JD Moser, or just “Jay”, is a freelance composer from Regina, Canada. He specializes in video game composition and takes heavy influence from Grant Kirkhope and David Wise, two of the biggest names in video game scoring. Bear and Bird is Jays homage to these composing giants. It is a short, 6 track album developed between the years 2011 and 2013 and can be found on Soundcloud. It was created as a sort of “fantasy” soundtrack for a non-existent game in the Banjo-Kazooie series, where each track represents a different level theme in this non-existent game. Through an analysis I will attempt to review this work not only on it’s musical content but it’s ability to fit with the works it is attempting to emulate.
The music itself, much like the works of JD’s inspirations is derived from jazz. Specifically the “Jump” Piano style of Boogie-Woogie Jazz for it’s rhythm. This gives the tracks a “bouncy” feel, that is extremely fitting for the platformer genre. The rhythm makes you feel the pace as you bounce around the levels and even though Bear and Bird doesn’t have a game to lend itself too you can definitely agree that it would fit straight into the genre.
Being written for a platform-adventure game, the tracks are intended to be listened to for long periods of time. This is where the melody comes in to save us from the rhythm. JD uses lots of high-frequency instruments such as flutes, saxophones and xylophones to make the melodies stand out. To keep things even more interesting JD will “reverse” the instrumentation on the melody and rhythm sections to add even more variety. For example he will switch the flute with tuba to add a sense that the music is “dragging” instead of “bouncing” which causes a dramatic shift in the musics dynamics.
Along with being musically accurate to the works he is trying to emulate JD even uses humorous naming conventions and puns in his song titles. In Banjo Kazooie the theme and name for the snow level is Freezezy peak which humorously tells you that the peak is so cold that it “freezes easily”. JD uses the title “Inca-Venient Trail” to let you know that the song will be for a Mayan themed level and that the path will be “Inconvenient”.
Lastly, as a little spice on top of everything, like those he inspires to be JD uses sound design within his music to truly give a sense of location and theme. For example the howling wind and screeching carrion in “Endervale Range” really give you a sense that your approaching a wide open canyon.
Considering all the individual components that make up these tracks and the creators intent for them to be used as a video game soundtrack, I would conclude that he has succeeded. He has emulated the original composers styles perfectly whilst using his own creativity to apply the styles to several new themes. If you love the music found in Banjo-Kazooie and want more of the same then I would definitely recommend giving JD Mosers works a listen, particularly Bear and Bird.
Below I have curated a playlist on Soundcloud which contains a range of artists and works that I draw inspiration from. Some of them are amateurs like myself that are producing work that I can actively participate in the development of and some are established professionals.
I chose mainly video game music as it has the most impact on me as a composer and I particularly favor the works of composers who include a great deal of sound design in their works to really paint a theme. For example the chirping crickets in “Krikit Kingdom” by J.D. Moser really set the stage for you while you’re listening.
I have separated my influences into a few different categories, orchestral remixs, Triple A originals and amateur originals.
This week I was asked to study the trends of the 80’s, 90’s and 2000’s and make some predictions about the future. After talking it over with myself internally and with my peers, I came up with a small vision of the future involving Virtual Reality(VR), Augmented Reality(AR) and Live Video streaming. This picture of the future that I’m going to try and paint for you involves some changes to one of the fundamentals of human development; Education.
The change is happening now, more and more people are using live streaming/online video resources to teach themselves. Websites like Lynda and Udemy allow people to teach themselves by giving them access to large video databases filled with tutorials. Places like TwitchTV and other Live Streaming networks allow people to teach others in a classroom environment, having a chat feature attached to a live stream allows viewers to ask questions just as one would in a real classroom. Although this is all very impressive, I see it as just a tiny scratch on the surface of possibility. I believe the introduction of VR/AR will be the next step in improving these services.
