Based in South Africa, Audio Militia combines the talents of three producers to create a fresh approach to commercial music and sound design.
Nick Argyros, Paul Norwood and Craig Hawkins are each accompolished musicians in their own right, but collectively they have developed a reputation for delivering quality audio for top brands like Lexus, Coca-Cola and Johnny Walker.
What musical background and influences does your team bring to a project?
“Our team has a pretty diverse musical background. We’ve played in various bands such as 16Stitch (Progressive Hard Rock), Newtown Knife Gang (Melodic Rock), Pestroy (Metal), Wrestlerish (Folk), Tripwire (Electronic/Drum n Bass), and The Assembly (Hip Hop) for over 15 years.
Our influences range from NIN, Bring Me The Horizon, Slipknot and DieselBoy to Imogen Heap, Bjork, Bon Iver and Thomas Newman.
This, in turn, gives us a wide variety of musical inspiration to draw from when approaching a project, from both a composition and production perspective.
All of our composers are self-taught musicians and hold no formal composition qualifications. We rely more on feeling and emotion than musical theory to get the job done.”
Can you give us an example of a difficult project and how you overcame those challenges?
“Wow, we have had a couple of challenging projects, but one that stands out is a job we did for the 2010 Soccer World Cup in South Africa.
Seeing that the World Cup was being held in South Africa, the Client wanted us to use an instrument that would reflect the tone of the South African soccer culture - that instrument was a Vuvuzela!
The problem was....the Client wanted us to create a recognisable sound/theme that would give the campaign credibility, as well as being an Anthem for the soccer fans.
As many people will now know the Vuvuzela only produces one sound at a single pitch. This created obvious limitation when having to create a ‘Catchy tune’.
The only way around this issue was to focus on rhythm rather than melody.
After creating a catchy rhythm that the soccer fans could relate to and play live at the stadiums on their own vuvuzelas, our theme became a huge success.
It ended up being an award-winning campaign, and also shaped the sound for the 2010 Soccer World Cup, around South Africa and the world.”
Altitude Music doesn’t just produce original music for top brands, they have become a brand in their own right.
Based in London, Altitude reaches worldwide to create recognizable scores for film, TV, ads, games and more.
We recently spoke with Director and Head of Creative Scott Doran about their process.
What musical background and influences does your team bring to a project?
“We all eat and sleep music. The office is a mash of tastes from classical to hip hop, the obscure and experimental, to the Beatles. We love it all and collectively we’re a musical encyclopaedia.
We’re experienced in every aspect of the industry and the process - we’ve been in signed touring bands, written film scores, Dj’ed both in clubs and on national radio.
We've worked in music licensing at broadcasters and PRS, supervised and scored hit films and big TV shows. We’ve worked on international advertising campaigns both as composer and agent, and developed audio identities for global brands.
We've staged workshops and presentations on music, sound design and how to successfully find the right audio fit for your production.”
Can you walk us through the scoring process for a recent project?
“One recent one I like is an ad for Philips, and although it’s a small online film, it’s been a huge success.
We ideally like to be involved during the early stages of the creative process but in reality, music is often the last consideration. In this case, the music was crucial to the creative idea, so we were involved from the beginning.
The idea evaluated the progress of the humble lightbulb in a typical living room, starting in the 1930s, then jumping forwards 10 to 20 years at a time. We see the deco and fashions evolve, and the music needed to follow this progress.
We brought in a couple of composers who we were confident could handle the changing genres specified in the brief.
The very talented Nigel Butler won the pitch, and we then worked with him to make sure each decade's theme sounded authentic, subtly recognisable so that the listener would identify the time and genre, and, at the same time, keep in tempo, melody and the production values of each era. I believe the turnaround was about 48 hours, which is pretty standard.
One bit of advice for anyone getting into composing for commercials is that what you deliver first time round must be pretty close to a finished product, if not completely finished, mixed perfectly, synced to the picture (if you’re given one) and at the correct volume.
So often composers place their music too loud against a voice over thinking it will help sell their music. It doesn’t: the creatives will just think the music doesn’t fit.
It must sound like a finished track because half of what we’re looking for today is the ability to make music that sounds fresh off of a commercial record, but produced within one or two days.
