Saturday, 8 July 2017

Holy Spirit of Serenity New Artwork

I recently completely revamped the cover art for my latest CD album 'Holy Spirit of Serenity'.  The album is part of a series of albums of relaxing, peaceful and background music that has proved very popular in recent years. 

For previous albums in this series - Peace, Gentleness, Calm, Tranquility, Joy, I have used cover art such as horizons with distant ships, sunlight through trees, the Holy Spirit with light, dappled leaves, flowers.  For Serenity I have used a meadow, with the sun just a way off, representing the music tracks moving your spirit towards the serene light, the delicate calming imagery through music of flowers, fields and trees, giving some idea of the content of the CD.

 Holy Spirit of Serenity tries to capture the sound of serenity through use of soundscapes, strings, cello, flute, guitar, piano and other instruments.  I also used voices in it in a different way.  There are 10 tracks in total which are:

Track 1- You Are Called to Serenity (4:34)
Track 2 - He Will Take You into the Land of Serenity and Light (3:46)
Track 3 - And the Serenity of the Spirit Will Envelop Your Whole Being (4:34)
Track 4 - Seek Serenity and He Will Give It (3:56)
Track 5 - The Touch of His Hand Suffuses Your Soul With Serenity (5:37)
Track 6 - He Will Bear You Up Upon the Winds of Serenity (4:23)
Track 7 - Seek the Shelter of His Arms and Bask in His Serenity (4:56)
Track 8 - Only in His Heart is There Serenity (5:09)
Track 9 - Serenity Comes From the Soft Beating of His Wings (3:46)
Track 10 - He Will Take You on a Voyage of Serenity (4:26)
Holy Spirit of Serenity is available worldwide on audio CD now from www.marysdowryproductions.org as well as through Amazon.
 
 

Tuesday, 13 June 2017

Beginning the Music Score for St. Faustina Film

Saint Faustina
This week, I started writing the music score for our latest film 'Saint Faustina and the Divine Mercy'.  I set up a new template from the previous score - Saint John Bosco - as I liked the sounds I had used.  I was looking for some Eastern European instruments but I did not want to specifically load up RA as I had already so many samples loaded, I did not want to push the computers capacity. 

So I bought the Cello once again to the forefront.  I thought about Russia and the war, Poland and their history and really got in the mood.  Before I was given the completed film, I decided that I would write an opening theme in advance, like I did with St. John Bosco.  I began with strings and soundscapes and added some phrases with Mystica - voices of female chants - as well as Cantus - male chants, subtly in the background whilst using the cello for the main theme and the piano as motion and movement, very eerie.  I have spent the whole day so far mostly in building up the main titles. 

I have the avi file of the film loaded in now so it gives me the correct time frame.  I've added double strings, symphonic choirs, French horns, 2 or 3 types of pads, voices, piano, harp and baroque guitar and am finally now pleased with it; it is rich enough for an introduction.  It's got the entire atmosphere of the Polish setting and is taking shape.  I am very pleased to finally be working on the music for this film as it's been in the making for a while.

Check out all our films on DVD at www.marysdowryproductions.org

Wednesday, 7 June 2017

Writing the Music Soundtrack to Saint John Bosco Film, Dreams, Soundscapes, Inspiration and Ideas.

Last week, I was gearing up to write the music score for our new production on Saint John Bosco.  This was our biggest challenge in filmmaking in the past 10 years and I was looking forward to trying something new.  We covered several of St. John Bosco's dreams in the film and I was contemplating how I would go about getting the separate dream segments across with the music score.  As the film was in the final stages of editing, I set up the Cubase project and loaded up some samples that I thought I would need.  I turned to Omnisphere because it has some fantastic soundscapes, so many I have not had a chance to really scratch the surface of them.  I loaded up samples such as 'Bowels of Hell', 'Requiem' and some spooky boy choirs.  I knew we had portrayed St. John Bosco's dream on the journey to hell and back so I wanted to be prepared!  I thought the boys choirs would be a good touch if used subtly as it would hint at his working with educating boys and caring for their souls. 

