Very happy that the production of The Starry Messenger I’ve been working on music and sound design for the last month or so is opening for previews on 16th May. It has been brilliant working with long time collaborator director Sam Yates, writer Kenneth Lonergan and brilliant cast including Matthew Broderick and Elizabeth McGovern.
The production runs until 10th August, book tickets from here.
And if you haven’t already, you can listen to the score on Apple Music / Spotify / Amazon etc here (featuring the London Metropolitan Orchestra recorded at Abbey Road) – https://alex-baranowski.lnk.to/w4P_cWE
Honoured that Comic Relief used my soundtrack to the film McCullin to score an incredibly powerful film featuring Olivia Coleman. To view visit the BBC website on this link https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p073ns3b
This is the short version of the film shown on the night – the longer version can’t be put online due to archive footage copyright reasons apparently…
I’ll be donating any royalties from the broadcast to Comic Relief.
Link to the whole score on my album page here – the track is called “Opening, Darkroom”
Whole new set of idents for BBC Two television channel
Each animation is visually inspired by a mood and relates to the programmes that appear before or after them, as well as the programme trailers within the junctions.
A connecting thread and recognisable signature was required that linked all the moods (there are around 25 different films)
Each film had a “master” animation running at 42secs, with 8x cutdowns ranging from 2sec to 21sec. The “master” was also mixed in 5.1 surround.
Rather than producing something distinctly musical with a separate element of “sound design” my immediate thought was to create something that would blur the lines between the two. With much experience working on theatre productions as a composer and sound designer, I was keen to experiment with techniques I’d learnt in that medium when pitching ideas to the team.
We never wanted the viewer to recognise an instrument – or a sound – so much time was spent re-pitching and modulating recorded sound effects and foley into more “musical” forms – and performing musical instruments in unusual ways to create our own “sound effects” with a musical twist… ending up with an almost believable living soundscape for an environment you could nearly touch.
Most sounds are re-pitched, modulated, delayed and enhanced using a combination of vintage analogue studio equipment (tape loops, 70’s Yamaha and Moog synthesisers, analogue delays, Roland Space echo etc etc) and modern computer processing (plugins and digital manipulation, reverbs etc)… I would often take my piano apart and record noises whilst scratching or plucking or hitting strings with soft drumsticks. I scoured music shops for unusual sounding instruments to make noises from, recording them as unconventionally as possible. Nothing was safe around the house.. my wife’s pot plant became extremely useful in more than a few moods (including a starring role as a sneezing Christmas tree!).
I’ve dissected one particular film entitled “Charged” produced by The Mill, by separating out many of the sounds into layers – so you can hear how many of the different elements work together and blend into the finished soundscape. Every single film was produced and recorded very differently, but hopefully this will give you an idea of some of the techniques involved! I’ll look into other moods in more detail further down the line..
1: Chime – this starts every mood (and a reverse chime completes each of the cutdowns also). Different instruments were used as a chime for each mood. Lighter moods have lighter instruments like a triangle; darker moods would perhaps use a darker cowbell pitched down.
2: Harp Chord – the second part of the mnemonic; each mood has a slightly different chord (though always in the same key) and processed in the same way using reverbs and delays.
3: Textured String Swell – each mood features a slight swell after the initial chord, always using different instruments, but always the same chord as the harp. “Charged” uses samples of a number of small string sections from Spitfire performing “tremolo” bowing techniques (moving the bows up and down very fast in a shimmer).
4. Piano & Tape Delay – a couple of very simple piano notes were recorded on the piano in my studio and then put through a Roland Space Echo RE-150 (see photo below) – which is essentially a loop of tape of which you are able to control the speed and intensity of, to create some rather etherial and wonderful feedback loops (they date from the late 1970’s). Being analogue, rather than in the computer, ensures complete unpredictability which is what we’re always trying to achieve! I usually record the piano with Royer-121 and Sontronics Aria microphones. Thanks to Tony at Soundgas for recommending and sourcing the RE-150!
