(Modulate This) Composition Sound Design

Good Read “Electroacoustic Music is Not About Sound” by Eric Chasalow @NewMusicUSA @NewMusicBox

I recently discovered New Music USA which has a lot of great resources. I’m particularly enjoying the publication NewMusicBox.

NewMusicBox, a multimedia publication from New Music USA, presents artists in their own words and explores the ideas behind a wide scope of adventurous music produced in the United States: concert works, jazz, experimental, contemporary opera, chamber music, and more.

For example – below is a good read by Eric Chasalow.

Electroacoustic Music is Not About Sound

eric chasalowYes, I do mean this title to be provocative, but my intention is to question some of our priorities and assumptions about composing, not to be polemical or suggest some correct way of composing. Rather, I am sharing some thinking that I have found serves my students and me well. The main thing I want to explore is my own attitude about musical time…

There are basic aspects of compositional thinking that seem to have become almost extinct—particularly, but not exclusively, in the realm of electroacoustic music…

But, there is still a lot to be gained by an awareness of and the ability to control pitch, no matter how abstract and seemingly “unpitched” musical materials may be. And the unfolding of structure moment by moment is still what music is about—that is, it is about time. I love inventing sounds as much as anyone, but without attention to time we just have sounds. Sound unfolding in time, on the other hand, produces musical thought.

New materials do demand new approaches, but this does not erase the necessity of paying attention to shaping the narrative


Mark Mosher
Synthesist & Multimedia Artist

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(Modulate This) Composition

Musician Explains One Concept in 5 Levels of Difficulty ft. Jacob Collier & Herbie Hancock

Wired has a series called “One Concept in 5 Levels of Difficulty”. Here is the one for harmony.

23-year-old musician, composer and multi-instrumentalist Jacob Collier explains the concept of harmony to 5 different people; a child, a teen, a college student, a professional, and jazz legend Herbie Hancock.

The video is 15 minutes long but worth watching till the end because 1) it’s interesting to see the notion of harmony explained at different levels and 2) Jacob Collier and Herbie Hancock do an amazing improv session at the end of the video.

Mark Mosher
Synthesist & Multimedia Artist

Artist Site:
Electronic Music Tech & Production Blog:

(Modulate This) Composition Music for Television & Film Sound Design Synth: Elektron Analog Rytm Videos

Video: Hans Zimmer & Radiohead on use of random music composition technique “tidal orchestra” for Blue Planet II


Video – How Hans Zimmer and Radiohead transformed “Bloom” for Blue Planet II.

Radiohead’s “Bloom,” remixed for the ocean. If you listen closely enough to Radiohead and Hans Zimmer’s rework of “Bloom” for Blue Planet II, you can hear a really fascinating orchestral trick at work. They call it the “tidal orchestra” — it’s a musical effect created by instructing each player to play their notes only if the person next to them isn’t playing. The result is a randomly swelling and fading musical bed for the entire series that captures the feeling of ocean waves. It’s a captivating way to score a soundtrack for the ocean — but it also fits in with a long history of capturing randomness in music composition.

Here is the video of Thom Yorke – BLOOM, Pathway to Paris Live @ Le Trianon (HD) on Piano, Elektron Analog Rytm, and Looper.

Thanks for reading,

Mark Mosher
Synthesist, Electronic Musician, Producer
Boulder, CO

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(Modulate This) Composition

Music Monday: Your Turn. Score a Mini-Film as a Composition Exercise.

Last week Tara Bush posted a 14 second mini-film Into the Tunnel (Milk F*ck)….

The first of a few mini films from our trip across the US. Filmed by Maf Lewis, music by Tara.

Scoring to short video clips is a great exercise for composers as limiting the time allows you the opportunity to score in one session. This can be really great if your stuck on another project, or your just looking to exercise and stretch your skills. Exercises like this can also help you refine your scoring/syncing to picture skills. 

Walking in Snow

Tara’s and Maf’s film inspired me to do a one session video edit & scoring session Sunday morning. Here is my 1:30 mini-film called Walking in Snow.

Composer/Producer Notes

I shot the video while walking in a recent snow storm near dusk in Louisville, CO just outside of Boulder using a waterproof Samsung HMX-W200 (down-rezed). While it was a very pleasant walk indeed, I found a few creepy frames when I watched the footage back – natural images that looked like faces of creatures. Seeing this, I decided to edit the film and compose a score that will make it much more sinister.

I edited the film first using Sony Vegas then imported it into Ableton Live in Arrangement view. Once in Ableton, I improvised using virtual instruments including Absynth 5, Rob Papen Predator, and Waldorf Largo. I also programmed against markers as cue points on the time-line.

Almost all the patches are from INIT except for an Absynth patch near the very end. The cello is not a sample, but a synthesized cello-like patch I'm working on for Absynth which was far enough along and perfect for this piece.

I used audio from the camera mic at the beginning (footsteps) and the end (snow crystals falling on the camera housing).

Constraining Yourself

A key to this exercise is constraining your self with time. I did the video edit in 30 minutes and the score in one hour. I took about another 20 minutes to add the title cards and upload to YouTube. Constraining your time means you won’t agonize over notes, patches, or arrangement, and it will help you sharpen your skills for deadline oriented work. Just go stream of consciousness.

More Ideas

  • Score Again with a Different Emotional Tone – Another step you can take with this exercise is to re-score multiple times with completely different emotional tones.
  • Score With Background Sounds from the Video – In this video I use the footsteps and ice crystals falling on the camera as compositional elements. I encourage you to experiment with ideas on changing the emotional contexts of the ambient sound with your composition. I was reminded of this idea by tweep Lux Seeker in a recent tweet in regards to some of his work  “The foreground sound, the footsteps, now sound darker. So sounds don't exist independent of others around them.”

Your Turn

Ok, you get the idea – now give it a try sometime. It’s great way to get the juices flowing.

Rescore “Walk in Snow”

If you think you’ll find the video editing aspects of this exercise a distraction feel free to use my film to score against. I placed it  under CC-BY-NC hoping some of you will -as I’d love to hear some different emotional ideas around these images.

Report Back

I’d love to see your work so report back with comment on this post or drop me an email.


Mark Mosher
Electronic Music Artist, Boulder, CO
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