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.


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.

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.

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. 


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. 


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!


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.

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!
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:

Also available through Amazon.co.uk.

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

Tuesday, 28 March 2017

Digital Download Available for Holy Spirit of Peace CD


After much research and effort I am pleased to announce that 'Holy Spirit of Peace' CD music album is available for Digital Download, either as an entire album or as individual tracks. 


You can follow THIS LINK to purchase or listen to the album previews now.
I will be adding the rest of my music albums in due course.


I first started the Holy Spirit music series in 2010 when I received regular positive feedback about my music scores for Mary's Dowry Productions.  I felt that the simple, moving and reflective style that featured in a lot of areas of my compositions was worth bringing to the forefront in a range of new albums meant to relax, inspire and help meditate or just be still.  I began with Holy Spirit of Peace and in it I used a couple of themes taken from 'The Shining Pearl of York' DVD film underscore. 

I have been adding to the series for several years now and am currently working on 'Holy Spirit of Serenity'.  The whole range is available to purchase on CD album or Digital Download from our websites and the links above.

Although not religious in theme, the overall titles are taken from Scripture and I felt that the whole mood was likened to Peace and I wanted the music to really touch the soul and lift the spirit in a positive way.  The Spirit of Peace does this.

Friday, 24 March 2017

Holy Spirit of Serenity Progress and Upcoming Film Scores

Filming Projects

It's been a couple of months since I wrote a blog post about my music so I will update on what I have been doing.  Firstly we've been having a bit of a break having acquired a lot of footage for some really interesting new films upcoming which I am looking forward to putting together; we had some awesome actors and some new faces which always pleases me immensely.  Some of our youngest members of the team are really coming into their own which is fantastic.  I am particularly looking forward to 'St. Thomas Garnet' as it will enable me to write another Elizabethan score which is my favourite (because of ERA II of course!).
St. Thomas Garnet Screenshot
Album Update

Amidst the filming and planning days, I have sporadically been pursuing 'Holy Spirit of Serenity' CD Music Album.  I have just two more tracks to write and then it is complete.  I am very much looking forward to releasing this as it has been in the planning/anticipation stage for a long while. 

I was thrilled with the new trailer we released for 'St. Julian of Norwich' film.  This film is so reflective we will be showing it at our Parish for Lent as it has very good meditations on the Passion of Our Lord.  Throughout the film there are several breaks, to help the viewer digest some of the deeper ponderings of St. Julian.  In these, I was able to write longer sequences of emotional instrumental interludes. here.
St. Julian of Norwich DVD
They build upon what has just been said but as the dialogue drops out the music takes over and speaks it's own story especially with the Cello and voices.  In the new trailer, several of these interludes have been used and give a good atmosphere showing what the film is like.  You can have a look/listen here.

I am also pursuing making all my music CDs and individual tracks available digitally but this is quite an arduous task at the moment although I am making progress.  I will update on that and point to the digital sites if/when available.

Sunday, 15 January 2017

Composing Saint Julian of Norwich Music Score

For a couple of weeks now I have been avoiding writing the music for 'St. Julian of Norwich: Revelations'.  I decided on Friday that I would at least set up the project so that I could start when I felt ready.  I knew it would be quite an undertaking as this production is different to many of our others; it is largely written by St. Julian herself.

Setting up the project, I was inspired by the amazing scenery of cobwebs that we filmed earlier this year.  This coupled with misty scenery and the footage of St. Julian at Bedham Missionary Church I felt a wave of interest.

Having recently purchased the new Medieval Vocal Codex I remembered that it came with some new soundscapes that were quite eerie so I loaded up one and it set the whole mood that I had looked for.  I had avoided beginning this score because I knew exactly what I wanted but did not know if I could achieve it without a great deal of effort.  As it was, I found what I was looking for right away. 

Vocal Codex Sound Samples

Poised, almost standing to leave and continue later, I found I had written a very mysterious opening theme with 'Deep Dream', 'Voices in the Wind', Strings and Cello.  It was both atmospheric, moving and slightly uneasy.  What I subconsciously wanted to get across was the seriousness of the content of this production - it is largely the Passion of Our Lord - but not as in 'horror' but as in moving.  I found that with no planning, but seemingly being guided, I was drawn and very moved by the emotion of St. Julian's words. 


