Saturday, December 24, 2011

The Cherry Tree Chorale

Here's an arrangement of the Cherry Tree Carol with some shades of Holly & Ivy, for 4 recorders and 2 oboes.  Merry Xmas!

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Orchestration Breakdown: Zenoids Theme

This week, I speculate as to why I didn't make the top 10.  Was it my orchestral palette, or my lack of a more coherent theme?  Join me in a look behind the orchestration:

Download the pdf of the score here.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Baby of Mine - Now on YouTube

Baby of Mine has now been available for viewing on YouTube!  Be sure to like, favorite and comment!

You can also view a Behind the Scenes look at creating the score for the film:

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Music Vlog for Dec 2nd

Check out my latest vlog and join the conversation.  Topics this week include Zenoid mania, my small role in creating the mockup for The Gift of the Elk (an orchestral work by Jim Cockey), and Christmas music.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Zenoids Main Title Music Contest - Semi-finalists

I'm so excited to announce that I made it into the top 40 semi-finals of the Zenoids Main Title Music Contest hosted by

Monday, October 31, 2011

Friday, October 14, 2011

Return of the Champion

My latest work, Return of the Champion, is done.  This was so much fun to write!  If you watch this on YouTube, in the info box, there are links to all the step-by-step videos that show the process of creating this piece from the initial composing to the orchestration, programming, and finally mixing and mastering.  There are some links as well on this blog in previous posts.  Enjoy!

To be kept aware of the latest goings on, subscribe to my YouTube channel.

Friday, September 16, 2011


Today is the last installment of the Orchestration step: Percussion.  At the end of this video I finally reveal the Title.

Next week we move onto Step 5: MIDI.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Orchestration Module Wrap-up

As I work through this composition module and have focused on each section of the orchestra, it has really helped me consider my approach to each instrument.  This has been an interesting experience, because I don't usually orchestrate one section completely through a piece from start to finish.  I typically start with the most important element for a few measures or a phrase and then work on the orchestration around it, a percussion note here, brass chord there, etc., and then move on to the next few measures or phrase.

I certainly have felt more pressure since I'm doing this in front of an audience, and having to narrate my way through my work, as well as record, edit, and create a narrative of how and why I made the choices I did.  It certainly takes more time.  Ultimately, like anything else, I just want it to sound good.

The biggest challenge is brevity, as I could talk about music, and many things I have in mind ad nauseum.  I also digress and get derailed on tangents, so there is a great deal of rambling that I have edited out.

This Friday I will post the percussion module, which will probably be a much shorter video than the previous three.  Percussion is always tricky because the notation I enter into Finale is rough and not always indicative of the final result.  There is a lot more trial and error that happens, in percussion, and especially in the auxillary percussion.  I may load up a tambourine and try a few different things while the MIDI plays back to decide where and how, if any, is required in the piece.

So far the orchestration is coming together well, and I'm excited to move into the MIDI stage.  I always get sick of listening to the Finale softsynth (I have considered purchasing the GM wavetable from Sonivox, since I imagine it would be much more bearable, but just haven't done it), and I don't know about you, but I'm ready to hear some VSL.

Check out the Strings, Brass, and Woodwind Orchestration Videos.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Composition Module

If you haven't visited my YouTube channel recently, I have been working on a series of videos wherein each week I discuss an aspect of my composition process, starting with Melody and going through Mastering.  In the first video I composed an 8-bar melody, the second video, I harmonized it.

The most recent video, I talk about arranging, though I realized about halfway through that I wasn't thinking of an arrangement in the literal sense, and that the actual term I mean was just "more composition."  Now that I consider this, "development," would have been a more apt substitute, since that is basically what I did.  I took the elements of the melody and harmony and created a 1:30 cue.

