Tag Archives: Composition

New performance and composition – A Moment of Safety

Hello, everybody!

This week I have a performance of my latest composition, titled “A Moment of Safety”. It’s inspired by the safe room themes of the Resident Evil games, which provide a few safe areas in the games. The music reflects this but simultaneously creates a sense of tension, a small dread that you’ll have to go back out into the danger eventually. That’s what I’ve tried to capture with this composition.

The chords used are Am11 and Gm11 – they don’t relate to each other, but being so extended softens the contrast between them as they actually share a lot of notes. I chose them for this reason, as together they sound pretty relaxed.

The sense of unease comes from the rhythm between the hands – only occasionally do they sync up. While they aren’t actually playing in different time signatures (although the left hand sounds like it moves between 6/8 and 3/4), there are enough stressed notes falling apart from each other that some rhythmic dissonance is created, in my opinion. Let me know whether you agree or not!

Clockwork Sanctuary (orchestrated – variation 1)

I have a third new video this week! Another orchestration, this time of my piano piece Clockwork Sanctuary.

This is a location theme for the game that I’m making. As the player moves deeper into the level, the piece will change, with more instruments and sounds related to clocks and industry getting added in. This is just the first version that will play upon entering the area.

It took me a while to settle on instrumentation for this version – I had a rough sketch of it recorded about a year ago but wasn’t happy with my choice of instruments at the time, or with my ability to make them sound good. I’m much happier with this version, especially with the string quartet at the end of it. All of the instruments are physically modelled and thus can be played in a very expressive manner (they’re the Audio Modelling SWAM Solo Strings and the SWAM Flute, Oboe and Bassoon, for those interested in specifics).

Here’s the original piano version for comparison. Please let me know what you think of each version! If you enjoy my music, please consider subscribing to my channel!

Innocence – orchestrated (variation 1)

I decided to release a second video this week – something I’ve been working on and was too excited to fit into my usual schedule of one video per week!

I’ve been working on orchestrating some of my piano music recently (the first ones were Theme of Oppression and To Arms!, though the latter is a rock arrangement rather than an orchestration. I’ve got a few compositions in progress and have been figuring out what works when it comes to combining instruments and learning a little about how they’re played as I go along. I’ll make a more thorough study of orchestration when I’ve experimented more by myself, as I’m a firm believer in having some practical knowledge to stick the theory to.

The video this week is an wind and strings version of ‘Innocence’. I say version, as I believe that it’s worth making multiple versions of the same piece of music to explore the many different ways that a melody or harmonic progression can go.

This is done often in soundtracks, to give a sense of coherency to the story and characters and is particularly effective in video games. I remember Jak II adding an extra layer of rhythmic elements over the existing music whenever you drew a weapon and finding that really raised the tension. More recently A Hat in Time impressed me with just how many versions of every piece of music it has – as you move around the levels and encounter different characters, the instrumentation changes to reflect the mood.

I’ll link the original piano version of this composition, so you can easily compare the two. I’d be glad to hear what people think works in each version, ad whether people have a preference for one or the other. If you use YouTube, please consider subscribing, and let me know what you think in the comments.

To Arms! – proof of concept video

I’m excited to announce that I have a new video on my YouTube channel! This one contains a rock arrangement of one of my earlier piano tracks, titled ‘To Arms!’. For anyone that prefers rock to solo piano, this is for you! If you’re a fan of epic (in the original sense of the word) guitar solos, please have a listen. The solo in this piece was written by the fantastic Ainsley Stones, (who plays in the band Girl Gone Bad), and is the first of two collaborations we’ve done recently.

I’d also like to thank Thomas Slimm for writing the drum part and James Aldred for listening to the track a great many times and offering mixing advice.

If you want to hear the track without the sound effects from the game, there’s a Soundcloud link in the video description.

Theme of Oppression proof of concept video

I’m happy to announce that I have a new type of video up on my YouTube channel. I suspect anyone that played video games in the 90s might be interested, and anyone who wants to see how music does a lot of work to create atmosphere for old 2D games should check it out as well.

It’s a proof of concept for an early area of a game that I’d like to make. It’s in the style of old JRPGs (Japanese Role-Playing Games) like Final Fantasy and features the piece of music that I wrote back in 2013 that has inspired almost all of my recent musical projects. It was made in RPG Maker MV and was a chance for me to learn how to loop a track correctly from specific points and design a level and dialogue to fit with the music.

