Normall, when we think of movie music, we think of catchy songs that our kids just keep singing. All. Day. Long. Frozen, anyone?!
I’m not complaining (much!) because I honestly like the music from Frozen, Little Mermaid, Beauty and the Beast. I’ve been known to whistle a little Zip-A-Dee-Doo-Dah from time to time. Just so you know, that makes me super popular with the 10 year old crowd. 🙂
While we pay attention to the music when it is a catchy song, do you pay attention to the background music? You know the somber music when a character dies or the threatening music when the villain appears?
While I was at the Tinkerbell press junket in Los Angeles last month, I had the opportunity to sit down with the man behind the music in TinkerBell and the Legend of the Neverbeast. He showed us some of the unconventional ways he came up with the sounds and music in the film. Here is part of that interview with Bleu who produced all the songs in the film, wrote a few of them and worked on the sound palette, and Music Supervisor Brett Swain.
BLEU (Featured Instrumentalist and Additional Score Production), a graduate of Berklee College of Music, is an award-winning independent recording artist and a professional songwriter/producer currently living in Los Angeles, Calif. He made his debut with Columbia Records in 2003 and toured internationally with acts such as John Mayer, Train, Switchfoot and Hanson. Early successes included a featured track on the Platinum selling “Spider-man” soundtrack as well as being included in NPR’s top ten records of the year.
Beginning his musical journey at the world renowned Record One studios, BRETT SWAIN (Director, Music Production) trained under legendary recording engineer and Grammy®-winning producer Val Garay, cutting his teeth on projects with the likes of Neil Diamond, Dolly Parton, Warren Zevon, Lita Ford and Don Henley.
Bleu: The director of the film, Steve Loter, is a huge music nerd. He had been a big fan of my artist career for many years and had been listening to my records a lot while he was working on the film. That is how I got involved in the film in the first place. He came up to me after a show and said that he had this project that he wanted to me to be involved in it.
But Steve really wanted something unique for this film. He really wanted new sounds. And obviously there’s this huge looming figure in this film, the Neverbeast, and his world of the forest and the cave.
And he wanted to make sure that this was something that you hadn’t experienced before. And so the big challenge for me was to come up with this unique sound color palette for him and all the other characters in the film.
Brett: One of the things we do as we start discussing the music for the film is: are going to have themes?
We talked about Gruff having a theme. What’s different about this film is when we talk about themes normally it’s melodic, right? There’s a melody that accompanies each of these characters. But in this case we not only wanted something melodically different for these characters but just something that was sonically different so that the minute you heard that sound versus hearing a melody or a tune you would know that it’s associated with that character.
The big goal was to get great sounds for Gruff in particular. And one of the wonderful things we stumbled upon are regular pottery planters from the store that you use for outside. They have a hole in the bottom so the water can drain, which actually makes them perfect for placing on the cymbal stands.
It’s actually amazing how perfectly it kinda worked out. Depending on the size, they all have a unique pitch to them. We got dozens of pots of all different sorts. And because they have a lot of overtones and they’re kind of dissonant, we ended up using a lot of these in some of the more eerie scenes for Gruff.
So right away we knew there’s something different. It’s not a traditional orchestral instrument. And it’s kind of an odd, eerie thing.
Obviously in this world, Gruff is a big looming character. He’s the largest animal in this world. It was one of the first ideas I came up with was to use these big sets of toms. We would have big sets of toms, and all kinds of things in a huge hallway along with unusual things like trash cans and big metal vents and stuff like that.
We would mic up the hallway at one end and play the toms and percussion instruments at the other end. And you would get this big sound.
Another one of my goals was to find a sound specifically for the storm. Whirly tubes! They actually open the film. It’s the very first sound that you hear. And you can buy these things online. I think they’re less than a dollar.
We used what we call the dulcetar to describe Fawn’s character because it’s beautiful. It’s really versatile and bright. She has a lot of different types of scenes, and it’s her emotions that carry us through the whole film. So, we were able to do sad things and upbeat things and moving action scary things because it’s quite versatile.
One of the biggest challenges was coming up with a sound for Nix’s character. The obvious place to go for her would be military type instruments such as marching, snares or bugles and things like that. But the director actually told us specifically to stay away from any military kind of instruments because he really identified with the character. She’s actually not a bad guy in the film. She cares just as much about the characters in Pixie Hollow and everything as anybody else does. She’s just coming at it from a different perspective. So it was a challenge to find something for her.
Early on we had found a bunch of pipes and rigged up a whole device to play all these pipes. It’s very simple. It’s basically just copper pipes and chrome pipes. We would listen to them and see if they had enough volume and tone that we thought we’d be able to record it and hear it. It ended up working out perfectly because when you play them, especially quickly, they have a lot of action and motion to them. And she’s in a lot of action scenes. You see her swooping around all the time in the film.
So, that is some of the ways that the music for Tinkerbell and the Legend of the Neverbeast came about.