On July 1st, the Vancouver Maritime Museum presented a very special commemorative performance from the Borealis String Quartet. This event was the brainchild of Thomas Beckman and featured his compositions along with the works of 9 other Canadian composers honouring the St. Roch's historic voyage.
Whether you’re recording a large ensemble on a scoring stage or some far-off church, nothing matters more than the first matched pair. Many national broadcast corporations adopted and standardized two-mictophone configurations for all their respective orchestral recordings. This portable studio enables vital broadcast-quality stereo capture, unmatched by any handheld recorder. Much research, design, and human ingenuity went into the development of the myriad microphone techniques we call upon today. As in a commercial studio, the accuracy of reproduction will rely on the engineer’s technique. The console preamps and digital converters are streamlined for quality and portability, nothing else. In the era of multitrack recording, many still believe the ultimate live reproduction requires specifically two microphones.
Opening the small Pelican case reveals a souped-up MacBook, a recording interface with no bells or whistles, a classic collection of microphones plus a few secret handshakes. There’s headphones for monitoring microphone adjustments and even portable phantom power for condensers.
Here’s an excerpt from the portable studio's first run performed by a trio on doubleness, bassoon and viola. They recorded on the night before their Pyatt Hall performance March 22nd at the 2018 Sonic Boom Festival. Thomas composed this piece for the "Caulfield in the Cape" suite, a South-African and multi-cultural collaboration with wheels in motion for 2019.
Last year our Promising Practices film project travelled down to LA for its nomination in the LA Skins Film Festival for 'Best Short Film.' Entitled 'Promising Practices in Indigenous Communities in Saskatchewan,' the film focuses on the use of indigenous practices alongside western medicine in the treatment and management of HIV/AIDS. For more, visit Glen Hicks' article in the Cree Nations Treatment Haven.
Since then, we have scored two additional films in the ongoing Promising Practices series, branching out to other local musicians including Alcvin Ryuzen Ramos - a well known master of the Shakuhachi, Samuel Romero - singer song writer of the Earth Heart Hum album, and Jason Lawrence - producer of the popular CiTR UBC Radio show: the Medicine Show.
In the coming months, a complete soundtrack of the film series will release in conjunction with Jason Lawrence's featured songs that include: 'No Shame,' and 'The Best You.' In the meantime, you can listen to some of the signature tracks, right here: https://soundcloud.com/sonsofgranville
Building on 2016's slideshow composition for the Artists for Conservation organization we decided to tackle this year's slideshow commission by inviting Japanese shakuhachi master, Alcvin Ryuzen Ramos to the studio.
The 17 minute piece comprised of earthy strings, bowed guitar, ukuleles and bass violas (our latest color obsession), before our third day of production in which we experienced Alcvin's exquisite performance, who drew from distinctive members of the shakuhachi family, an impressive range of uniquely tuned ethnic instruments. Within quick time a wild and remote soundscape of bird calls, roaming animals, and crashing seas evolved before us.
This past October, Thomas and Alcvin performed the main theme from this composition at the BlueShore Financial Theatre for the Performing Arts at Capilano University for the pre-show of the AFC annual festival. To listen to the full recording and watch AFC's 2017 catalogue of inspiring artwork, go here>
We assembled today at one of the largest and most beautiful churches in all of Western Canada to record "Tango", Thomas' latest composition. He had a clear vision for this piece, including who we wanted to perform it.
Enter: Borealis String Quartet.
Comprised of two fiddles, a viola and a cello, BSQ mesmerized us for 2 hours while we captured numerous variations of the piece, which clocks in just under 4 minutes. Videographer Darko Sikman joined the session for some behind-the-scenes footage to support the upcoming music video.
On the engineering side of things, we stuck to a common formula for string quartets: a stereo pair of microphones about 5 feet in front of the ensemble and an overhead condenser right on top of all the action. Considering the size and echo response of the church, we couldn't resist placing a condenser microphone up in the rafters about 90 feet away.
Stay tuned for the "Tango" music video!
As soon as Alvin arrived at the studio, he unpacked all of his flutes and laid them out for us to examine, then obliged our curiosity to audition the different sounds and perhaps spark our creativity. With names like the fue, the shakuhachi and the tang-khan, we hardly knew what to expect from these beautiful instruments.
We first opted for the mid-octave shakuhachi. From the moment he began to play his trademark style of expressive flourishes, it animated and humanized the steady orchestral drone. We had to restrain ourselves from using it everywhere because the sound was so instantly gratifying.