This Friday, I will present the first Orchestration video.  (As I began to create the material for the Orchestration step, it became quickly clear that these videos are going to be too long to do all at once.  So this week, I will focus on voicing the string section, next week, brass, followed by woodwinds and finally percussion.)  I'm really excited how the orchestration has turned out thus far.  It is going to rock when the VSL Dimension Brass belt this thing out.  Stay tuned!

Friday, July 22, 2011

Gushing over Giacchino and Talking Up Orchestration Resources

This week I went to an event featuring Michael Giacchino and it was amazing!  I also talk about a few places around the net where you can learn more about orchestration.

I'll chat about that more in an upcoming module, but here's a few things to put you on the right track.

Friday, July 1, 2011

EQ and film recc

This week, I throw in some chat about EQ and rave about the new documentary, "I Am."

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Featured on!

I have been featured on the new site:!

It is so easy to be self deprecating about this, Studio, HA!, spare room in the apartment with an 18-foot ceiling that I'm trying to use as a mixing environment, that I tried to clean up enough to take a picture without showing the piles of scores and books and papers that I can't seem to figure out how to organize / deal with.  Plus the shelves of reed equipment, rejected reed carcases, knives, sharpening stones and general disaster that happens when my brain opens up and spills out all over the place.

...but I'm not going to do that.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Baby of Mine Screening

The Festival Premiere Screening of Baby of Mine was a huge success.  The film was very well received and was in good company.  It is always weird when there is one film that isn't as good as the others, and weirder still when your film is the odd one out.  Luckily this was not one of those time.  They were all good, and all on par.  It was definitely a good program.  Interesting that all the films had a baby / family theme and were all completely inappropriate for viewing by children.

It was wonderful to finally meet Gia the producer and Karen, one of the actresses.  Gia has also created a website for the film:

(Filmmaker Q&A)

I need to give a shout out to all my friends who attended, and for those who couldn't but still contacted me with messages of support.  I feel the love!

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Dear Staples: Your Recycled Paper Pricing Structure

Dear Staples,

Can you explain to me why you charge more for recycled paper?  You are essentially selling me USED paper.  I bought reams of new fresh, crisp, exciting paper for much cheaper than your enviro-friendly second-hand wares.  Are you saying that if I want to be environmentally responsible I need to pay more?  You may not realize this, but you seem to be implying that only the elite buy recycled paper, because it's more expensive and therefore a premium product.  Or perhaps you are trying to guilt your customers into making environmentally conscious decisions by voting with their wallets.  Spend more!  It's the RIGHT thing for the environment!  Then you can look at a report showing people overwhelmingly buying recycled paper even though it is more expensive, and therefore your customer base has shown the morality that they will choose the moral option of recycled over new!  No.

Look outside.  Is it raining money?  Not on my house.  I'm going to buy the cheaper paper.  Not because I don't care about the environment, but because it's cheaper.  And I just need a couple reams of paper.  I would happily make the environmentally friendly choice if you would make a little swap-a-rooney on your pricing structure.  Because something newer should cost more than something recycled.  And face it: recycled isn't always better quality.  So, really, if the price has to be higher because the process costs more, then there is something wrong with the process.

It seems like cutting down a tree to turn it into paper is a lot more extensive than taking paper and turning into paper.

Lastly, this current structure doesn't inspire me to recycle.  It makes me think, "those dicks are just going to reuse this and charge more for it."  So it's almost like you're making money on the same thing twice.

Feel free to correct me if I am wrong.

Friday, June 3, 2011

A Music Score Discussion of Baby of Mine

This week, instead of my usual vlog, I got down and dirty with Final Cut Express and brought you a quick discussion and behind-the-scenes look at the music score for Baby of Mine.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Welcome the Darkling!

The Darkling has surfaced on YouTube and I highly recommend you check it out if you like things that are awesome. I had a great time working on this with Adam, and it was a lot of work and as you'll clearly see it was well worth it. Enjoy! Like, Favorite, and Comment!

Remember the album is available on iTunes!

Monday, May 16, 2011

Baby's First Festival!

