IMPS Chapter 1 : Davenport Gateway Music

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IMPS Davenport Gateway Music Collection 01 – Notes by Andy Garfield

While most of the tracks in this Collection are in roughly chronological order of when they were written, the logo music is one exception. Since the logo music is like our Twentieth Century Fox Fanfare, I wanted it to go first.

We had talked for a long time about whether we were going to have a Blacksheep logo or not, and what it would be. We talked to some traditional 2D character animators and designers about making what actually would have been a really cute logo. This idea opened on a flock of white sheep, with the one black sheep standing around looking annoyed at the braying of the stupid white sheep around him, followed with him jumping over a fence and freezing in mid-air in a gun sight that would then take the shape of the Blacksheep Logo. This is what I assumed was going to be done, and be premiered along with the first Chapter. That is, until I came home one night and Pete Evans, our VFX guy was sitting on our couch with everyone gathered around him and his laptop, screaming and cheering. Of course, I assumed they were watching a new fan film about the violent death of Jar Jar and the Ewoks en masse or something. It turned out Pete had created this awesomely obnoxious 20 second Blacksheep logo. I forgot what music he used for temp, but it was appropriately obnoxious.

I was about to start working on the music for the Teaser, using some new orchestral samples I got, and thought that the logo was a perfect opportunity to christen the new samples. It was to be big, loud and short. Perfect! Pete gave me the .avi file that night and a few hours later, I produced the now originally obnoxious music for the fully obnoxious logo. Compositionally, I thought what more appropriate music to draw from for the Blacksheep logo than the IMPS theme, seeing as how IMPS is what we’ll originally be known for. So I took some of our favorite portions of the IMPS theme, developed them a little and arranged them into the 20 second logo music you hear.

A lot of people complained that the logo was like half of the Teaser, but the way we saw it, the Teaser was as much about the content of the tease for IMPS as it was the debut of Blacksheep Squad as Blacksheep Productions. The original logo idea may come to fruition one day, but until then, we have this deliciously obnoxious, over-the-top logo, thanks to the genius of Pete!

This was the first piece of music that I wrote for IMPS. A friend of mine, Geoff Zanelli was slated to be the composer for IMPS for several years. As the production dragged on, Geoff became more and more busy, writing music for REAL films you might have heard of, like.. “Pirates of the Caribbean”, “Matchstick Men”, “House of D…” to name a few. In short, he was getting pretty busy. He told me just enough about IMPS (Then still called “Troops 2”) to get me interested.

At the time, I was wallowing in the shame and frustration of the wholly unfulfilling work of scoring Discovery/Travel Channel documentaries, and eager to do something interesting. IMPS sounded interesting. Of course, there was no pay, but no matter what it was, it would sure beat writing insipid music to accompany tours of Mid-West amusement parks, failed pregnancies and pediatric surgeries.

I met the Guys in early February of 2004 at what would come to be a very familiar Coffee Shop in downtown Glendale. They were not what I expected. I was expecting obese, unkempt geeks, or at least smarmy Hollywood types. They were so not what I thought I should be looking for, that I walked around the restaurant for nearly 15 minutes scanning the patrons for any signs of recognition. I finally approached a guy who arrived shortly after I did, who I picked as possibly the most likely candidate for a fan film producer – if this fan film producer was fresh from the set of “Road Warrior” meets “Unforgiven”. This guy turned out to be Dave Max.

Eric Hilleary showed up a while later, and the two of them filled me in on some of the details and scope of the Project – a project in the style of… a Discovery Channel documentary. Great. At least I was qualified! Despite the Discovery Channel aspect, I was still very interested. I was invited back to their house to view some footage and look at some storyboards. This was the moment that changed my life forever. Words can’t describe how I felt when I saw the FX reel standing in Pete’s room. I’m pretty sure I was standing there in my “disbelief” pose – hand over mouth, eyes wide. I saw elements of what would become the Intro and a few shots from Davenport and was sold.

I wanted to join – the Empire, Blacksheep, AARP, something. Anything. I’d never seen anything like it outside of a movie theater. I asked them what they wanted from me, and how to get started. They explained that the film was about to be finished (cue laugh track) and they wanted to release a Teaser, featuring some of the footage I’d seen and some live action elements from the various location shoots. They needed an approximately two minute piece of music to give to their editor for him to cut to. We talked about what they wanted, and the temp music in the FX reel, which was Crimson Tide and Lord of the Rings, and how they wanted something like that – but better. Yeah.