5. Roli Seaboard & Filters – the Roli Seaboard is a rather brilliant keyboard instrument that not only responds to which note you press, but with how hard you press it, and where, on the very rubbery keyboard (see pictures above and below). It means you’re able to “play” and manipulate certain sounds in realtime with your hands rather cleverly. Connected to a sound library called “Auras” by the rather brilliant Slate and Ash, some really expressive and fantastic sounds can be made.. In this case, the sounds were then pitched down an octave with a number of other creative reverbs and delays, and performed through a Moog filter (basically a creative equaliser for a synthesiser) which was then automated by hand in time to the visuals.. so the sound gets “brighter” whenever we see the curve of the number “2”.
6. Brushed Cymbals – using metal drum brushes on a Zildjian Constantinople cymbal, again playing in time with the light in the curve of the “2”.. recorded very close with a stereo pair of DPA 4006 microphones through a Neve 1073 preamp.
7. FX: Underwater Rumbles and Delays – the sounds were sourced sound effects which were then pitched, equalised, with added creative reverb and delay to make them sound rather huge and menacing.. again, really working with the curve of light of the “2”
8: FX: Wind – this acts as more of a constant layer underneath – other than placing it into an acoustic space with reverb and moving the sound field around a little, the sound is pretty raw!
9: FX: Fizzing Bubbles – fizzing bubbles from a glass which were then processed through ambient reverbs to place them in a bigger space to work alongside the rest of the soundscape. These were then mixed with the sound of fireworks!
10: FX: Layers of Electricity – I’ve ended up with a lot of recorded sounds of electricity on my hard drive ever since working with the band Underworld on a show called Frankenstein at the National Theatre directed by the incredible Danny Boyle. So many of these spikes of electricity were taken from the same palette! Again all processed quite heavily through reverb and delays.
Once all the elements are put together, the process of mixing all the sounds to create a continuously changing soundscape was completed (some screenshots of which you can see below, in Pro Tools). In the recording session you’ll see many greyed out tracks which were experiments and previous versions / ideas that didn’t make the cut! Almost all of the moods have at least double the used material recored and manipulated in the process of trying to find a sound that works.. In fact, I’d probably say that “Charged” was one of the simpler moods when it came to the sheer number of different elements involved!!
It’s exciting to see where these idents will go next (I’m presently working on the next small batch of them). I’ve also been working on some 3D Headphone mixes of some moods which I’ll hopefully be demonstrating on this site at some point soon.
All the moods were a real collaboration with the team at BBC Creative and Superunion who were all so passionate about making them as best we could do, and the finished product really shows. Special thanks must go to Susan Ayton, Kath Tudball, Stuart Radford, Suzanne Neal, Laurent Simon, Phoebe Bibbings, Georgina Merrick, Ken Rodrigues, Erik Brattested, Emma Hamilton and everyone else who worked so closely on their production. Hugest thanks must to go to Jennifer Baranowski, who worked tirelessly on all the moods helping to find a palette of sounds and ideas (she also happens to be my wife!). Also my brilliant mate Pete Malkin for stepping in with his advice and ideas every now and again.
Huge thanks also to the brilliant list of animators on the project; The Mill, Aardman, FutureDeluxe, Conlan Normington, David McLeod, Ari Weinkle, Helmut Breineder, Kenneth Robin, Mainframe, Kijek & Adamski (Strange Beasts).
Do keep following this blog or find me on twitter for more updates. And feel free to leave a comment if you have any questions or ideas for a follow up!
Very excited to be collaborating once again with brilliant director Sam Yates for The Starry Messenger opening at the Wyndham’s Theatre in London’s West End. Written by Oscar winning Kenneth Lonergan (Manchester by the Sea) it stars the amazing Matthew Broderick and Elizabeth McGovern.
I’ll be composing music and sound design for the project, which will be designed by Chiara Stephenson, video by Luke Halls and lights by Neil Austin.
