This past summer, I had the rare privilege of working on an incredible short film about a hotel for weary time travelers. This was my first (and hopefully not last!) collaboration with the talented Christopher Miller, who crafted a charming, strange and utterly mesmerizing little fantasy film. These sorts of films are rare on such a small budget, and it came off beautifully! It is also probably the most fun I’ve had scoring any project, because I got to get not just thematic, but also a little weird.
One of the first ones I developed was based on the song Chris wrote to be sung as source music by our main character as he waits for his love to wake. The lyrics were of course phenomenal, but I actually ended up constructing the melody from the actor’s performance after the fact, who wasn’t actually a trained singer! It started with a soft accompaniment for that performance, then I decided “well, this would serve perfectly as the love theme throughout the score.” Just look at the lyrics he wrote!
When you wake we will go far away
To a place that we’ve never been
A house we will build on the top of a hill
Overlooking the forest and rivers.
Somewhere in time, somewhere away from this place
Where nothing ever changes.
Beautiful, isn’t it?
After I helped the melody along a little, I started using it in the incidental score as the love theme, which turned out even better than I expected it would. The best use of it was at the end, when the conflict is resolved and the lovers are reunited.
Zeb and Eala
It ended up with a LOTR vibe that really jived well with the style. And even better, I got to bring back my talented mother to record the song officially for the end credits! This ended up being particularly special for both Christopher and myself, as he lost his own mom not too far back and dedicated the film to her. Since my own covered the song he wrote in her honor, this whole project felt intensely personal. Moments like these are why I write music in the first place.
A Place We’ve Never Been
Another theme I’m particularly proud of is the Time theme. This doesn’t really represent any one character, but rather the mystical aether that various characters (mostly Zebulon) reach out to. It first appears with the arrival of a time traveller, Isonah, establishing what a wondrous place this hotel is.
A Traveller Arrives
Every time the Time theme is stated, it is done with very exotic instruments: Yayli Tanbur, some synth and at the forefront: an Erhu. This was recorded live, usually by the talented Michael Fitzmaurice (my old Erhu teacher) and sometimes by me! I absolutely fell in love with the sound of this instrument ever since I first heard it in Bear’s Battlestar Galactica soundtrack. There, it represented Kara Thrace’s “Destiny” theme. It also made an appearance in the 2009 Star Trek reboot for Spock’s theme. In both cases, the instrument lends itself well to an exotic and spiritual sound, which fit the idea of navigating time with old sextants and crystal balls perfectly.
There are a couple of minor themes in here as well. King Clement’s theme starts out as a brief and very processed Trumpet fanfare that then morphs into a low, harsh and relentless synth bass melody, usually accompanied by low male choir.
There were also a couple of opportunities to go completely nuts. The best one was when the evil Clement, Zebulon’s father, mercilessly tortures Zeb just to see if he does, in fact, have powers that will make him rich. The Erhu returns, but it is all over the place, scrambling to find some semblance of control and peace that will not be found due to Clement and his sadistic minstrel, Yovar.
And finally, the cue I took the biggest risk on: Onion’s Theme. Onion is not just Zebulon’s friend and mentor, he’s also boisterous and jolly. He holds nothing back and has such a zest for life that I couldn’t help but bring the strings, Dulcimer and even a Horn in to make sure the score had just as much energy as he did. To my utter and relieved surprise, the director liked it!
I sincerely hope I get a chance to work with Christopher Miller again. When it is so easy to recycle to the point of being generic, Chris has already found his voice and is creating unique and wonderful projects. But either way, his future is bright! I’m just glad I was a part of it.
The album is now available on the “Albums” page, as well as my Bandcamp. It also features some concept art from Christopher’s wonderfully talented wife, Bethany Miller. Have a look!
And now, onto the next adventure! Till next time.
PS: The Director was so appreciative that he sent me this wonderful Vynal copy of Raiders of the Lost Ark. Easily the best thank you gift I have ever recieved from a director. I look forward to many more collaborations with this awesome dude!