Saturday, 1 December 2012

Top Ten Pieces from the Harry Potter Scores

Continuing on from my recent "Top 10 Tracks from Doctor Who", I've formulated a list of my ten favourite pieces of music from the Harry Potter films. There are a total of eight films, with a total of 181 tracks by some of the greatest composers alive. That made it difficult to choose this list, but it also means that every piece on the list is of brilliant, pure, magical, top-notch quality.

I've already received some feedback from readers who are disappointed to see some great tracks missing, particularly "Buckbeak's Flight". See if your favourites made the countdown! Click here to jump over to the list.

Yours magically,

Thursday, 22 November 2012

Outside The Underappreciated's Studio: Episode 1

Inspired by the power struggle that is talkback radio, I created this little spoof radio interview. "Outside The Underappreciated's Studio" is hosted by the unstoppable Bill Lipton, a radio personality who brings unappreciated community heroes onto his show in order to tear them apart.

I pulled this first episode together pretty quickly in order to see if the idea had any merit as a podcast-esque product. I'm currently undecided, but tentatively hopeful. I'll keep building my ideas for possible future episodes.

Listen to the first episode here:

Hopefully I'll have enough inspiration pulsing through my veins to follow this up with some more interviews by Bill Lipton in future weeks.

Yours psychotically,

Wednesday, 21 November 2012

Why The Government Should Increase Spending on the Space Program

Right now there is frozen moon orbiting Jupiter called Europa. Underneath its surface of ice is a liquid ocean. Who knows what unimagined ecosystems might exist in those oceans? Someday, somebody who was inspired as kid is going to drill down to explore those oceans. If we are smart in our choices then those kids could still be our own.

This year in America, 79 billion dollars were spent on Education. 84 billion dollars were spent on Health. And eclipsing both of these, a massive 683 billion dollars were spent on defense and military, including funding for war in Afghanistan and Iraq.

Far below this is something which is far more beneficial to us all, something which has changed all our lives several times throughout history. Space exploration.

Review of "Skylanders: Giants" Soundtrack by Lorne Balfe

This soundtrack is a delightful little surprise. I had very little familiarity with both Lorne Balfe and the Skylanders franchise before writing this review. I'm now a bit of a fan.

Click here to read my review over at Tracksounds.

Yours merrily,

Sunday, 21 October 2012

Four Reasons You Should Listen to a Warcraft Soundtrack

Yes, it's another article on some music I like. The Warcraft franchise is just as magical as Harry Potter or Lord of the Rings in its rich fantastical lore, and its music has always been tangibly exciting. I've written an article about Warcraft's music from over the years, and included several key tracks which sparkle with brilliance.

I hope you'll like both the article and the music. Click here to jump over the piece.

Yours chronically,

Saturday, 13 October 2012

Review of "Breaking Bad" Soundtrack by Dave Porter

Since the first season aired in 2008, this American drama series created by Vince Gilligan has risen to small-screen fame, and is now one of the most popular shows on television. BREAKING BAD is a dark thriller which follows the story of Walter White, a man who descends into a life of crime in order to provide for his family. Supplying the soundtrack for the show since the beginning is composer DAVE PORTER. His music, however, takes a backseat in this production. It fulfills the necessary action and emotional beats, but never emerges beyond the format of a glorified soundscape.

The opening cue, “Breaking Bad Main Title Theme (Extended)” (1) may not be exciting or impactful, but it is quite assuredly the highlight of the album. The clanging mix of hollow sounds deliberately feels makeshift, even tacky. This represents the whimsical scientific aspect of the show, and Walter’s tendency to defuse a situation with ingenuity and practicality. “Smoking Jesse’s Pot” (2) is also one of the most accessible tracks. Its optimistic and light-hearted tone is refreshing, and is non-existent throughout the rest soundtrack.

