A Score That's Not The Same...
Hi! It's me! Adam!
I was just driving home, listening to the Luke Cage soundtrack, and thought that I'd write a post about scoring our latest movie. Both because I'd like to make a log of what I was thinking during composition (because I'll surely forget my reasoning by the time we actually release the movie/music) and because now we're doing a monthly newsletter, so CONTENT BAYBEE!
Last summer (specifically July 2017, for all y'all lazy historians), we here at PMP filmed a feature over three straight days. I'll write more about this experience another time, or you can seek out the episodes of Tired Nighttime Anecdotes where I blather on endlessly in a successful attempt to bore my wife and our audience. Point is, I wouldn't recommend shooting a feature length film (our current run time is 125 minutes) over anything less than a week.
Anyhoozies, the inspiration for this flick came from Damian lending me the mumblecore movie Quiet City which led to questions about their shoot schedule which led to discussions about us trying to make our own mumblecore movie which led to us shortening our lifespans by making Not The Same. One of the things that I knew I wanted to do for NTS was compose the score, which I had done for our previous two features (Here For Scarlett, and The Reconnaissance of Josie Laurene). And because of the style of movie, I was going to do it all on piano.
Which I did. Problem is I suck on piano. Okay, I don't suck. But I'm nothing to write home about. Luckily TECHNOLOGY!
Here's another problem. As I'm writing this post I'm listening to the soundtrack to Spirited Away, which I just discovered last week (apologies for being late to the party, all you Hisaishi Heads), and it's SO GOOD that I'm mad at myself for evening contemplating composing a limerick, let alone a soundtrack. But OH WELL.
So here's the story of the music for Not The Same, with a little bit of movie story sprinkled in here and there:
In Not The Same there are eight characters, each with their own wants and needs, their own emotions relative to the main character, their own pants. (Nobody shared pants on our movie. I did lend out a hoodie, which you can see in the film and also here.) I wanted to make sure that each character and their wardrobe (kidding) got their own theme, but more importantly for me (because I'm a lofty narcissist), I wanted to compose something that could be it's own stand-alone product. Maybe in the future people will hear the music and be all "I like this. Oh wait, there's a movie too? That's cool." Also maybe in the future people and cats will have switched roles as to the dominant species on the planet. I personally would be super down with being a domestic house human.
Rambling too much. FOCUS, Adam.
The story in Not The Same is completely scripted and we put in a lot of work on each of the characters, but other than a few scenes all of the dialogue (or most of it, anyway) is improvised. Mumblecore, baybee. I wanted to have that same feeling for the music, so most of the pieces were improvised as I recorded them. Again, luckily TECHNOLOGY so I was able to make most things listenable and remove sour notes and whatnot. But there's no click track and no quantizing notes, so everything should hypothetically sound a little more real (considering it's all digital and the piano is a very fake program).
Here are the breakdowns to the themes for each character:
Movement A: This is all about Allie, the protagonist. The song starts off with melodic arpeggios on the left hand, joined by a simple melody from the right hand. As Allie delves into her own story, and complications arise, so does the music get more intense. The melody changes from a single note line to chords. Then, in the middle of the song, there's a quiet section, a moment of clarity as Allie discovers what she needs to do to complete her characters journey. Then, determined, the music begins to build in volume and tempo, until the final notes... which are left hanging, without a satisfying conclusion (because MYSTERY). This piece doubles as Allie's character arc, as well as the arc of the story.
Movement B: Blanca is an angrier character, who is also a classical pianist. So her theme, which has Allie's briefly wrapped through it (as does her life), is darker, more spirited, looking for a fight, and my (weak) attempt at writing something that's a little more classical. There are a lot of conflicting parts to the song, where the left and right hands are competing with each other, which is meant to represent Blanca's inner conflict. Yeah, that's right.
Movement C: Courtenay is a straight forward character who always speaks honestly, so her music is also fairly straight forward. There aren't a lot of complicated chord progressions, and there are only two distinct sections, one of which has Allie's theme in it, but unobtrusively as the character's relationship is fairly smooth.
Movement D: This one is a little jazzier, and very to the point. There isn't a lot of variation, because Dusty doesn't dick around. Dusty feels like Allie is never really honest, so Allie's theme doesn't play a major role in this piece, just flits in and out quickly. BLINK AND YOU'LL MISS IT. BUT, YOU KNOW, WITH YOUR HEARING EYES.
Movement E (Variations on The World's End): I wrote a song for Here For Scarlett called The World's End, named after the Edgar Wright movie (because Edgar Wright is never Edgar Wrong). At the time I'd had an actor/musician suddenly drop out of the project and it was a real devastating moment for me. I wrote The World's End that afternoon, because it felt like everything wasn't going to work out so why not be all musically sad and stuff? The song is featured in Here For Scarlett and again in The Reconnaissance of Josie Laurene (if you see both movies you'll get why). My friend Matt, who does a lot of our sound post production, hates the song because he's had to hear it so many goddamn times. So obviously I wanted to find a way to put it in this project too. (I'll keep y'all posted as to his feelings about it.) Thematically in Not The Same it connects well with Eddie's character on about three different levels (which I'm not going to get into, but you'll know 'em when you see 'em with your hearing eyes). Eddie has become immune to Allie's ways, so her theme is absent.
Movement F: We don't know a lot about Flip. She seems nice, she seems caring, she's definitely the youngest and most sensitive of the group. Because she's the most likely to give Allie an emotional response that Allie's not prepared or willing to embrace, Allie has pushed her away. So this piece is short and simple, and Allie theme is again absent.
Movement G: Grey is one of the more emotionally mature characters in the film. Her music has a few different sections, which are meant to show her depth of character. Erin, who plays Grey, came to set with the idea that Grey has always looked up to Allie (which is a great note), so Grey's music is front-loaded with a variation of Allie's theme, which then evolves as it grows into Grey's music.
Movement H: This fucker is long. As it's at the end of the flick, it brings back themes from the characters who mean the most to Allie. She, Blanca, and Courtenay are the closest so it intertwines their music together, and the music changes from simple lines to complicated chords as it goes on. The movement, echoing the entire score, starts simple and builds to something big utilizing different sections as it goes. Towards the end of the piece there's a section that's completely built on Chopsticks (you know Chopsticks, right? Everyone knows Chopsticks). The idea is that to get where she wants to go, Allie needs to take off all of her emotional armour and be as vulnerable as she was when she was younger. Chopsticks is usually one of the first things that kids'll learn on a piano, so it's the basis of the section of the song.
So that's that, then. I commend you if you've read this far. I also commend myself if in the future people are interested in the movie and the music and are linking to this post. Is linking still a thing, future people? Or do your cat masters not let you have internet access?
Love you, byeeeeeee!