Tag Archives: composing

Jason Moss composes music for ABC’s The Toy Box

By Jennifer Walden

Children may not be the best source for deciding when bedtime should be, or deciding what’s for dinner (chicken nuggets again?), but who better to decide what toys kids want to play with? A large part of the Tom Hanks film Big was based on this premise.

ABC’s new inventor-centric series, The Toy Box, which premiered in April, features four young judges who are presented with new toy inventions. They then get to decide which toy prototypes would be popular with others in their demographic. Toy inventors competing on the show first meet with a set of “expert mentors,” a small group of adults who delve into the specifics of the toy and offer advice.

Jason Moss

If the toy makes it past that panel, it gets put into the “toy box.” The toy is then presented to the four young judges, who get to play with it, ask questions and give their critique to the toy inventor. The four young judges deliberate and make a final decision on which toy will advance to the next round. At the end of the season, the judges will chose one winning toy to be made by Mattel and sold exclusively at Toys ‘R’ Us.

The Toy Box needed a soundtrack that could both embody the essence of juvenile joviality and portray the pseudo-seriousness its pre-teen decision makers. It’s not a job for your average reality show composer. It required askew musical sensibilities. “The music is fun and super-pop sounding with cool analog synths and video game sounds. It’s really energetic and puts a smile on your face,” says the series composer/music supervisor Jason Moss at Super Sonic Noise in Los Angeles. “Then for the decision-making cues, as the kids decide whether they like a toy and what they’re going to do, it had to be something other than what you’d expect. It couldn’t sound too dark. It still had to be quirky.”

Moss knows quirky. He was the composer on IFC’s Gigi Does It, starring David Krumholtz as an eccentric Jewish grandmother living in Florida. Moss also composed the theme music for the Seeso original series Bajillion Dollar Propertie$, a partially improvised comedy series that pokes fun at real estate reality shows.

Moss covered all of The Toy Box’s musical needs — from high-energy pop and indie rock tracks when the kids are playing with the toys to comedic cues infused with ukulele and kitschy strings, and tension tracks for moments of decision. He wrote original music as well as curated selections from the Bulletproof Bear music catalog. Bulletproof Bear offers a wide variety of licensable tracks written by Moss, plus other music catalogs they represent. “It’s a big collection with over 33,000 tracks. We can really compete with bigger music license companies because we have a huge amount of diverse music that can cover the whole production from head to toe,” he says.

The Gear
Moss composes in Apple’s Logic Pro X. He performed live guitars, bass and ukulele (using the Kala U-Bass bass ukulele). For mics, he chose Miktek Audio’s CV4 large diaphragm condense tube and their C5 small diaphragm pencil condenser, each paired with Empirical Labs Mike-E pre-amps.

Moss combined the live sounds with virtual instruments, particularly those from Spectrasonics. XLN Audio’s Addictive Drums were his go-to for classic and modern drum sounds. For synths, he used reFX’s Nexus, libraries from Native Instrument’s Kontakt, Arturia’s Analog Lab and their VOX Continental V. He also called on the ROLI Equator sound engine via the ROLI Rise 25 key MIDI controller, which features soft squishy silicone keys much different from a traditional keyboard controller. The Akai MPK88 weighted key controller is Moss’ choice in that department. For processing and effects, he chose plug-ins by Soundtoys and PSP Audioware. He also incorporated various toy and video game sounds into the tracks.

The Score
The show’s two-minute opener combines three separate segments — the host (Modern Family‘s Eric Stonestreet), the expert mentor introductions and the judges introductions. Each has its own musical vibe. The host and the expert mentors have original music that Moss wrote specifically for the show. The judges have a dramatic pulsing-string track that is licensed from Bulletproof Bear’s catalog. In addition, a five-second tag for The Toy Box logo is licensed from the Bulletproof Bear catalog. That tag was composed by Jon LaCroix, who is one of Moss’ business partners. In regards to the dramatic strings on the kids’ entrance, Moss, who happened to write that cue, says, “The way they filmed the kids… it’s like they are little mini adults. So the theme has some seriousness to it. In context, it’s really cute.”

For the decision-making cues, Moss wanted to stay away from traditional tension strings. To give the track a more playful feel that would counterbalance the tension, he used video game sounds and 808 analog drum sounds. “I also wanted to use organic sounds that were arpeggiated and warm. They are decision-making tick-tock tracks, but I wanted to make it more fun and interesting,” says Moss.

