music process

How To Make Images With Only Sound

A Sound Design Project For Theater

I just started working on creating sound design for Fordham University’s theater department.  It’s a mainstage production of the play Magnolia, by Regina Taylor, which is a re-telling of the Cherry Orchard in 1963 Atlanta, Georgia.  It takes place right in the midst of the civil rights era and the sounds of that time period.

The biggest challenge is creating this sonic montage which is to open the piece.  Taylor, who is also directing, wants to evoke a backwards countdown from present day into the past.  It’s challenging and exciting.  Given all the events in the news lately regarding racial discrimination, it feels very timely.

To start with, I began gathering source audio to sample in this newsreel type audio event.

Here’s some of the sources i gathered:

Watching these videos, I found it impossible not to get caught up in the moment.  Especially the coverage of Bobby Kennedy’s assassination.   I got so choked up.

After exporting some of these audios using an online tool, I had a file folder from which I could import into my digital audio workstation of choice, LogicProX.

Here’s a screenshot of my session today.

How To Make Images With Only Sound

What a crazy mess!  I started by just laying down a basic beat and bass line to give some kind of structure.  Later I’m going to add a tempo map that ramps up to add to the excitement.

As we were listening to these ideas, my assistant engineer (my 14 year old son Alejandro), suggested a possible unifying idea:  to take each President’s oath going backwards in time from present to 1963.  Brilliant!

So that’s where we’re at so far.  I have a terrible first mix that I don’t want to bore you with just yet.  Lots more to do and in the process of updating my sonic palette by updating my Spectrasonics Omnisphere.  That’s a way cool virtual synthesizer.   Ok, more later!







awakening growth joyful living process spirit

A new mantra to smooth out your day

What is a mantra?

A statement or slogan repeated frequently.

Many times, the words I hear in my head were not consciously chosen.  They just keep cycling through.  Things my Mom said or my Dad told me.  Sometimes they are not so good and I really need to excise them like a bloody tumor!

But words have power.

By designing the words that are in my human operating system, I can begin to change from within.

When I became a father, I consciously deleted all cursing from my vocabulary.  It wasn’t easy, but I really wanted to be a good role model for my son.  I used  to curse like a sailor.  And it wasn’t conscious.  I just picked it up from the environment I was in.  After a few months of catching myself, it became easier.

A new mantra

Everything that happens is neither good nor bad.  It just is.

Next time you feel frustrated, impatient and angry, realize that it is based on a judgement.

You are perceiving that something is not happening the way you think it should be.

No judgement.

Strike Should

The word “should” is a clue.  Whenever you hear it, run away.  Strike it from your vocabulary.  There are no shoulds.  Stop shoulding on the world.

No judgement.

Start using that phrase as internal mantra.  Your new self-speak.  Hear it in your head.  “No judgement.

Just let the moment pass over you as if you were watching from afar.  What used to cause you pain will have no effect anymore.

No judgement.


process Writing

Breaking Writer’s Block By Making Inanimate Objects Come To Life

No Writers BlockA strange story prompt that can really get you outside of a rut, is to write from the point of view of an inanimate object.  Bring it to life.  Anthropomorphize a mailbox, a building, an elevator, or a tourist attraction.  The latter was the prompt that led me to this little story.


By Andrew Ingkavet

Hey there!  Welcome aboard.  I got a question for you.  What’s the first thing anyone coming here wants to do?  No answers?  Come on think a little bit.  It’s your first time in the fragrant harbor, what are you going to do?  Give up?

You’re going to ride me.  That’s right, good old HKF.   Yeah sure there’s plenty of fancy shiny buildings, the Giant Buddha, the Peak and stuff.  The airport, that’s not an attraction, you have to go through it to get here.  No, I’m talking about what’s the first thing people thing of.

Tooooooooot!  Sorry, couldn’t help from tooting my own horn.  He he he.  Get it?  Ha ha.

