Burglars Inc. Score

Burglars Inc. is an exciting new plot driven puzzle game centered around a collective of thieves who crack safes with benevolent intentions. As a huge fan of 1960's era heist movies, Archer, Venture Bros, and Cowboy Bebop, I may or may not have squealed a little at the prospect of scoring this game. Here's a little bit about the process of writing one of the main character themes.

Chase is new to Burglars Inc. She's playful and fun but her youthful veneer belies her natural talent for burgling. The levels she's featured in are fast paced so the challenge was create a sense of urgency while keeping the music light enough to fit her personality.

My initial demo took stylistic cues from shows like "The People's Court", "The Powerpuff Girls", and "The Venture Bros". I wanted the actual substance of the music to be all business, while the instrument choices wrapped it up in a cutesy package. I'd describe myself similarly, but personal experience has taught me it tends to work better as a musical approach than a dating strategy. The rhythm ticks away regularly to mimic the feel of seconds counting down on a mechanical clock. All of this is against heavy piano stabs which add a little more emotional weight and allude to a sense of danger. Since the piece needed to be able to loop infinitely, I opted to keep the melody simple in an effort to avoid annoying the listener upon the 150th repeat. This first demo is provided below:

While I received some positive feedback, the general concensus was that the track came across a bit too modern and dark, and not jazzy enough for the style of the game. In short, it felt too "Brock Samson Smash (Venture Bros)" and not enough "Rusty and Danny Ocean (Ocean's Eleven)". I created another version with some horn parts sketched in, but it felt a bit forced so I went back to the drawing board.

In the next round I shifted my focus to music that had more of a straight jazz feel. I took more influences from the likes of Lalo Schifrin, Mal Waldron, and of course, Yoko Kanno. As it turns out, having an awesome name is like 80% of writing really great music. Forget studying theory/orchestration/sound design/etc. From now on I will be known as Bif LeStrange.

I decided to go with a more identifiable melody - something that even amateur burglars could hum to themselves while cracking safes at home. I kept the plucked strings and glockenspiel from the first demo, but pushed them into the background and used the falling line in the glock to paraphrase the melody played in the saxophones. I slowed the tempo down quite a bit so that I could add a bit more rhythmic density. Protip: Hand drums always make jazz cooler, and when in doubt, add more shakers! Taking cues from the epically named composers above, I let a funky bass line drive the piece. The overall effect was the following demo:

This track was received much more favorably and I got the thumbs up to move forward. After that, it was simply a matter of fleshing harmonies out, developing the material, and hacking away at finessing the production.

I wanted the melody to grow like a Chia Pet in an advertisement, so I started each phrase as a thin line, and gradually fattened it as it went along. This was also a dating tactic of mine, and it worked as well as the last one I mentioned. I'm beginning to suspect I'm not very good at courtship. I added a countermelody in the trombones to give the repeated sections a little more spice. At this point the plucked strings were demanding too much attention, so I dropped them down an octave and pushed them further back in the mix. I also decided the solo needed to be played on the flute because obviously...the solo needed to be played on the flute. It captures Chase's playful qualities, and creates more diversity in sound. Also jazz flute is funny.

I'm incredibly happy with the way the music came out! I'm rarely able to work on this type of music so I had a blast with this project. Overall I contributed three tracks, and my only regret is that I couldn't contribute more. On the plus side, there's a fair amount of demo material that didn't work out for this project. Perhaps I'll finish some of them up and put out a Burglars Inc B-sides and Rarities collection someday. Until then, check out this game. I'm sure you'll have at least as much fun playing it as I had composing for it!

Burglars Inc, coming out on February 2nd!

GL019 Ain't No Friend of Mine

You say we'll get coffee at quarter to 8
you make a promise you won't be late
you must have lied again
cause baby, it's half past 9

You say we'll split even but you're always broke
won't buy packs, but you'll bum a smoke
you'll trade five for ten,
Well you ain't no friend of mine

Okay, those lyrics are terrible; nobody ever accused me of being a librettist. Most music from this genre/era originated as a song, so it's fitting to think of something singable when writing a melody. I tend to think more in terms of syllables, general character, and plausible phrasing than concrete words (though "ain't no friend of mine" seemed to fit pretty early on). I figured the lyrics would have been something in the spirit of "The Lady Is a Tramp" or "Hit That Jive, Jack". The rest was improvised for this post. What do you want from me?

This track was inspired by a humorous montage of "Things Animation Girls Say"created by the very talented Rebecca Parham of Let Me Explain Studios. I was impressed by the writing, artistic style, and overall execution. Despite the absence of music I kept hearing this gypsy jazz-ish clarinet riff in my head. I had some time before I needed to start the next project, so I sketched out fragments of the melody and changes over the next few evenings while riding the subway to and from various engagements, and produced the track in a little over an evening. While the production is a little rough in some spots, I'm happy with how this one turned out considering it's a first attempt at producing something in this specific style of jazz.

This is the original video which inspired the music. While Rebecca was extremely supportive, she was understandably unable to alter the video without losing the current number of views, commentary, and general stats in the process. Please subscribe to her YouTube channel. It's full of creatively awesome things.

This loopable track is distributed with several options. Clarinets have the tendency to fight with the frequency range of spoken word, and the guitar solo may be too busy to work as background material for your project. Because of this, I've included a version with JUST rhythm guitar, drums, and bass as well as a sololess version with separate stems for the clarinet and guitar. This way you can edit together whatever version of the track works best with your project. I've also included the ending tag melody as a separate stinger so you can edit in an ending wherever you see fit.

As with all the things posted here, this is freely available for use in games and/or animation projects. It also works as a sort of demo of my style and abilities. I’m actively looking for new gigs, so if you enjoy anything here please get in touch to discuss some custom work.