I'm so excited that Baby of Mine has been accepted into its first film festival: The 15th Playhouse West Film Festival.  The festival is June 10, 11, and 12th, and just around the corner in North Hollywood at the El Portal Theater.  I will definitely be attending the premiere.

You can click here for more information.

I will be posting more information soon.

Friday, April 29, 2011

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Orchestration Breakdown: Platonic 1st Cue

Watch as I talk through the orchestration of the opening cue of Platonic Episode 1:

Friday, March 25, 2011

Music Vlog for 3-25

In case you haven't stopped by my YouTube channel, I've started doing a Vlog there, wherein I try to post a new video every Friday.  This week I delve into my new library Ivory II.

The only things I didn't mention about it, is it is not 64bit for Mac yet, but probably in the next year.  And if my ringing endorsement wasn't enough of an indication, I love this library!

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Drinkin' and Fightin'

Watch me perform 2 Irish Jigs and get into a fight with my shirt:

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Some Random Thoughts

Today is one of those days where I feel raw and tingly. Where every breath is a sob, and every word hits my ears like the touch a little too roughly on a burn, an emotional sting to every encounter. It's a good place to be: vulnerable and ready for all the inspiration swirling through the universe to stick to my open sore of a mind. It's a gory metaphor, but bleeding heart isn't far enough: I need another mile, another five miles, because the road is longer than that. I can't write it all down fast enough, I can't keep hold of it. It flows through me and that song I heard flew away before I could catch it. Maybe it will land in your palms where it was meant to be and you'll hold it to the sunlight. Maybe it will never grace you and will eventually find its way back to me through the drinking water, or a dinner roll, or the sudden intake of breath as I see something I wish I hadn't, but will be indelibly written in my brain and played on a loop until the song is heard.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Sunday, February 27, 2011

New Series! Platonic Episode 1

Check out the first episode of the new series, Platonic, featuring music by Joe:

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Review of Miho: Journey to the Mountain

The end of 2010 was a busy time of year, with four music projects going at once plus the ordinary insanity of the Christmas season.  In the middle of this, I received a CD in the mail from the Paul Winter Consort entitled Miho: Journey to the Mountain.  I am not sure what list I ended up on, however setting any unsettling wonder aside about the possible compromised nature of my privacy, I decided to listen to the CD several times and provide comments, as the card requested, despite my never having been solicited for such a thing before, so here goes:
The CD has a very natural presentation from the music itself, to the performances, to the photographs and artwork.  The Miho is a museum outside of Kyoto Japan, whose design was inspired by the traditional story of Shangri-la, from the winding river-like road, to the tunnel you pass through, to the subsequent emergence onto a landscape covered in blossoming cherry trees and the expansive wilderness.  The Miho was met with many restrictions in the construction, which required most of the museum to be built below ground, so as to not interrupt the natural ridge line of the mountains.  The liner notes provide a concise and interesting background of the museum's creation and of Paul Winter's experience about how the album came to be.  The pictures provide a glimpse into the experience of the Miho, with a very specific architecture designed to meld into the landscape and incredibly lush vistas.

The album was mostly recorded in the Miho which has an impressive acoustic space.  Many of the tracks are solos and the reverberations hang in the air like cloud.  The atmosphere serves to further outline the harmony, which add to the meditative quality of the album.

I am not familiar with Paul Winter, and have only heard a couple of Paul McCandless' recordings.  McCandless' name is inevitable for me since I studied oboe for many years and he is one of the few jazz oboists, or perhaps more accurately, successful jazz oboists.  I am however not generally a fan of the saxophone, perhaps turned off by the two-season stint I spent as a drum-major in high school trying to get saxophone players in line.  But despite my limited tolerance, I found myself really enjoying this album. Paul Winter has a smooth even tone, and employs gently jazzy nuances with more grace than I expected.