 


In addition to Omnisphere samples, I used Desert Winds and Forest Kingdoms and Era II by Eduardo Tarilonte.  Whatever samples you get from Eduardo Tarilonte there are always some fantastic soundscapes included.  I loaded up Ancient Spirits and I think Desert Longing.  I decided to make use of the samples that I have so brought the flute, harp, cello, baroque guitar, nylon guitar, strings and symphonic choirs 'mm' samples to the forefront, rather than looking for a new lead instrument.  I also loaded in Altus and Cantus for voices as well as some of the new Vocal Codex samples I have not had for that long.

 
 
Screenshot of Opening Titles in Cubase
Over the past couple of months we have been watching The Man in the High Castle and I have been listening to the atmospheric music.  In particular I listened to the more exciting faster-paced scenes, analysing how Dominic Lewis managed to keep the tension building.  I listened to how he had hits on every beat and every other beat and how this made the tension grow.  I also liked how the opening titles had a simple song but gradually in the background a sinister soundscape grew, even though at times it caused a bit of dissonance, it portrayed through the music the tension and background threat.  I noted all these points because of the upcoming St. John Bosco score which I knew was to be a longer production and what is most difficult about these is keeping the interest of the audience.  I have a tendency to lapse into morbid reflection which I find really easy, but sometimes it just needs a bit of gripping tension.  I loaded up some pizz strings with the idea of using them on every other beat taking The Man in the High Castle tension scenes as an example. 



The film was not yet complete but I decided to do something I had never done before and start the music score in advance.  I experimented with harp with pizz strings on every other beat to begin with.  With this sequence started I overlaid some strings and then recorded in a lead tune with cello.  I added guitar and layered this up with Altus phrases and flute.  The result was an atmospheric yet tension-building sequence.  When the film was complete and I dropped it into the project, I was able to continue the tune for the opening titles easily as most of the hard work was done.

Everything was pretty straightforward from then on.  A score gets much easier once the narration starts and it is mostly musical underscore.  When the dreams started, I had all my samples ready and I found that dropping most instruments out and bringing in the Ancient Spirits and soundscapes created an immediate dreamlike atmosphere.  I kept this up and added some ambient drums from StormDrums for depth.  I also added some sound effects of wind and thunder which was great.



The fun part began with the long Hell sequence.  I built up the tension with Bowels of Hell from Omnisphere and it was really quite scary; scary and interesting.  After a while I realised the Hell sequence was longer than I expected.  I felt it needed something else. 


From the Hell Sequence


It was at this point that I remembered Trilian.  I use Trillian simply for bass but it can do so much more.  I loaded up 'Burning Victims' and 'Apocalyptic Message' which sounded apt.  One was a pulse/beat and added just the right touch.  At this point in the film 'words' were popping up on the screen and it just felt right to go in a more modern and experimental musical direction.  I used the beat on and off and when it came into the score it added the perfect attention-keeping element.


 
I have been reading a lot of Pope Francis' writings recently and they are so inspiring.  I was pleased to be working on such a powerful presentation of the dreams and instructions of St. John Bosco and I wanted the score to be both shocking and moving.  The seriousness of Hell was interspersed with the kind face and caring persona of Don Bosco.  Sacred Art of the Heart of Jesus really inspired me to portray with cello, string and soundscapes how much Our Lord loves us and aches for us to turn to him, turn away from sin.  The whole sequence was extremely gripping and challenging.  The final touch was Ambient Largeness drums with Thunder Clap and Metallic Doors clanging for the Portals of Hell, with the sounds of fire crackling for the wall of Hell when Don Bosco has to touch the walls and awakens from his dream with a burning hand. 
 
After this the film showed how easy it is to be a saint and touches upon Saint Dominic Savio which was very uplifting and inspirational.

The film left me moved and inspired.  Writing the score was a rare event, having the opportunity to use so many interesting soundscapes and have a lot of freedom with this.  I also found it really easy which is rare too.  The previous score for Jacinta Marto was really difficult for me. 

