Bravo! This is epic and beautiful! Kudos to you for making such a great song!
WOW! This is a real cinematic Star Trek the next Generation Borg Incursion meets Alien Xenomorphs. I love how it went from the extreme to the nice, calm somber tone. Lovely track.
This is an NGADM 2015 Review.
Dammit. You really blew me away with this, and I hope you read this review, because I’m probably about to praise you, a lot. This is the first song in the contest (although one of two in the round) that I feel comfortable giving a 10/10, partially because it was quite visually evocative for me, and as I’m currently really interested in movie soundtracks, this is a pretty important aspect of the song from my perspective. It’s powerful. Don't take this as evidence of bias, rather as an interpretation through my own perspective. I think this song is deserving of a very high score in any objective context.
The intro is bleak and grey. I really admire the subtleties and the way you’re using your strings, and the way you evolve the piece from mildly bleak, to a glimmer of hope, and then to despair. Like, damn, that major chord caught me off-guard… and then you caught me off-guard again, two chords later. And then the dark exciting stuff begins.
So possibly in line with your intentions, I’m picturing a ship slowly falling through the atmosphere at this point. Characters on-board are in shot, and as the violent strings and heavy brass fades, the viewer is left with a slow-motion, soundless scene reflecting the characters on-board. You’d probably have some kind of corny memory-montage of the hero character during this quiet period, too. The strings would probably cue this off… and then you bring the brass back in. It’s pretty sombre-sounding, and then erupts into tragedy. I imagine the ship probably exploded or something at this point, and the rest of the song covers the reactions of those that observed it (perhaps those on the planet?) I can’t quite reconcile how hopeful the song gets as it ends with this imagery, though, haha.
There really aren’t too many flaws to talk about. I’d think perhaps Step has a point with the structure of the song in relation to it being a “standalone” piece, but it didn’t really matter for me. I think it told a story (probably a subjective one, but a story nonetheless) and it did so effectively; at least for me - again, that’s probably a subjective observation, though.
The production is great. The dynamics are great. Step already said all of that for me, really, and he said it well. I mean I’d love to offer you some objective criticism but I can’t, there isn’t much negative to say about how this song is put together. Everything is appropriately audible, nothing sticks out, your samples are great, your track is engaging and dynamic, and it’s even visually evocative. There are probably a few minor issues, like the fade-out transition, but I’d call these issues subjective and barely worth mentioning. The transition mentioned worked really well, anyway, especially in the visual context that I was imagining.
Damn good work.
This is an NGADM Round 3 Review
Throughout the contest I've always blabbed on about how we're looking for standalone, cohesive experience as judges, so songs which sound like background music or a bunch of movements tied together will get penalised. And you know what? You did get penalised, at least on my end. I'm going to say from the start that parts where the song just stops with one mood and starts with another, while working for, say, a film, don't work as a standalone piece of music, let alone an NGADM submission. But gosh, you've executed this all so damn well that it would be a travesty to give this a low score.
What this shines in would certainly be dynamics. Creating dynamics is an aspect of music that I personally think requires quite a bit of thought and experience to properly pull off, since it's one of the few areas of music production that requires expertise in both the composition and production side of the music-making process. If your mix doesn't reflect your melody's change in mood, or your composition doesn't reflect your mix's drop in volume, then it just won't work.
With this in mind, I hear the crescendo starting about a minute in, or the huge chords at the end, and then I hear the gentle piano section halfway, and I just think "he's pulled it off". What a glorious dynamic range this track has. I would say it's some of the best dynamics in the whole contest, and that is something I need to commend you on.
It helps that you have such fitting and excellent compositional skills to pull off these changes in dynamic and mood. Some of my favourite changes would be the super tense chord change at 0:54 that leads beautifully into the next section, the impressively subtle string entrance at 2:52, the way you die the track down at 3:35, or the way you approach that incredibly grand outro. You also have some very strong melodic content, namely during that emotional piano section.
I've probably already spoiled what caused you to lose marks from me in the intro to the review, haha. A lot of the stuff in here is far more suitable for a film score than for a standalone piece. Like, two minutes in, you introduce the piano section after a very dramatic, pompous and tense introduction, but you do it by stopping one section and starting the next. This would work for a change of scene in a film, but when actually listening to the music, we need more sensible and musical transitions between drastic changes like that if you want to tell a story.