I have heard a few recordings of Paul McCandless before.  He has a unique but nice reliable sound on both the oboe and English horn.  It certainly differs from my experience and preference of a more rigid classical approach, but he seems to exhibit a gentle effort, it makes me very curious about his breathing and reed technique, and what I could learn from it.  His performances on the Heckelphone was the most interesting for me as I have not heard one in performance before.  It fit the mood of the album, which features many ethnic instruments, which though exotic, I would have to say the Heckelphone was the most unusual instrument on this album for me; many have heard a bansuri, koto, or the varied percussion several times as they, being the most region-specific colors of central Asia and the far east, transcend leitmotiv conventions to inevitably find their way into countless film soundtracks, the second a film references anything non-western.

The solo pieces have an improvised quality to them, though it is all glued together with the opening three-note motive, which Winter said was inspired by the triangular patterns of the Miho's architecture.  Overall for being an east-meets-west endeavor the album is quite tonal and accessible.  There is not much in the way of a harmonic challenge to the listener, which I think is appropriate.  But the music does not come across as particularly trite or simple.  Instead there is a naive, earnest quality to the music, that I tend to find a-typical in music of this sort, which tends to revisit tired cliches.

There are a wide range of Asian instruments and performers, and many pieces are self-consciously titled with names like "Saxophone," or "Bansuri & Saxophone," and possibly my favorite piece on the album "Yangjin (Words of Wish Fulfillment)" titled for the singer Yangjin Lamu, a Tibetan singer and the performer of the piece.

Many of the pieces contain a synth pad background which I find both appropriate and annoying.  It's a string/vocal/synth pad sound which helps establish harmony, but also hovers awash in the background.  It would have been more interesting to have a custom sample in the space as it kind of recreates the same atmospheric quality as the reverb, but with a bit more specificity.  The pad sound seems to harken back to earlier things I've heard from a certain kind of new-age approach to music.  I suspect that some of these musicians have been using that sound for a long time, and perhaps it is time to find a new sound.

Overall I am quite charmed with this album, with the exception of one selection: I am not sure exactly how I feel about Borodin's The Steppes of Central Asia, which seems to have been chosen for two reasons: the showcase of the English horn, and that it has "Asia" in the title.  McCandless performs it well, and the concept of taking an improvised solo of a classical phrase is interesting.  The washy background texture is appropriate, but a Russian's impression of Central Asia, specifically that particular time and school of harmonic thought, reinterpreted with a washy pad and jazz English horn, I'm not sure if it fits with the rest of what they have presented.  Although, simultaneously, I can't think of anything more American.  Lest I am called out as a hypocrite, I feel completely the opposite of the Bach sonata, which is performed on the Soprano Sax with piano and cello accompaniment (though I wonder how it would have sounded if Winter had incorporated some of the other exotic instruments in lieu of, or in addition to).  Perhaps there is always room for a Bach adagio to fit anywhere, or perhaps is just a better programming choice than Borodin.

The album also has samples of landscapes and animal sounds.  The two pieces, "The Elephant Dance" and the "Whale Raga" incorporate recordings of the animals purring, growling, spouting and singing, respectively.  Throughout the album there are interludes of crickets, birds, and wind.  It is a convention that could be overdone, but here it is not.  You get just enough to enjoy the moment as it bridges certain pieces together, and it really fits as part of the natural cohesion of the overall experience.

Throughout my busy workday, I found myself looking forward to repeated listenings of the album and the tranquility it provided.  It brings to mind the journey inspired by the story, and the final piece Morning Sun is just the sort of piece to bring it to a gentle close, like the meditative end of a yoga workout.  Miho: Journey to the Mountain is a cohesive meditation on folklore, nationality, nature, history, politics, architecture, and the way the often seemingly disparate ideas of our world can come together naturally in music.

Explore Miho: Journey to the Mountain on Paul Winter's website.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Harry Potter Episode 2!

Hey check out Episode 2 of Harry Potter featuring music by yours truly!

Blog Archive