For the entire score I had been looking for an opportunity to use my new sample from Vocal Codex 'Salve Regina' but I had not been in the right key to make it work.  I put in a phrase of it here and there.  At the end credits I decided to play in the entire thing and lo and behold it fitted perfectly.   This film is now available on DVD worldwide through Amazon and www.marysdowryproductions.org


Saint John Bosco DVD


 

Saturday, 3 June 2017

Holy Spirit of Serenity, New Instrumental CD Album Release.

After 6 months of on and off writing, ideas, struggles, writers block and inspiration for the final push, Holy Spirit of Serenity is now complete and available!


I started this series in 2010 when I was inspired to present some instrumental peaceful tracks on CD compilation.  I improvised 10 tracks for each CD album with a range of instruments centred around nylon guitar, strings, piano, cello, pads and soundscapes, with flutes and harps and other instruments coming and going.  Holy Spirit of Peace was first.  For two of the tracks I took some themes from 'The Shining Pearl of York' film and the album turned out to be atmospheric and very listenable.

It all flowed very easily and Holy Spirit of Gentleness and Holy Spirit of Joy followed swiftly upon the heels of Holy Spirit of Peace.

A while later in 2012 I was inspired to add to the collection Holy Spirit of Calm.  I wrote all the pieces and then named them afterwards with relevant quotes and passages from scripture.

I did not add any more to this series until 2014 when after a long illness I came out of hospital with renewed vigour and wrote Holy Spirit of Tranquility. 

In December 2016 I decided to start Holy Spirit of Serenity, thinking it would be as easy as the others to do.  However, being so busy, with so many productions on the go, a busy schedule, tired and also quite burned out from so many music scores, it was slow going.  I also had a new studio setup and just could not get my ear in gear!
 
You can imagine how pleased I am to have struggled through with long breaks and finally complete the album.  Towards the end, I decided that I needed to go back to the roots of my writing which always stemmed from inspirational images and titles.  Whereas in this particular Holy Spirit series I had just written and improvised easily, I felt for Holy Spirit of Serenity I needed some visual inspiration, I asked my sister to write the track titles for me first so for the last 3 tracks I took the titles and this helped me to write.  The last 3 came much more easily and the album was complete!

The CD turned out really great, very interesting, a little bit different.  It gave me an opportunity to use some new soundscapes and different instruments.  Holy Spirit of Serenity is available from our Online Shop and also through Amazon.
 
Pick up your copy today!


Tuesday, 9 May 2017

The Inspiration Behind 'Worlds' Instrumental Fusion CD Album, Fantasy Art and Music

This week, I have been looking at some of my music CD cover designs and sprucing them up a bit.  The first one I have been tackling is my early album 'Worlds'. 

The Inspiration Behind 'Worlds'

The inspiration behind this album was the titles, written for me by my sister Emily.  I took each title and visualised in my mind the scene and story behind it.  Allowing my imagination and emotions to be transported and set free, I tried to capture the story of these worlds, images and places through each track.  I began with piano solo and wrote each piece as a piano solo.  After this, I took each track and I arranged the piano solos into instrumental fusions using a Clavinova CVP-203 system.  I decided which instruments I would use to expand on the piano and what would be suitable.  Each piece is performed by hand by myself, layer by layer.

Transporting to Other Worlds

The idea behind all of my music is imagination and stories.  They are not just pieces of music that I have written on a whim; each one begins with a visualisation of a place.  The track titles that my sister wrote for me were as follows:

 1. The Seafarer (3:48)
2. Trail to Linden (2:36)
3. Ebony's Locket (3:10)
4. Voyage Above Cyprus (2:36)
5. Wolf Island (2:54)
6. The Citrus Grove (2:26)
7. Indian Cliffs (1:50)
8. Althorpe Garden (2:48)
9. The Misted Lighthouse (3:24)
10. Josephine's Well (2:06)
11. Burnett Avenue (1:54)
12. The Handkerchief Tree (2:10)
13. Hidden House (2:22)

Each title is rather different so this album allowed my mind to be taken to many places.  In the case of this particular album 'Worlds' I imagined whole worlds, fantasy worlds, with no limits.