This was definitely a hard track to judge, so I agree totally with johnfn on that. You executed everything incredibly well (to the point that I can hardly believe you made this in under three days). I honestly wouldn't have done it any other way. But in terms of the content itself, while you have some truly impressive stuff, more effort should have been made in structuring it all together for the sake of creating a unified listening experience. Nevertheless, keep up the great work, and I hope to see a proper collaboration between you (Jacob) and Chris, workstation explosions notwithstanding.
=== This is an NGADM Round 3 Review ===
You just have to make my job harder, eh Jacob?
I find it funny that after all my rants last round about how I wanted standalone pieces of music, that you somehow managed to turn in this track, which is basically just a film score - about as far away from a standalone piece of music as I could possibly imagine - and snag one of my highest scores of the round. How is this even possible?
For me, this was definitely one of the hardest pieces to actually assign a score. The reason is that if I were to listen to this piece just as a standalone piece, I would pretty much never listen to the first two minutes. Aside from a minor foreshadowing of the theme to come, almost nothing of interest happens there at all. Of course, this isn't to say that they are useless - obviously, they would fit in a film really nicely. But as a standalone track? The first two minutes don't really interest me after hearing them the first time, since they aren't particularly melodically interesting.
And of course, the second half of the song is just awesome.
When I first listened to this song, I was hyped. Running Free was legitimately one of my top tracks of the whole contest, so I had a lot of expectation. And in the first two minutes I felt like all my hopes were getting dashed. Yeah, the horror aspects are well done, and they're totally appropriate for film, but as a standalone piece... well, I'll put it this way: how often do you really ask yourself, "man, I really want to listen to some abrasive horror music right now?" Eh, you're a orchestral composer, so you probably do more often than I do. But, I dunno man, it just doesn't have very much replay value, which is something I find really important.
Then suddenly just around 2:00 the piano comes in! This is where the song starts, in my opinion. It's a really simple melody, but you support it really nicely with subtle strings and effects. At 2:55 you start bringing in more of the strings - at the exact moment when the melody happens to catch upon a really nice idea. The sadness, the regret! It's so well done. The chord at 3:13, too. So nice.
I just want to heap praise upon the section from 3:20 to 3:35. The transition from loud to soft, the chords. It's all working so well!
The funny thing is that even thought you mentioned that you ran out of time to do a proper mixdown/master, what you've done here is still very solid. The song still retains a proper balance between the quiet and loud sections to really bring the emotional parts across, and none of the important instruments are being drowned out. Essentially what I'm saying is that even though the mix isn't perfect, you managed to nail all the most important things that a good mixdown is supposed to accomplish. Yeah, there are a few technical issues here and there, but they don't really detract from how I like the song as a whole.
Another great section: 4:02 onwards to 4:14. Great little downwards melody into big massive chords! And that leads me into what is practically my only complaint for the second half - the Cadmus Ending (TM). The loud blaring chords of the climax is something I hear you do really often for an ending, and I really think you could find a more interesting way to end a track. At least you added a timpani roll this time. :)
So, again, I'm a little stumped here. The first half is just not something I really want to return to, but then the second half comes in and just nails it.
So why did I give you such a high score? That's the wrong question to be asking. If you would have turned out an entire song that was an extension of the final 2 minutes, then I would have scored you substantially higher.
What made this song even harder to judge was matching it up with your opponents, who wrote a super long song jam packed full of melodic content. Honestly though, I felt like the melodic content that you did have, along with the generally superior mixing and instrument choice/diversity that you had gave you a bit of an edge. It was a close and pretty tricky call, however.
All in all, awesome song. Hard to judge, but you did really well here. Can't wait to hear an actual Chris + Jacob collaboration piece! One of my favorite pieces of the round.
Thanks man, this was a great read! I completely agree that it's structurally not my best; in the wake of Chris' Mac Pro fiasco, I had only 2 days to make this from start to finish, and it certainly shows in the structure, haha.
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