One of the session highlights would have to be the extreme "animal sounds" that Alvin accomplished on the fue, the highest-pitched instrument in his arsenal.
We are thrilled to share this music with everyone- but it's not time just yet!
While we've been busy composing and recording film scores, we spared some time to lay down a couple of historic gems: "Ave Maria" and "If I Ain't Got You".
We performed the former as a part of beautiful August wedding ceremony in Pemberton. The latter, we will be playing for a wedding this September at UBC Botanical Gardens.
Celebrating Canada’s 150th anniversary, Thomas was commissioned to write a new concert piece for the Post Modern Camerata. Entitled ‘Pandora’s Clock’, the piece was premiered alongside three other Canadian composition at the Orpheum Annex. The PMCco-director Alexandra Hill fashioned a series of behind-the-scenes episodes, including this one about the new classical piece >
On Sunday the 28th, we join the Canadian Aboriginal AIDS Network for the Rio Theatre premiere of their second documentary ‘Promising Practices in Timiskaming First Nation,’ the latest offering in a series of documentaries to promote awareness around health issues that affect the country’s interior First Nation’s community. The premiere kicks off at 12:30pm with live performances from myself and the Medicine Stones. For more info, go here >
Our last project of 2016 was to produce a short score for 'Ten Years' by Robyn Thomas. The film follows the difficult path from fear and shame to healing and forgiveness by a victim of rape. We are proud to support Robyn's sincere film of a brave testimony and we look forward to sharing the film once it's completed its festival circuit by the end of this year.
To listen, go to tracks 'Inviolate' and 'Convalescence' on our 'Music' page.
Last week, Sector 5 released the official trailer for their new action-horror flick. 'Big Foot Country' now sets it's sights on several prestigious festivals across the globe.
This is the third feature-length film in 5 months that we have scored for filmmaker Jason Mills. The other films, "Mermaid Island" and "Alien Psychosis", are both slated for release in 2017.
Our First International Film
Last year Justin and I produced a 10 minute score for the short film ‘Phosphenes,' directed by Frida Harari Sitton and produced by Alex Balassa from Blindspot Productions. It was our first time working on an international film with a crew from an entirely different part of the world.
We worked very closely with the director who had a strong vision for the film's musical character. She told me from the outset that the music was to manifest as the film’s ‘second soul,’ and this was in part due to the fact that the story relied purely on music and picture. There was no script, no words or dialogue. Musically I felt the challenge was to capture the interaction between the two main characters, while toying between what Frida described as ‘reality’ and ‘illusion.'
'Best Drama Short Film'
Ultimately, the film’s sensuous nature and romantic flare called for the viola to feature heavily throughout as a voice; an emotional sub-narration that runs parallel with the picture, rather than beneath. Some months later our efforts were vindicated when the short won ‘Best Drama Short Film,’ and the main prize ‘Golden Monarch’ in the FIMCO Festival, Ottawa, earlier this year. The film has since gone on to win 'final selection' at numerous international film festivals, a testament to the power of film and music, without words.
At the beginning of the year we sat down with director of CAAN, Merv Thomas and 'Promising Practices' co-director Jason Lawrence to discuss the film’s musical treatment which included Jason's new song "No Shame.’ Production for 'No Shame' drew upon a diverse group of musicians to tell its story: a plea to debunk the stigmatization of HIV/AIDS and to unify communities living in the Sturgeon Lake and Ahtahkakoop First Nations territories. We enlisted VSO cellist Ariel Barnes to play off of my viola, creating an even more authentic acoustical edge. We also bolstered Jarrett's drum performance with percussionist Chris Couto on djembe.
By mid-July we had finished the song and were underway with the score itself. At every stage we sought to honour the film’s dynamic and emotional theme of recovery and resilience. The music drew heavily upon that message, something Merv described in his recent interview with the Saskatoon Phoenix Star as ‘positive and uplifting.’ Learn more here> http://thestarphoenix.com/health/family-child/we-wanted-to-show-some-hope-hiv-doc-highlights-positive-stories-in-first-nations-communities
We teamed up with artist Nick Gee to produce a song for the CBC Searchlight Competition. While we didn’t win the grand prize, our music video bundled up well over a 1000 views within the first week and landed in the top 10 of our region's finalists, thanks to a flurry of votes.
‘Stay My Love’ is a saucy little tune with Nick’s natural charm on full display, while the music video captures some of Vancouver’s own charm thanks to the lens work of film maker Jason Mills. Enjoy!