Comma Music (www.commamusic.com/) boasts four Pro Tools|HD writing rooms in Chicago and a shared live room; Santa Monica also has a Pro Tools|HD-based control room and studio. Pecorella and Rheude use Logic II for composing while their colleagues opt for Pro Tools; all use Propeller Head's Reason sequencing software, "a cool and contemporary program for drums and rhythm," Pecorella says.
He and his fellow composers have witnessed a number of trends in the last few years. "Commercials use a lot more published songs by artists. The barriers have broken down," he notes. "Artists who didn't want to sell out now see spot music as free advertising for themselves or their band. This is new competition for us."
He also finds that editors have "a bigger say in music than they used to," with their access to substantial collections of stock music. "They often do the initial music search to have music to cut to," Pecorella explains. "The client may fall in love with how that music works with the picture so by the time they come to you, you don't have the opportunity to put your creative two cents in."
But original scores, custom-tailored to a spot's specific needs, stand out like no others. Pecorella tapped his extensive experience writing, performing and producing live music for spots when he conducted the Czech National Philharmonic in his score for the :60 Hunchback spot for Cheez-Its from production company Pytka. Part of Leo Burnett/Chicago's "Get Your Own Box" campaign for the snack crackers, the humorous spot "looks and sounds like a movie" as it follows the Hunchback of Notre Dame through the streets of Paris and into the bell tower where he reveals his deformity: a concealed Cheez-Its box.
"You couldn't score that with a few toys and live instrumentalists," Pecorella notes. "There's a joy you get conducting an orchestra in their concert hall. You can't get that sitting in front of the computer." He worked with the same orchestra on the score for Uncle Nino, an indie film starring Joe Montegna slated for release in February.
While the Internet has globalized music scoring, opening up the market for even greater competition, it has also paved the way to new business opportunities and the ability to work with artists around the world. "We've found more work coming from outside Chicago," Pecorella reports, citing Detroit, Kansas City and LA. "We've made a conscious effort to go after it and have no problem working with creatives at a distance. Film is still film, and you have to give it emotion with music; it's just how you're delivering the product that's different."
OLYMPIAN SOUND DESIGN
Just over a year old, NYC's Heavy Melody Music & Sound Design (www.heavymelodymusic.com/) is comprised of composers/ sound designers Neil Goldberg and Dave Fraser, graduates of the Berklee College of Music, and studio producer Chris Peterson.
"We're really into diversification with our outlets, including film, longformat TV shows, spots and videogames," says Fraser. "We've evolved our business so we can produce tracks cost effectively for a diversified client base." The company offers two fully digital multitrack suites with a shared iso booth. Gear includes Mackie D8B consoles; Genelec monitors; PRS, Gibson, Fender, Brian Moore and Bourgeois guitars; Akai, Clavia, Ilio, Kurzweil, Korg, Native Instruments, Novation, Roland and Yamaha synths; AKG and Shure mics; Mac G5s running Digital Performer, Peak, UA and Waves; and custom P4 PCs running TASCAM's GigaStudio sampling software.
Heavy Melody excels at intertwining music and sound design. "We blur the line between music and sound design so both go to a place neither defines," says Peterson. In a new national spot for AT&T, Goldberg composed a track using instruments in a sound design role. For example, he recorded guitars, reversed them and cut them up in interesting rhythmic manipulations.
Some projects are more music-focused, however, and one used library elements to great effect. New York City's :60 pitch spot for the 2012 Summer Olympics, which was shown in kiosks at the Athens Olympic Village and will air nationally this fall, starts with evocative strings accompanying archival photos of immigrants at Ellis Island, then builds to an inspiring orchestral score as the contemporary world city makes its bid to host the upcoming games.
"DDB producer Scott Kemper wanted the melody to start simply and pull at the heart string,s then develop into a full-blown fanfare, a real anthem-like piece of music," says Peterson. Goldberg composed the score with live trumpet, flugelhorn and violin playing the main melody and GigaStudio's "orchestra in a box" filling out the track. "The beauty of GigaStudio and the Vienna Symphony Library is the power, quality and realism of the meticulously-recorded orchestral instruments," Goldberg explains. "I layer that with other libraries, and it's as close to the real thing as it gets."
Fraser points to the increased use of "instantly-identifiable pop songs" on commercials and in videogames, which also license music from record labels. But "you'd be hard pressed to find a Top 40 track to score" the eGenesis Massively Multiplayer Online game A Tale in the Desert II, which takes place in ancient Egypt, Peterson says.
Fraser and Goldberg team on music and sound design for the game, which is ongoing as its developers implement new features. "The purpose of the game is cooperation as you advance through architecture, art and armed conflict," Peterson explains. "Dave and Neil use indigenous instruments to give gamers the feeling of being immersed in the environment." The fact that the game continues to evolve "gives it an organic quality that's very attractive," he adds.