Opening for previews on 16th May for a three month run.
2018 has been a wonderful year of collaborations with BBC Creative – starting with the World Cup Theme sung by Sir John Tomlinson; BBC Two’s incredibly innovative new idents; the score for the European Championships; a bit of Strictly… and now I’m very pleased to share BBC One’s film for Christmas 2018.
Directed by the incredible Sam Brown at Rogue Films, led by Creatives Edward Usher and Xander Hart (who also led the way on the BBC’s World Cup) the two minute film (and accompanying idents, trails etc) tells the story of a mother and son torn apart by modern life and brought back together in an extraordinary way.
I was lucky to be brought onto the project at its conception before filming began, so we were able to shape the process of building a piece of music throughout the film from the outset, which was incredibly rewarding.
Collaborating with incredible artist Emmy The Great, I rearranged her piece Lost in You for a double string orchestra recorded in Air Studios by the London Metropolitan Orchestra, conducted by Andy Brown. I produced and mixed the track which was engineered by the award winning (and rather brilliant) Andrew Dudman.
We recorded two separate string sections in the huge hall at Air Studios – the first “A” section performed the main string arrangement to accompany the film, and the second “B” section were spread out in the great hall, performing tremolos and harmonics – to give depth to the alternate world.
A “making of” film documenting the arranging, recording and mixing of the musical score will be released by the BBC very soon I’m told!
Now we can all legitimately go and have a mince pie…
Very excited to announce I’m composing the score to A Christmas Carol directed by Jacqui Morris (who I have previously collaborated with on the recently released Nureyev, as well as the twice BAFTA nominated McCullin (where I won Music + Sound Award for Best Feature Film Score) and the Grierson winning Attacking The Devil – all released in cinemas).
The cast list of voices include Simon Russell Beale, Andy Serkis, Carey Mulligan, Martin Freeman, Daniel Kaluuya, Dame Siân Phillips and Leslie Caron to name a few..
The radical new take on Dickens’ classic seeks both to exhume the original story’s gritty commentary on social inequality and the corrupting influence of greed, and to breathe new life into the lyricism of the original text by setting its scenes to extraordinary tableaux of modern dance.
The piece is choreographed by the brilliant Russell Maliphant, who we previously collaborated with on Nureyev to wonderful effect.
Very happy to announce I’ve been working on a brand new set of idents for BBC 2 – the first batch of which are out tomorrow (27th September). As both composer and sound designer on the project based at my London studio, my aim was to build unique soundscapes for each film that blurred the line between what could be “music” or “sound”… performing musical instruments in unusual ways and re-working recorded foley and sound effects into more “musical” forms. Most sounds are re-pitched, modulated, delayed and enhanced using a combination of vintage analogue studio equipment and digital techniques in the computer.
Working with BBC Creative and Superunion who oversaw the project, is has been a dream to collaborate with artists and animation studios including Aardman, The Mill, Kijek & Adamski (Strange Beasts), FutureDeluxe, Conlan Normington, David McLeod, Ari Weinkle, Helmut Breineder, Kenneth Robin and Mainframe.
I’m very excited that Nureyev, the film I’ve been working on over the last few years with brilliant BAFTA nominated director Jacqui Morris, is having its theatrical release on Tuesday 25th September. Distributed by Universal, the score was recorded in Abbey Road Studio 1 by the London Metropolitan Orchestra, along with a 9 piece choir.
Click here to listen or download on Apple Music / Spotify / Amazon.. or Bandcamp to download hi-res 24bit FLAC audio masters.
Half-documentary, half-ballet (collaborating with choreographer Russell Maliphant) this has been a really special project to have been a part of and I’m really excited to share (the recording sessions took place over a year ago!). To find showings or book tickets, visit the film’s website here.
I’ve also uploaded three pieces from the film on my album page on this site, here.
Film’s trailer below…
Ochi Chernye_BBC World Cup ThemeAlex Baranowski1:01