rebeccaetripp

Following the delightful events of a young, flower-obsessed Kee…

Month: July, 2013

July 22, 2013: Final Fantasy Battle Medley

Do you know what makes me feel, strong, brave, energetic and unstoppable without fail?  Destroying goblins and end bosses in Final Fantasy with powerful magic, gambits, genji weapons and huge, shiny materia!  Final Fantasy has been giving me endless supplies of joy since I first played it, when I was 12; the music is a massive part of the reason why.

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As a composer, I’ve fooled around with many video game songs on the piano, keyboard, harp, flute and recorder while trying to come up with my own melodies; I often return to my favorite video game soundtracks for inspiration.  I have composed/arranged several remixes, cover songs, tributes and medleys as a result of playing around with these video game themes.  The most recent one is “Final Fantasy Epic Orchestral Battle Medley” (you can link to it here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tSO4M64oS8Y) which combines 16 classic FF battle themes from games 1-10.

Most of my work (including my remixes) is slow, melodic, dreamy and peaceful- and this is usually how I like it- however, with the battle medley, I aimed to do the exact opposite.  If you are a Final Fantasy fan reading this, you are likely well aware of Nobuo Uematsu’s achievements, not the least of which are his varied battle themes, which have a distinctly exciting and, for lack of a better word, bad-ass quality about them.  This was something I wanted to capture and isolate in this medley, just to challenge myself a little.

Us musicians are sometimes worried that the intricacies of our work will go unnoticed- the flourishes, the accents, the added and varied harmonies, the key changes and the delicately equalized volume are among many of the things that take time and painstaking effort- which is why I wanted to share some of details about the work that went into this particular song.

Often my songs include parts for over 40 instruments.  In this one, I used full string and brass ensembles, two different organs, a piano, an electronic square wave and bass guitar, a timpani, snares and a tambourine as well a vast array of electronic percussion instruments.  I write all the parts in a midi program (the midi functions as a rough draft for what the song will be when it’s recorded) and I use a VST plugin with samples of real instruments for the finished piece.  With some of the programs I use, I have to record every instrument separately, in order to line them up, mix and equalize them and add effects to individual parts.  If I didn’t do this, I would not be able to control the volume properly, and my songs could end up with overly loud percussion, drowned out melodies, underwhelming bass, improperly blended harmonies and many other interesting little problems.  It took me over sixteen hours to complete the battle medley, not including the time it took for me to record it or put together a video to accompany it.

The order of the themes I included in my battle medley was one of the things I put the most thought into.  I had to make sure that they all bridged together smoothly, or at least in an interesting way, which is one of the most challenging aspects to composing, whether one is arranging their own work or the work of another.  I had to make many alterations to the keys, time signatures and percussion, striving to maintain uniqueness as well and consistency throughout the composition.  There are several “tricks” I have learned, primarily from classical and psychedelic music, that help me to accomplish this.  One method is to create a continuous instrumental that can function as a foundation.  I did this with the bass guitar sections.  Uematsu’s bass lines are fairly versatile and easy to knit together, along with the percussion sections.  Using the same sets of instruments as “glue” between melodies was very useful in this project.  I composed several harp arpeggios that would “sweep” one movement into another.  I also did this with clashing cymbals that would “count down” the beats on the last measure in a movement so that the listener’s ears would anticipate a change.  There are many other such techniques that composers must employ in order to make their music flow smoothly.  Ironically, this effort usually doesn’t get noticed unless it’s done improperly, since the song can then listened to as a whole.  A musical composition is much like a painting: if there is an glaring inconsistency, it stands out to one’s eyes and sometimes detracts from the things around it.  The same is often true of abrupt musical changes.

There are many battle songs from Final Fantasy that I feel deserved to be in this medley that I did not include, for instance, I did not include anything from Final Fantasy 9, even though I adore the game as well as its soundtrack.  I wanted to include every popular battle melody, but the song was already more than thirteen minutes long, even after I trimmed it down.  I’ll probably do another battle medley in the future in order to finish what I started!

-Kee

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Moment of Clarity

ImagePainting by Adam Scott Miller

I just had this beautiful moment of clarity.  Thinking about time, and how art passes through many phases of development, I reflected upon the meaning of inspiration.  I was looking through some pictures I had gathered to inspire me for my book, when I noticed that there was a photo among them that seemed significant.  It was a little squirrel, red and beautiful, sitting in the grass.  When I noticed this one particular picture, I took some time to think about the fact that I had never, in my memory, painted a red squirrel, or written about one.  Now, I have many pictures saved on my hard drive that depict things that I’ve never incorporated into any of my creative work.  However, this piece of art seemed to jump out at me.  I realized then that nothing we create is truly without meaning.

This reverie led me to many other thoughts, which prompted one question after another.  What if all forms of expression- art, music, dance, literature and even the sciences- are iterations of a more complex and perfect form of art that pulses at the center of every creative thought?  What if we are all painting the same thing, over and over again, each time in a different way?  What if there is a greater purpose to what we create than we know?  What if every time we try to communicate through our work, we are communicating or sending a much deeper message to other human beings that we ourselves are not even aware of.

As a species, in the pursuit of knowledge, self improvement and clarity, we have been seeking the perfect pattern for ages.  There are well established, well defined symbols and alphabets, musical scales, mathematical and numerical systems and artistic techniques present in every single culture worldwide.  I think this suggests that, perhaps, as human beings, we crave wisdom and understanding as much or maybe even more than we crave power, wealth or intimacy, and that we are striving to define these patterns through art (and every other human invention) without everyone being fully conscious of it.

I have focused on this subject before; it has been the topic of many discussions involving language, education, psychology, religion and philosophy.  I think it is likely that many others have thought about this and, perhaps, are even thinking about it right at this moment; that thought excites me!  The thought of being connected to other human beings on this planet is desirable because it brings me closer to one of my truest and most intense desires: that one day I will be connected to every human being on this planet.  This notion indirectly describes to the receptive portions of our imaginative minds, a world in which peace and tolerance have been achieved.  In this world, we can put our differences aside and the deeper, more universal similarities between us can be properly understood.

I believe art is one of the predominate vehicles that can and will carry us closer to that hypothetical future.  Art is one of the spheres in our society that consistently invites and celebrates differences and new ideas, while adapting, rather than discarding or alienating old ones.  The wheel of creation and inspiration is ever turning, and we have barely begun to discover the world that we are making!

-Kee

July 7, 2013: Seagulls Are So Adorable

I have a penchant for seagulls…Image

Some understand it and some do not.  Many people who love me have taken me to Granville Island to feed them.  The way I love seagulls is best communicated in this video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BGSMVaiGulQ

…Anyway…  I just thought I’d share with you my love of the gulls.  I can do a fairly flawless seagull call, which I will eventually put on the internet to show everyone.  Watch the video if you get the chance.  I would think it would be best if everyone loved them as I love them.

-Kee