I went home buzzing with excitement. I got straight to work, and worked for the next two days almost straight through to write something they would hopefully approve. They were stunned when I called back just two days after meeting them, offering a finished product. Apparently, this sort of quick turnaround was a new experience for them, after dealing with some less than reliable computer animators for the past 3 years. Thankfully, they loved it, and I was brought on board. Of course, the Teaser for which this music was written was never seen outside of friends and family, since obviously the film wasn’t exactly finished at the intended time. The music at the opening (and closing) of the track is obviously the beginning of the IMPS theme, but I never intended it to be that way. To me it was a variation on a melody in another part of the track, and a means to get to the rest of the material in a smooth and hopefully familiar way. But the Guys totally fell in love with it, and declared it the IMPS theme. And so it is.

Through a surprising and bizarre series of events and circumstances, I was now living in the Blacksheep House. Luckily for me, the Blacksheep House turned out to be a half-way house of sorts for down-on-their-luck (or up-and-coming, whichever you choose) entertainment industry types affiliated with the Project.

It was June of 2004, and the first six or seven shots were completed and edited together. Six or seven shots doesn’t sound like much until you realize that it’s the first shots of the Intro and Davenport, totaling about 7 minutes. This track was one of maybe five versions of the Intro and IMPS theme at this tempo, with this version of the slow, quiet introduction. This version is my favorite of that group – sounding the most “Soviet” of them. By it’s self it’s s great piece, but up against the picture, and in the context of the rest of the Show, it was a little – how can I put it – “Totalitarian” *cough*ANVILS*cough*.

Actually the Guys loved it too, but it just wasn’t right. Though you just might hear this theme re-worked and arranged in future Chapters, if I can find a place for it! My concept behind the simple, quiet statement of the IMPS theme, and the simple nature of the theme in general, is that I wanted to give the impression that, like real military tunes, it has it’s roots in traditional hymns and folk music. The rubato pauses in the first IMPS theme statement sound so long and out of place to me now. Whenever I listen to this track, I jokingly look at my watch during them, as if they lasted an eternity, and I had someplace to be. At the time, it felt like a very serious, pleasing “Sibelius” moment. But it was too dramatic, and brought the flow of the music to a grinding halt. In the next version, you can hear a similar, but less affected moment like this in roughly the same place. It fulfills the same purpose compositionally, as a transition, but does so without calling so much attention to it’s self.

The unfinished nature of this track reveals a bit of the additive process of orchestral MIDI programming. All of the instruments don’t stop at the same time, but just sort of peter out, as I stopped performing them.

This is hard to admit now, but the first half of this (up to hyperspace) was the final version that was going to be in the film. It just shows how much I’m still learning over the course of this project. I thought this mix and performance was fantastic for several months.

This version has WAY too much reverb, and is so muddy that when I put it in with the sound effects, the music was lost completely. The parenthetical title here comes from me saying that the new version of this cue makes this version sound like the “crappy demo” version. The second half – from hyperspace on is a temp mix, just to so I could hear it. Speaking of “Just so I could hear it” – a thing to keep in mind when listening to all of these tracks, much of the time while I’m writing, I can’t listen to everything at once, and certainly not all the way through. It’s just too much for my computer. I have to do a mixdown of everything to hear it all together. Often, I’ll work for several days without hearing the whole thing, besides in my head! I’ll be remedying this in the near future with a new, much more powerful computer.

Prokofiev has probably been my single biggest influence. From his unexpected key changes to the sheer wealth of material packed into all of his works. There’s a good idea around every corner, and you’d better be listening because you wont get to hear it for long! The “Entry Into Davenport” subtitle is a nod to my favorite Prokofiev score: “Alexander Nevsky.” The “Alexander’s Entry into Pskov” movement is one of my most favorite pieces of music. Beautiful. Bold. Grand. Moving. Everything music should be to me. It is the feelings evoked in me by that piece that I wanted to attempt in the Davenport entry sequence. I wanted to feel awe, fear and even a little sadness for this slightly scary, tragically beautiful place. The “atmosphere” in the shots isn’t just beautiful “space dust.” It’s SMOG. I wanted to portray that beautiful tragedy a little. I think I came pretty close, especially after I finished it in the second version you’ll hear later.

