images/icons/shocked.gif ?


Damon Bradley

06-20-2002, 03:51 PM
Oh Yeah. Bill. With \"Trapped\" (some of your very best work), you used a large number of live musicians. Which other songs/projects did you use a similar number (or say more than three) performers?

Also, can you tell us about your relationship with DMG? Do you work exclusively under their banner, and they take care of business? Are you a \'hired gun\' or are you like a contractor who takes the lions share of the deals after expenses?

Also, when you are mastering a song, do you use a lot of compression? What compressors do you use? Do you add reverb when mastering?

When writing, do you very often reach a dead-end and throw out material then either re-edit or start over? Do you have a backlog of unused music? And do you keep a list of orchestral devices or do you just remember combinations naturally?

06-20-2002, 07:37 PM
Do you peck at the piano to come up with these melodies such as the rainbow six theme, or do you have a little tree that grows them? BWA HA HA HA.

I\'m a senior high schooler this year, and I\'ve longed to attend Berklee in Boston myself. I\'ve been wanting to go to that school for several years now. What advice could you give to an aspiring film composer who wants to go to this school like myself?

06-25-2002, 01:30 PM
Thank you for your participation in the interview with Bill Brown. Excellent questions -which I\'m sure Bill will enjoy answering.

We are going to try something different in tandem with this interview. An example of Bill\'s work will be posted, along with his comments about how he developed and orchestrated his music. The interview will be posted here soon.

Gary Garritan