A vacation visiting the Greek Isles may be out of the question this summer – but Jeff and David have been working on a virtual alternative – A Greek Odyssey.
This week sees the launch of a new Channel 5 TV series A Greek Odyssey for which Jeff and David contributed original music for all six episodes.
In the series, historian, author and broadcaster Bettany Hughes, pictured below, embarks on an extraordinary journey to unpack the myths and legends of the Greek islands. Her immersive voyage of discovery explores the culture, traditions, food and history of the Aegean.
The series explores the Greek myths, the people who created them and the landscapes which gave them shape. Presented in a travelogue style, the programmes bring to life her epic heroes; Odysseus, Achilles, Jason and his Argonauts, Helen of Troy and Heracles.
Professor Hughes has devoted the last 25 years in bringing the ancient world to life and aside from her books, films, TV and radio programmes, she has taught at universities throughout Europe and the USA including Oxford, Cambride, Cornell, University College London, Maastricht and Utrecht.
Her passion for bringing the ancient world to life in an accurate and entertaining way led to her working closely with Jeff and David on the development of the soundtrack.
Says Jeff: “Our original brief was to compose and produce the theme music for the series. along the way, our involvement grew and by the end of production we had contributed music throughout every episode. We composed and recorded music for the opening and end credits, the pre-title and for various montages.
“We worked closely with Bettany, who took a great interest in the music and series director Anna Thomson.”
Recalls David: “It’s not uncommon to work on projects where budgets are limited and timescales are tight. In this case though we working against the production deadlines and the limitations imposed upon us by the Coronavirus which struck midway through filming.
“Because of the crisis, the music was produced without access to live musicians and eventually all of the 23 minutes of music that we created were used in the series – including an extra piece that was commissioned late in the process.
“We thoroughly enjoyed working on the project. Working directly to picture is a wonderful thing and as composers it gives us a lot of licence in the creative process.”
Greek Island Odyssey airs on UK Channel 5 TV at 9pm BST on Friday June 12. More information about the programme here.
ITV’s recent evening drama series, Isolation Stories, broke new ground. It consisted of four short films all made and transmitted during the Coronavirus crisis, under the constraints of social distancing. Remarkably, no one from the crew had any contact with the cast.
The series was a quartet of 15-minute dramas that complied with government instructions on distancing.
The production company delivered sanitised filming equipment to the actors at home, who were then instructed by phone on how to use it. Family members were persuaded to act as extras or as technical support to the productions. Among the stars were a heavily pregnant Sheridan Smith, Eddie Marsan, David Threlfall, Philip Jackson and Robert Glenister, pictured above carrying several kilos of film equipment into his home.
The techniques used were so new and innovative that a fifth programme, a behind the scenes documentary, explained how the films were made.
Jeff and David were asked at short notice if they could provide the soundtrack for the documentary. Says Jeff: “The timescale was challenging: just 48 hours from seeing the rushes to sending over the finished music. But David and I have worked remotely (at a distance of about 4,000 miles) as a team for the last ten years. So the production of the music presented no additional issues for us.”
Says David: “The challenge was to produce music that complemented a drama that mixed an almost apocalyptic narrative, similar to 28 Days Later, with black humour. We took the decision not to closely mirror the action on screen with the soundtrack. In any event, the tight deadline meant that we had to write and record the music before the picture was locked.”
The soundtrack was delivered and approved on May 5 (one day early), and the show aired nationally in the UK on ITV on May 7.
The drama series and the documentary are all well worth watching. The drama series is available on the ITV Hub here (https://www.itv.com/hub/isolation-stories/10a0115): and the documentary can be viewed online here (https://www.itv.com/presscentre/ep1week19/isolation-stories-behind-scenes).
Undaunted by the demands of his ‘day job’ as a composer with Jeff Meegan (more than 1,000 published tracks in the last ten years), David has now picked up his pen (or at least taken to his keyboard) as a writer. As they say, if you want a job done – give it to a busy man.
Today sees the publication of the first of a series of articles he has written as an expert contributor for Production Expert family of sites that includes Pro Tools Expert, Studio One Expert and Logic Pro Expert.
His first series offers advice to composers on the huge question of buying orchestral sample libraries and how to select the ones that suit you best.