Yeah, you could say I’m not really a destination.  I take anyone who comes on and take them to the other side.  And sure, I’m visited everyday by millions, well, maybe not millions, it’s more like thousands.  But back in the day, I was the only game in town.  You couldn’t reach Kowloon or Hong Kong Island without getting onboard.  And then when cars were starting to get popular, I would take them too.

I do miss them old days.  I got to know everyone.  Literally.  Well, anyone who had to get out and about – the real movers and shakers.  We had lots of Brits back then.  Then, a boatload of “Phillippinas”, just the ladies, only a handful of the gents.  Then we had a bunch of Indians and Pakistanis.  They mostly hung out on the Kowloon side in the Chung King mansions.  But occasionally they made the crossing to get to the court house for some infraction or to register a new corporation.  The Yanks really never came here in any great numbers.   Some of the Brits would say, yeah, most Yanks can’t go without their McDonalds.  But we got a McDonalds right across from me on both sides.  I think they’re just not the worldly types.  Brits, you can put them anywhere and they’ll have tea time ready at 3 on the dot.  They built me ya know, so I got a lot of affinity for them.   Lots of the stuff around here was made by them.  But they got pushed out in ’97.  That was a while back.   Now most of the fancy folks riding speak Mandarin.  How weird.  So polished and proper.  Me?  I like that gut-wrenching steel mouth Cantonese.  It’s like their always arguing even if they’re just talking.  So dramatic.

Nowadays, there’s the bridge, the metro, and even other water taxis.  I’m kinda pissed about it, but what can you do.  Progress!  It’s lucky that they kept me going out of nostalgia.  My old buddies the junks are pretty much gone.  Once in a while I see one of them and it’s like wow, where you been?  It’s always some billionaire’s wedding or some crazy new company outing that needs to have the old Chinese sailing junk.

I get my share of parties too.  It’s kinda fun.  They usually get some lame Canto-pop singer ruining my ears for awhile.  I really love it when I get to give them a blast on the air horn.  Whoops.  That was a navigational necessity.   It always throws them off because they can’t hear their backing track and they start flubbing the lyrics.  Awful stuff.

Hey there’s one of them hydrofoils. They think they’re so slick racing back and forth to the casinos in Macau.  Bunch of show-offs!



You may recognize the Hong Kong Ferry and some of the details.  Yes, I lived there for about 5 years in the  1990’s.

Here’s a great little film that does a great job personifying some rocks with a great social commentary on man over the eons, Das Rad Rocks.  Enjoy!

process Writing

Writing Prompts And Stimulating Your Writer Brain

There’s a funny paradox about creativity.  It’s more difficult to create if you have all the options in the world available to you.  You know how they always say think outside the box?  Well if you don’t have a box to start with, then you have no focus.

When I worked in advertising, there was always a “box,” rules to the creativity.  And we hated it!  We were dragged kicking and screaming, art directors, copywriters, designers, animators, all of us, to get back in the box.  But the funny thing is, having a box makes it easier.  The box was created by the client who wanted such and such target market and had to be yellow and used the latest lingo or whatever.  Whatever it was, we pushed the limits of interpreting those rules and usually found a successful and creative solution.

By creating limits, you actually free up your brain to start making choices.  In writing, I like to usually start with a mind map or clustering.  I first came across this concept with Gabriele Lusser Rico’s excellent book Writing The Natural Way.

By writing a core concept in the center and then clustering ideas outward from there, you bypass the judgmental thinking into a more natural non-linear way of thinking.  This used to be called right brain versus left brain, but it’s been discovered it’s a bit more complicated than that.  But there are regions of the brain that are more linear and other more non-linear.

I use mind maps/clusters daily for everything from brainstorms on business problems to planning an event to creating music to writing lyrics to writing stories.

Cluster or mindmap
Example of a cluster/mind map in Writing The Natural Way.

I recently joined a wonderful writer’s workshop run by NY Writer’s Coalition and the whole time is spent using writing prompts.  This is just short timed writing periods about a topic chosen by the facilitator.

One fun prompt was “write from the point of view of a tourist attraction.”   That was a rather unusual topic, but the stories generated were fun and truly unique dependent on the writer’s experience, personality and point of view.