Julian speaks of Our Lord's bitter Passion and I found myself gripped by the dialogue and spontaneously playing and improvising emotional strings, flowing very easily as I listened and felt moved.  Culminating in 'Love' I found the Love of Our Lord spilling out through the entire narration, despite the very serious nature of the footage, beautiful Spanish statues of Our Lord's Passion, it was Love  overall, so serious and extreme, that came across and I had not really grasped this until now - the lengths Our Lord would go and did go out of Love
I stopped writing to go out to work and then set about writing some more in the evening when I got back and before long I had completed the score!  I think the fastest scores I have written are St. Nicholas of Owen and St. Wilfrid: Apostle of Sussex but this one may have become a record! 

I think what it was was that I pretty much ignored the click counter, bar lines and tempo and just wrote and wrote, taking time to linger on the soundscapes which in themselves create tremendous atmosphere.  There was no time consuming process of editing and quantising individual tunes.  Using layer upon layer of different sounds I was able to move in and out of different moods. 

This production was fantastic in the sense that, because of the weight of the content there are lots of breaks.  In these breaks I found myself very inspired to write moving and emotional themes, bringing the cello to the forefront and using the new Vocal Codex Celtia female voice calling out over the immense visual beauty.  The result was very ancient English, Tenor Viola da Gamba and Celtia phrases in ancient English, with rich cello and layers of atmosphere.


 My sister pointed out that the style and voices brought the atmosphere of Our Lord's culture in Israel combining Israel with England and making Jesus and the revelations of St. Julian of Norwich accessible to the whole world.  This was not intentional but adds another dimension to the film. 

I have always experimented with fusions of sounds and style but I was quite bold with this score.  I used a mix of subtle dissonance as a reminder of the seriousness of the entire theme and went from minor to major and back to minor and created some very interesting moods.  There are some very moving moments which give insight into Our Lord's personal love for each one of us and the profoundness of the Holy Trinity.  I cannot fault the soundscapes from the Vocal Codex, one I used had a lot of subtle wind which went perfectly with the dialogue and again was not intentional but just worked out so well.  I feel this whole piece and the whole film is about atmosphere, a very profound atmosphere indeed.

I spent the weekend tweaking the score and mixing it down and am very pleased with this production.  I think it might be the best score I have written but I was just so inspired by both the visuals and the content of this production.  Very atmospheric, very profound, moving, mysterious and contemplative.  'St Julian of Norwich: Revelations' will be available soon.

Monday, 2 January 2017

Calm Your Spirit With Music: Volume 4 - NEW MUSIC CD

The Christmas break has seen a lot of backing up for Mary's Dowry Productions, checking old hard drives and making everything organised.  I decided it was about time our 'Well Known Saints: Volume 1' DVD was renewed.
Well Known Saints: Volume 1 DVD
This was one of our very first DVDs and was not in widescreen.  Also the narration was recorded using older equipment.  It has needed revamping for a while now as the rest of the series was done much later. 

I took a break from 'Holy Spirit of Serenity' as well as 'Valleys' and over Christmas, here and there, the DVD was re-edited into widescreen and the narrations re-recorded.  I am currently tweaking the individual music scores, the main thing that has put me off approaching this task because they are so old that all the instruments point to the wrong places.  I am almost there with it and they are lovely little films, very useful and really summarize a saints' story in a straightforward way.  Although they are short, there is so much packed into them, they are uplifting, informative and all include prayers or quotes at the end of each one.  I hope to finish this task over the following week.

Having completed 'Saint Bernadette of Lourdes' music score before Christmas, I was taking a break and sorting out external hard drives.  I realised that my new music computer is getting quite full and that I should really move some old music scores off. 
Since I want to make many of the scores available on CD, I thought it pointless to move St. Joan of Arc and St. Bernadette of Lourdes folders off of the computer, only to have to put them back on in order to make the music soundtracks.  In need of space, I decided to get cracking right away on Saint Joan.
Calm Your Spirit With Music: Vol 4 CD
Hence, 'Calm Your Spirit With Music: Volume 4' is now complete - the full music soundtrack for our St. Joan of Arc DVD. 
The music is a bit different, very contemplative and mystical with visions and battle, betrayal and trust in God.  I really enjoyed editing it onto CD and listening to it all again.
The CD is available now worldwide from www.marysdowryproductions.org and www.marysdowryproductions.co.uk
To LISTEN to samples from this new album visit our You Tube Channel here!