Brian LaGuardia - Composer/Conductor/Arranger

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The Partitioned

by Brian 0 Comments

Last summer, I had the opportunity to work on an incredibly ambitious, dramatic sci-fi webseries, The Partitioned. Set in a dystopian future, The Partitioned is more a character study than anything else, even though it has heaping helpings of action. As such, I jumped for joy. How often do you, as a composer, get to write character themes these days?

I wrote a few themes that served the story well, but easily my favorite is Eeli’s Theme. When I first saw the episode where she was introduced, she struck me as so out of place from the grungy, oppressive tone of the show. Sure, we notice almost right away that she knows how to defend herself, but there is an innocence and untouched beauty that one did not expect. It almost felt like a fantasy for a brief moment, rather than dark, gritty science fiction. As a result, I tried to get away from the shows typical musical identity of gritty marcato strings, found percussion and Omnisphere, and instead introduced her character and theme with a solo flute. It worked better than I hoped for and I fell for the melody so hard that I later developed it into a full theme, complete with a B section:

I can’t tell you how much fun it was to work on this amazing show. We all grew together as artists. I definitely learned a lot about what to do (and not to do!) in a way that Film Scoring school, useful as it was, couldn’t prepare me for. It also helped me to find ways of being creative on a tight deadline, especially when a large body of music was needed. I am looking forward to working on season 2, because it is only getting better and better.

In the meantime, feel free to check out the show. It’s entirely free to watch on youtube!

What Would Beethoven Do?

by Brian

One of the projects I am most proud of being a part of is What Would Beethoven Do? This groundbreaking documentary explores the most important issues classical music and musicians face in the modern world. And it does so with style.

What Would Beethoven Do? | New Documentary Teaser from What Would Beethoven Do on Vimeo.

I have long believed that classical music is for everyone; it’s just that there are certain obstacles for the layman that prevent them from devoting any kind of interest or attention. And who could blame them? One of the biggest ones is the snooty, exclusionary attitude many in the professional classical world tend to exude. This film tackles that issue head-on and explores how professional musicians, conductors, composers and teachers can make classical music fun and inclusive. Why not be excited to share its wonders?

Another obstacle is the tendency for professional musicians to be preservationist about classical music. While this attitude is a bit more understandable, it is ultimately counterintuitive to what that music was all about. At the time it was written, it was pushing the boundaries of music and moving the entire craft forward. Yet when modern composers do the same, such as Dinuk when he writes classical/Hip Hop fusion, it is treated with contempt. If orchestras were a bit more open to programming new works that move forward in the same spirit as Beethoven or Mahler, then perhaps more people would be interested, and classical music wouldn’t be such a long-haired pursuit. Indeed, many composers adapted folk tunes and “popular” music of the time into their compositions. Why is the same practice now frowned upon in classical circles?

Ultimately, this film is about how amazing and accessible classical music can be, and how we as professional musicians can ensure its survival. But it is also for people who want to learn more about classical music, and it does exactly what should be done: welcome those people into the fold. This is an incredibly important documentary, and I am very proud to have been a part of it.

By the way, should you be in the LA area on June 4th, there is an LA premiere scheduled to take place. You can find the information below. Hope to see you there!

The Beginning

by Brian

2015 was a fantastic year, and a busy one to boot (hence the delay in my blog posts). I found a job in the music industry right out of graduate studies, which is really quite fortunate.

What was also fortunate was that I had the privilege of collaborating with fantastic directors such as Robert McDermott. This is a director that recognizes not only how powerful a score can be in a film, but also that resources can and should be devoted to music. Instead of flatly telling me there was no budget and that I would have to do it all on the computer (which very rarely sounds as good as having live players), he instead told me that he wanted whatever was best for the picture, and that we would figure out the finances later. This is precisely the kind of relationship you want with a director, and I was thrilled to hear this from my friend.

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The script went through several interesting revisions. The version he ended up with was one that I was pretty excited about, simply because it gave me the most room to do some big musical things. We ended up hiring fifteen live players, which is a blockbuster score for a USC student film. The soloists were absolutely fantastic, and I couldn’t have asked for better performances. You can find the final cue below.

The Banner Saga 2

by Brian

I had the most extraordinary opportunity this past week to witness the recording of The Banner Saga 2! I helped to copy the parts for the musicians, and Austin Wintory, the composer, was kind enough to invite me to my home town of Denver for the big event!

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Austin Wintory leads The Colorado Symphony at Boettcher Concert Hall. And yes, that is a Thunder Sheet the height of two men.

Austin was a great host. He put up with my fanboishness and went out of his way to make sure I got the most out of the experience. It was another example I personally experienced of a successful composer who is just the epitome of class and simply wants the best for his or her less experienced colleagues. It meant so much to me that he was willing to take valuable time away from his insane schedule to answer questions and admonish me with orchestration pointers and career tips. I also got to meet the developers of the game, who were similarly awesome people.

The score itself was very similar to the original…but of course it throws new elements into the mix as well. I personally found it more epic, but that’s probably just because I was hearing it live in a fantastic concert hall, where the percussion sounds like doom itself and the brass so vividly belting out the strained fanfares of the desperately heroic.

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Be vewry quiet.

I can’t stress enough how amazing it was to be around such positivity. Such a thing doesn’t always exist in the professional world, but this team of artists, programmers and musicians stand as a shining example of vitality and non-snobbery. It was a career-affirming experience that I absolutely treasure.

I made a post about the original Banner Saga game way over here, and at that point I never imagined I would actually be a part of the process for the second game. But long story short: you should check it out…especially if you are a fan of Vikings, turn-based strategy or fantasy stories with awesome characters.