One song: childlike innocence or uncomfortable irony?

February 16th, 2011

Here’s two clips that use the same track (“After School Crush”)  in similar contexts but to achieve different storytelling goals. The first is a trailer for a Dutch film called Briefgeheim (Secret Letter), a story about 11-year-old Eva who because of  family tensions at home runs away to live  in her best friend’s attic. The beginning of the trailer shows her playing with friends and is happy, sunny, and innocent.  The track’s simple childlike melody on bells and glockenspiel accompanied by acoustic guitar, mandolin, piano, organ, and light percussion underscore the mood.


The second clip is by comedy duo Tim and Eric for HBO presents: Funny or Die.  This time the track is used ironically to underscore a dysfunctional relationship between step dad and son.  In this context the track’s innocence is tongue-in-cheek and comes off as totally over-the-top. By trying to pull heartstrings it makes the whole thing even more hilariously uncomfortable. (The track is used as a bookends to start and end the segment so the middle is edited out.)


Conan can’t get comfortable on Latin lounge!

January 20th, 2011

Conan TBS promo uses a Latin lounge track of mine called “Calor Del Amor”  which is inspired by the work of the great Juan Garcia Esquivel (1936-2002).  In the 50′s-60′s, this talented Mexican composer, pianist, and arranger pioneered a blend of instrumental jazz/latin/big band/pop currently know as “Lounge Music”, or more colorfully “Space Age Bachelor Pad Music”. Esquivel’s use of unusual instruments (slide guitars, chinese bells, Mariachi trumpets,etc.) and wordless vocals (“zu-zu”, “pow!” etc.) was wholly original. His arrangements of American, Mexican, Cuban, and Brazilian pop standards take the listener on a ride of acrobatic piano playing (by the maestro himself), ingenious orchestrations, and extreme (at times surprising) dynamic changes. The amount of creative energy in each track is astounding.

His use of stereo recording techniques is also legendary. On the album Latin-Esque (1962) he set up two bands in separate studios for maximum stereo separation and simultaneously  conducted them using closed circuit TV!  Apart from his work in the studio and with his touring band he wrote much music for T.V.  (“McHales Navy”, “Kojak”). His recordings have also been in movies such as “The Big Lebowski” and “Beavis and Butthead Do America”.  Check out his work, you’ll find it’s impossible to listen to it without smiling.


Simpsons promo street art goes hyper-speed

December 3rd, 2010

Music has interesting temporal perception properties.  Our sense of time and the speed at which we feel time is moving can vary depending on what we are listening to.  Manipulation of tempo and pitch can be ways of controlling those perceptions on the listener.

An interesting production tequnique is to record something at a certain sample rate (the speed at which audio is captured digitally) and then to play back at a faster rate thus speeding up the tempo of the music as well as raising the pitch.   Building on that, sometimes it can be cool to lower the pitch during the recording so that when the faster sample rate is implemented the sound is at the pitch originally intended. For example: Lowering a sound by one octave and recording it at a certain sample rate and then playing that recording back at twice that rate will get the sound back to the original octave.

So why do it? Well, eventhought the pitch is the same all of the performance nuances also get sped up also and thus create a feeling of sped up hyper-twichiness which can be perfect for certain types of  footage and editing styles. It also affects timbre is a way that makes the music and instruments have a “wound up tight” quality that can comical.

Check out this Simpsons promo by PR!MO. The video can be found at ( that uses time lapse and editing to speed up the graffiti job. The track, which implements the techniques mentioned above, fits perfectly:

Check out this Simpsons promo by PR!MO ( that uses time lapse and editing to speed up the graffiti job. The track, which implements the techniques mentioned above, fits perfectly:


Another example is this Cartoon Network Robot Chicken spot:


Carlos Montoya flavored Flamenco track sets scene for “sex-spionage” in J.J. Abrams’ new NBC series Undercovers.

October 15th, 2010

Undercovers is J.J. Abrams’ latest spy drama about a husband and wife who come out of retirement to rejoin the CIA.  The first episode premiered on NBC and features a Spanish/Mediteranean Flamenco track I wrote that sets the mood at the wedding reception that the couple crash. The female herione utilizes some risque techniques to grab the cell phone of an alleged gun trafficker.  Nylon string acoustic, percussion, claps push the scene forward while maintaining the festive and exotic atmosphere.  Thanks to Ashton and Devon of Rock Salt Songwriters for working this placement.


Early 1900′s era bluegrass/country/swing gets a Hip-Hop treatment

August 10th, 2010

“Remix America Megamix” expands on the production techniques discussed in the Peaceful Day June 24th post by further  processing and morphing various acoustic instruments to created material for a new piece. The original tracks were recorded/produced by composer Chris Hanson for VideoHelper’s ScoreHelper series.  These early 1900′s era bluegrass/country/swing style recordings include guitars, fiddle, harmonica, and clarinet parts that offer lots of possibilities for re-mixing/re-contextualizing.

The instruments were processed/combined/morphed/edited and then individual phrases/riffs were cut up and loaded onto a software sampler. Parts were programmed against a mid-tempo Hip-Hop instrumental track.  Right at the top of the piece you can hear an example of the processing/morphing of guitar and fiddle. Another example can be heard at :32 where a phrase starts as a clarinet and ends with a harmonica.


It’s great to hear the music when it’s set to picture by a talented filmmaker/editor. Alex Luster (, aka PR!MO, a documentary filmmaker, Promax/BDA & Emmy award winning television producer based in Houston, Texas used this track in a short film he made called “Hope Mural”. It’s about Texas area street artists painting a 15′ Obama mural designed by Shepard Fairey (ObeyGiant).


Here’s another short film by Alex called “Graffiti Proposal” that uses a track of mine called “Love Letter For You”.



Thanks Alex and great work.

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