I’ve provided separate intro/loop files for ease of editing. If you would like to use this free loop, please message me for attribution requirements.

GL019 Ain't No Friend of Mine Files

GL018 The Watchmaker's Daughter

Amidst the thicket of cogs and ticks, delicate hands work jewelers tweezers with a reluctant precision. Born into this trade, the watchmaker's daughter winds her days around twitching autonoma, toiling to keep time passing. While ever vigilant of her duties in the shop, her mind lives an artistic life in lands abroad. Mechanized monstrosities of her creation paint portraits, equally masterful and absurd. From humble beginnings hocking her wares on the streets of Paris, she gradually gains the attention of great galleries far and wide. Among those to exhibit her work is an eccentric yet dashing young man of ecclectic and strange tastes. His awkward yet endearing attempts to court her with tales of exotic lands and adventurous expeditions prove successful and they enter into a rock-skipping, wine-drinking, bike-riding relationship. Several decades later she unveils her life's greatest achievement - an army of automatons which wash away the drab hues of the towns and villages with a whirling dervish of quirky colors and shapes. Now old and tired with an equally time-worn lover by her side, she sighs wistfully hoping to find a way to freeze this moment so she can have it forever. The clock strikes one, and the watchmaker's daughter wakes from her slumber. Another completed clock is in front of her while an unfinished mechanical man is slumped in the corner. The vibrant hues of her imagination dim as she begins work on yet another watch.

This piece is loosely programmatic, meaning elements of the music directly correlate to events happening in a story. Symphony Fantastique is a piece which famously exhibits this technique and could arguably have set the stage for many practices now common in film scoring.

I'm trying out some new formats with this track. This site began as an opportunity to keep myself busy between projects as well as an excuse to experiment with various styles of music and production methods. That said, I am very aware that writing music for use in media is very different from simply writing music for music. Standalone pieces require a certain amount of drama and melodic dynamic to remain vibrant, while music for media typically necessitates low musical contrast so as to avoid stealing attention from dialogue or on screen action. To wit, good stock music is often boring and repetitive. How do I bridge the gap? I want to release music I would like to listen to, but still be useable by editors and directors? My solution is to start releasing "flexible compositions".

Basically, I'm going to start releasing options with each track. This may come in the form of multiple loopable sections or perhaps solo stems of parts that could potentially be too distracting for use in say, a 3d animation with the exact story I had written at the beginning of this post (hint hint). With this piece I've included the full track you hear above as well as a version which loops back on itself. I've also included a render that does not have the clarinet and piano solos, as well as both the clarinet and piano solo as separate tracks. I've also included the ending "ticking down" part as a separate file so if you'd like to tack an ending onto the piece, you can simply fade out the track and layer the ending over the top. Since it begins with a cymbal crescendo, it should be able to transition from almost anywhere in the track.

As with all the things posted here, this is freely available for use in games and/or animation projects. It also works as a short demo of my style and abilities. I’m actively looking for new gigs, so if you enjoy anything here please get in touch to discuss some custom work.

I’ve provided separate intro/loop files for ease of editing. If you would like to use this royalty free loop, please message me for attribution requirements.

GL018 The Watchmaker's Daughter Files

GL017 There's No Coffee In Hell

You've overslept, your shower breaks right after you apply shampoo, you realize you forgot to buy more coffee beans, you can't find your keys, you miss your train or bus, and by the time it's noon you've said every four letter word out loud 436 times. It's like being in Hell where, on top of overall general horribleness, there isn't even any coffee.

This kitschy track was written as a counterpoint to a hypothetical terrible morning. I don't know if there's much more to say about it. It's simple, light, kind of cheesy, and features piano, strings, trumpet with harmon mute, and drum kit with brushes.

As with all the things posted here, this is freely available for use in games and/or animation projects. It also works as a short demo of my style and abilities. I’m actively looking for new gigs, so if you enjoy anything here please get in touch to discuss some custom work.

I’ve provided separate intro/loop files for ease of editing. If you would like to use this royalty free loop, please message me for attribution requirements.

GL017 There's No Coffee In Hell Files

GL016 The Horror of Self

If you know me in real life, you probably know I absolutely adore early music. This piece borrows melodic sensibilities from Hildegard von Bingen - a female* composer noted for her ascending leaps of 4ths and 5ths. It's a melodic gesture that doesn't turn many heads today, but is something that wasn't really idiomatic for the 1100's.

This sketch came out of a personal low point. We work hard to succeed at doing the things we love, but sometimes a crack in our egotistical armor compromises structural integrity and everything comes crashing down. This short vignette is a lamentation of short-comings when your best is just not good enough.

The modal gestures are heavily influenced by Hildegard von Bingen, but the portamento violin takes its cues from appalachian music. The harmony is loosely based on Arvo Pärt's tintinnabulation technique, though I took liberties where I felt necessary. As part of an exercise, the tracks on this blog are typically written and produced quickly resulting in most being 2 minutes long or under. That said, this one keeps haunting me. I may release an extended version in the near future.

As with all the things posted here, this is freely available for use in games and/or animation projects. It also works as a sort of demo of my style and abilities. I’m actively looking for new gigs, so if you like anything here please get in touch and we can discuss some custom work. This piece isn't a loop, but I've provided files I think will be easy to work with. I've split the piece up into Drone/Violin I/Violin II files. This should make editing this piece for your project extraordinarily easy. I also provide the piece in its entirety. The track is short, but I think it says what it needs to say. If you would like to use this royalty free track please message me.

GGL016 The Horror of Self Files

*The composer's gender is noteworthy as females were largely marginalized in this era. Aside from creating breathtaking music, her work encompassed medicine, visual art, and literature. She's a fascinating individual.