The next time you’re stuck, use a writing prompt.  The prompt is the box.  You need to stay in the lines but really push it to the limits.

There are books of prompts, devices and even writing coaches who you can subscribe to to get a daily writing prompt.


process Writing

Process of Writing A Novel: Keeping A Story Bible

Photo by Joel Montes de Oca
Photo by Joel Montes de Oca

So working on my novel, tentatively titled Akamaea, I’ve come across the idea of a story bible.  This what Orson Scott Card advises in his book Characters & Viewpoint.

“Keeping a bible helps make you aware of the decisions you’re making.  The very fact of jotting down your decision makes you think about it again, allows you a chance to do some wondering, some questioning.  Whether you do it right at the moment, at the end of the day, or the next morning, you have a chance to improve on the decision while the story is still fresh, before you have gone ten or fifty or a hundred pages beyond that moment.”

So what is it?

Basically it’s a notebook or a page or a file in your computer where you store all your pertinent decisions.  It should be scannable and easy to see.  I’ve set up mine where I’ll put the term first such as character name in bold and then a short fact or decision I made.

Here’s an example:

  • Marley (12) –  very insecure, jumpy, awkward, and nervous.
  • Georgia (8) – younger sister of Marley, uber confident, popular, wears red bandana on her head all the time

I’ve started using an Evernote  notebook for this.  It’s an app that I can easily access it at anytime from any device whether it’s my computer, iPad, iPhone or even logging on from a public computer in a library.  This could be useful if I’m struck with an idea to add to it or need to double check a decision I made before.

I’ll also put questions to myself in there which I’m discovering as I go along.  Because I’m creating a fantasy world, there’s so much to keep track of:  things like weather, vegetation, history of the inhabitants.  What do they eat here?I’ll let that marinate in my brain for a while and the next day or two I’ll come back with an answer.

Orson Scott Card is most famous for Ender’s Game and the books in that series.  He says he wrote the whole story in a matter of a couple of weeks!  But, that was after years of thinking about, developing, designing the world of the story and keeping a story bible as he went along.


Fiction and Poetry process Writing

Creating a Fantastical Setting For A Story

I’m working at being more open on my process.  As I’ve realized that what I most enjoy reading about my favorite creators, whether they be authors or composers or painters or designers or filmmakers, I love to hear how they arrived at their solutions.  So…gulp…I’m trying to be more open and vulnerable.

I have a mess of scenes and dialog and some characters for my novel in progress tentatively called Akamaea.  It’s a middle grade fantasy novel where a young boy named Henry (12) and his sister Amy (8) get swept away in a freak tidal wave and end up on a lost island.  The island is called Akamaea and is a magical place (of course).

A mysterious island - photo by PinBall Robin @ Flickr
A mysterious island – photo by PinBall Robin @ Flickr

Yes it sounds like a Robinson Crusoe story or maybe like the TV show Lost, but I do find myself resonating with those adventures on deserted isle stories.  HG Wells’ The Island of Doctor Moreau and Lord of the Flies, why do all these interesting stories happen on islands?

In my researching this setting, I’ve been thinking about the whole genre of fantasy and the alternate universes.  How did the characters get to their alternate universe?  In The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe, the kids enter Narnia through a wardrobe.   In the Wizard of Oz, the tornado lifted Dorothy away.  In Alice in Wonderland, Alice falls down in a hole following a rabbit, who she saw in the real world!  A modern twist on Lord of the Flies is the Mazerunner series by James Dashner where the island is a maze set somewhere and the boys enter this world without memory and via a mysterious elevator.

There’s always this door to the other world.  The door in the Mazerunner is the elevator.  Sometimes it’s a two-way door where you can easily go between the worlds.  In Richard Bach’s One, a strange light flash during a small plane flight brings the protagonist, also named Richard Bach and his wife into a new world where they can touch down in alternate worlds.  They can get back and forth between times by imagining the throttle of the plane in their hands.  Lovely.  In the film the Matrix, we have a direct descendent of Alice in Wonderland.  Neo discovers that the real world isn’t real at all and he has to take a pill to get him to see reality.

