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The Undying Knight

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This is my submission for the NGUAC 2018 Final round!!
So excited to make it this far, and for this round I thought of a "medieval" infused melody for this composition. The knight it is based upon is "Aidru", a character created by a friend of mine, who is immersed in a battle against the dark forces of the Limbo, a place where time ceases to exist and only the strongest prevail... So he told me once that even though he had a flawless victory fighting against the creatures of the Limbo, he never recovered from the loss of his family, due to this fact, he joins forces with other valiant heroes in a neverending quest to restore the peace of the Universe...
And that's why the song is divided in two main segments, the "Glory" and the "Sorrow". The start is marked by a triumphant tone, while the ending of the song depicts the sad memories he has of his loved ones.

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Patience! This is something you don't hear very often in competition tracks. I love the courage you have to just let the chords ring. Nice work.
1:12 - the cellos seem a equed a bit on the bright side here. I think they could be more present in the mix, and let them sit in the mid-range a bit more.
1:20 - I'm having a hard time telling if this is low brass or bowed low strings. For the volume level, the timbre is too brassy. If you're using samples that change in timbre with velocity or expression, I'd knock those down quite a bit. If not, try rolling off some of the highs there. The sound feels like it's an epic BRAAAM from a hans zimmer score, but this section is still pretty light.
The brass also seems to bury the piano. I think having the Alberti bass line continue through this section is nice, but perhaps trade the duties to bowed bass/cello or something like that to help stand up against the brass. Piano is not strong enough on its own.
1:45 - I would have liked to see more melodic development here. By this point, we've gotten a few iterations of the main melody and it's going on in our head. Manipulating it would make this really pop. You can try something as simple as inverting the melody (I rarely ever do this 100% faithfully, but it's a good place to start and then push the notes around until they sound good). You could also do a 2nd species countrapuntal melody here which would be simple, but nice. Just something that references the original melody, but changes it slightly so it keeps the piece opening up in different directions.
2:35 - this recapitulation is a really nice moment orchestrationally. The violin performance could use a little work. The notes tend to taper too much at the end, but in a real performance the phrase would build from the beginning straight through to the end. Individual notes do taper here and there, but contextually the entire performance will have a general shape. If you imagine the violinist actually playing this, their bow would move smoothly throughout the section and most of the notes would be slurred.
3:10 - why did you drop the violin down an octave here? You were already moving up, I think it would be a goosebump-inducing moment if you let the melody keep climbing naturally like it was into the upper octaves as you stripped away some of the other instruments.

This is pedantic (and doesn't affect your score) but the melody has more baroque elements than medieval which is a few hundred years off. Either way, it's modernized, but you would see this type of melodic writing more common to 1600's through early 1700's which the use of piano, harpsichord, alberti bass line, and Chaconne reinforce. Think Bach vs Gregorian chant. That said, I don't think most people including those in Hollywood would care much about this distinction, so carry on. More of an interesting factoid than anything.

I think the writing is a bit repetitive, but nice. A little more variation would take this into the next level. Sometimes understated poignant writing works, but the performance really needs to carry the emotional intensity in that case which can be excruciatingly difficult with MIDI instruments. At the end of the day, this is just another challenge for contemporary composers. Either figure out how to manipulate your instruments into creating the performance you need, or adjust the writing to work around that limitation. Expensive virtual instruments can sometimes help as they have more capabilities, but a good composer can figure out alternative solutions.

I'd concentrate on mixing. The instruments tend to get mushed up together and it really flattens the emotional impact. They sit in the same space in the room, and occupy much of the same frequency space. First, I'd start by rolling off any frequencies you don't need in the instruments. You'd be surprised at how much of the lows or highs you can pull off of any given instrument and how little it takes away from the overall performance. Another quick/easy way to start separating instruments is to use the dry/wet mixers on the reverb to push instruments around the space. If you pull the dry back a bit, it pushes instruments further back in the room which helps to separate them. You can reference a seating chart for an orchestra to get a sense of where each person would be sitting. It's pretty easy to start mud mixing when you do this, so a tiny bit goes a long way. Try A/Bing your mix against something that sounds like what you're going for. It's hard to make specific suggestions for your instruments without knowing what you're using, but I've learned a lot of tricks by listening to my tracks alongside something else and trying to replicate that sound.

In general, I like the mood you set up. I'd love to see this in the context of the scene you described with Aidru.

Nice chords at the beginning. The pacing is very, very slow, but it does have a distinct emotional quality about it. The transition into 1:09 was executed very well. The orchestral samples don’t sound entirely realistic, but the melodic content is beautiful. The piece has a nice, heroic mood about it, although I think the texture could’ve used some drums or something to move it along. At 1:57, the flute melody doesn’t come through very well over the brass. There are other mixing issues, too. Unfortunately, the entire piece is very quiet. I think you should invest in some compression, volume level adjustments, and other mastering techniques that would make the texture sound fuller throughout. Structurally, however, this piece is really effective. I think the stop-start transition at 2:34 works really well to place some emphasis back on the underlying emotional appeal of the piece. The harmonic framework is a bit simple, but you’ve shaped the piece very well in its overarching progression. Overall, I think the composition is very strong here, but aspects of the production, pacing, and balance could be improved upon. Otherwise, keep up the good work, Eviladrianin!

Mixing, mastering, and balance
1.5/2
Structure, transitions, phrasing, and variety
1.25/1.5
Melody, tonality, harmony, and texture
1.75/2
Instrumentation and sound design
.75/1
Emotion, atmosphere, and catchiness
1.5/1.5
Originality and uniqueness
1/1
Overall (how do the elements above interact?)
.75/1
Composite score
8.5/10

Very pensive, slow intro. Appreciating the panning. Almost sounds like sitting at the piano myself -- an e-piano, or one with two condenser mics over top.

2 chord progression stands fairly well until 1:12. Your strings could do with a lot less reverb on that accompaniment -- probably more volume to stand out well. I would also take down your violas, lead trumpet, and other leads, which come out pretty tinny, almost ear piercingly sibilant -- and I don't intend that in a derogatory way whatsoever. They really are quite loud.

Mix really is all there is hurting this piece other than some flabby attacks and releases on your synths. You may benefit from a synth like Synful Orchestra for your violin leads/accompaniment, or Trilian bass -- if you can afford the latter's steep price tag. It's probably the best, most usable double bass I've found. There are a sea of competitors, ofc.

Otherwise, I found the composition did get a bit weary. Perhaps this is on part of the synths, with exception of the piano, not being capable of quite the expression I sense you wanted to evoke. Compositionally, a simple piece, but it works. It's so simple, I really wish I had more to say about it! The theme is clearly defined, nothing is sticking out as poorly written. Really all there is to pull me out of the atmosphere is the mix, and that's only hairy in a few places. Overall, enjoyed the piece.

Thanks for coming out to NGUAC!

Lots of feels in this piece. The piano in the beginning is a really long intro but is very effective. The middle "glory" section is interesting in that the sadness that comes in the last part can be heard (though less overt) from the very beginning. In general I think this is the weakest part, mainly because the sparing use of different instruments works for the beginning and end, but works against the middle section because (in my opinion) it leaves the track feeling too empty. Deeper or more powerful brass probably would have made this part feel more whole.

The last part I have no problem with compositionally. It's slow and sad and does a great job capturing the mood. To me it's missing dynamics. Certain notes should be drawn out and most of the notes played would also be much more effective if played more softly.

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4.29 / 5.00

Uploaded
Aug 26, 2018
10:59 PM EDT
Genre
Cinematic
File Info
Song
6.6 MB
3 min 37 sec
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