Brian LaGuardia Composer, Orchestrator, Arranger Tue, 30 May 2023 22:29:55 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Brian LaGuardia 32 32 FMF Young Talent Award 2023 Tue, 30 May 2023 21:43:06 +0000 Continue readingFMF Young Talent Award 2023]]>
The recording session at the Panderecki Music Center

I had the great honor of being selected as a finalist for the Film Music Festival’s Young Talent Award this year in Krakow. Among the list of benefits for this is an invite to the city for one week of master classes, recording sessions and concerts, as well as catering and partial accomodations!

Unfortuantely it did not include a plane ticket, and since the event was less than two months away at the time I discovered I was a finalist, it wasn’t cheap either. So I decided, for the first time in my life, to start up a GoFundMe to cover the cost. To my great surprise and joy, it was fully funded within 3 hours of posting, and ended up so far beyond the goal that I ended it five days early! The video for that is below, which includes the submission that got me selected:

While it covered my plane ticket and then some, it still wasn’t quite enough to cover a hotel room. And since my lodging was taken care of for the first 3 days, the other 3 I booked a hostel and fell so in love with the experience that I’m going to try and do more international travel!

Among the incredibly exciting things about being selected was that the masterclasses largely involved scoring a scene from a short film, and interacting directly with the directors of that film. This is so invaluable because it is easily the most difficult part of the process to get experience with if you don’t have it already, or don’t get it on a regular basis. The skillset of fast writing, mockups, getting notes and communicating with directors are all equally as important as any musical or technical skill, and it was great to finally dip my toes into that pond again.

Scenes from Short Films during our Mixing Session

Another extremely exciting part of the whole experience was the calibour of our instructors and especially our recording and mix engineer. That man was Nick Woolage. His IMDB is insane, and I encourage you to check it out, but sufficed to say he is a legend that works on top tier stuff and is a very humble, hardworking guy. It was amazing to work with him!

Nick Woolage

Miriam Cutler was the composer instructor, who always had great insight into what has made her so successful. In addition, I really appreciated the inclusion of the composer agent George Christopoulous. His guidance was so useful! Too often, we don’t get advice from people who are in a position to actually GIVE good avice. What better source is there than someone who facilitates the relationship between the composer and director? He also gave us a wonderful list of must-see films to help connect with directors in their language, and more.

Miriam Cutler and George Christopoulous

We also had access to the Panderecki Arboretum, which was a nice little decompresison. It featured acres and acres of impressively manicured plants and even a hedge maze! Apparently, the beloved Polish composer was a big believer in “getting lost” in order to find your way again, both compositionally and in life.

The Panderecki Arboretum

And of course, the Film Music Festival itself was a unique and fantastic experience! Here I found a lot of bold and much-needed concert practices that I wish were more common – mainly, the use of synth alongside acoustic instruments and instruments other than the standard orchestral variety (such as the Duduk). It is a celebration I hope I will be able to attend regularly!

Film Music Festival Concert

It was also wonderful getting to know all of the other finalists and directors. One of the finalists was even an assistant to Lorne Balfe. There was so much talent around me that it was hard to fathom!

FMF Young Talent Award Finalists, 2023

In short, I made a lot of friends and learned a lot. I hope I get to cross paths with these inspiring, talented people again someday!

Rateliff plays Nilsson Sun, 05 Mar 2023 00:39:50 +0000 Continue readingRateliff plays Nilsson]]>

A lot of this blog is focused on my arranging career, largely because my composition projects are still tied up in NDAs. However, it is important to understand that, for many composers, arranging is not only an important skill to have in your toolbox; it is also an excellent way to diversify your professional opportunities.

For those of you unfamiliar with what an Arranger does, they basically translate a song, track or theme from one instrumentation to another. That’s a very basic definition and does Arrangers a bit of a disservice, though sometimes it is just that simple. Usually, though, an Arranger is tasked with making the chart not just idiomatic for the new instruments, but also fresh and unique, adding something that the previous version couldn’t actually accomplish in this new context. The transformation can be minor or major, depending on the wishes of whoever happens to be hiring you.