Voyage Above Cyprus

When I wrote Track 4 'Voyage Above Cyprus', the interesting title caused me to imagine a silver ship floating silently in the sky through clouds and mist - very mysterious. 

I remember I was thinking about 'The Fool of the World and the Flying Ship' at the time,

Flying Ship in 'The Fool of the World and the Flying Ship'

 I think the silence of the ship as it travelled simply, really struck me and I subconsciously drew upon this for this track with a mysterious atmosphere. 
 

Burnett Avenue

This track title made me immediately think of a typical American suburban street, friendly and pleasant.  This track is very uplifting and calm, but it's also poignant and slightly sentimental, probably reminiscent of many memories of family life in a neighbourhood over time.  I stuck to piano solo with this track as it just fitted so well and the melody was captivating enough in itself.


The 'Suburbs' in a place that's familiar, yet not.

Here.....but not Here

Saying that, I never really consider any track 'of this world', so I would not simply stop with a 'typical US street' in this but I would take it much further and even twist it slightly, a street, but on another World, not here and not even in this time. 

Perhaps this is just around the corner.....



I like to really stretch the imagination so that the stories my music tells and the worlds the tracks take you to are beyond simple places but places in the past and also with elements of the fantasy dimensions.  With just two tracks from the album 'Worlds' looked at in this post the imagery and ideas are so varied and every other track has its own story to tell too.

Fantasy Art
 
 
Because of this, I looked at some fantasy art for the cover design of Worlds and I came across a really striking picture which I think captures the idea I am trying to express through music, namely going on a real journey with each piece. 



When I speak of 'ancient' or 'castles' in my music, I am not thinking of British History or World History even.  I'm not thinking of castles we have here with their own stories, I am thinking of castles and places and times only as a starting point and from then on, whole entire new worlds, histories, people and times, even universes. 



I think this is why 'Lord of the Rings' inspired me so much with my music and the visual imagery I often think of when I write.  Some of the places shown in the Lord of the Rings films have massive ancient statues.  I love this because these statues are not really here in our world, we don't actually have that history, yet it's almost put across as 'Middle Earth' being our England, yet it's not.
 
Lord of the Rings Screenshot

 
So you can take a place that is very much like England, like an old ruined castle that is simply beautiful, but place the idea of it in another 'World' and go from there.  This, I hope, is what I try to get across with my albums: a starting point for the imagination, emotions and the heart to be set free and listen but not just listen - really go on a journey....anywhere!

The final new cover design for 'Worlds':


'Worlds' Instrumental Music CD album.

Worlds is available at www.marysdowryproductions.org or through Amazon UK and Amazon.com.

Saturday, 22 April 2017

Creative Music Projects for Mary's Dowry Productions April 2017

 
It's been a couple of weeks since I completed the music score for our new film on 'Jacinta Marto' of Fatima.  I've been having a break from writing, but at the same time am keen to complete my 'Holy Spirit of Serenity' music CD album.  This will be number six in the SPIRIT music series and I've been working on it for a good few months now.  The other volumes in this series did not take very long to write but we seem to have a lot of projects on the go currently which is slowing things down. 
The Holy Spirit Music Series
The official launch of Jacinta Marto went really well.  We launched a feature trailer for our upcoming film on Saint Don Bosco on the night too. 

Music from 'Holy Spirit of Peace' album was used in this trailer as the score has not yet been written and the albums proved popular on the night.  People seem to be craving music to create a calm and positive background atmosphere.  Music that will both uplift and relax.  Music that inspires, is unpredictable, but easy to listen to.  The SPIRIT music series does this.
 
 
It's been a busy month with the Jacinta of Fatima film launch and also the showing of St. Julian of Norwich film for Holy Week.  We currently have a backlog of about 10 productions, all of which I am looking forward to writing the music scores for as they are all different.  Currently I am most looking forward to writing for St. Aiden of Lindisfarne, my favourites are the Saxon Saints.  Next in production should be St. Faustina and the Divine Mercy.

