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Topic: Diversity or Originality in demos?

  1. #1

    Diversity or Originality in demos?

    This is something I have been thinking about for a while now and wanted to get some ideas on what you guys think when putting your demos together.
    I have to say for myself, I am almost overwhelmed with to many sounds to sometimes even know where to start a song! I find myself spending more time moving around midi files, finding the right sounds and getting everything as accurate as I can and it ends up taking away alot of my composition technique and almost never being satisfied with what I\'ve done. I find alot of my music now starting to sound extremely abstract and centered around the samples instead of making music.
    My goal is to find my \'sound\'. It might take me years before I do but from what some of my fellow musicians say, I have my own sound but I disagree with them.
    I, obviously like many of us, have so many influences that when I hear certain pieces I\'ve done I think, \"That sounds to Thomas Newmanish\" or \"that sounds to John Williamsish\" (well not quite as incredible, but along the same lines as far as trying to do orchestral demos). This is why I ask the question, when sending off demos does the listener want to hear diversity or your own sound?
    I sent a demo tape 2 years ago to Basil Poledouris (composer of Conan, Starship Troopers, For Love of the Game, etc.) and him being the kind person that he is, actually wrote me back a letter saying that he enjoyed my music but said that instead of sending off large, grand orchestral demos that I should instead try to find my own sound and target the next up and coming independent directors.
    I posted a topic in Jeff Ronas \"The Reel World\" website (fantastic site for us composers!www.jeffrona.com) and Jeff replyed to me and said that I should \"be as diverse as possible.\" That got me real perplexed wondering what kinds of music I should send to independent film directors.
    So I obviously have tried to incorporate both diversity and originality but I seem to fail and never be satisfied. I\'ve got songs that sound like traditional middle eastern songs to ambient electronica to orchestral stuff. I don\'t know whether to send independent film directors this kind of stuff or songs that sound like \"Damon\" (myself).
    Just wanted to get some feedback from some of you and wonder if you guys feel the same way.

  2. #2

    Re: Diversity or Originality in demos?

    In my experience, most prospective \'clients\' are looking for \'the sound\' for their next production when they listen to your music.

    If you work on a lot of music with a similar thread, even if it is unique and beautiful and your own, you\'ll be very lucky if the listener has the imagination to project what else you\'re capable of from what he hears.
    Do you think Thomas Newman would have gotten the score to Terminator III with three minutes of his Beauty score?

    I agree with Rona - use the shotgun approach. Cover as many styles as you are interested in, as succinctly as you can.

    With any luck the director will skim through all the stuff which isn\'t in the direction he has in mind, and then find something which \'strikes a chord\' - pun intended

    Good luck

  3. #3

    Re: Diversity or Originality in demos?

    Hey, mate.

    When I find that the samples/sequencing/moving/cutting/pasting is dominating my \"compositional\" time. Then I stop and pick up my guitar and just play and sing for composing. I\'ll sometimes even leave the notepaper and pencil aside until it is solid in my ear/brain before I write or enter the notes/chords.
    After I come up with the melody/chords then I proceed to the sequencer and put the basic melody down and chords with timbres in mind (which obviously points me in a direction of a specific instrument). After melody and chords are sequenced, then I start to arrange (i.e. which instruments, song form extensions, which samples will convey most realisticly).
    As far as mood or ambient music is concerned, the appraoch would be to consider emotion which leads to not so defined tinbral textures, perhaps. then just grab a mic and mimic the textures with your voice the best you can. The goal is to grab that initial inspiration. The searching for the real or sampled instruments to make it happen can come afterward.
    Get it while it\'s hot in this case.

    Many times I grab my microcassette recorder and sing/vocalese/drum/voice explanations/etc.