“We were able to service the show on the underscore side with Bulletproof Bear’s music catalog in conjunction with my original music. It was a great opportunity for us to keep all the music within our company and give the client a one-stop shop, keeping the music process organized and easy,” he explains. “It was all about finding the right sound, or the right cue, for each of those segments. At the end of the day, I want to make sure that everybody is happy, acknowledge the showrunners’ musical vision and strive to capture that. It was a super-fun experience, and hopefully it will come back for a second, third and tenth season! It’s one of those shows you can watch with your kids. The kid judges are adorable and brutally honest, and with the myriad of adult programming out there, it’s refreshing to see a show like The Toy Box get green-lit.”

The new Tom and Jerry Show score combines vintage and modern sounds

By Jennifer Walden

Tom and Jerry have been locked in conflict since the 1940s when animators William Hanna and Joseph Barbera pitted cat against mouse in a theatrical animated series for MGM’s cartoon studio. Their Academy Award-winning Tom and Jerry short films spurred numerous iterations over the years by different directors and animation studios.

The latest reboot, The Tom and Jerry Show, produced by Warner Bros. Animation and Renegade Animation, and directed by Darrell Van Citters, started airing on Cartoon Network in 2014. It didn’t really come into its own until Season 2, which began airing in 2016.

Vivek Maddala

Vivek Maddala is co-composer on the series. “The storytelling is getting better and better. Ostensibly, it’s a children’s show but what I’m finding is the writers seem to be having a lot of fun with allegorical references. It features layered storytelling that children probably wouldn’t be able to appreciate. For example, Tom’s love interest, a cat named Toodles, is an aspiring dancer by night but her day job is being a spot welder for heavy construction. Obviously, this is a Flashdance reference, so I was able to thread oblique references to Flashdance in the score.”

New episodes of The Tom and Jerry Show are currently airing on Cartoon Network, and Maddala will be composing 39 of the episodes in Season 3.

As with Hanna-Barbera’s animated theatrical shorts, the characters of Tom and Jerry rarely talk, although other recurring characters are voiced. Music plays an essential role in describing the characters’ actions and reactions. Maddala’s compositions are reminiscent of composer Scott Bradley’s approach to the original Tom and Jerry animations. Comfortable cartoon tropes like trumpet blasts and trombone slides, pizzicato plucks and timpani bounces punctuate a string-and woodwind-driven score. “Scott Bradley’s scoring technique is the gold standard. It is beautiful writing,” he says.

In their initial conversations, director Van Citters regularly referenced Bradley’s scoring technique. Maddala studied those scores carefully and frequently revisits them while writing his own scores for the show. Maddala also listens to “music that is completely unrelated, like Led Zeppelin or Marvin Gaye, to help jog my imagination. The music I’m writing for the show very much sounds like me. I’m taking some of the approaches that Scott Bradley used but, ultimately, I am using my own musical vocabulary. I have a certain way of hearing drama and hearing action, and that’s what the score sounds like.”

Maddala’s vintage-meets-modern compositions incorporate contemporary instrumentation and genres like blues guitar for when the cool stray cat comes onto the scene, and an electro-organ of the muziak persuasion for a snack food TV commercial. His musical references to Flashdance can heard in the “Cat Dance Fever” episode, and he gives a nod to Elmer Bernstein’s score for The Magnificent Seven in the episode “Uncle Pecos Rides Again.”

Each new musical direction or change of instrument doesn’t feel abrupt. It all melts into the quintessential Tom and Jerry small orchestra sound. “Darrell Van Citters and Warner Bros. are giving me quite a bit of autonomy in coming up with my own musical solutions to the action on-screen and the situations that the characters are experiencing. I’m able to draw from a lot of different things that inspire me,” explains Maddala.

Instruments & Tools
His score combines live recordings with virtual instruments. His multi-room studio in Los Angeles houses a live room, his main composing room and a separate piano room. Maddala keeps a Yamaha C3 grand piano and a drum kit always mic’d up so he can perform those parts whenever he needs. He also records small chamber groups there, like double-string quartets and woodwind quartets. The string ensembles sometimes consist of seven violins (four first and three second), three violas and three cellos, captured using a Blumlein pair recording configuration (a stereo recording technique that produces a realistic stereo image) with ribbon mics to evoke a vintage sound. He chooses AEA N8 ribbon mics matched with AEA’s RPQ 500 mic pre-amps.