Like many tracks in this score, “The Cousins” (10) uses long, distorted notes to create a dream-like sense of confusion. It is true throughout the score but especially clear in this piece that PORTER is portraying terrible, hollow lives and people with rotten cores. “The Long Walk Alone (Heisenberg’s Theme)” (12) isn’t much of a theme. A crippled, uncertain melody is repeated several times as the now familiar distorted background noises rumble uglily. It represents Walter’s precarious transformation into his darker persona of “Heisenberg”.

“Aztek” (14) is one of the few action cues, but it sounds no less bizarre and distorted than the rest of the soundtrack. Its mix of childlike innocence and the rising threat of violence is one of the more interesting moments in the score. “Jesse in Mexico” (16) is enjoyably rhythmic. It doesn’t last, but it’s something to latch on to as a listener. This track then repeats the depressingly lifeless mix of static stabs ironically innocent light tones we’ve already been through several times.

The fourth season of the show is coming to a climax in “Crawl Space” (17). This piece follows Walter’s motions through desperation, hopelessness and finally madness - symbolised by a building scream of white noise. Hopelessness is visceral in “Parking Garage Standoff” (18), as Walter’s desperate plans are foiled by the mysterious intuition of his enemy. The tense, falling tones are disconcerting, giving the sense that something is terribly wrong. These tracks highlight the extent to which PORTER’S score is an accompaniment to the intense madness of the show.

Though it should come as no surprise, PORTER’S BREAKING BAD is an entirely underwhelming listening experience. Don’t get me wrong, it is a skillfully crafted score which not many composers could pull off so effectively. On repeated listening this soundtrack gave me a deep, sick feeling, which demonstrates the emotional power it has.

However the rich visual storytelling in BREAKING BAD is so powerful that it makes sense for this soundtrack to be soft and subtle, rendering most of the score imperceptible. Although elements of the soundtrack are interesting when examined in the context of the TV show, where I’d rate the score a 6/10, as a stand-alone listen PORTER’S BREAKING BAD simply fails to deliver an enjoyable listening experience, warranting only a 3/10. In the end, while PORTER’S score has style and ingenuity worth admiring, it is a less than average soundtrack, collecting a score of 4/10.

Click here to jump over the the review at Tracksounds, including track ratings.

Tuesday, 2 October 2012

10 Best Pieces From Doctor Who Seasons 1-4

Murray Gold is one of my favourite film and television composers. Over the past seven years he's created tons and tons (and tons) of fantastic music for Doctor Who. Recently I fell into a ridiculous pit of insanity and recklessly thought I'd list my favourite 10 tracks from Doctor Who Seasons 1 through 4 (the Christopher Eccleston and David Tennant eras). This was a terrible idea which was utterly impossible. So here it is.


Yours terrifyingly,

Wednesday, 26 September 2012

Review of "Star Wars: The Old Republic" Soundtrack by Mark Griskey et al

I recently wrote a review for a soundtrack which (spoilers) I love - Star Wars: The Old Republic. It's a huge soundtrack which has so much to offer any fan of Star Wars or orchestral music in general. Check out my review over at Tracksounds.

Underneath the review you can also see my star ratings for individual tracks.

Do you love the Star Wars: The Old Republic score as much as me? Let me know!

