B A R R Y L A N D .



killer music.








hear some samples of my first solo effort

we 3 kings.
the protagonists' christmas CD

music to go.
order some of my CDs


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 A  few years ago, I got a call from the late, great Mitchell Markham, a wonderful producer and studio head with a great set of ears and a gentle personality. He'd just gotten the contract for the new Shamu show at Sea World and wanted to know if I could quickly write a score for it.

Naturally, I jumped on it, and the process was one of the most unusual ones I've gone through. The show is based around the actions of an unpredictable beast, and they therefore plan things rather loosely. In mid-show, the whale may well decide to roll over and do nothing, or start flapping around exuberantly, or who knows what else. So, they build that in in an ingenious way: by having a soundtrack that they can change to match the whale's actions rather than trying to choreograph things strictly.

I got to work thinking of a good melody — with me, that's where it all starts: melodies are what people hum when they're doing the dishes, and most really good scores, whether for films or for shows, or anything else, have something really hummable. Also, I wanted it to have an oceanic quality to it, something that evoked the adventure and wild beauty of the open sea.

For some reason, they wanted me to do something in 6/8 time, which was fine with me because 6/8 is the traditional time signature for sea chanties, and has a rolling motion that's easy to associate with water. As for harmonic structure, I settled on the Mixolydian mode, and a riff that revolves around a Major I chord going to a Major VII chord and back: again, both of these elements for some reason achieve a seafaring sound. (Here is the main melody.)

Now came the fun part. What they wanted was 7 separate soundtracks, all with the same melody, harmony, and rhythm, but with different feels to them: a gentle, contemplative man-bonds-with-animal sort of thing, maybe with flute and piano; a big, giant, adventure-on-the-high sea track, with full orchestra and lots of cymbal crashes and woodwind flurries; an understated high-tech sound, maybe like Enya would do; a hard-driving, energetic rock track, maybe with powerful synth brass and crunch guitar; a track of nothing but booming "tribal" drum rhythms that matched the piece; a track with nothing but a conventional backbeat with a trap set; and a whimsical, lightly comedic track, heavy on the xylophone and tuba, for the funny bits when Shamu, say, wags his head or spits out a stream of water into the trainer's face.

The final results were to be put on seven tracks of digital tape, running simultaneously so that the sound engineer could pull up one track or the other, or in various combinations, based on what the whale was doing. When it circles around and comes bounding out of the water in a heroic leap, just pot up the bombastic orchestral music. When it takes the trainer for a ride or shakes hands with a kid, pot up the neato-tech music.

So, then, as I was composing it, I had to keep all seven tracks in mind, and come up with material that was robust enough to translate to drastically different styles — and switch easily between them — while still maintaining its unique character.

A further complication: the piece was to be circular, without a clear beginning or end, so that it could be of indefinite length. We then created a separate sound file of nothing but an ending that the engineer could pull up at any time to provide a satisfactory ending.

Challenges are often what motivate composers. And that's a good thing, because my deadline — to compose, record, and produce a final edit — was 4 days. (I turned it in with 2 hours to spare.)


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man and animal 456k

adventure on the sea 732k
















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