“You take the blue pill, the story ends. You wake up in your bed and believe whatever you want to believe. You take the red pill, you stay in wonderland, and I show you how deep the rabbit hole goes.” – Morpheus

Just the other night I saw a trailer for an upcoming movie called Tomorrowland which features an alternate reality entered by touching a talisman of sorts.  Love it!  I need to say that.

So why the need for alternate reality?  Well, escapism of course.  We need adventure.  Wouldn’t you want to go visit a magical island with mysterious creatures?  Life is a magical adventure has been my motto for 20 or so years.  I’ll share more about what’s in my world of Akamaea tomorrow.

process Writing

Turning Oneself Into A Writer Fast

Or How To Learn Anything Fast

Last November, I finished the National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo ) challenge successfully with 50,000 words.   I knew it was just a start.  It was a brain dump – a hazy idea of what could later be sculpted and crafted into a novel.

My fast journey to becoming a writer
Writing is easy – just add words! Photo by Jan Willemsen.


But what next?

I was a bit lost.   Yes, I’ve read a lot over the years, but haphazardly.  I didn’t have a great books list.  I knew I liked fantastical stories and really resonated with HG Wells, Jules Verne, William Gibson and Kafka.  I also love the magic realists Jorge Luis Borges, Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Salman Rushdie, Italo Calvino.   I also just love the wonder of Ray Bradbury, the adventures of Robinson Crusoe and the characterizations of Dickens.  But I felt like I was trying to write a rock song having never heard Elvis.   Or a symphony without knowing Beethoven.  I didn’t have enough context.

I went to NYU for music and missed out on a lot of the great history and literature courses.  I always felt that was a mistake and am thrilled to finally be correcting that.  So I began searching for the 10,000 foot view.  I usually look for the meta book, the one that will give me the greatest context.

I found a lot about writing mindset and technique which are great.  But for historical context, I’ve found nothing quite matches the  Great Courses (formerly called the Teaching Company).  Thesea are college classes online which you can download to your smartphone or have on DVD, or CD.

So over the last few months, I’ve been inhaling vast quantities of method books, college lectures,  historical overviews and source materials.  Here’s a partial list of my consumption.  I hope you find it helpful.

  • Story by Robert McKee – the classic.  I read it over 10 years ago and recently repurchased as audio book.  McKee is an actor and he really brings to life his sage wisdom.  Highly recommended.
  • Plot and Structure by James Scott Bell – I’ve had this in my collection for over 10 years when I was originally creating a libretto for an original opera.  That project is still gestating.  But what a great book.
  • The Creative Penn podcast by Joanna Penn – Joanna is an inspiration for all writers.  I’ve discovered many great resources on her podcast including Dave Farland – see below.
  • Heroes, Gods and Monsters by Bernard Evslin – A great book that retells the old mythological tales.
  • Greek Tragedy by Professor Elizabeth Vandiver – a little dry at times, but a fast overview.
  • Some short video clips from great writers like  Robert McKee, Salman Rushdie, Paul Auster, Jonathan Safran-Foer, and others.  Good for a quick hit of inspiration.
  • Story Engineering by Larry Brooks – I like how Larry has made this easier to visualize.  You can also see hitpoints in every story, film, novel, whatever,  based on his engineering blueprints.
  • History of the Ancient World:  A Global Perspective – Professor Gregory S. Aldrete – If I’m going to be creating fantastical fictional worlds, I better know what the real history has been.   This course is wonderful and well presented.  48 half hour lectures which you can binge on as you work out or clean the house.
  • Heroes and Legends: The Most Influential Characters of Literature -Professor Thomas A. Shippey – Wow!  Shippey actually went to school with Tolkien and he discusses so many of the great characters of the world from Bilbo Baggins to Sherlock to Beowulf to Harry Potter.  Loved it.
  • Million Dollar Outlines by Dave Farland.  Dave has taught writing to so many successful authors and makes so much sense in this book.  I also heard his podcast interview at the Creative Penn.   I was so impressed, I enrolled in his online course.  See below.