MUSIC SOUNDTRACKS

As regards music albums.  I have been asked to make the soundtracks from the 
Calm Your Spirit With Music Film Soundtracks Series
films more available.  This means re-opening old scores and re-working them.  It's a lot of work, but well worth it.  Each soundtrack has it's own major themes and unique atmosphere.   They are also all very different to each other as we have covered so many styles and eras.  I currently have four soundtracks available on CD: St. Margaret Ward, St. Etheldreda, St. Cuthman and St. Joan of Arc.  I plan to work backwards if I can from the most recent productions.

INSTRUMENTAL FUSION ALBUMS
 
I am still trying to find the time and inspiration to complete both 'Holy Spirit of Serenity' and 'Valleys' which both are proving a lot of work.  Both albums are very different from each other - The Holy Spirit series being serene, calming and background instrumental easy listening tracks.  Valleys from my Instrumental Fusion series is a lot more creative and free, drawing upon many instruments and cultures and pushing my own creativity and style.  So far Valleys is very exciting with some really original new tracks.  I will update on it's progress as and when.  For now, do check out my Instrumental Fusion series if you can, they are my favourite pieces that I have written freely over a couple of decades and are truly unique.
Instrumental Fusion Music Series
 
My Holy Spirit of Peace CD is now available on Spotify, iTunes, Google Play, Amazon mp3 Music:

Wednesday, 5 April 2017

How to Write an Inspiring Film Score; The Music For Jacinta Marto Production

It began back in 2009.  Fatima had always held a significance for my sister and I, the way the small children responded to Our Lady's visit and simple message - prayer and penance.  Francisco was inspiring because he wished to console Our Lord; Jacinta in a different way wanted to save souls.  We produced a DVD film on Francisco of Fatima in 2009.  I used a couple of tracks from 'Holy Spirit of Peace' to begin the music score and immediately an atmosphere of peace, holiness and reflection surrounded the film.

 


Ever since then we have wanted to produce a short film on Jacinta Marto but it was not until early this year 2017 that it came about.  A lovely little girl from our parish portrayed for us and once we had everything we needed the film was underway!

The Music Score

This week, I undertook the task of composing the music score for Jacinta Marto DVD.  Filled with inspiration I set about writing for the opening sequence.  The first problem I found was that the piano sample I use was not very good.  I believe you must have good samples in order to write good music, not just because of what they sound like, but more importantly because you need to feel inspired by what you write as you write it and as you hear it.  I set about Upgrading my Kontakt 5 player and purchasing Cinematic Studio Piano.  After a day or two of computer problems resulting from this, everything was sorted and it was well worth it for the new piano sample!

Cinematic Studio Piano
 
I personally write everything improvisation-style.  I load in the video to Cubase and hit play/record with my fingers hovering over the keyboard.  I simply play what I see, or what I'm inspired by what I see (if that makes sense!).  I was immediately struck by the beautiful nature which always accompanies our productions.  The main decision though is which instrument to begin with, I chose strings.


SOUNDS AND VISUALS
Soon, the strings progressed to full orchestra, the desired sound and depth being the most taxing to achieve.  The entire day was taken up with trying to fill and build the opening sequence and eventually I had strings, oboe, flute, French horns, choirs, bass, soundscapes and Stormdrums creating ambient atmosphere.  All this with a lead Cello which is just beautiful. 


Tina Guo Cello Samples - Beautiful!
 

I always feel moved by the cello and I felt that the opening sequence had depth and emotion.  I use Tina Guo Cello samples which are gorgeous and so articulated they sound so real it's as if the cello is playing live. 

THE OPENING SEQUENCE

It is important, I think, to get across the right mood in an opening sequence which poignantly reflects the entire story, almost like an overview of what to expect.  The opening sequence in 'Jacinta Marto' is only a minute and a half but I felt that the opening sequence in itself already says a lot before the film even begins.  Through the music of the opening titles, I tried to express the following: Jacinta Marto being just a small girl, how her life was changed and also the profound beauty of Our Lady visiting. 