The first thing you’ll notice about this new version of the IMPS theme is that it’s slower. I brought the tempo down from 100 bpm to 87. I also used irregular meters in the first statement to give the listener more time to absorb the theme. The first 50 seconds is a full statement of the IMPS theme. Starting on a single note (natural A) from a single instrument (French Horn), we’re lead into a sentimental, even personal introduction. Even the mighty Empire is made up of individuals, and those individuals each have their own story, hence the title – IMPS: Imperial Military Personnel Stories. The Horn, representing the individual Trooper is joined by other Military Band instruments: Trombones and Tuba. They act as the bridge to the rest of the non-military instruments of the orchestra – strings. This was changed and augmented a bit in the second and final version, but more about that later. Along with the rest of the hangar bay (and everything in it), the art on the head of the AT-AT in the original opening shot was completely different from the what you see in the final version. Originally, the art was “Snow Hottie” – an equally voluptuous pin-up girl to the final one, but for the snow division. The descending harp and wind chimes figure was the “Snow Hottie” theme.

After a revised “Sibelius” section, the strident figure from the trombones gets us down to business and into the full-on military feel of the rest of the piece. The music from hyperspace over the white dissolve into the Galaxy was a deliberate homage to the changes in tone and often keys that Williams makes coming out of the Star Wars title music and into the tilt down or up into the first scene of each Episode. The solo trumpet theme following this is a theme that will be heard in a later Chapter.

The haunting transitional material following the pan to the Destroyers is a suggestion of the Hyperspace theme heard a few minutes later. I’m particularly fond of the next section. The “naval”, almost jaunty, slightly British feel of the music as we fly over the ships, accompanied by Peter Cullen’s rich, chocolaty voice was meant to evoke images of the great three-mast warships of the 18th and 19th centuries, sailing majestically over vast roiling oceans.

After a brief vamping interlude (a suggestion of the Trooper theme heard next), we finally hear the theme for the Relentless herself. I wanted the listener to feel the same love and respect for her that her crew does, so I wrote it almost like a beautiful, epic love theme. The end of this theme sounds a bit like “Hymn to the Fallen” from “Saving Private Ryan” for me, and was mostly unintentional, but it’s one of my favorite moments. Following the TIEs into the Relentless, we hear what has come to be the Trooper theme. Its easy, catchy, regular cadence makes it a natural choice for the walking music (and there’s plenty of walking), interludes and epilogues of each Chapter.

The first development of the Trooper theme in the hangar bay is a bit of a nod to the Eastern European Bohemian style of Dvorak, Smetna and Bartok that I also love. The “marchy” interjection is without explanation. I don’t know where it came from, but I loved it, and it works, so it stayed! Otherwise, to me the music here is meant to evoke the carefully choreographed ballet of man and machine on the hangar decks. On the cut to the foot of the AT-AT, you’ll here my homage to the rolling low-register piano figure from Williams’ AT-AT theme. The Overture ends with a mighty crescendo, and a pause to let us catch our breath before the fury of hyperspace and the Entry Into Davenport. The hyperspace music went through several revisions.

For a long time, I had some specific musical ideas in my head. Something along the lines of parts of John Adams’ “Harmonielehre” meets… something big and scary. Unfortunately, every time I went in this direction, it just ended up sounding like a rejected cue from the Matrix. I took a week or two off from working on it (one of the perks of completely independent film making… plus, I was still waiting for shots, so I had an excuse.) and came back to find a new approach to hyperspace. I sat for a long time and tried to really decide how I wanted the hyperspace music to make me FEEL. I wanted to feel – “Oh my GOD… I’ve always wanted to see this.. and HERE IT IS! And.. god damn, hyperspace is sure a scary and mysterious place worthy of respect.” …or something like that. I also decided it would be nice, coming off of that huge crescendo at the end of the Overture to start again softly. Sort of under-play the moment, and leave room for another dramatic dynamic change when the choir comes in, singing actual WORDS! The words here are nothing specific. I just did a combination of what was in my head and what sounded good.

Once through hyperspace, we find ourselves in orbit around the Davenport Gateway. I’ve already mentioned my influences and goals for this section. The “B” section of the Davenport theme features strings playing col legno (striking the strings with the wood of the bow) and was meant to sound primitive and scary – almost tribal. There’s a funny story about this section I’ll get into in the notes for the re-do of this piece. After a brief variation on the IMPS theme at the arrival of the ships, the music fades out during a repeated statement of the IMPS theme. This is roughly where I stopped working on this version. I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do with the rest of the shots, so it was time for another break! It would be approximately 3 months before I revisited and finished “Entry.” A couple of months after finishing this version, I acquired some new orchestral samples. I also took some time off from working on IMPS to work on some other projects, like the “Lara Croft: Tomb Raider – FIREFALL!” attraction for Paramount’s King’s Dominion, in Virginia. I came back to IMPS after a few months to start work on the REAL Teaser with a fresh perspective, and some loathing.

After doing the Teaser, I knew the Intro and Davenport had to be re-worked. Not re-composed, but just sweetened up a bit (OK, a LOT) and totally re-performed with the new samples, and re-mixed.