If you have any suggestions to add, I’d be happy add them to the list.  Write in the comments below.

And, if you find any of these helpful, some of them contain affiliate links so I receive a small commission.  Just so you know.

Thanks for reading!


drawing Fiction and Poetry Hundred Heroes process Writing

One Hundred Heroes – A Daily Creative Practice

Last Friday, friend Tonya came up with an idea to reinvigorate our creative processes.  We’re both creative souls and require daily nurturing, input and output.  The idea was to work on 3 small areas of creativity because, as we discovered together, that the creative flow that comes about from actually doing the work is totally transferrable.  In other words, if you are stuck as a musician, then perhaps work on a painting.  Or if you’re having trouble finishing your Great American Novel, then perhaps it’s a daily doodle or restoring an old chair.

So I chose as my 3 small daily practices drawing, writing and reading fiction (which I never used to give myself permission to do!)

Writing Everyday

For my writing, I’ve been working on short stories – at least 250 words.  I’ve also started coming up with a list of 10 daily ideas for my stories thanks to the inspiration of this article by James Altucher.

Reading Fiction

I read fiction by Dean Koontz, Edward Bloor, Ernest Hemingway, and Daniel Defoe.

Drawing A Hundred Heroes

This past week I did a daily drawing of one of my “hundred heroes.”  I’ve had so many wonderful role models, mentors and teachers over the years, some who I personally knew and others who I’ve only touched from afar.

Here’s who I drew:

Robin Williams Day 1 – Robin Wiliams

The world is still in mourning for his loss.  I’ll never forget how hard and loud I laughed when watching Mork and Mindy as a teenager.  My neighbors must have wondered about the wild cackling coming out of the house.




IMG_2381Day 2 – Gabriel Garcia Marquez

It was as if the world was in black and white before I read One Hundred Years Of Solitude.  Since then I’ve read almost all his books and was led into a world of magic realism and writing of others like Jorge Luis Borges, Italo Calvino, Salman Rushdie and Isabel Allende among others.  It also helps that my late mother-in-law gave me this book and said, “Now that you are dating my daughter, you need to read this.  He is the national treasure of Colombia.”

And what a first line for a novel: “Many years later, as he faced the firing squad, Colonel Aureliano Buendía was to remember that distant afternoon when his father took him to discover ice.”



Good eeevening...
Good eeevening…

Day 3 – Alfred Hitchcock

I never went to film school, but watching Hitch’s films makes me feel like I should sign up today.  So wonderfully artful and chilling!  I also love the music scores by his many wonderful collaborators like Bernard Hermann and Alex North.  Did you know that Saul Bass (another hero) actually conceived, storyboarded and directed the Psycho shower scenes?





Steve Jobs, one if my hundred heroes
Steve Jobs, one if my hundred heroes

Day 4 – Steve Jobs

Without Steve, where would I be?  Where would we all be?  I’ve been using a Mac since 1985 and went to one of the first MacWorld conventions.  I’m an Apple fanboy if there ever was one.  Thank you Steve for all you have done and continue to from somewhere…

I had some trouble with the eyes.  I also realized that I made Steve look a bit like Freddie Mercury (another hero!)





Being peace
Being peace

Day 5 – Thich Nhat Hanh

I was trying to sign up for an acting class in the early 1990’s with a famous teacher in NYC.  She had every prospective student come in and meet with her first and then gave us a required reading list.  I thought, “how weird and presumptuous!”  On this list were many books about self-growth, identity, new age stuff and The Miracle of Mindfulness by Thich Nhat Hanh.  This book changed my life and continues to blossom within me.  Years ago, my wife and I had the opportunity to go on a silent retreat with “Thay” (which is what we call him – it means teacher.)

By the way, I never took the acting class and can’t even remember her name.  I thank you wherever you are!


