In music class, we familiarized ourselves to soundtracks and leitmotifs.
As an introductory lesson, we listened to various soundtracks and based on the soundtrack, we guessed the genre of the movie. I learned that leitmotifs are found in many film scores that I know of, including the 007 James Bond soundtrack, Harry Potter’s Hedwig’s Theme, as well as, the ever-popular Jaws soundtrack by John Williams.
We were assigned to arrange the James Bond theme so it was a better fit for the number of people in our group and the range of skills and instruments that we comprised of. We were then able to show off our new skill and knowledge of soundtracks into the Music Concert that was held on June 3rd, 2016. I was and still proud of everyone because although it was, for some, the first time to perform in such an enormous crowd, everyone played in unison. But most importantly, many of us have thoroughly enjoyed it, which was something I admired.
The Process of Learning My Part
The first thing I did before starting my composition was listening to the James Bond theme soundtrack and watching the 007 “Spectre” movie trailer. Through this activity, I was able to understand and perceive the feeling and the mood of the movie. It helped me decipher when and how to use dynamics and articulations to fit specific scenes and engage the audience to get the most out of their experience. If you listen to the James Bond theme soundtrack, you will notice that the notes are short and the tempo is moderately fast. There are harsh attacks at the end, giving you tension and a stronger impact. These intense effects were done on purpose because it would be in harmony with the scene, as well as emphasize on it by giving it a more dramatic effect. In contradiction, if you look at Hedwig’s Theme, it has a genuine flow with longer notes and slower tempo. This is because the Harry Potter movie is classified in the genre; mystery and fantasy. It is not an action movie like 007 where the harsh attacks are necessary.
After the observations, we got into our groups and discussed the roles we wanted to take part in based on the instruments we play. Ryan and I decided we were both going to play the piano, so we divided up into two different parts where one focuses on the main melody, and one focuses on riffs and chords quite repetitively. To come up with my part, I tried playing the James Bond leitmotif which is the 4 chords: Em, C in the first inversion, C in the first inversion with a sharp, and back again to the natural C in the first inversion. However, that was also played on the guitar. I then took this leitmotif and made it as the main melody as my left-hand side–E, C, C# and back to C. After a few trial and error, I decided to split the leitmotifs and take the main notes in each of the chords, B, C, C#, C and played it back and forth with the note E.
With this new leitmotif, the guitar and my piano part did not traverse each other. We further added the drum part which was the basic 4/4 beat. This gave farther grooves and momentum into the score. The drums also played a very significant role in the last part of the score. When we were playing the end of James Bond theme 3, every instrument, including piano, guitar, djembe, and drums have all gave great intensity through the use of articulations and fortissimo, which gave extra effort onto that part. Furthermore, at the end of theme two, we decided to slow down the tempo and let Shoichi have a 2 bar solo where he played the arpeggios. The created a gentle and delicate mood in the songs to keep it mysterious as well. The melody played by Ryan here in the 4 bars of James Bond theme has gradually had longer notes with no sharp to add a little contrast to this dark and yet mysterious feeling.
Some improvements leading up to the June 2nd performance was first, the tempo. When we performed our James Bond theme to the rest of our class, Mr. Johnston pointed out that our theme didn’t show much of an action and intense mood because it was so slow. The jagged, intense, and smooth parts all sounded very similar. In order to fix this, I needed to make sure I played faster because I was the one who started the score, and everyone had to follow the tempo that I started and continue with that tempo for the rest of the song. Another improvement I found before the performance was the dynamics. Some people in my group thought the first part was supposed to be p (piano) or pp (pianissimo) which both gave the score a very soft effect. James Bond theme was supposed to be upbeat and fast so we should have negotiated the dynamic and began with forte. The transition between theme 2 at the end is where we planned the scores to become soft with diminuendo so it could give a dramatic effect.
All in all, I had a wonderful time getting to know the members of my group and hosting a great performance. I believe I was able to take leadership roles and attain such insightful knowledge on leitmotifs and soundtracks.
The past few weeks in Music Class, we worked on our own original song using the four chords, C, F, G, A. Everyone was doing this as a group but I decided to do it by myself because I thought that would help me work harder and learn every parts of the songs like the chords, bass, melody and/or the riffs.
To start off, I decided to work on the order of the chords. To make my song a little more of a minor feeling and a little dark, I decided to make my chords from Am, then F, C and then G. Then I played the piano using these chords and I figured my melody by looking at poems that I found on the internet and using that just to first come up with a melody and the rhythm. I was going through quite a lot that time when I was making the song so I decided to search more of a depressing poem than a rather romantic poems or life poems or anything inspirational. While looking up at these poems, I came across with a poem that really made a connection with me and was really relatable to me and that gave me some inspirations on the lyrics.
What I was a little concerned before was that my song was going to be like someone else’s song because the chords C,F,Am and G is very common in the pop industry. I really needed to be original and come up with a rhythm thats not often used and melodies that was slightly different then the pop songs nowadays. Before I started to actually make this song, I started off making a melody and my own lyrics but it turned out sounding like One Republic’s song so I needed to sadly cancel that song. Furthermore, while I was helping out the other groups, I noticed that there songs sounded like another popular song so it came into a conclusion that making a song is so hard because you need to be creative and be original so it is not a copy. I mean, there are billions of songs out there and your song might sounds exactly like the song that was made by another person wether it is popular or not.
Overall, I learned that making songs are much more difficult than you think and you need a lot of effort to get all the things combined like the melodies, bass, chords and more. This was definitely a great experience for me and I would love to get an opportunity like this again.