It can be hard when you’re asked for something as good as a Mariah Carey hit, knowing she’s written 10 albums to get to a few hits, spent millions on studios and producers, and you only have 2 days…”
Future Composer is an Official Media Partner of The International Music+Sound Awards. Stay tuned for more about this exciting event honoring outstanding music and sound design in the media.
The third International Music+Sound Awards, the only global awards ceremony to focus on music and sound design in the media, are now open for entries.
Film, TV (programming and branding), advertising and gaming professionals worldwide are invited to become part of a music and sound celebration, which provides a global platform for the enormous number of talented individuals in this arena, to have their moment in the limelight.
The International Music+Sound Awards were formed to establish the criteria and standard for global excellence in music and sound for visual media, and to shine a light on those who create, source and commission it. They’re open to anyone involved in a film, TV show, commercial or video game, broadcast, published or released, between 31st October 2013 and 27th March 2015, where the music or sound design plays an essential role.
With past winners including Downton Abbey (Carnival Film+TV), Philomena (Switch Music Publishing) and Guinness (AMV BBDO) and jury members like industry authorities Klaus Badelt (Composer: Pirates of the Caribbean / Gladiator), Bond Composer, David Arnold, Mary Ramos (Music Supervisor: Inglorious Basterds / Pulp Fiction / Django Unchained), Josh Rabinowitz (SVP, Director of Music, Grey Worldwide) and Brian Monaco (EVP, Sony AMV Music Publishing), the awards are now firmly established as an important competition in the international calendar.
Nick Payne, co-founder, comments, “The Awards continue to provide a stamp of approval from leading industry professionals across the disciplines they reward and offer the incredible wealth of talent out there much deserved exposure. It’s a giant melting pot for the incredibly gifted professionals that provide music and sound design to the media industries on a global scale.”
From classical to electronic music, composer Boris Salchow has learned the value of being versatile.
His career began in Germany where he scored commercials and other television programs. Since moving to Los Angeles, Boris has created music for numerous video games that showcase his talent for fusing acoustic and electronic styles.
His latest project is “Sunset Overdrive”, a widely anticipated game released for Xbox One.
What was the collaboration process like for Sunset Overdrive? What can gamers expect from the score?
“Sunset Overdrive was very different than most projects I have worked on before. While you hear a lot of songs from cool bands in the in-game soundtrack, we were crossing all kinds of musical borders when writing the music for the cinematics.
I had an amazing musical swat team on standby throughout this project. I never knew what kind of musical style the next cinematic would need, so we had to be a lot more flexible than usual.
You will hear medieval tunes, punk rock cues, 1940s Hollywood moments and much more.”
You've had the opportunity to record at Abbey Road. What are some of the differences recording there versus other places in the world?
“The engineers and the players in London are among the best in the world. And Abbey Road obviously sounds amazing. Oh – and often overlooked but really crucial is the fact that it has its own pub inside!”
Born and raised in Switzerland, composer Giona Ostinelli knew he was destined to compose. Inspired by the film "Indiana Jones: Raiders of the Lost Ark", he soon followed his dream and began learning drums and piano at age 5.
After obtaining a degree in film scoring from Berklee and attending USC's Scoring for Motion Pictures and Television program, Giona has received critical acclaim from the Cannes International Film Festival, Tribeca Film Festival, SXSW Film Festival and more.
His most recent project is the film "Two-Bit Waltz", starring Academy Award Nominees William H. Macy and David Paymer.
You recently said that it was important to use real musicians on your score for "Two-Bit Waltz". How did you incorporate those instruments?
"The score needs to emotionally move the audience by either making them laugh, cry, or even cringe in their seats. Having your music performed and interpreted by a real musician as opposed to just using samples adds an important human element to the score, which helps the audience to connect and relate to it.
It is true that the quality of samples is getting better and better each day to the point, where we can start to consider them as an instrumental choice rather than just a tool to help us create demos.
However, every tool has its purpose and should never be relied upon too heavily. I like to think about the relation of samples and live instruments in comparison to the use of CGI and actual models in films.
When you combine them together in the right proportion, amazing results can be achieved. An example of this perfect combination is the first Jurassic Park, which still to this day looks absolutely astonishing.
It is hard to achieve a great sound by using samples only, but when you combine samples and live instruments together, new fantastic sonorities can be achieved. That is why it was so important to record real musicians for the 'Two-Bit Waltz' score.
I try to record live as much as possible so that ten years from now, when listening back, I won't think 'Why did I only use samples?' "