I have worked with the Colorado Symphony for many years now as an arranger for hire, and every time it is a special experience. I’ve written orchestral accompaniment for Jazz Bands, Rock Bands, Vocalists, Orators and even dance numbers! I’ve also arranged plenty of video game and film scores. It really keeps me eclectic, to say nothing of how incredible it is for maintaining my orchestration chops.

A Fool In Love
The Prayer
The Banner Saga

Many modern composers get their training and education solely in a DAW, and therefore are prone to all kinds of horrifying missteps when prompted to write for live acoustic ensembles. Thankfully, growing up in an orchestra has helped me avert some of those pitfalls, the grand list of which would be a good topic for another blog post or youtube video someday.

This particular occasion had myself (and a couple of old colleagues from Los Angeles) arrange charts for the Rateliff plays Nilsson concert for a small orchestra (only 3 horns, 6 winds and strings). It was a fun little exercise, and my excitement only grew when I realized that the show would be repeated in New York and Los Angeles! At the time of this writing, you have probably missed your opportunity for the Denver show, but links to the others are below.

Nathaniel Rateliff plays Nilsson – Colorado Symphony

Boettcher Concert Hall, Denver, CO

March 4th, 2023 7:30PM

Click here for details!

Nathaniel Rateliff Plays Nilsson – LA Philharmonic

Walt Disney Concert Hall, Los Angeles, CA

March 8th, 2023 8:00 PM

Click here for details!

A Little Touch of Rateliff

Wu Tsai Theater, David Geffen Hall, New York, NY

April 1st, 2023 7:30PM

Click here for details!

Stan LePard GDC Scholarship Tue, 24 Jan 2023 05:52:41 +0000 Continue readingStan LePard GDC Scholarship]]>

Yesterday I received the stunning news that I was one of the five candidates annually selected for the Stan LePard GDC Scholarship! This is an honor for several reasons, and in particular is kind of mind-boggling since I had only applied once before (last year) and also was resolved to attend GDC for the first time this year regardless.

First, I’d like to talk about Stan LePard. I confess I hadn’t heard of this guy until I applied for this last year, and the first thing I did was to look up his music on youtube. To my delight, his music was incredible. Check out Crimson Skies, an orchestral adventure score that John Williams himself would have been proud to put his name on!

I also learned that, like a true collaborator, he ended up helping out on such titles as Halo 3, Destiny and Guild Wars 2 in support roles. And by all accounts, he was a sweetheart of a guy who always had time to help newcomers and veterans alike. It is my hope that I bring that same spirit of camaraderie and warmth with me for my first GDC, as a way to honor his memory. He serves as a shining example of what we can all become if we have the strength to be who we truly want to be.

The other reason why I’m pretty stoked about this is that the panel consisted of other gigantic names like Marty O’Donnel (composer of the Halo Gregorian chant), Michael Salvatori, Austin Wintory and Jon Everist (composer for Overwatch 2). In other words, pretty rarified company. It was immensely validating to have my work selected by some of the best in the business! Between this and the insane opportunity to arrange for the London Symphony, it is really starting to feel like my hard work is paying off!

Finally, it is an honor simply to be in attendance for this audio professional Mecca. I can’t wait to start soaking up industry knowledge from people in the thick of it right now, on the bleeding edge. I have wanted to attend for a number of years but never found the time or money to do it properly. Now that it is within my grasp, I intend to plunge myself into the deep end, without hesitation or evasion, and allow myself to learn and grow – a skill that has also taken me quite a bit of time to cultivate!