Maddala also uses several large diaphragm tube condenser mics he designed for Avid years ago, such as the Sputnik. “The Sputnik is a cross between a classic Neumann U47 capsule with the original M7 design, and an AKG C 12 mic with the original CK12 capsule. The capsule is sort of like a cross between those two mics. The head amp is based on the Telefunken ELA M 251.”

Maddala’s composing room.

Maddala uses three different DAWs. He composes in Cakewalk’s Sonar on a PC and runs video through Steinberg’s Cubase on a Mac. The two systems are locked together via SMPTE timecode. On the Mac, he also runs Avid Pro Tools 12 for delivering stems to the dub stage. “The dub is done in Pro Tools so they usually ask to have a Pro Tools session delivered to them. Once the score is approved, I copy the stems into a Pro Tools session so it’s self-contained, save that and post it to the FTP server.”

Maddala got his start in composing for film by scoring classic silent films from the 1920s, which Warner Bros. and TCM restored in order to release them to today’s audiences. He worked with recording/mix engineer Dan Blessinger on those silent films, and Blessinger — the sound designer on The Tom and Jerry Show, recommended Maddala for the gig. “A lot of the classic silent films from the 1920s never had a score associated with them because the technology didn’t exist to marry sound and picture. About 10 or 15 years ago, when TCM was releasing these films to modern audiences, they needed new scores. So I started doing that, which built up my chops for scoring something like a Tom & Jerry cartoon where there is wall-to-wall music,” concludes Maddala.


Jennifer Walden is a New Jersey-based writer and audio engineer.

Behind the Title: Butter senior producer Annick Mayer

NAME: Annick Mayer

COMPANYButter Music + Sound (Facebook)

CAN YOU DESCRIBE YOUR COMPANY? Butter is a group of talented composers and producers, who all happen to love working with each other. We create original music for moving picture, with a focus in the world of advertising. We also act as music supervisors when clients are looking to license rather than compose.

WHAT’S YOUR JOB TITLE?
Senior Producer

WHAT DOES THAT ENTAIL?
As the senior producer at Butter, I am a face and a name to our clients, and the liaison between the clients and our composers. I organize and oversee the briefs, have input on the creative process, manage the schedule and handle the budgets from start to finish. I am wearing two hats at all times: supporting my clients, while remaining a driving facilitator to our team of composers. My main concern is getting the job done well. That means painlessly for our clients, while making sure our composers are able to create the best and most creative product. This is key for me. I also work in the music supervision aspect of what we do at Butter, conducting searches/music research in Butter’s Library, as well as reaching out to publishers, etc., for outside licensing.

WHAT WOULD SURPRISE PEOPLE THE MOST ABOUT WHAT FALLS UNDER THAT TITLE?
Making lunch! At Butter Music + Sound’s west coast office, where I moved a little over a year ago, we often make lunch for clients in our outdoor kitchen. Our LA EP Marcus Nelson and I love to cook, so we jump at the opportunity to share this with our team and clients. Our special is lamb burger Friday’s — seriously delicious.

WHAT TOOLS DO YOU USE?
Dropbox for all things file sharing… we collaborate with artists all over the world, so Dropbox, along with Skype, makes these relationships possible. Spotify is amazing for music research — I love going down the rabbit hole on different genres and artists. I also love a good old-fashioned phone call; this solves the smallest to biggest issue that can easily be lost in translation over email.

WHAT’S YOUR FAVORITE PART OF THE JOB? 

When I am reviewing submissions from composers and go, “Yup, this is the one!” Music is very difficult to talk about for many people, and when we nail what agency creatives are describing it is so satisfying.

WHAT’S YOUR LEAST FAVORITE?
When pieces of music that we love die in the demo process. In our business, especially for the composers, you have to learn not to get too attached to your idea, as it can change and even die at the drop of a hat. C’est la vie.

WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE TIME OF THE DAY?
Lunch with the team. It’s a 30-minute block where we can relax and debrief or talk about something completely stupid, depending on what we need that day.