Yours optimistically,

Saturday, 22 September 2012

Why You Should Check Out The Doctor Who Fan Orchestra

A few days ago the Doctor Who Fan Orchestra released their fifth piece, "The Impossible Astronaut (Suite)", which is a collection of Murray Gold's music from "The Impossible Astronaut" and "Day of the Moon" episodes. This is an incredible collaboration, and here are the reasons you should check out the DWFO:
  • By The Fans, For The Fans
    There aren't many fan bases that could pull off something like this. It is an example of the huge scope of Doctor Who fans and their passionate commitment to the show. These are all people just like you and me from all over the world, whipping out an instrument and creating something very special.
  • It's Hard Work
    Everyone involved in DWFO spends incredible amounts of time and effort putting together each piece, but none more than the creator, Stephen Willis. Imagine the work it must take to not only put together and distribute sheet music for a range of instruments, but also compile hundreds of submissions into a high quality audio and video production.
  • I'm In It
    That's how nice and accepting this group of people are, they even let me take part! In the latest piece you might be able to spot me playing the piano and donning a bow tie.
  • It's Great Music
    Who doesn't love Murray Gold's work on Doctor Who? The music he creates is incredibly beautiful and exciting. Stephen Willis' arrangements in the DWFO capture this with astounding quality, when you consider that he is receiving hundreds of part submissions of varying quality from all over the world. Each of the five pieces performed by the DWFO so far have included superb selections of Murray Gold's score.
So what are you waiting for? Check out the DWFO's latest piece here:

Yours momentarily,

Monday, 17 September 2012

Google Music Desktop Player Review

EDIT 21/03/2014: The following article is now very out of date. If you're a Google Music user on Windows 8, you should definitely check out outcoldplayer in the Windows App Store. It's an excellent and often updated player with great aesthetics.

If you're a user of Google Music and Windows 7, you'll want to check out this Google Music Desktop Player that Victor Alberto Gil has designed.

I've messed around (played music) with it for a few days now, and here's some quick pros and cons I've come across:

  • Keyboard Controls
    If you have play/pause media control buttons on your keyboard, they'll now work with Google Music.
  • Notifications
    When a new song begins to play a little notification appears.
  • Standalone
    Keep the music away from your browser. Your web browser is probably already full of dozens of tabs performing all kinds of everyday operations, what with email and social networking, so getting Google Music out into its own space is a good thing.
  • Last.FM Scrobbling
    Use Last.FM? No problem, it's built in.
  • Fast And Smooth
    The program launches quicky and plays songs fast, especially considering it's streaming.
  • Labs Features Work
    Want HTML5 or Star Ratings on your music? Turn them on in Google Music Labs and they'll work seamlessly with the player.

Wednesday, 12 September 2012

Malignant Morality in Doctor Who

Here is my little rant about actions taken by The Doctor in the lastest episode of Doctor Who. You can either read below, or listen here:

The following contains spoilers for the 2nd episode of the 7th season of Doctor Who, "Dinosaurs on a Spaceship", and everything that came before it.

"Dinosaurs on a Spaceship". I'm growing increasingly concerned for The Doctor's moral compass. I did think he might have lost it, but to my horror in this latest episode The Doctor stepped on it, smashing it into pieces. The moral compass that is, in case my metaphor got a bit vague there.

The question I have now is whether any of the characters in the show, or more importantly any of the writers behind the show, are aware that The Doctor stepped on it. Again, that's the moral compass.


I can count in many languages. Spanish, French, Indian, Australian. That's four.

Yours annoyingly,

Galactic Nationalism

I recently finished making this little flash game. It's pretty basic, and my third attempt at making something with Actionscript 3.0. But hey, it's got space and aliens and stuff!

Here's the entire thing for your amusement:

Yours indignantly,

Tuesday, 11 September 2012

Barnaby Barnabus

Barnaby Barnabus The Third was the third Barnaby Barnabus to be King of Barnaville The Third, which was the third town to be named Barnaville. Tradition was very important to the Barnavanions (those who inherited Barnaville the Third). One day Barnaville The Third was attacked, destroyed, and Barnaby Barnabus the Third was killed. His son, Barnaby, became King of Barnaville The Fourth. The End.

The moral of this story: Everyone in the world should not be called Barnaby.

Yours erratically,

Review of "Hugo" Soundtrack by Howard Shore

How do you give a sense of magic and excitement to a film with only subtle, moderate doses of action, humour, romance or any other variation of dramatic flare? Well, Howard Shore brings a wealth of scoring intelligence to this commendable feat.