On a personal note, I will be seeing some of my colleagues from Rice Games for the first time during this trip, having been robbed of that chance in late 2020 by an ill-timed COVID bout. That, in addition to several recommendations for unique culinary delights, the new friends I’ll be making and the industry knowledge I will be absorbing, make this a highly anticipated end to my March!

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Fear of the Unknown Mon, 19 Sep 2022 07:18:20 +0000 Continue readingFear of the Unknown]]>

One of the things I’m excited about is potentially scoring a tabletop horror RPG for a friend of mine! This sort of thing hasn’t really been done before. Though a few experiments in the world of tabletop scores have surfaced in recent years, I can’t think of any one-shot RPGs that have dedicated scores. I’ve always wanted to experiment with some sort of companion app that functions like a sounding board to accompany changes in the gameplay. This is indeed a stretch goal for Fear of the Unknown’s kickstarter campaign this October!

As an added bonus, the creator invited me onto his podcast as a guest! This was actually my first podcast appearance, and as such I definitely struggled with diction and outright misspoke a few times, some examples of which are:

  • I meant to say Television and FILMS when talking about linearity
  • Austin’s Banner Saga scores DO have lyrics on certain tracks, even though the majority of it is instrumental
  • I meant to say Jason, not Freddie
  • Generally, Library companies don’t pay you directly for your track, you instead earn income based on residuals that the film or television show generates
  • Obviously I meant Switch, not Wii

I’m sure there were more little things, which is a testament to how much more extemporaneous speaking I need to force myself to do, but overall it was a really fun experience that traversed all sorts of fun topics! There’s a link to the podcast episode below. Check it out if you’re into all things horror and horror music!

EDIT 10/4/2022: The Kickstarter is now live! Take a gander if you’re looking for something fresh and horrifying this October.

BBC Gaming Prom Mon, 08 Aug 2022 06:47:00 +0000 Continue readingBBC Gaming Prom]]> This one’s a bit out of order, but I recently was awarded yet another grand honor from the venerable Austin Wintory: I was the engraver for his the Traveler Symphonic Suite at the first-ever, history-making BBC Gaming Prom earlier this week!

This was a huge honor. For years I’ve marveled at the spectacle of the BBC Proms, never dreaming I could one day contribute, even in such a minor way. And this was literally the first gaming prom! As Austin’s original Journey score (the bones of the Traveler Suite) was the record-breaking first video game OST to earn a Grammy nomination, he seems to be perpetually on the frontier of glorious firsts, and I’m very happy to be along for the ride.

There isn’t much else to say about this one, so I’ll just post the concert link here for your enjoyment (click the image). It’s a great year for video game music, and I was thrilled to be there for it.

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Innocence Mon, 25 Apr 2022 13:42:00 +0000 Continue readingInnocence]]>

This past January, I had the incredible honor of arranging Austin Wintory’s theme from flOw for the London Symphony and London Voices!

There isn’t a greater honor than putting charts in front of one of the two best orchestras in the world. Thanks to my dear friend and mentor Austin Wintory, I had that rare and wondrous opportunity this past January as he simultaneously recorded the reimagining of his history-making “Journey” score entitled “Traveller: A Journey Symphony” – which, by the way, is a masterpiece of orchestrational prowess.

I have a lot to say on the subject, but I am most likely going to save that for a youtube video at some point. Meanwhile, you can enjoy the music video below, or purchase the track here on Austin’s Bandcamp page.

In lieu of my own little orchestration breakdown, Austin’s exemplary assistant Dallas Crane made an As Noted for inquiring minds!

Another lifelong dream crossed off the bucket list. Onward!

Quarentets Wed, 16 Feb 2022 01:31:00 +0000 Continue readingQuarentets]]>

During the pandemic, I had the honor of placing in the “Quarentets” arranging competition with the Videri String Quartet. That track is now available!

I learned about this contest only three days before the deadline, when one of the finalists, Christian Pacaud, contacted me to handle the music prep for his own entry. Thankfully, not only was I able to get his sorted and well-presented, but I also managed to crank this out in a matter of a day and a half!