I’m a self taught artist so I know there are some technical issues in these drawings such as proportion and balance.  Anyway, it’s a daily practice and I think I’m getting better!

What practices do you do to keep your creative edge honed?  I’d love to know.  Share them in the comments below.

music process

Woman Parts and Composing a Fugue

The play that I wrote music for, actually variations on a theme in the public domain, opens this weekend.  It’s part of a night of two one acts by women, Sex & God by Linda McClean and Lamentations of the Pelvis by Sibyl O’Malley.  The production is by the award-winning and always interesting Son of Semele Ensemble in Los Angeles. Get tickets here.


Woman Parts Poster In working on the music which were all variations on the Coulters Candy theme, also known as Ally Bally Bee, the director Barbara Kallir was describing to me a need for some thicker more complex textures and perhaps an interweaving of melodies.

“Do you mean like a fugue?” I asked.


Definition of Fugue from onMusic dictionary.

form of composition popular in, but not restricted to, the Baroque era, in which a theme or subject is introduced by one voice, and is imitated by other voices in succession. Usually only the first few notes of the subject are imitated exactly, then each voice deviates slightly until the next time it enters again with the subject. Generally the voices overlap and weave in and out of each other forming a continuous, tapestry-like texture.


Whoa, I’ve never written a fugue I thought to myself.   Isn’t Bach only allowed to write that intricate stuff?



“Sure, a fugue.  I’ll get right on it Barbara.” I said half-jokingly.

Since the melody was already written and was a very simple jingle, perhaps I could do something like this.  It’s funny because I spent a few years composing jingles and music for advertising and now I was creating a musical score based on a jingle! The original song was to sell candy, but because it was so hummable and infectious, the melody has lasted for generations to the point that all Scottish elders know the tune.

So, I thought about it a little bit, doodled on the piano and guitar and then went to sleep.  I find that my best work comes from connecting to the source, the muse, the great GoogaMooga in the sky, a.k.a. God while I’m sleeping.

At 5 am on a Saturday I awoke, went to the computer and started writing out this fugue in Sibelius.  Now I don’t claim to come close to being Bach, but I thought it came out pretty good for a first fugue.

My composition teacher at Juilliard would probably have some things to say… Screenshot 2014-04-24 12.59.39


Download PDF Ally Bally Bee fugue sheet music






Here’s the final result.  I didn’t have time to record acoustically so these are actually generated right out of Sibelius 7.5 – a pretty nice upgrade from my previous version of 6.0.

music process

The Creator and the Editor

Creation and Process.

When creating anything of merit, there is a phase of wild creativity where all ideas are golden, thrashed about and recorded somewhere. After that time, comes the Editor’s time. This age-old process is proven to be the model. Rushing into the Editor role before having properly gathered all the fresh crops of creativity is guaranteed to give stale, clichéd and very un-inspired ideas- no matter the art or medium. It’s like a sculptor trying to perfect the rock’s details before she even knows what she’s creating.

With graphic design, you often end up with far more visual information than is necessary or desired to communicate the idea. Putting on the Editor’s hat allows you to whittle it back to the most efficient manner of telling the story. Music for film is the same way. How best to communicate the emotions of the storyline with the least amount of effort?

Seth says that over the last 27 years, every film that won for Best Picture also won for Best Editing.

Andrew Ingkavet is a composer with over 2 decades experience creating music for film, theater, advertising and new media.
music process

Writing 75 minutes of music score

Many of you know that I’ve been working like mad to finish a 75 minute score for theatrical production called Abandon opening next week at LaMama ETC. The piece is very multi-sensorial and was birthed from a collection of about 75 visual collages made by the writer/director/artist Matthew Maguire. Maguire is also the current head of the theater program at Fordham University at Lincoln Center here in New York and started his career in a very abstract style similar to Ping Chong, and Meredith Monk among others at La MaMa ETC. 6 actors interact with these living collages brought to life in video by Zbigniew Bzymek on 3 screens which form the back walls of the stage. And throughout is my music. It’s very dark, abstract, erotic and incorporating elements of butoh and modern dance and yet still tells the story of Helena, a woman with an intense fear of love and it’s consequences.