DIFFICULTIES

This score was really difficult.  I was so pleased with the opening titles and the start of the film.  Usually, as the narration begins and the music turns to underscore, it becomes easier, but I just could not connect with the right mood, atmosphere or pace that was needed. As a result, whereas I can usually write a score in a few days, this took a week and quite a lot of stress.  The difficulties arising mainly from not being able to connect or feel the right inspiration or emotions needed to write.  The key here was perseverance!

EDUARDO TARILONTE


I am a HUGE fan of Eduardo Tariolonte and I use his samples in everything.  In this score I drew upon some lead instruments, 2 holed flute and tenor viola da gamba from ERA II to lead the beginning underscores for the first 6 minutes and after a while the mood was right: 100 years ago, Portugal, simple peasant children about their work as shepherds. 

Even though the majority of our productions are spiritual, they are also historical and biographical, not just religious based.  It's incredible how Eduardo's samples are so perfect for what we do!
 
The message of Fatima is deep as well as beautiful.  Our Lady, asking for our simple prayers and sacrifices for souls and for the world.  A lot of our films harken back to the Rosary and for me Fatima inspires me to pray at least one Rosary a day, for everybody and for the world.  I believe that music should always tell a story - like another language being spoken.  This is a story of hope and love.

INSPIRATION
Screenshot from Opening Titles

Day 3 saw me only up to 12 minutes of score.  I had to think and try many different things in order to get the mood I was looking for - not too fast, not too upbeat, not too slow, not too depressing, a fine line between contemplation and engagement.  I want the audience to be engaged in the story, but set back enough to meditate on what's being said.  More importantly: moved emotionally.  Emotion is the key factor behind all my music and the film scores won't work if the listener is distracted or unengaged.  Film launches are best, where we sit everybody in a dark room so that about 100 people are together in silence with a big screen and there are no telephones or conversations or interruptions. 

Write What You See!

I believe that if you're stuck with music, look intently at the image you see (if you're not writing to picture then find a picture for inspiration) and let go - let yourself be moved and write what you see!
SAFRIFICE
 
 
The Miracle of the Sun - Witnessed by Thousands
At 12 minutes I was unhappy with the beginning so far.  A key point in writing a good score is to be willing to make sacrifices.  There was a 2 minute section about 5 minutes in that I felt was too 'jolly' for the overall mood of the story.  In the end I took the plunge and deleted the lot.  It's never nice to have a large gap in a music score but by listening and re-listening I was able to bridge that gap with music that was more continuous, with less motion and more reflection.  The result was something much better!

Fortunately for me, this film has a lot of contrast so the pace moves along well.  I need space to draw the viewer in in a contemplative style.  I fuse Symphonic Choirs as a background to many other instruments, especially soundscapes and this sets a mood of meditative listening.  Some of the topics in our films are quite profound such as the miracle of the sun at Fatima as well as the vision of hell.  I think people can only absorb so much at once so whether it's a musical or scenery break, you can almost break up a score into chunks that can be absorbed piece by piece. 
 
 


The vision of hell was quite dramatic.  I find Omnisphere fantastic for providing spooky sounds when needed.  For Our Lord to decide to have Hell shown in its reality to small children has always struck me about the Fatima message.  What strikes me more is the children's reaction: "We must not allow anybody to go there.......forever and ever" (said Jacinta).  They never forgot this message and tried to do as much as they could to save people.  God's mercy is so profound, I was really able to connect with this part of the film.  By showing the reality of Hell to the children, Our Lord has given us a simple nudge: pray.  I hope that this short film inspires anybody who sees it to love the simplicity of the Fatima message.  To fall in love with simple prayer and to decide to choose good always and to be aware of God's goodness; always forgiving, always waiting to give us joy.

Jacinta Marto DVD is available worldwide NOW from our online shops:

http://www.marysdowryproductions.co.uk/jacinta-marto-of-fatima-dvd-80-p.asp
 
Also available through Amazon.co.uk.

I hope to make the music soundtrack available on CD shortly too!