I’ve made my decision. My third composition will be ‘Follow Me’, an orchestral/New Age piece with themes of leading, following, and trust. (And yes, that is the official title.)
My reasons? I listened to the melodic ideas I’ve saved over the past few months, and I realised that I’ve accumulated more material for ‘Follow Me’ than I thought I had. Also—and this is quite important—I have this gut feeling that this is the right time for this piece. It fits the emotional phase I’m going through, and I recently discovered some music which I think will serve as good inspiration. ‘Follow Me’ is begging me to take the plunge and start making it.
I just created a new project-file in Reaper. Opus 3 is officially in production!
There are plenty of boxes I have to tick before I can hear even a ‘bare bones’ version of my third piece, though. Despite the considerable amount of melodic material I currently have, there are still gaps which need to be filled. Also, I don’t have a clear vision of how this piece will be structured. With ‘Into Winter‘, I knew what the beginning, middle, and end would be very early on, before I opened my DAW. That’s not the case with this one. Maybe the lack of a pre-defined structure is a good thing and will allow for more originality and flexibility. Maybe not.
I’m off to do some musical ruminating (again). Personal growth is just around the corner. I can smell a composing adventure in the air.
What do I compose next? ‘Into Winter‘ is, for the moment, finished. I mentioned a long time ago that I feel like a cashier serving a long line of shoppers. I have too many ideas for compositions floating around in my head; I can count five for orchestral music and two for J-pop, making for a total of seven.
I’ll delay the J-pop songs because I don’t have the right VST to produce them. After receiving some feedback assuring me that my orchestral compositions are indeed improving, I’m not in the mood to spend time and money taking a detour into pop-song territory. I want to continue my winning streak in orchestral music—I’d like to place myself on a roll, see how far I can get.
So which orchestral piece do I choose? Being a great lover of soundtracks, I have themes or settings for all of my music. For my second piece, it was ‘winter’; the subjects of my pending orchestral-compositions are ‘forest’, ‘leading’, ‘seashore’, ‘sword fight’, and ‘Roman senator’.
‘Forest’ is based on ideas I’ve had for a long time, and I want it to be spectacular. I won’t do it yet because I lack experience. ‘Leading’ would be my choice if the main melody didn’t sound similar to a part of ‘Into Winter’. If I chose to compose it now, I’d only be plagiarising myself, but I’d prefer not to do that for reasons of pride. I’ll wait and see if I can think of a way to change the melody while keeping the emotion.
‘Seashore’, ‘sword fight’, or ‘Roman senator’ it is, then. Unfortunately, none of these three ideas are complete—that means that I don’t know how they’ll sound in their entirety. I’ll do some musical ruminating to see which one is most willing to let me fill in its gaps; after that, I’ll make my choice.
As I did before, I turned out to have underestimated the amount of time it would take to finish my track. I thought all of the arranging was done, but then, I listened to my rendered track on my phone and realised that my mix sounded horrible.
I’ve spent a good 6 hours over the past week adjusting velocity, trying to get the mix to sound loud in all the right places. The velocity changes are done, but ideas for new changes keep popping into my mind. They say that women are fickle; I certainly am. Now I’m getting to the point where I’m starting to loathe ‘Into Winter’, and I haven’t even uploaded it yet.
I could ignore the suggestions for improvement that pester me and upload the mix. Or I could struggle some more. I wouldn’t mind choosing the latter option if only I wasn’t such a slow composer. Six hours it took me to adjust velocity, mind you. I try so hard not to be a perfectionist, but once I sit down at my computer, something else seems to take over.
The only consolation I can take away from this is that the ‘final’ mix of my second piece sounds better than that of my first. It’s not ideal, but it’s a step up—maybe several steps up. At least that’s something.
Why is The Witcher 3 soundtrack so brilliant? I know this isn’t related to my composing (or if it is, then only vaguely so), but it has to be said. I can’t believe this soundtrack was published for two years before I heard of it. Shame on me. I obviously haven’t been googling hard enough.
It all started when I browsed YouTube for background music that I could read and study to. I discovered a video of tavern music which had some tracks from the Witcher 3 soundtrack in it. The rest, as they say, is history.
I’m completely hooked. As I said on Twitter, this is the worst soundtrack addiction to hit me since I drooled over Final Fantasy VII‘s music. Just when I thought that my listening life was getting dull, too.
The best thing for me about the Witcher 3 soundtrack is that it’s non-Western music which is of an extraodinary quality. (The music is European, but it’s Polish.) I have nothing against Western music, but after thousands of listens, it does all tend to blur together. This soundtrack is exactly what I needed to invigorate my ears and my enthusiasm.
It appeals to me as an Easterner, too. It’s all very odd because my homeland (the Republic of Korea) has no historical connection with Poland. But something about the way the vocalists sing and the musicians play in the music just reaches into me.
I became so obsessed with the game’s soundtrack that I bought the books that the games are based on. I’m enjoying them, too. I’m feeling so fond of them that I’m even considering buying the games which the books inspired, a first for me. I must be in love or something.
As for ‘Into Winter’, my second piece, I am close to wrapping everything up. Just a few more hours in it, and it’ll be done. I’m so proud of this piece. I can hear the imperfections in it, but unlike with ‘Onwards‘, I’ve tried hard to deliver my best. ‘Into Winter’ represents where I stand as a composer right now.
To all visitors: a few days ago, I had the idea of making a visitors’ book where you can introduce me and other visitors to your blogs, SNS accounts, and music. It was a brilliant idea, if I do say so myself. I have nothing against self-promotion—if you’re visiting my website, please consider reading the rules of the visitors’ book and leaving a comment.
