Reflection of a Digital Composer

Categories: ComposersMusicPiano

This Academy award-winning composer is arguably the popular most composer across the globe for his versatility and creativity, who can write for any musical genre (incidentally, there are around 115 genres), all the while magically interweaving one with another. While Pirates of the Carribbean is the current hot property of the music lovers all around the globe, his award winning score for “The Lion King” saw its soundtracks sold over 10 million copies. He certainly is the most inspiring example of a super-successful electronic music composer (Levy 2007).

He too is an award winning film composer, musician and sound designer, he has his own music studio at Derbyshire, U. K. , that boasts about “a magnificent Yamaha C& concert grand piano, samplers, synths, sound manipulation software, FX units and the latest VTS technology” (David 2008). Apart from feature film, David has a long line of credits that include animation, documentary, music CD, short film, commercials or corporate film within a career span of 2000 – 2008. He also owns a band, “David Beard Music Production”.

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And this talented young man is introduced with many professional titles like Arranger, Composer, Electronic Musician, Keyboardist, Music Supervisor, Music Producer, Orchestrator and Pianist. Needless to say, David could float this extensive range of musical service because of his mastery in electronic music. These examples show that it took such devoted and talented musicians and composers of the earlier and present times to make way of electronic music, which is now walking steadily to create its legacy and by no means it is only a clever business proposition of newer entrepreneurs.

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All of these composers/musicians have conventional music background, where David Newman comes out from a family of musicians, much like Jean-Michel and Kevin, two composer sons of legendary film music composer Maurice Jarre (Maurice 2006). No one can deny the fact that it takes years of practice to develop the ear of music in this zone also, besides mastering the operating systems of electronic machines, which vary from one instrument to the other. It also takes a lot to remember the software program’s nuances.

Thus, in all fairness, this can be said that digital music too is going through the same grind like its illustrious predecessor, conventional music. However, it is the paradox of civilization that one is now facing the other in the battle of survival for the fittest. One example of where the battle stands now could be derived from the excerpt of an interview of a modern composer who reflects about what could be next stage of most of the music composers while using jargons from the electronic music world.

While Northam’s reflections sound frustrating, the composers subscribing to the virtual music represent just the opposite pole. The boom in electronic music market has brought in new avenues of business, and “samplebanking”  is a lucrative one in it. Sample is a piece of digital music that can be used in various forms, where its flexible parameters enable a composer to easily align it to the requirement. Creating such samples is proving more lucrative than even a composer’s job.

This state of affairs is now influencing many composers shifting to the business of samplebanking. Therefore an excerpt of the interview with such a composer-turned sample developer, Wilbert Roget, II is certainly going to throw some light here on this new profession in the entertainment industry. Brent Latta took this interview just after Roget had released a new ‘indie’  sample library called “Impact: Steel”. The interview appeared on June 20, 2007: Q: First, can you tell us a bit about your background, and how you got into composing and music?

W. R. : Well to keep things short, I’m basically a lifer with music and composition, studying piano early on and doing improvisations almost immediately (if not before). I decided on film and video game composition as a career sometime in high school, and went on to study composition, orchestration, and conducting at Yale University. I’ve been scoring films, games, ads, and various other projects ever since. Q: What got you into sample library creation – specifically for Impact: Steel? WR: I’ve been making my own samples ever since I’d been scoring video games, back in the DLS era.

I created Impact: Steel specifically because I had lots of musical ideas for my soundtracks that would’ve used metallic percussion, but no commercially available libraries had the kind of instruments I wanted. Several years ago, I’d recorded a few metal objects I found in my room into a useful (albeit low-quality) soundfont , which ended up being the inspiration for Impact: Steel as it is now. As a side note, it wasn’t until about halfway through production that I decided to release it commercially instead of keeping it private. Q: What goes into making a sample library?

Did you just collect a bunch of noisemakers and record them, or did you have some kind of a plan before recording? WR: Actually, I’d been collecting most of these “instruments” for years – I have a weird habit of just tapping on things and taking note of what kind of sound it makes. Since I already had the instruments, I had a good idea right away of what kinds of articulations I’d use. Each instrument is heavily multisampled, with up to 9 velocity layers and 3 round robin variations per each of the 73 different articulations (on different parts of the instrument, with different beaters, rolls, scrapes, tremolos, etc. ).

So I really needed a detailed outline on paper that detailed what exactly to play, in what order, specifying mixer settings and even microphone distances. Q: Can you tell us a bit about the process of recording your samples? WR: Sure! As I mentioned before, it’s almost impossible to do any kind of a large-scale project without a printed cue sheet. Mine even had specifics on the number of variations, “safety” takes, exact playing position on the instruments, and so on.

I’d say once you’ve done that, it’s a good idea to do several prototype recordings, not only to check levels but also to get a sense of how it’ll sound in your sampler of choice. As for the actual recording phase, I recommend trying to do as much as possible in one take, and splitting the files up later. This helps maintain a consistent sound throughout the instrument, which is crucial for getting an organic, convincingly realistic patch. If you made a cue sheet, it should be very easy to figure out exactly what’s playing when you’re editing the large recording files.

And again I really think it’s a great idea to have a good sense of what kind of a sound you’ll want in the end. In my case, I knew I wasn’t gonna get a huge “recorded in a giant hangar” sound, and I also didn’t want a pristine and surgically-dry tone either. So instead I adjusted my mixer, EQ settings, and mic positions to get a nice room sound, not too dry and with some air/ambience. EQing at the recording stage (i. e. right on the mixer) also gave my samples a clearer and more powerful bass, with high end presence as well. Q: From the point of raw samples, what comes next?

WR: After the recording phase, there’s the editing phase and then the implementation and sampling phase. In editing, you’re basically splitting it up into samples and doing whatever post-processing you’ll need. Sampling is where you plug all the samples into your sampler of choice. In my case, I threw the samples into Kontakt 2 and played around with them a lot before going back and post-processing them; this helped to get a sense of what kinds of edits and effects I’d need. The final product sounds remarkably different as a result, and I almost never needed to use real-time effects in Kontakt to compensate.

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Reflection of a Digital Composer. (2020, Jun 02). Retrieved from

Reflection of a Digital Composer

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