I’m really interested to hear what people think about it – do you feel that the visual design matches the mood of the music? Is the atmosphere as oppressive as the track name suggests?

Variations on We Wish You a Merry Christmas released!

Hello, everybody! Today I released the final version of my Variations on We Wish You a Merry Christmas. I ended up adding just one more variation to the previous version, but feel that it finishes things off nicely. It was loosely inspired by Rachmaninov’s gentler work.

As well as being available to listen to on YouTube, it’s also available with piano notation on my Bandcamp page where you can name your price. If you prefer not to pay, you can download it for free. https://nicholasowen-petch.bandcamp.com/album/variations-on-we-wish-you-a-merry-christmas

If you’re sick of Christmas carols, then please check out my band’s Christmas single for a cheekier take on the subject, which sums up all of the bad things about Christmas in a catchy 3 minute song! https://heavyduck.bandcamp.com/track/bloody-christmas

Video performance on An Ill Presence

It’s been a long time since I’ve done any kind of musical performance, as I tend to prefer the writing and recording process more than playing live. That said, I’m experimenting with what kinds of videos might be interesting for my YouTube channel, so I recorded on of the pieces from my recent album. Please check it out and let me know what you think.

If you enjoy the video, please consider subscribing to my channel. I plan on putting up a variety of different types of videos, including performances (both original and covers), my thoughts on various aspects of learning music and how to make them simpler, analyses of music from other people, and new compositions.

Many thanks to Iryna Zastavna for spending a lot of time figuring out the best places for the candles and how to do the lighting. She’s completely new to such things and she did a great job! The overall image quality is a bit low because the camera on my phone doesn’t deal very well with low light.

Variations on We Wish You a Merry Christmas

Since Christmas is on the way, I thought I’d dig out a set a variations that I wrote on the theme of We Wish You a Merry Christmas years ago for a pupil of mine. She was from China and not really familiar with traditional English Christmas carols, or with much in the way of Western Classical music, so I wrote these variations as a way of combining both of those things.

They are very (very) loosely in the styles of Bach, Clementi, Schubert and Beethoven, but are only pastiches aiming to evoke the feeling of those composers – if anyone who knows their music well takes a look, I’m sure they’ll be able to pick them apart. My original plan was to write a couple more variations in Romantic styles – if anyone is interested in hearing that, let me know and I’ll give it a shot.

Summary of 2013

It’s been a while since I last posted. I hope everybody’s had a wonderful Christmas.

The last year has been an interesting one and many things have changed.

I left my previous employment as a music tutor and became self-employed. This gave me more time for myself; I felt my own development as a musician became stifled when I was teaching all the time. Teaching fewer pupils has allowed me to progress with my own skills, which in turn has fed my teaching. I feel that I’ve learned a huge amount from my pupils this year – their individuality has forced me to reinvent my teaching style again and again, to be as versatile as possible so that I can serve them best and provide the most effective education.

Early on in the year the band I was playing with broke up. Although a sad event in itself, it paved the way for the formation of a new band, Velvet-Goldmine. We’ve spent the year writing and learning a large amount of songs and we recently recorded five songs in the studio for a new album. We still have a session of mixing to do but they already sound great! Expect to hear some of them soon!

I also joined another band, Heavy Duck, which was originally formed 8 years a go (under a different name) by a good friend of mine whilst we were at college. It’s been a nice change of pace for me playing lead guitar and I’m looking forward to writing some new material with them. This band has also been in the studio recording a new album recently – we have a couple more sessions to go, but I’m eager to hear the end result!

This year has also been about learning.

I rediscovered my love of composing music and set about learning how to use recording software to create the music I hear in my head. I’ve been enjoying navigating the technical hurdles and figuring out how everything works. There’s still a lot for me to learn, but I’m fascinated by every new problem.

I also started training to become a practitioner in the Feldenkrais Method. The method utilises movement to aid learning – old patterns of movement and habits are broken up and a new improved co-ordination is developed. It’s great for anyone that has to perform (actors, dancers, musicians, athletes), and as an aid to recovering from injuries, or for those that feel that the way they move is hindering them in some way.

My first training segment was in October – as a learning experience it was incredible and I returned refreshed and full of new ideas for teaching.

All in all, 2013 has been great and I’m really excited about the new year.

I hope 2014 will be great for everyone.
Nick