I went to the fourth concert of my life yesterday. I think I’m over the awe of being at a concert now. Throughout the event, criticisms such as ‘Maybe East Asian violinists really are inexpressive’ kept popping into my head.
A quick list of developments in my composing life:
- I have started using reddit, and I am in love.
It’s only been a day since I started using it, but I’m getting so much interaction. On Tuesday night, I posted a question on reddit. When I woke up the next morning, I saw that it had 55 comments (excluding the ones written by myself). I learnt so much from reading the replies. (If you’re curious, the question was about the necessity of conductors in modern orchestras.)
I like the privacy and personalisation that WordPress.com offers, but this isn’t the best place to meet lots of musicians and composers. If you’re hungry for music-related conversations, head over to reddit. There’s a useful guide for musicians new to reddit which I discovered courtesy of Wil Forbis.
- I’ve started using YouTube, too. Before, all I had was a channel, but now I’m actually taking the time to log in, watch videos, like videos, and leave comments. I even got a reply from the uploader of a video to a comment I left. Yay.
- ‘Into Winter’ is finally coming together. I think the arrangement is about 80% done; all that’s left to do is tweaking. I can’t wait to listen to the finished track—it should be available before June.
- I decided against making ‘Into Winter’ longer. I listened to it again and again, and somewhere along the way, my ears started believing that ‘Into Winter’ sounds fine the way it is length-wise. Perhaps I’ve just gotten used to its length. Or maybe I’m more of a conservative composer than I thought was.
- I have a logo now, if anyone’s interested. I made it ages ago and finally got round to uploading it.
I like the design, but I’m thinking of changing the colour. You can see it on the page titled ‘Profile’.
I’m in the middle of a dilemma: I can’t decide whether I should make ‘Into Winter’ longer or not.
At the moment, it’s about 3 minutes long, and it has a clearly-defined introduction, middle, and climax. As always with epic music, though, the middle and climax feel too short—this genre of music is all about giving the listener an energy rush which makes him go hunting for the replay button. It’s why there are one-hour versions of epic-music tracks on YouTube; everyone wants more of the middle and the climax. Epic-music introductions are only functional.
I know that if I was a stranger listening to ‘Into Winter’, I’d listen to it from start to finish the first time and repeat just the middle and climax the second time round. I’m an impatient listener, and I don’t see the point in abstaining from replaying or moving on once the fun part is over. But something—probably the meager composer’s instinct I’ve developed over the past half-year—tells me that ‘Into Winter’ is best left as it is. The three-part structure is in place, and it works; dragging out the piece even further would be in bad taste.
But how much taste do you really need when you’re trying to make musical adrenaline? It seems silly to worry about over-repetition and poor composing when I’m making epic music, yet I know that my favourite epic pieces are the ones that have at least a modicum of structure. I don’t like the under-revised pieces, like the ones by E.S. Posthumus.
Of course, I could just leave my second composition as it is, and if any epic-music fan liked it enough to replay it, they’d make a one-hour version of it and put it on YouTube. That would make the question of adding another minute to ‘Into Winter’ moot, since the one-hour version would be all that people want to listen to, anyway.
In any case, the most important task at hand is to make the arrangement spectacular. Nobody will care if it’s three or four minutes long if it isn’t actually good.
Once again, the main melody is finished, and I am left struggling with the arrangement. I received feedback on ‘Onwards‘ about how I should use a wider range of instruments. At the moment, I’m quite uncomfortable around non-string instruments. Whenever I listen to a section of ‘Into Winter’ and try to come up with some names of non-string instruments which might suit it, I draw a blank. I can only conjure sound ideas with adjectives, like ‘tinkling’ or ‘forlorn’; I can’t yet pick the right tools for the musical job.
I don’t know what it is about non-string instruments that renders them silent to my ears. I thought percussion was the worst of it, but now, I’m trying to understand brass and woodwinds. It’s not that I can’t tell different brass or woodwind instruments apart. I just don’t know how to use them. I don’t know when to include them to make the music sound ‘right’.
Ah well. At least I know my way around my DAW now. Soon, it’ll be six months since I created this website and started practical composing. The only things I have to show for my efforts so far are a despised first-composition and some basic DAW-skills. I’ve been a slow learner, but I’m determined not to rush myself. I think I do enough of that outside of composing.
I don’t know if anyone’s noticed this, but ‘Onwards’, my first piece, is now a private track and is not available for listening. I found it so flawed and crude that I couldn’t stand the idea of people listening to it. I’ll make it available again once I’ve revised it and can honestly say that I’ve given it my best effort. That won’t happen until I’ve at least finished ‘Into Winter’, though.
Last Thursday, I went to the third concert of my life: a full-orchestra game-music concert at the Seoul Arts Centre. It got my composer’s blood pumping, and the strange thing is, I didn’t even like most of the music they played.
I went to the concert determined to enjoy the experience, and for the most part, I did. It was a pleasure just to listen to a live orchestra; no headphones can compare. But then I found my mind wandering off in strange directions while I listened, too, making me think things such as ‘This melody is dull and lacks energy’ or ‘I don’t know what that piece was supposed to make me feel.’ And while I’ve always been critical of music I dislike, this time, I started to unconsciously compare the concert music to that of my own. And many times, I came to the conclusion that—despite my embarrassing lack of experience and finesse as a composer—I liked my music better.
That discovery, more than the concert itself, was what fired me up. It’s very important to me that I be able to make things I like. I think a certain amount of success is guaranteed to those who create to please themselves, but it’s more than that—there are few things that feel better than knowing that I can depend on myself as an artist to enrich my life.
Back to composing, then. Life still tries hard to not give me breaks, but I’ll have to scrounge up time somehow. I need to know what I can make out of ‘Into Winter’.