Saturday, April 28, 2007

"Love Song to Super-8" - blog09 - completion

Movie completed and submitted by post to the NZ Film Festival. Editing co-incided with high pressure in the day job and the computer moonlighting job so it was not much sleep for me. Editing ran so late that I used up the week the musicians were available and completed a fine cut on the night of the 19 April, with the fest entry deadline being the next day. I checked the fest website and behold! a 10 day extension - yay! But what to do about music?

I had another muso wanting to help, but he was in a small rural town. I posted him the stuff and it got lost in the post. I did however have a Plan B going and that moved into full swing. I had chosen "Danse Macabre" by Camille Saint-Saens as a piece I wanted to use and I started searching for versions of it on the internet and writing to the arrangers and/or publishers asking permission. After about 8 unanswered emails over a week I finally made a friendly contact. Terry Smythe belongs to the "International Association of Mechanical Music Preservationists" whose members have invented scanners which read the player piano rolls of the early 20th century into computer "MIDI" files. Terry kindly gave me clearance to use his publication of a Liszt arrangement of Danse Macabre. On loading it into my MIDI software, "Powertools Pro", I found I was able to split the left and right hand sets of notes into separate "channels" and give them different instruments. I kept the right channel as a piano but added an asian "koto" voice. The left hand notes became a "string ensemble" and an "oboe".

I have great admiration for Franz Liszt now! It was amazing how well this piece fits with the movie, IMHO because of the way it moves off the melody into atmospheric variations.

For the courtroom scene I wanted another piece by Saint-Saens - the "Fossils" from "Carnival of the Animals". I especially like Tony Matthew's midi sequencing of it which IMO delivers an especially good computer simulation of an orchestra. Tony gave me permission to modify his work for the film. I repeated some sections with changed instrument voices - mostly percussion to go well with the courtroom typewriter as the silent-movie-voice of the characters and something of a character in its own right. I found the "tinkle bell", "celeste", "shamizen" and "koto" worked well. I found that these simulated instruments sound realistic only over a narrow range of notes but I got into making them sound quite different by assigning them well out of their "realistic" range. My favourite experiment was where I assigned some low notes to the "tinkle bell" and it became a woodblock-like drum-percussion track very suggestive of a typewriter.

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