I immediately knew I was going to do a Bloodborne track for several reasons. First and foremost, the game has a gloriously haunting soundtrack. It’s a veritable parade of blood-curdling boss tracks, each as unique as the accursed creatures they depict. In addition, every one of these tracks translate very well to string quartet due to the gothic horror aesthetic built into the scores very DNA.

Most of all, though, the game’s themes of contagion and isolation are at the forefront of the story in this fiendishly difficult continuation of the Dark Souls tradition. Everyone is literally in the middle of a lockdown in-universe while our protagonist is forced to brave the cursed, infected streets. The parallels were too delicious to pass up.

While the choice of OST was easy, the track choice was quite the opposite. Many of the barnstormers, I feared, were covered elsewhere in the competition (turns out these fears were not justified at all!) Therefore, I thought it would help my chances – and potential variety of the album – if I were to ensure the uniqueness of my selection. Witch of Hemwick was on that short list, and it ultimately won because I knew it would translate to a fun chart for the musicians. There was also room to get weird with it, which is something I have been trying to do more often to stretch my extended technique muscles.

Anyway, here it is! You can also purchase the Quarentets album on most major streaming platforms, including Spotify.

The Songs of Supergiant Fri, 04 Dec 2020 18:14:46 +0000 Continue readingThe Songs of Supergiant]]>

The moment I have waited for for almost a full year has finally arrived. My first album as arranger, and what an incredible honor it was. I couldn’t have asked for better collaborators or more perfect, timeless songs. The Bastion medley was particularly dear to me, for reasons I’ll get into later.

This was such a high point of my life that I plan on creating several youtube videos to detail the process of collaboration between myself and these two giants. The first of those videos is available below on my new and improved youtube channel!

You can find the music video for Remember the Bastion here, featuring a glorious zoom-in on the melodica:

And the entire album with stunning visuals for free on youtube, courtesy of Supergiant Games with visuals by Nate Horsfall:

The album is also out in every format imaginable: Bandcamp, Vinyl, etc. I encourage you to pick it up. Thanks largely to these two men, a small group of world-class players, Ashley Barrett, Legendary Mixing Engineer Steve Kempster, booth reader Susie Seiter (who I’m sure caught a couple bone-headed typos for me onstage) and in some small part to me, it turned out brilliantly and is a moment in my life that I may never surpass even if I keep doing this for the next forty or fifty years. I am eternally grateful for all of these people and don’t really feel like I deserved the honor. Uh, but I’ve also been on a high for three or for days now, so…I won’t complain! I didn’t get a chance to work with some of these names, but Austin, Darren and Kristin are all the kindest human beings I’ve ever met. I hope to work with them again someday!

There are some exciting things coming next year, but for now, happy holidays and thank you for taking the time to nerd out with me about something very special!

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Hades! Thu, 01 Oct 2020 02:39:51 +0000 Continue readingHades!]]> So! One of the things I can finally make a ruckus about is that I got to help Austin Wintory and Darren Korb out with two tracks on the Hades OST. This is exciting for many reasons, not the least of which is that this is my first by-name credit on a video game OST! And a hell of a game it is! I must confess though it’s such a difficult play that I don’t expect to be hearing those tracks anytime soon, since they mark the completion of the game.

Anyway! Bastion was a special soundtrack to me, so the opportunity to collaborate with Darren in any way was a dream come true, not to mention Austin who mind-bogglingly still considers me a trusted ally. This wasn’t even the only project I helped out with for Supergiant! But it was special for the reason listed above, as well as the simple fact that I can now look forward to hearing something I helped get recorded in a game I’m playing.