A study by Interactive 3D solutions has reported that using Virtual Reality as a teaching tool can increase attention levels by 92% and raise test scores by 35%(C. Crannel, 2015, Available from URL: http://www.eonreality.com/education/). Although these numbers may not be 100% accurate, it seems as though there would be an increase in focus simply due to the degree of immersion that Virtual Reality encompasses. Imagine being in a virtual classroom where all you can absorb is the information the teacher wants you to adsorb.
Not only is the future looking good for VR/AR in the education department, I have found through some of my research that advertising companies and car manufacturers are using it to promote their products. In this video you can see how easy it is for the salesman to showoff the cars feature through Augmented Reality.
In the beginning I really only considered VR/AR for what it was most associated with; Video Games. Now after reading into it a little more and doing some research I believe that the possibilities of VR/AR are ever-expanding and I look forward to the future of the product and hopefully have the chance to work on some content myself.
(The Simpsons, 1999, Virtual Reality in schools)
My media use and identity has changed a lot over the years, if you asked me 5 years ago what media I consumed the most I would have answered “Video Games!” without even pausing but as I’ve grown I’ve become… for lack of a better expression; lazier. In that I prefer to watch rather than engage my brain and play.
At the moment my biggest media consumption are YouTube and Twitch. I love the way they allow people to show their audience something in a completely personal way. I also love how anybody with a recording device can create something and put it out there and then someone like me can find it and take something away from it.
This is the main function of YouTube, however Twitch takes this to the next level by allowing these recordings to be broadcast live so that I and literally thousands of other people can interact with it while it’s happening.
Personally this helps me as a composer as it allows me to take inspiration and direction from many different people from many different walks of life. For example I follow Daniel James who has composed numerous soundtracks for triple AAA video games. He uses his twitch channel to teach others about his approach to film and game scoring.
A link to his stream: http://www.twitch.tv/hybridtwo/profile
I didn’t realize until recently that I’m not the only one who thinks Twitch is a great Media Platform, Eric Blattberg from Digiday.com called it a “sleeping giant” back in March of 2015 although by then it had already gathered enough peak global internet traffic to surpass that of Facebook (according to a statistic from the wall street journal published in this article: http://www.theverge.com/2014/2/10/5390620/twitch-one-million-broadcasters-biggest-web-traffic).
Looking to the future I might have to create my own channels on Twitch and YouTube so I can get myself even further out into the cloud and start interacting with my peers not only socially, but creatively through publications of my own work.
When I think about media and my own personal passion, one thing comes to mind every time: Sound.
I’m a lover of all things audio and I love the way composers and sound designers weave their magic through other forms of media and enhance the entire experience. More specifically I’m excited by the recent compositional styles that have been emerging in the last 10 years. It’s this idea of the epic film score now being escalated even further by mixing the traditional full orchestra with the rock band. Not only do you have the strings, the trumpets and the drums of war but now they’re being accompanied by an overdriven guitar and a double kick.
Mad Max Fury Road had a score that was absolutely packed with this stuff, the composer Tom Holkenborg knows exactly when to turn up the volume and when to let the sounds take the back seat. This is another aspect of scoring that I’m interested in, I love the way a good score builds the tension and then releases at all the right moments; it’s just bliss.
Gary Ewer of secrets of songwriting says “the moment of unrest is done in such a way that you can sense the resolution coming. It’s that predicting of resolution that keeps listeners hooked”: http://www.secretsofsongwriting.com/2012/04/11/5-songwriting-ideas-that-create-tension-release/
Films aren’t the only media that are scored in this way, video games have a need to build and release tension aswell.
Blinded by Light was written by Masashi Hamauzu and as a part of the entire Final Fantasy series the soundtracks are regarded to be among the best video game soundtracks of all time(According to FactMag, Forbes, ClashMusic and Gamasutras top lists).
It’s this whole idea of sound with context that I really love. I hope along my journey to become a Composer I can capture what these Giants before me have captured and use this exciting approach to composition to really breathe life into whatever Film, Game or Animation I’m working on at the time.