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2. Our Proudest Mind Exchange Music Moment - Recognizing max potential.

Our Proudest Mind Exchange Music Moment Yet is as follows…

Last year in June, Mind Exchange Music LLC designed a 14 song live performance multidisciplinary production that custom utilized the abilities of over 50 separate creative professionals (across all arts industries) according to their most honed skill sets as experienced working creatives. (Filmmakers/Crew/Lighting/AudioEngineers/PAs/Conductor/Orchestra/Singers/Lighting, Musicians, Makeup, Singers & 5 cinematographers, etc).

The goal? To document a strategized production that maximized our total team knowledge, specialty and experience, our total resources, our combined networks of community, our technology (stuff we owned and stuff we just plain wanted to use), performance design experience, understanding & process of designing culturally appropriate, trendy & blending historic music to (ideally) offer tangible solutions to our companies long term strategies, collective dreams of creative team & artistic developments of creating an in-demand audio and music team. In conjunction with being an audio/music agency, Mind Exchange Music LLC also desires accomplishment and achievement in the: music publishing, record label, content licensing, music distribution, film production & media expansions, event production & design, education programming and all post audio and music production field(s). Basically we are a small but fully capable team, hell bent on the experience, creating our own education & sparking our own curiosity on the way.

The Production: We custom composed, arranged, orchestrated, produced, negotiated, contracted, administered content designed to maximize creative agreements we had built up over a few years.

We brought in the Lake County Symphony Orchestra (accompanied by Maestro Ron Arden, combined it with a rock band/rhythm section of professors & film scoring pros & studio musicians accompanying 3 backup singers, featuring amazing vocal soloists & virtuoso instrumentalists playing music we custom designed to fuse together non-conventional music genres & era specific performance styles. Each versatile & multifunctional piece of music was strategically designed to individually accompany: custom created indie videos made by Exponent Visuals & Layne Marie Williams (a few our our Friendly Local Chicago Filmmakers) combined with some public domain films & non conventional performance situations featuring not-so common soloist instruments.

The music was synchronized in live time to the custom made films, sent via bluetooth to the drummer & conductor using pre-assembled click tracks designed to guarantee easy synchronization to the projected visuals. Our audio team (Kelly Askam & Zachariah Jarrett) custom recorded 41 separate audio channels of live music, that was mixed live through the venue we rented for the day's audio system (Logan Square Auditorium) & then recorded separately (both recording & live mix occuring simultaneously) using different routing systems.

In 1 day we were able to capture Hollywood film quality performance sets of 14 different multifunctional & collaborate songs - some ranging in length from 1 minute to 15. Styles included; Film Scores, 1900s Americana, Impressionist Sound Scaping, Orchestral Narrative Jazz, Reggae, Orchestral Dub Step, Retro ‘Stranger Things’ orchestral synth mashups, disco, hard rock, R&B, country western, du-wop jazz, etc. We even featured non-conventional solo instruments like the: Accordion, Contrabass Trombone & Drumset in classical and traditional styles like the conterto, but with added synths for more profound levels of psychological immersion.

Each song was custom composed, arranged, orchestrated, produced & designed around the fact that we knew the material we were putting in front of everyone had to be easy enough to acquire as close as we could get to perfection in 1 to 3 takes per song. Much consideration was put into the editing of the sheet music, the page turns of the score, the freedom & the liberties of musicians having to improvise & the self assuredness of our featured vocal talent being fullymemorized & stage ready in advance. Everyone had 2- 3 times per song to achieve perfection as possible, if not - time & money was wasted and content not gained - there wasn’t time to get it right. (Reasonable Performance Pressure for musicians = Enhanced Focus and improved performance determination).

We contacted the musicians to be featured in advance and devised strategies to maximize their knowledge, training, abilities and comfort - aiming to recognize how we could hone the process of facilitating and showcasing their talents in the easiest & most stress free way possible. This consideration took place so that we could immerse their souls deeper into the performance and thus we established strategies to capture 6 different camera angles at the same time so that all videos could be synchronized to to offer us a wealth of changing camera angles happening at 1 time without stopping the song or re-starting the song (the 13 minute retro-stranger things type drum concerto film score thing was wicked stressful to put together).

It was important that not a second be wasted acquiring footage or data that wouldn’t be used and we had to maximize the agreements and respect the time and rates of all 51 talented-niche-creative-skillset oriented individuals. Even the lighting scenes were delegated in advance & pre-programmed to work in live time with the musical phrasing and psychological identity of each piece of performed music, dancing harmoniously with the color patterns of the synchronized video we had made or borrowed from film-maker friends, all matching the harmonic spectrums performed by the orchestra. Becs Bartle is nothing short of a lighting genius.