The process has been quite intense and exhausting and I’ll share some behind the scenes process in the next few days. I need to still finish the score. Here’s a sneak preview of a music cue

To purchase tickets click here

Andrew Ingkavet is a composer with over 2 decades experience creating music for film, theater, advertising and new media.

Tidelands and Germany

It has been a very full life lately. Just came back from a week in Germany 4 days in Frankfurt and 3 in Berlin. A great trip and got to meet some lovely folks including Terry Gilliam who was honored at the filmmaker’s festival where I too was presenting. We got to see Terry’s latest, “Tidelands” which, as a parent, I found very hard to watch. Jeff Bridges is pretty great as a junky father. The little girl, Jodelle Ferland as Jeliza-Rose is great. It really is like Alice in Wonderland meets Psycho.

Working hard on the score to “Abandon” which is opening on October 19 at LaMama ETC downtown New York City- (lower east side) The show must go on.

Andrew Ingkavet is a composer with over 2 decades experience creating music for film, theater, advertising and new media.
music process

Woody Allen on the 2 types of Film

Woody Allen interviewed on PRI’s Studio 360 with Kurt Anderson:

Sometimes I think to myself that there are 2 types of films. There’s the confrontational film that deals with life issues and existential issues and political issues. And there’s the kind of film that is escapist. And I always debate with myself – which one makes the better contribution? You would think off the top of your head that the confrontational films are superior to the escapist films. But the truth of the matter is, the real philosophical issues of life, you know religious issues, issues of mortality and issues of human suffering are never resolved in any of these movies. Because you can’t resovle them. So people just go and they commiserate masochistically and they come out of the theater moved in some way. Where with an escapist film, at least you give the audience a chance to get away from the horrors of reality for an hour and a half. It’s like going into air conditioning or something and just sitting down and watching Fred Astaire dance for an hour and a half. You come out at least refreshed. And then you can go on with your life a little bit. And so I’m not sure that escapist films and comic films are not more of a help in the long run. Even though the temptation is to always to think and to want to do more substantive things.”

Andrew Ingkavet is a composer with over 2 decades experience creating music for film, theater, advertising and new media.
music process

Trust your Creative Team

This is a great post about advertising creative which applies equally well to this world of filmmaking.

When you hire your team – trust them to do the job you’ve hired them to do regardless of whether they are a DP, or an Editor, a Production Designer or a Composer. 1+1+1 really does equal 58,000,000!

BART CLEVELAND: A creative team walks into the conference room with freshly mounted layouts underarm. They have worked untold hours to develop the ideas they now carefully share with others. Every detail has been examined and re-examined. There has been nothing left to chance. The work is superb. Their audience applauds with appreciation and admiration.

Then there is the “pause to reflect.”

A glimmer appears in one observer’s eye. Similar to telling a painter where he has missed a spot, the observer helps make a good idea better by adding that perfect little addition that causes good to become great. Then another glimmer appears in another observer’s eye. Well, I can’t go on because it’s just too gruesome.

Andrew Ingkavet is a composer with over 2 decades experience creating music for film, theater, advertising and new media.
music process

Your True Voice

Every artist spends a lifetime searching, discovering, refining and rediscovering their “voice.” Whether a painter, a novelist, a dancer, a singer or a composer. The artist, regardless of medium, expresses themselves in a certain way that after a few experiences of this artist’s work, is readily recognizable. It’s the artist’s “filter” on the way they perceive. Things come through them and are twisted and shaped and come out as a “Picasso”, a “Faulkner” or a “Beethoven.”

Recently, I took part in a great film scoring workshop. A bunch of us have put our work online so you can really see how no Composer approaches the same scene the same way. Take a look/listen.

Andrew Ingkavet is a composer with over 2 decades experience creating music for film, theater, advertising and new media.
music process

A Filmmaker’s Audio Team

Don’t let these guys do your film sound!

There seems to be not a lot of information given filmmakers in school or even in books regarding who can help with the audio side of film.

