Filmmaker Victor De Almeida of Phoenix Works Films asked me to score a few short scenes from a bittersweet drama film titled “The Ashes You Left Behind”. In the film, a couple reunites many years after a bitter divorce. The occasion is the funeral of their daughter. They relive their lives, traumas and emotions.
The video below shows three separate cues, from different scenes in the film. I usually subscribe to a philosophy, that the instruments used to perform the music should not overwhelm the scene. Since, in this case, all three scenes take place in a house, I chose to use only small ensembles, For example, in the first cue, I decided to use a trio; piano, bass clarinet and violin.
The mood in the first cue is somber, so it starts out with a slow, simple duet between piano and bass clarinet. The objective is to set up a very somber mood, to help the audience understand the couple’s unspoken emotions. After the bass clarinet plays a theme, the violin repeats it.
In the second cue, I decided to lighten the mood slightly with a slow jazz trio ballad, with piano, bass and violin. The piano and bass are not at all difficult to mock up as virtual instruments. The jazz violin, on the other hand, is a different matter entirely.
I am really glad, then, that I had purchased a fabulous virtual violin instrument, called “Joshua Bell Violin”, by a company called Embertone. For this virtual instrument, recording engineers actually recorded samples of Joshua Bell playing his Stradivarius violin! But the real magic lies in the software interface, and its automated assignments of articulations. As the “virtual instrument performer”, I have the choice to use the articulations that are automatically assigned, and to override these choices whenever I want. The instrument is extremely adjustable, to fit a variety of styles.
Here is a short video showing how the Joshua Bell Violin interface responds during the jazz trio performance. At the bottom, you can see the piano keyboard being played. The blue-colored keys indicate the notes that are directly playable on a violin. Of course, a violin’s lowest note is G3. However, occasionally you can see notes being played below the G3, that is, the colored keys. Those are keyswitches, that I use once in a while to override the automated articulations.
The center of the screen shows the various articulations alternating, with different types of legato, spiccato, staccato, sustain, diminuendo, and so on. In addition, the slider on the left indicates the dynamics (loudness), while the slider on the right indicates the amount of vibrato.
The third cue is nostalgic. The ex-wife undresses and starts a bath, while the ex-husband looks on. Here, I chose a nostalgic, romantic approach, with piano, bass, and vocalist. The virtual instrument I chose is the “Romantic True Legato” from the fabulous Ethera Gold Atlantis virtual instrument by Stefano Maccarelli.
So here is the set of three cues, for three separate scenes in the film. Nostalgia pervades the entire sequence of scenes, and I hope that the mood of the music is a good match!