While pre-producing the music, strategies had to be devised to acquire all footage necessary for a documentary in conjunction with the actual strategy of the performance production. Our purpose was to use music - as a bridging too to combine artistic communities and creating opportunities for large-scale-artistic-community-wide collaborations, in ways that wouldn’t occur naturally without us ‘creating’ the need for everyone to work together. Each featured artist was interviewed about their views on music, life, friendships, etc and we had a crew dedicated just to the purpose of capturing the documentary and taking photos like these being shown here by Andy Aguirre of Paper Pigeon Studios.

In addition to being performance videos, we wanted the most beautiful 'record’ we could make. So we recorded all the music to be released through the record label we’ve been building, which worked through the music publishing company we’ve been building as well. The team of audio professionals we used were basically an audio and music team & family we’ve grown organically from the audio post production sound collaborations and client work to build a and music & sound production company that suited everyones talents, knowledge, dreams and curiosities. Its been non-stop growing over the last few years - good god what a beast.

Most of the equipment we used had been a by product of long term investments we redirected into the gear, instruments & recording equipment. Everything was acquired slowly as we built ourselves up from nothing (as thriftily as possible). The rest we rented & took out an insurance policy to cover - as we had probably close to 70K worth of audio gear in rentals that day alone from 3 separate companies. We demanded of ourselves, the BEST AUDIO possible according to the budget we had (didn't really) have access to - regardless - somehow it still happened.

We were able to accomplish this goal in 1 day. EVERY aspect of this production worked because we had taken the time to obsessively plot out EVERYTHING in advance, all the contracts, all the collaborations all the tiny -insanely important details. YOUR STRATEGY IS EVERYTHING. Plus we established meaningful relationships, grew friendships, combined connections & resources to maximize relationships we had acquired through our creative community based collaborations & client relations. A portion of the talent there on that day owed us favors or we had aimed to maximize a talent set or ability that person had - so we negotiated that in advance and took lower rates for some of those projects just to have access to favors.

1 day. All that took place in 1 day. No rehearsals. None. It took months to devise, to strategize, to plot and plan, to craft and consider, to plot and produce, to devise and describe, to negotiate & prepare for. To create, edit, synchronize, route, etc. We hired talent we knew would come prepared and we made sure everyone understand there wasn’t time for mistakes. Perfection in strategy to hold each person individually accountable to the best they were capable - playing off that same vibe from everyone else involved.

This production Showcase is now nearing completion, we’ve synchronized all the camera angles & accompanying videos, our editor Chris Oliva has realized the performance stories to be told through the changing camera angles & lighting structure, Grace Pisula of Gold Point Studios is working on color correction to each film individually now. Our documentary is assembled and now we are entering mix stages for each of the 14 songs plus marketing, promo & advertising material & even beautiful photos to show the mastery of the day.

To everyone involved in this production so far. Thank you, thank you THANK YOU. our commitment to excellence is helping us realize the best way to use communities of artists efficiently & individually, as respectfully as possible and the learning processes is the best part. Personal accountability will never let you down, demand nothing but MORE than you think you can handle from yourself - that same commitment to excellence will bring out the best in everyone your energy affects.

Donny Walker

1. Scoring Experiments & Live Film Score Strategy for 'Word Factory' - Live Performance Film Score.

So this is our very first blog post on the company site. I thought it would be cool to use this writing medium to describe the process of whats happening in my brain when scoring big or little projects with or without live musicians, and explain the way I see creative exploration.

At Mind Exchange Music LLC - We’re hugely interested in recognizing creative & theoretical processes that help us maximize visual/subconscious psychologies, to improve performance interpretation and also are based out of educational experimentation for the sake of learning and improving the quality of our work as it relates to the project purpose - we desire to portray that strategy into the reality of performance issues, etc.

Always of course, the purpose is to find greater meaning and purpose in that which we create.

One of the most noticeable experiments run on this project was trying to find the nuance of the whimsy light hearted nature of the film. Silly vs. serious? Loving vs. hating? Cute and quirky vs. trendy and timeless? Conventional or out of the ordinary?

The film itself ‘Word Factory’ is a romantic comedy about communication, told using sign language as the method. Naturally this created some interesting ideals of potential motif usage & stylistic applications for theory as relating to performance assumptions.

The aim was to make the score like the film - a portrayal of an ever changing upsy-downsy relationship.

Fun, Silly, nervous, bitter, in love, angry, upset, disappointed, scared, loving, serene & focused on nuance of the people - not the general mood for the scene. Its so much more than that. Unfortunately, as listeners we have grown away from this type of composition to swap out ideas of nuance & identity and grown accustomed to large hollywood type production scores - which for me sound ambiguous and often only identify the number of instruments used and the sheer size of those instrument collections in relation to the mood. Often, its actually hard to find the melody in these hollywood films, which is neither good or bad - it just simply is.