As short and simple as they sound, these cues were some of the most difficult I’ve written. We shot Eric suiting up in our garage on (long) night in the fall of 2004. Nathan Pata, director and director of photography also edited the Teaser. He cut the suiting up sequence to a cue from “The 13th Warrior”, if I remember. Unfortunately, the tempo on the cue was a bit… irregular. But Nathan cut to the music, as he should have, so it was my job to conform the new music to the picture. And what a job it was. I’m pretty sure I did this the hard way, but it worked. I ended up going to each cut frame-by-frame and inserting a metronome sound, and then interpolating by eye and ear where the beats in between each of those beats should go. Then I had to decide how I was going to emphasize the cuts the same way the temp music did, without doing a sound-alike. That was a challenge as well.

I love the music in the actual tease portion – the actual shots from the movie, with the IMPS text over them. The challenge here was to generate goose bumps with sweeping, heroic music… in 15 seconds. The music was done in these three pieces so that I had more control over the timing between sections. All told, I think I spent maybe a week on and off working on this two minute bit of music!

This track perfectly illustrates why millions of people continue to buy every new recording of Star Wars, Beethoven or Mozart (or in my case, Prokofiev). Sure, it’s the same piece of music, but it’s totally different. Hearing a new opinion or take on a familiar piece of music makes it new again. It’s the closest thing you can get to hearing a favorite piece of music again for the first time. And for me, as the composer, it’s the closest I get to hearing it for the first time, a coveted experience I can never actually have. I always wonder what my first impression of my own music would be. After listening to the first version of this for months, there was a lot I wanted to change, add and clarify.

Aside from totally re-performing and mixing the thing, I had to finish it. That made me a little nervous, since I wanted the unfinished portion – the “second reveal” – to be just gut-wrenchingly amazing. The temp track for this moment was a cue from “Lord of the Rings”, and that would be hard to top, or even match. I’m not going to go into all the conceptual points I already addressed in the previous section of notes. Instead, I’m going to touch on a few of the changes and additions I made. Overall, everything has been re-arranged. Melodies and counter-melodies have been clarified and refined. Voice-leading faux-pas were fixed. Most everything this time around was quantized, or put on the beats.

In general, the arrangement is just much more realistic. It would be a lot shorter leap to take this file and prepare it for a live orchestra – which will happen one day, I assure you. The first thing you’ll notice is the addition of the solo cello to the theme. It’s playing a counter melody that I found myself humming along to the music every time I heard it; the same with the addition of the descending woodwind figure at the end of the theme. Both additions, I think added to the “question and answer” qualities of the melody as a whole.

The woodwinds to me, also made it sound a little bit more “military band.” I changed some things around in the “Sibelius” section, making it flow a little bit better. The next entrance of the trombone section finally sounded exactly how it was in my head. Being a former trombone player, that was a really big deal to me! About 1:13 into the piece, you can hear the first statement of one of the counter-melodies I added. This would later become the “Rail Runners theme” for The Davenport Chapter. More on that later.

At 1:46, I added a little IMPS theme fugue in the strings. That was another little thing I’d always hummed along to the previous version. With a few small changes, and the general clarification and refining of things, the music remained unchanged through hyperspace and into Davenport. OK. I promised a funny story about the col legno section of the Davenport theme. As you can hear in this version, the choir is clapping along with the strings’ col legno playing. The genesis of this is from a comment that Nathan, our director made about the original version in passing that the col legno sounded like “clapping.” Jokingly, I responded with: “CLAPPING!?!? … CLAPPING!!?!? I’ll show you clapping!!!” So this time I added clapping, and he’ll never forget it. I actually like it better with the clapping. It makes it sound all legit and avante-garde.

The music for the unfinished “second reveal” had eluded me for a long time. It was time to buckle down and just do it. It became obvious to me that the climax of the moment would be a re-statement of the Davenport theme, but just repeating that wouldn’t be enough. There needed to be some development, and it had to be the most amazing thing EVER. The moment leading up to the reveal I had always wanted to be quiet and without sound effects. That accomplished two things: one, it set up the drama for the climax, and two; it meant I didn’t have to do the sound effect of 50 shuttles flying over camera. I’m mostly kidding. Mostly. With unlimited time and money, I would have written something for a solo boy to sing here, and recorded it. But time (and money) was getting short, and I didn’t want to take the time to find and record a legitimate boy’s choir soloist. That would have taken weeks (and at least several hundred dollars) that we did not have at this point. I compromised and pulled out the best soprano samples I had and made the best of it. The end of this cue is meant to crossfade with the next cue, and is actually not heard in the final film; hence the rather abrupt end. This is actually pretty typical of music in films, except that most composers have the luxury of recording “one for the album” – a take of the cue in question with a nice ending, and often more expressive tempos not bound by the timing of the film.