IF YOU DIDN’T HAVE THIS JOB, WHAT WOULD YOU BE DOING INSTEAD?
Working with my hands somewhere outdoors.

HOW EARLY ON DID YOU KNOW THIS WOULD BE YOUR PATH?
I started working in this niche of the music industry when I was around 23, so fairly early! Before that I was writing about music for a culture magazine and waiting tables for a paycheck.

Clash of the Clan with Liam Neeson.

Clash of Clans with Liam Neeson for SuperCell.

CAN YOU NAME SOME RECENT PROJECTS YOU HAVE WORKED ON?
We just wrapped a five-spot package for Honda (RPA) where we pre-scored everything. It was super fun to help them bring these stories to life from the get-go. In June, we worked on an awesome spot for Android (Droga5.) We were asked to create an original song for an Android spot that would launch on June 30 in tandem with the addition of a leap-second to the world clock. I love, love, love what we came up with. We also work on lots of Supercell spots (Boom Beach, Clash of Clans) for Barton F. Graf 9000, and most recently put together a massive live orchestra that we recorded at Avatar studios, one of my favorite places in New York!

WHAT IS THE PROJECT THAT YOU ARE MOST PROUD OF?
Wow, tough question! I loved working on the DirecTV Fantasy Football spots with the Manning brothers (Grey, NY.) There were many logistical hoops to record the Mannings live on set, but our team made it happen. The project was super fun and gained over a million views on YouTube within a few days of going live.

Also, we recently worked on a German spot for Immowelt, one of Germany’s biggest real estate portals. It was a really exciting and creative brief, and what our composers came up with blew my mind.

In my first year at Butter, we recorded a huge ensemble at Avatar Studios with some of New York’s most talented jazz session musicians for a Kayak spot (Barton F. Graf, 9000)… as a huge jazz nerd, that was an amazing day on the job for me!

NAME THREE PIECES OF TECHNOLOGY YOU CAN’T LIVE WITHOUT.
iPhone, iPhone and iPhone.

WHAT DO YOU DO TO DE-STRESS FROM IT ALL?
I have two dogs, so anything from lounging to hiking with them is a good de-stresser. I actually bring one of them to work with me and she is probably the most amazing de-stressing tool. Aside from that, cooking, yoga, running …anything outdoors.

Get to know film trailer composer Yoav Goren

Yoav Goren is co-founder of Immediate Music, which creates music for motion picture trailers as well as for high-end product advertising, television programming and promos.

Goren is also owner of Imperativa Records, which recently released a compilation of Hollywood trailer music featuring big names within the genre, called This is Epic Music — Volume 1.

Santa Monica-based Goren, an Emmy award-winning composer and producer, has been working in trailers and related worlds for over 20 years. What better time than now to reach out and get some background on the artist and his music.

Writing music for motion picture promos is a very niche field. How did you get into it?
Continue reading

PostChat: Composer Rob Gokee

By Randi Altman

This week’s #PostChat guest was LA-based composer Rob Gokee, whose resume includes a variety of work, including projects for film, television, commercials and the Web.

Gokee was excited to be in the hot seat on this week’s Twitter chat. In fact, he says that over the last seven years the majority of his industry contacts have been made through Twitter. But it hasn’t all been about work. Gokee actually met his wife on Twitter. “Most of my groomsmen were people I met on Twitter, and we live tweeted the wedding,” he reports. “I also wrote a book about it.”  That’s how integrated Twitter is in his life.

During Wednesday’s #postchat, which took place at 6pm PST/9pm EST, he enjoyed Continue reading

Composer Boris Salchow takes on zombies, humor for ‘Sunset Overdrive’

By Randi Altman

Insomniac Games and Boris Salchow are frequent collaborators, so it was no surprise when the game developer tasked the composer to score the cinematic music for its next-gen shooter zombie game Sunset Overdrive, which was published by Microsoft Studios exclusively for Xbox 1.

The game itself is frenetic in its gameplay, but doesn’t take itself too seriously as proven by the game’s humorous and satirical feel. The German-born Salchow (Ratchet & Clank: A Crack In Time, Fuse, Resistance 2&3) took great care to make sure the funny didn’t come off as campy or too cute. He also used many different influences, from alt-rock to 1960’s Hollywood orchestral music to zombie horror to spaghetti western to minstrel ballads.

