Monthly Archives: October 2011

The smell of honesty

Rob Lord is a composer for film ( and a recent project for him was RCVR (pronounced ‘Receiver’).  It’s an American sci-fi series with a bit of an X-files vibe, not released for TV or movie theatres, but the internet (, with videos hosted on Youtube.)

A business model that finds a way to monetize media on the web is a bit of a holy grail at the moment.

Interviewed by Marc Hustvedt on creator and director David Van Eyssen says:

“Our goal was to rethink storytelling as a narrative one-way street, inviting users to explore, discover and share much as they would in a game – or social network.”

Getting from that premis to a financial return looks one hell of a challenge, but that hasn’t stopped Machinima and sponsor Motorola putting enough money into the show to give it a great production quality.  Including the score.

Not surprisingly for sci-fi, the score needed to be ambient in places, mysterious, chilling, but Rob didn’t rely on synths and samples; he has recorded singers in London,  Ondes Martenot and Cristal Baschet in Paris, and some strings with us.

So why go for live musicians?  Rob says:

“The score for RCVR mainly consists of live instruments and features strings, 12 piece choir, Ondes Martenot, Cristal Baschet, piano and
guitars often heavily treated with electronics and fx.
The difference the live performance element made was enormous and I really feel that it helped me to connect with the emotional core of the story, which might sound a bit pretentious but if you’re not helping people to empathise with characters and their situations then you’re doing something wrong. I don’t really know why but strings and the human voice just work so well to picture and combining those with other-worldly instruments like the Cristal Baschet and Ondes Martenot enriched and humanised what could have been a cold and fairly abstract sound.”

A piece of music has a function.  It communicates ideas and emotions.
And it does that in a variety of ways – the choice of notes, harmony, counterpoint, rhythm, tempo, sounds, dynamics and performance.  And this last element is the hardest to define or explain, it is the least tangible element in the composer’s toolkit.  We talk about performance in rather vague terms since it is so difficult to put a finger on what makes it do something for us.

Perhaps what we are most looking for in a musical performance, is the smell of honesty; a commitment to the music that comes from inside a human; the sound of flesh and blood making a genuine effort to express emotion.  And that’s what you hear in this soundtrack.

It’s In The Trees, composed by Rob Lord for RCVR, streamed with kind permission of the composer.

String Arranging – part 2

A few years ago I made an ‘Introduction to String Arranging’ video, to share some working practices.  It’s taken a while, but here is Part 2.

This gets a little more technical, but reflects how I approach arranging strings for a song.  The song is Es Mejor Asi, by Solstice Duo, a track from their 1st album, produced by Luis Alonso in Costa Rica.

And the Sibelius score is here.