12-year-old boy Hugo stars in this Martin Scorsese film of the same name, which uses a French perspective to pay homage to early cinema. Howard Shore embraces this French perspective and pulls off a colourful soundtrack. While impressively energetic and entertaining, this score still manages to be imbued with, like the film, a subtle intelligence and emotional heart.
The album opens with “The Thief”, a track which encompasses every flavour present in Hugo. It begins with delicately mysterious piano which arouses a haunting sense of melancholy. The piece then builds into the main theme of the film: a light-hearted waltz which serves as the backdrop for the bustling energy of the train station depicted on screen.
The themes of loss and loneliness are explored further in “Hugo’s Father” and brought to minor emotional climaxes in “The Clocks” and “Purpose” - the latter of which is the audio representation of one of the main ideas explored in the film.

Many moments in the film feature comedic interactions between stereotypical characters, and this is reflected in the soundtrack. “The Plan” is an enjoyable piece which opens with Shore’s comic march. And while not very entertaining musically, Sacha Baron Cohen’s quirky character is represented on album with his own track, “The Station Inspector”.

These praises given, I am not totally positive in my adoration. This album still doesn’t reach spectacular heights by any means. The style remains the same throughout, and therefore the repetition becomes dull when listening through all 21 tracks. Rather than rising and falling in energy, the tone remains somewhat the same the whole way through, with only slight variations on the main themes. For this reason there are some pieces that I won’t mention at all, simply because they appear to be nothing more than a rehash of something heard a few moments before. Tracks such as “Ashes” tinkle along in the background, making little to no impression but satisfactorily filling the 1 hour and 7 minute runtime of the soundtrack.

Review of “Game Of Thrones: Season 2” Soundtrack by Ramin Djawadi

Ramin Djawadi is back to score the second season of the heavy fantasy show, Game Of Thrones. I enjoyed his work on the last season, but thought there was plenty that could be improved on this second time around. One thing's for sure though, we’re going dark places!

Even though it’s copied over from Season 1, the beautiful “Main Title” is back and worth mentioning. Easily the most epic piece of the soundtrack, its energetic drums and deep strings paint the scale and beauty of this huge fantasy story. “The Throne Is Mine” is familiar too - a rehash of some themes in the first season - but brilliantly portrays the dark and majestic world of this medieval upper-class society.
“What Is Dead May Never Day” is a fairly enjoyable atmospheric piece. It feels oddly constrained, but builds patiently into a rather rousing cacophony of strings.

Our theme for the character of Stannis and his journey to claim the throne is first heard in “Warrior Of Light”, which is - again - a very dark and brooding melody. This theme is built into its pure height of strength in one of the album’s few action pieces - “Don’t Die With A Clean Sword”, a heavy track which also features an anxious variation on the “Main Title” theme. Speaking of that main theme, “Mother Of Dragons” plays around with it in a gorgeous manner reminiscent of the “Finale” piece from Season 1.
Magic and mystery is squeezed into the mix through “Valar Morghulis”. The iconic mixture of sounds in this piece certainly achieves an eerie air.

“Winterfell” has a very slow and melancholy opening, but halfway through we are greeted by what I think of as “The Stark Theme”, which has also returned from Season 1. Stoic and sad, but also filled with hope - an emotion that contrasts with the majority of this fantasy universe.

Friday, 6 July 2012

Tuesday, 19 June 2012

Google Music: Why Aren't You Amazing?

I'm not going to be going into that much depth here, but I've recently begun my involvement with Google's inevitable endeavor into the digital audio world, ironically named Google Music.

I'm accessing the service from here in Australia, where it's not yet officially available, but it's fairly easily to jump in anyway. But I should note this doesn't give you access to the store where you can purchase music, that's still only available in the US. Typical.

Quick & generic explanation of Google Music: "Google Music is about discovering, purchasing, sharing and enjoying digital music in new, innovative and personalized ways. We automatically sync your entire music library—both purchases and uploads—across all your devices so you don't have to worry about cables, file transfers or running out of storage space."