This is the first of these last three cues that I did right at the very end of mixing/scoring. After 3 weeks of 18-hour days doing sound design and mixing, I was more than happy to take a break and do some music. The sound still had a few little things to add and tweak here and there, but it was close enough to being done, and I was COMPLETELY burnt on doing sound effects – in particular, placing the over 500 blaster bolt clips, not to mention the agonizing process of editing trooper foley. I’ll probably address this in the sound portion of the IMPS site, but it’s worth mentioning here that EVRYTHING you hear in the movie was made from scratch. I used no sounds or music from any of the Star Wars movies. There was also no production audio. I was given 21 minutes of completely silent picture.

Anyway, this cue was written, performed and mixed in about 12 hours over two days. It was pretty straight forward. I knew what I wanted to do, what I wanted to hit, and where it would end. The cue is a combination of the Trooper theme, and the new Rail Runners theme. The Rail Runners theme, as mentioned before is taken from one of the new counter-melodies in the new version of the Intro. Here, you here it fully developed, and with a “B” and “C” section. The “C” section is meant to convey the vastness of the city, and it’s canyons of buildings and light. There’s also a tinge of seriousness here, where Trooper 1 says: “Sloppiness loses lives.” I love that line – I was “Tired and ready for a break” for a month!

After a repeat of the Rail Runners theme, the IMPS theme makes a brief appearance for the unfurling of the banners. The Rail Runners theme fades out and takes us into the next scene. *A quick note on the source music coming from the “Eat and Go” in the AT-ST bridge scene: It’s a song called “Ya Nikto” – meaning “I’m nobody”, by the Soviet-era Russian punk band “Igry.” I totally used this without permission, because I wasn’t too worried about copyright, since it was from the Soviet era – a time when Russia had no international copyright agreements. If the people from Igry hear this and are pissed off, I’ll gladly remove it.

This was the very, very last thing I did before the final mix-down of the entire soundtrack for the Chapter. There was a temp cue just like it here, where we see the “alien” leaping from the shadows. I had repeatedly forgotten to replace it, after getting so used to hearing it over and over! The descending trombone slides are a nod to the music from the ABC TV show “LOST” – which we love. I think I went from “oh my god – I totally almost forgot this” to “done and in the film” in about 15 minutes. Now THAT’S “quick-and-dirty.” Speaking of “Quick-and-dirty…” (see Track 10: “Stop That Ship!”)

I could have spent a week on this cue. Instead, I had about 8 hours. Thankfully, the sound effects in the hangar bay fire fight are so loud that you can barely hear this music. This cue defines the phrase “quick and dirty” for me. I wasn’t even really thinking about this as I was writing it. It just sort of happened. The performance is a completely shameful sloppy mess. I didn’t have the time to refine or really quantize anything at all. One of the most shameful things is The IMPS theme fragment, heard in the strings countering the new Green Freighter theme. They just stop. I realized you wouldn’t even hear them over the cacophony of blaster fire, explosions and jet noise, so I gave up in favor of just getting the cue in the movie. I was already 2 weeks late delivering the film. One of these days for the live recording, I’ll go back and “make it cool”, as we say.

This cue was originally made for the title card of the Teaser. I had originally intended to put a new cue like this – but with different timing – over the brief epilogue at the end of the Chapter. Unfortunately, I was out of time, so this would have to do. It works so well though, that the end of every Chapter will probably end with this. This is such a catchy tune, heard so frequently that it will probably be remembered as the “IMPS Theme” instead of the actual theme.

First, I want to thank Dave and Eric for their guidance and the opportunity and reason to write this music. I’d also like to thank the folks at Cakewalk for generously supporting me in the creation of this music (and the sound). Hopefully I’ve produced some music that they can be proud to say was made with Cakewalk Sonar. I know I’m proud of it.

The Overture, Intro and Davenport music, in addition to being the longest single piece of music I’ve ever written, I feel it is my best. Never before had I spent so much time and effort making music. Every note is worked over, massaged and refined to degrees I’ve never attempted before. I had gotten so used to the insane, unrealistic schedules of TV and low budget film making that I’d forgotten how to take my time and sit down and WRITE music, not just bang it out and get it out the door. I sincerely hope you enjoy listening to it as much as I have creating it.

And stay tuned! There’s a LOT more where this came from!

Andy Garfield June 4, 2005