Before we do this there needs to be distinction between location audio and post- audio. These are very different jobs and usually different people as the equipment, disposition and skills are completley different. Location audio guys will have a mobile recording setup (either 2 track or multi-track) which nowadays can be on miniDisc, tape, CD, DAT, DVD, Hard Drive or a swappable media such as CompactFlash, SmartDisk, MemorySticks or something similar. Some of these units can hook into the camera or a digital slate for true professional recording with reference points for the later tedious and laborious process of logging all the footage and audio and syncing it. Location audio specialists will also have a number of special mikes including shotguns, lavalier (hopefully wireless) and boom poles and windscreens. This stuff is not cheap. The blimp windscreens alone are around $500! An industry standard Sennheiser shotgun mic is over $1000. And then headphones and perhaps a mobile battery-powered mixer for multi-mic recordings.

For post-production audio, your team can include one or all of the following:
– Music Supervisor – person with a vast encyclopedic knowledge of music who can suggest/find songs for use in film and then arrange the licensing agreements for those songs. The licensing part may actually be more work than the actual creative part especially with well known songs. Can also be the person to hire the Composer.

– Music Editor – person who edits the music to conform with the picture. may also add a temp score to the rough cut for use by the Composer.

– Composer – person who will write the music for the film. This person, depending on the deal, may also be responsible for contracting the musicians, conducting and recording the score. The greatest Composers can lift up, unite and emotional bind a story as music speaks quickest to the heart, leading the eye.

– Music Producer – a vague term in film, this person can be in charge of the music for the production. Can also be another name for the Music Supervisor or the person who brings all music elements into the production. For example, T. Bone Burnett was the Music Producer for the film “Walk The Line.” His job included finding the songs they would sing, teaching Reese Witherspoon and Joaquin Phoenix to sing believably, arranging the songs, contracting the musicians and booking a studio and supervising the production of the final recordings.

– Sound Designer – These people are unique in their ability to create and recreate sounds that create hyper-realism on screen. They often will mix in unexpected sounds to beef up the results. For example, in “Fight Club” the sounds of the punches were layers and layers of sounds of meat being punched, kicked and beat. It was so powerful, the director David Fincher asked for a version without the extra violent sounds to pass the review board for an R rating instead of an NC-17.

– Mix Engineer – This person is the one to bring all the final audio elements together into a cohesive experience. These disparate elements can be dialog, sound effects, music in final mixes, or music in stems, voiceovers and source sounds. They can do separate mixes for cinema, television, web, promos, and these can be in a combination of stereo or surround sound.

Andrew Ingkavet is a composer with over 2 decades experience creating music for film, theater, advertising and new media.
music process

Keeping Your Film’s Action Moving With Music

A great thing to keep in mind whether you are using a song or score with your film scene is to be mindful of closing cadences. A cadence is a musical term to describe an ending point. In classical era music you often hear a series of chords that set up the final resounding last chord. Pop songs also usually have clearly defined endings or fadeouts which signify the end.

If you want to keep propelling the dramatic action forward, edit your music so that it never ends on a finality. It stops the dramatic action and subconsciously closes the curtain. This may be useful for the end of Act 1 in your screenplay, and yet it also may stop the action too early.

Martin Scorsese is currently working on a film called “The Departed”, (a remake of a 2002 Hong Kong film entitled Infernal Affairs) and Howard Shore is scoring. According to Tim Starnes (one of Shore’s right hand men) Scorsese is very much attuned to the “curtain calls” in the music. Whether it’s song or score, he often edits the piece to start after the beginning and end in the middle.

If you are working with a Composer, you can bring this up in conversation early in the process.

One way Composers can avoid the “dramatic finality” is to avoid the use of the tonic (the root note) in the bass. As orchestrator Deniz Hughes likes to say, “putting the tonic in the bass is the dramatic equivalent of sitting in a chair. You’re not going anywhere. You’re static.”

Andrew Ingkavet is a composer with over 2 decades experience creating music for film, theater, advertising and new media.