When creating the score for a film like this, its easy to go for an overarching ‘mood’ or ‘feel’ that can be timed out to fit over the whole scene. Since the conversational aspects of the content are so up and down i wanted to do my best attempting to do that justice.

The tricky thing however was actually assembling the time structure and form of it (not really but I’m goin got pretend it was). Precision or Ease? Long term or moment to moment? Our score ended up having tons of meter change, lots of tempo changes, etc. Generally, as film becomes more and more free and edits easier, the timings sometimes change and are cut in ways that for sheer precision require tempo strategies outside of the norm to accurately hit SMPTE frames if micro nuance of and the buddhist identity of ‘in the moment’ is the aim rather than a big piece of music that just be slapped on top of the scene categorized by ‘moods’ that define the composition. Not EVERYTHING has to be in 4/4. Doesn’t have to be crazy hard either but there are opportunities for each.

The experiment with the timing & form of this one was a simple one. After the score was done and parts edited, after the click was ready to go: to chop out a few frames after the downbeat and move EVERYTHING (measure numbers & click) forward to compensate for tech & musician/conductor delay. With this production, being our 5th live film scoring production, I’ve perpetually noticed the actual music performed is delivered to the audience approximately 1/4 of a second late. Consistently. Maybe its the tech? Maybe its a delay in the space? Maybe its the instruments physically speaking late, perhaps its the extra time readying the button combined with the time it takes for light to refract in the musicians eyes/brain - synaptic travel. Etc. Shit….maybe people are just mentally exhausted.

So with that said and considering this all, I went for frame precision (in the moment) with my score and ultimately knew that there were some tendencies to compensate for. Thus moving everything forward worked wonders for the ideals of buddhist sense of HERE & NOW and emotional contention to those arrival points rather than a longer cue.

This isn’t to say that that musicians dragged or didn't perform in time, or that the tech wasn’t on point. 1/4 of a second is un-noticeable to the average person but for a composer who treats ‘Chronos’ as god of all things living and dead, microscopic delays on delivery are like emotional ticks - they screw up the way the public perceives those moments, especially after spending all that time writing the music. Honestly, 1/4 of a second, if perpetually late affects EVERYTHING, and to a person like me its a big difference.

I Was proud to say that this aspect was truly much improved. Moving the entire click (with rehearsal & measure numbers pre-recorded in) sent to the performers & conductor ahead of where those cues & timing were supposed to arrive really did a great job compensating for the delay - even if wrong notes managed to slip in. The nuance was improved and timing absolutely more on point. Yay.

Now a quick post on style.

Experiment #2. Being an ego driven composer I assumed that all the scores on the performance were going to be darker, moody, more dissonance oriented. Some were, some weren’t and to be absolutely honest I loved everyone’s work, even felt there were many scores on the show were much better than mine (especially being granted ‘featured composer’ credit). The matter of the fact is that they’re all just different.

Anyways, The stylistic intention was to offer the audience something un-like what i assumed the rest of the show would be. Assumptions and arrogant yes but honestly it was more about the CHALLENGE of it. The film was silly, cute & light hearted, so naturally I thought this score was to be good mix of jazz & pop, classical & chamber styles but trying to fit that agenda into a classically chamber instrumentation with perpetually changing time meter is tricky and not as intuitive as one might believe.

Long term narratives become tricky to incorporate as motifs change & assumptions about what the performers will or won’t do take form based off past production experience, where they might or might not have mistakes, if they might get lost. Regardless there was certainly like a hmmm… kind of feel from the audience, naturally a good response but the film itself was markedly different than the others. It was a pleasant film and not so ‘art school or dark’ so I think by the time it was performed, it was my assumption that the crowd wasn't entirely ready for a perkier type production or something whose aim was to sound less thick and a bit lighter on its feet. This effect is always achieved by minimizing the process - less is always more and usually better for nuance - especially if seeking client approval.

Just because scores and music go big doesn’t mean its always appropriate, and loudness is always a matter of interpretation - your forte and mine (being a bass trombonist by training) are entirely different, thus without some direction its tricky to get into the mindset of whats happening in the moment emotionally & visually and not just reading those notes on the page.

Anyways, thanks for reading if you made it this far. Much love.

Donny Walker

Live Performance Film Score - From Access Contemporary Chicago's Live Film Scoring Festival 'Sound of Silent Film'
Film Score (timing, instrumentation), etc.
Violinist & Cellist during performance.
Flute and Clarinet