Continue reading

Chanda Dancy focuses on audio post for indies with Cyd Post

Cyd Post, founded by film composer Chanda Dancy, will be opening its doors in Glendale, California, next week with a focus on audio post production for independent filmmakers. Services will include custom music production, sound editing, sound design, ADR, Foley and voiceovers.

According to Dancy, “The main focus of Cyd Post is sound and music production for independent films and new media,” which she believes is the future of the industry. So Cyd Post will focus on work that involves things like content for the web, hand-held devices, gaming consoles, etc. “The company is poised to handle an extremely flexible range of budgets and projects in anticipation of emerging technologies and the ever-changing landscape of entertainment content creation,” she says. “Independent and new media content creators can essentially have their cake and eat it too in regards to getting professional sound and music from an award-winning and experienced artist and staying within their budget.”

Chanda_Dancy-0327

Chanda Dancy

In addition to her film composing work, Dancy plays a variety of instruments and is an accomplished vocalist. She started composing films as an undergraduate while getting degrees in composition, music theory and violin performance at Houston Baptist University. “It was mostly small, local commercial projects, but I also directed my own short film and scored it as a part of a special senior thesis project that my awesome composition professor, Ann K. Gebuhr, created a special course for,” she explains. “Directly after undergrad, I went on to intern with composer Mike Post (Law & Order, NYPD Blue, The Rockford Files, L.A. Law, Quantum Leap, Magnum, P.I., Hill Street Blues) as part of the 2002 BMI Film Scoring Fellowship, and then went on to attend the USC Film Scoring program in 2003. Everything just progressed from there.”

Dancy is most noted for her collaboration with filmmaker Ted Chung on films such as A Thousand Words, Mike’s and I.D. She also scored the Peruvian offering La Navaja de Don Juan, Unmentionables and the horror film directed by Ning Jungwu called Lift to Hell.

So how did Dancy’s path lead her to starting an audio post house? “I am using skills developed over the past eight years that started with my employment as a sound assistant at an audio post production house back in 2006 called NL3 Audio. From that point on sound production has been an integral part of my artistic growth, right along with music composition. Also, from a business standpoint, it only makes sense to use all skill sets in an official capacity in the name of diversification!

gear shot

Tools
Cyd Post’s gear includes Avid Pro Tools 10 and 11; Waves Diamond plug-in suite; Native Instruments Komplete 8; East West Hollywood Brass; East West Hollywood Strings; Cinesamples Cinecore Winds; Focusrite Liquid Saffire 56; Presonus Monitor Station studio controller; JBL LSR4326P Bi-amplified studio monitor system; Sweetwater, Creation Station 450; Finale 2012 notation software; Adobe Creative Cloud; Avid Mbox 2 Pro; M-Audio Keystation 61 es; and a JBL LSR308 powered monitor system.

The recording room houses Vocalbooth.com Platinum Series Recording Room 9’x10’; Neumann TLM102 large diaphram condenser mic; Rode NT5 stereo pair; cardioid condenser instrument mic; Audio Technica AT3035 cardioid condenser mic; Audix DP7 instrument mic set (seven mics total); Zoom H4N handheld field recorder; Line 6 Spyder III guitar amp; and a Acoustic B200 bass amp.

 

Meet Audio Post Pro Will Bates

NAME: Will Bates

COMPANY: Brooklyn-based  Fall On Your Sword  @fallonyousword 

CAN YOU DESCRIBE YOUR COMPANY?
We are an audio post production company specializing in custom music composition to picture (films and commercials) and audio mixing.

WHAT’S YOUR JOB TITLE?
Founder, principal and composer.

Continue reading

Meet the Artist: Scott Lee Miller

Scott Miller, Creative Director, The Hit House, Los Angeles

Being the Supreme Overlord of all things musical within his studio is quite a responsibility… but one he absolutely loves!

NAME: Scott Lee Miller aka Mojo Magnet

COMPANY: The Hit House (www.thehithouse.com), Los Angeles, @HitHouseMusic

CAN YOU DESCRIBE YOUR COMPANY?

Music composition, custom scoring, sound design, and high-end production music.

 WHAT’S YOUR JOB TITLE?

Creative Director and Supreme Overlord of all things musical.

Continue reading