“Ancient Greek Rock” was the tempo marking I had for “In The Blood” haha

I actually didn’t really end up doing too much in the end for this particular project…I largely just translated Austin’s MIDI into professionally formatted scores and parts. However, there was one moment where I suggested a change and they ended up going with it! So that’s always exciting, when you get to add just a little bit of yourself into a project you never thought you’d even get the opportunity to participate in. 🙂

What is the moment, you ask? Why, it’s the eight bars in “In The Blood” where the rock falls away entirely. See, I recognized the “Persephone” chord progression there because I had transcribed “On the Coast” beforehand, so I thought “why not embrace that same soothing balm of beauty and serenity, thereby capitalizing on some sweet contrast?” I ended up giving the cello the English Horn line from that track and bringing in some of the more delicate textures from the acoustic orchestra. It felt a bit presumptuous so I basically said “hey, I did a thing, hopefully you like it but if not I’ll change it back!” Fortunately I didn’t allow my star-struckedness to hold me back and it was a lovely little treat to hear that change in the final version! 2:37 is where the moment starts.

2:37 is where the moment starts!

I highly recommend both the game and the score! In particular this score is amazing for cardio workouts…it’s just an astonishing number of minutes of fantastic action-oriented rock. And while the game may be hard as Hades, it is quite rewarding and just a blast to play around with.

Excited to chatter on about the project with these two gods I had an even bigger hand in, as soon as it is officially released!

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PAX 2019 Supergiant Retrospective Mon, 16 Sep 2019 06:11:09 +0000 Continue readingPAX 2019 Supergiant Retrospective]]> Less than a month ago, I had the incredible honor of arranging a bunch of Supergiant Games music for Darren Korb himself!

I played their first game, Bastion, right when it came out, over ten years ago. It stood out immediately in my mind in every positive way possible – the characters, the voice acting, the story, the gameplay and especially the music. To this day, I have several of these tracks on my workout mix because they were so near and dear to my heart. I never thought I’d have the opportunity to work for the very same guy almost ten years later – and bring these tracks to life with a small orchestra no less!

The full set list included a medley from Bastion and several songs from Transistor, Pyre and one from their new game, Hades. I particularly had fun with Lament for Orpheus, which depicts the Greek Myth of Orpheus braving the underworld to bring his love back. My days of studying Greek myth were long behind me, but I still recalled that Orpheus was in fact a musician in story, and a harpist no less, so…I wrote a pretty  beefy Harp cadenza to kick it off, and for the song itself: very soft accompaniment by the Harp and a Duduk, the latter lending an air of austerity and a sort of ancient sound at the same time (I initially wanted Aulos, but Duduk is more widely played in modern times and sounds very similar!). This combo worked chillingly well with Darren’s insane falsetto chops. Listen to how high he goes!

Now where did we find a player to play Duduk? Simple, Kristin Naigus! She is one of a few Swiss army knifes in LA when it comes to wind players – that is, she can bring a bag of basically any instrument imaginable to a gig, which is of course an arranger’s dream.

There were two other songs of particular note. One was of course the Bastion medley, which included Spike on a Rail. I had so much fun with this, from the Trombone solo to the Bluegrass fiddle to Darren’s badass strumming to Kristin’s use of the melodica masquerading as a harmonica. It was one of my favorite tracks of the OST, but I was afraid it wouldn’t translate well. It turned out to be even more fun than I expected and I loved every minute of it! Here’s the original track:

Finally, there was Vagrant Song.

This was so barebones as an initial track – and I was getting notes from Darren and Austin (Wintory) both that I was clinging to the original tracks too much. So I went 110% balls-to-the-wall dramatic orchestral with it. They both loved it and it ended up sounding amazing on that stage. That’s even where I got the shout-out from that lovely, humble man, Darren Korb.

This was one of those times where this life – being a musician, sacrificing wealth and health and usually a healthy relationship or two – is all worth it. To be a part of this was nothing short of amazing, and I have nothing but gratitude for Darren Korb and Austin Wintory. They are two of the kindest, most patient and most talented people I have ever known.

Oh, here’s the video! 😛

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