One of the reasons I chose this clip from this movie is that it is one of my favorite scenes from one of my favorite movies, but also because I liked the idea of writing music for this scene. The first half of the clip has no music (used dramatically in the context of the film as a whole), and the second half has little in the way of dialogue or sound effects.
I decided early on not to try to create my instruments in Reason, opting instead to find instruments I liked in Logic and use them. I decided that my goal was not to be original, but to create sound and music that would convey emotion, and that pre-made instruments in Logic would be the most effective tools to help me do that.
Throughout the composition process I paid virtually no attention to the time signature or tempo. I decided that the music would not be measured or regular, but airing on the side of ambient soundscape, though some parts sound like they could have been organized, they weren't.
The first thing I knew I needed was a sound effect for the stars hitting the ground. I found that an instrument called "Ghost Piano" played in the upper octaves worked beautifully. I decided to play different pitches or chords for the different collisions, and thus work the sounds into the music itself.
Next, I found a surreal, soft, subtle pad to be the "voice" of the ring, and decided on a "theme" for it activating - E-A-D. Later, when I added the Chinese string instrument in the beginning, I used variations on this same gesture. The dark, deep, watery pad used when Sophie opens the door and then walks into the darkness uses the same idea as a musical basis. The second musical idea I created was the 80s-esque bassline C-G-F, introduced when the first shooting star passes directly over the cottage. These two ideas are the basis for all the melodic material in the soundtrack for the clip. The clarinet, choir, and bass all dance around with variations on these two ideas in the second half of the work.
There are two "pitches" from the "Atmospheric Effects" instrument used - one for the low-frequency noise heard in the darkness, and one for the sound of the shooting stars flying overhead. Both were recorded using the modulation wheel to control their volume.
The clarinet was the hardest part of the soundtrack. I wanted a transition from the foreboding atmosphere entering the cave, to a feeling of wonder and nostalgia (since after all, they are going into Howl's memories in this scene) I recorded the clarinet live, then extensively edited the notes, then recorded the volume on latch, and then extensively edited the volume manually. I discovered that on the longer notes, it sounds much more like a clarinet if the volume changes over time rather than staying constant. I'm personally quite proud of the result.
The instrument that sounds like choir and strings was fun to write. I made lots of use of evolving chords, suspension and resolution, and dialogue with the bass and clarinet. In the last 45 seconds, I feel that I have given thought into the placement, duration, and volume of every individual note that is heard in context of the other instruments and the emotional impact of the images presented on-screen in the context of the movie.
As we get closer to the end of the clip, the three voices gradually converge. Then when she starts running to Howl, I dropped out the clarinet, put a low chord in the choir, and played a arpeggio high up in the bass instrument, making what I think is an interesting reversal in range and timbre.
Overall, the music is not busy and can be quite bare, and it definitely has minimalist and ambient roots, but I was not afraid of giving instruments a modest amount of presence at times, and the soundtrack becomes more layered as we move through the second half of the clip. I tried to embrace the "less is more" philosophy for much of the music, but also not being afraid to have moments with several instruments in dialogue. I think I succeeded in making a soundtrack that is inspired by minimalist and ambient music but transcends both categories to convey emotion effectively. I quite frankly surprised myself with this project, it surpassed all of my hopes.
Created with Apple Logic and an electronic keyboard.