    To answer your question about the demo process and Your sound, challenge yourself and come up with something you\'ve never written before and make it last for a minute (i.e. give yourself a very defined time frame). Additional approaches might be to limit yourself to a mood/emotion and set it for only two instruments or one or a quartet of oddly mixed instruments (i.e. kitchen utensils). try to make music with real things and not only samples. Pull out the mic and the delay effect and just make a piece with your voice. On and on. Perhaps you should draw or write poetry and let those emotions inspire you in a musical direction you haven\'t gone before.
    All-in-all make musical decisions and go with them - it\'s all You and your choices so it must be Your sound. If the ego still gets in the way and insists on a Your Sound then put on some Albert Ayler music, pull out the magic markers, get naked and draw on the walls of your apartment (i.e. bust-out of your concept of you).
    I am, honestly, just happy to be making music. No goal of originality makes my composing a lot of fun. I really really love the creative process and that alone is my inspiration. I wish the same to you.

    [This message has been edited by Marty (edited 11-10-2000).]

  4. #4

    Re: Diversity or Originality in demos?


    [This message has been edited by Marty (edited 11-10-2000).]

  5. #5

    Re: Diversity or Originality in demos?

    Thanks for all of your insights and help guys!
    IO Composer, I definitely agree that the days of listening to the demo are just about over considering nobody really knows what you are like to work with and might not be able to understand the point you are trying to make with your music. Forming relationships with directors, producers, and other people in the business is what is extrememly crucial, then you can play them some of your work down the line.
    I just read an interview about the guy who is going to score the Dungeons and Dragons movie and he said that he interned for Hans Zimmer for 2 years, worked 16 hour days and busted his *** doing everything from wiring up entire studios to making coffee etc., then finally one day Hans decided to listen to his stuff and hired him along with the Mediaventures team. I just thought he was lucky to get an intern position at Mediaventures period! But nevertheless, he did have to pay some dues and it paid off.
    I think I just need to move to a different place and be surrounded by more people working in the business of TV and film. South Carolina is not the most cultural mecca of the world! I\'ve still got alot of growing and learning to do since I\'m only 29 so I\'ll do as Basil told me, \"compose, compose, compose.\"
    By the way IO Composer, that comment you made a couple weeks ago on \"Yodal Planet\" was one of the funniest posts I\'ve ever seen!

    [This message has been edited by Damon (edited 11-10-2000).]

    [This message has been edited by Damon (edited 11-10-2000).]

  6. #6
    Senior Member
    Join Date
    Sep 1999
    Burbank, CA. US of Mexico

    Re: Diversity or Originality in demos?

    Hi Damon,

    I think about this a lot as I\'m in the same boat as you in regards to the film industry. However, I\'m no film composer, so take my opinion as you see fit.
    The truth as I see it is that you\'re only going to squeek into the film industry through relationships. I think that the era of blindly listening to demos is pretty much over. The market is simply too saturated and everybody who\'s making films simply want a sure thing when music is concerned. Not many up and coming directors are willing to take a chance on a newbie... there\'s too much at stake for their own careers and they have too many options to the contrary. Everything that I see is now done through word of mouth and the demo part is simply a confirmation...a technicality.

    It\'s a catch 22 situation. If you display diversity, then you\'ll invariably get pidgeonholed into a sound alike situation. If you display a unique voice with originality, unless your sound is already a proven commodity, than you\'re going to be struggling for a long, long time, perhaps until some \"visionary\" believes in you enough to stand up to the execs on your behalf (they\'ll always be pushing for the proven commodity...less risk). John Corigliano comes to mind as an amazing, even legendary composer who has a unique sound. It took him until he was 60 to get a film gig with the Red Violin. Granted, when he did get the gig he won an oscar and is now the cat\'s meow, but it took a while for his sound to permeate into films. Hell, he may even have Elliot Goldenthal and Don Davis to thank for warming up the plate with his style You may as well get a teaching job and hope that you get lucky someday.
    However, if you establish relationships early on with talented people, you\'ll get in before there\'s a gig to get in on. I have friendships with some extremely talented people who inevitably will become directors some day. My loyalty and commitment to them now in their development stages will win me their loyalty when I need it from them. It\'s a long term approach, but one that I feel is the only way to really \"get in\".

    Anyway, that\'s my opinion. Take it for what it\'s worth

    [This message has been edited by IOComposer (edited 11-10-2000).]

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