It's very similar to iTunes Match, which I also use and enjoy.

The most notable difference so far is the ridiculous upload time required by Google Music. To upload your entire music library it could take literally days, whereas iTunes Match simply 'matches' many tracks - making upload times incredibly pleasant.
Lemme break it all down:

Tuesday, 5 June 2012

The Dream I Had Last Night

And hopefully you won't find it dull. I know that many a time people are, by their social respectfulness, forced to listen to entirely uninteresting dreams that others feel the need to share. But seriously, I found this one pretty freaky.

As is oft the way with dreams, this visceral adventure lacked detail, structure and any comprehensible characters. The ideas explored by this dream were backed by a soundtrack of dread. My dread. I certainly felt some relief when waking into reality today (which is actually not often the case - I usually have comforting dreams).

Anyway, in the dream I was being taken somewhere to get an injection. Not just any injection though. This needle in my arm would send me on a holiday to visit relatives. One magic drug into my body and I'd be instantly in another part of the world without having to travel. My everyday life would freeze in the background.

As various wavering apparitions of my family members tried to get me to take this drug-journey with them I was overwhelmed by the finality of that injection. One prick then my whole life would essentially disappear. 'Twas pretty freaky. I think I'd personally prefer to fly.

So what have I learned from last night's 8 hour slumber?
  • I have a fear of holidays?
  • Drugs are bad?
  • My family is evil?
  • Santa Claus isn't real? No wait that's ridiculous of course he's real.
  • Nothing?
Let me know if you'd be interested in this incredible new teleportation drug. Or, if you want to share any of your recent dreams with me, I'll definitely read them and possibly even use my immense wisdom to tell you what they mean.

Yours inescapably,

PS. I just remembered that I also had a dream about some weird man breaking into my house and I had to call the police. Must've been a hectic night for my subconscious.

Monday, 4 June 2012

My Struggle With Character Differentiation

So lately I've been writing a screenplay for the first installation of a mini-series I've come up with. I can't say too much (complete lie, I'm just lazy) but it's essentially a tongue-in-cheek dramatic egotistical spy thriller sitcom. Now if only I could say it had explosions, then I could get phone calls from producers. Hmm. (Note to self: add more explosions.)

As I've slowly worked my way through developing this idea, I've realised I'm struggling with defining my characters. There are two main protagonists. They are capital-A Agents, working for a dodgy Intelligence Agency. I began with vague, flexible visions of these characters. They were both just quirky persons who were serious and seriously stuffed up in hilarious ways, both reaching pleasantly self-satisfying resolutions  at the conclusion of each conflict the plot throws at them. 

But when I realised I could interchange any piece of dialogue between these characters and it still worked in my mind, I realised I had one too many of the same character. Sure, I considered one to be more egotistical and subservient and the other to be a clumsy joker, but in the end these descriptions don't separate them enough.

It has made me ponder one of my favourite sitcoms, Black Books, and the dynamic it creates between Dylan Moran and Bill Bailey's characters. They're both wacky and have enough playful gullibility to get themselves into all sorts of comical situations, but they've got very different styles. Perhaps a lot of the credit goes to the actors, who are defining the personalities of their respective characters.

With that in mind, I'm starting to picture who I would/could/will cast in my mini-series production. Perhaps that will give them stronger personification in my mind's (rather gooey) eye.

Well, that's all I'm going to write on the matter for now. I'll let y'all know how things progress.

Yours intermittently,

Here, I Shall Write

There, I stated it. I'm going to write stuff here on this blog. Maybe now it will happen?

Anyway, whether or not you will end up reading my posts that may or may not end up existing here on this blog, don't forget to check out my nearly-as-uninformative videos over at my YouTube channel!

I guess this is where I throw in a comforting (for both you and I) cliché: stay tuned!

Yours ponderingly,