Says David: “I have been a very keen reader of Pro Tools Expert’s detailed articles for some years now. So, when the opportunity came along to create some articles and contribute to the community, I was delighted.
“As one of team of Experts, I’ll be following in the tradition of creating content that’s presented in bite-size format and as longer, in-depth articles. When I was learning my trade, I particularly enjoyed the way that the articles were valuable to both beginner and veteran alike. I’ll also be looking to contribute to Logic Pro Expert as well, as my experience with Logic Pro goes back to version one on the Atari 540, when it was called Creator Notator.
“There is no one correct answer when it comes to looking at the creation of music. And I’m keen to stress that what I’m presenting is the way that I work, and the tools that I use. My experience has led me to work in a way that suits me and my creative process best.
“I’ll be explaining the pros and cons of my choices, as well as detailing the notable alternatives. Readers might not always agree with my choices or methods, but positive debate is always healthy.”
Today’s article will be the first in a series of ten, with more series planned going forward. Says David: “Music technology is a fast-moving subject and we’ll be looking at developments and revisiting previously published material in due course.”
You can read the first of his articles here.
Jeff and David have been working together now for almost ten years, but their latest recording embraced an approach and a technology that was unlike anything they had ever done before.
Plans were well in hand for a vintage style recording project at Abbey Road Studios. Studio Two was booked, the parts printed and distributed, the 60 or so handpicked world-class musician were ready to go and Jeff was due in from Chicago in a few days’ time.
And then Covid-19 happened and the world changed.
No Jeff from America, no Abbey Road (closed for the first time in 89 years), no musicians to work with – just lockdown and social distancing.
Popular wisdom says that when life gives you lemons, you should make lemonade. David and Jeff went further – and opened their own lemonade factory. And with a lot of hard work – and some great technology from Vienna Mir Pro – they recorded and mixed a track in a virtual space – one instrument at a time.
Says David: “As soon as the lockdown happened, the impact was immediate. It was distressing to see great musicians left immediately without work and scratching their heads as to how to survive without their normal income.
“So, we tried to be a little proactive. We managed to put together a group of the musicians (many of whom would have been on the session) who had excellent remote recording facilities of their own. We decided to try to record one of the songs from the session just to see how it would turn out when recorded entirely remotely, one instrument at a time.”
The line up (how it’s intended to sound, not how many people played!) was
- Flutes and piccolo,
- Two clarinets,
- Bass clarinet,
- Two bassoons,
- Four French horns,
- Four trumpets,
- Three trombones,
- Eight first violins,
- Eight second violins,
- Six violas,
- Four cellos, and a
Jeff explains: “We discussed in detail with players the logistics of sending and receiving files, file formats etc. We asked our lead violinist to mark up the string parts so that all of the players could articulate similarly. We also discussed the merits (or not) of recording fewer players with more takes or recording more players but with fewer overdubs. In the end, we went for a middle ground, with players changing instruments and seating positions where conditions allowed. We decided that we’d opt for a reasonably close mic formula from everyone so as to remove the different nuances of so many different ambiences.
“We sent click tracks and demo playalongs to our rhythm section first and then added that to our playalong, which we then sent to our brass and wind, with strings and harp going on last in the same way. After receiving files back from players, we were pleasantly surprised how cohesive the playing was, although there were a couple of tuning issues that we had to fix (given that no one could tune to each other).”
Then came the hard part as David recalls: “The really tricky part for us was approaching the mix.
“We’ve obviously worked on mixes before that have recordings from disparate places but nothing remotely as large as this. It was crucial that it appeared as if everyone was in the same room playing together. We turned to Vienna MIR Pro with Synchron Stage RoomPack to make that happen.
“We had been aware of Vienna MIR Pro, but never needed to use it. So it was with some interest we loaded it into the project. We were both incredibly impressed with the results. The ability to move players around within a virtual soundstage using varying degrees of effect brought the individual sterile recordings to life, as though the musicians were seated next to each other on the sound stage. We were equally impressed by how easy it was to manage.
“Having never used the plugin before we both easily found our way around and were able to get a pleasing product even though we used only a fraction of the plugin’s capabilities. We now both look forward to experimenting and growing with Vienna MIR Pro as well as finding different new ways to utilise this unique and innovative plugin. “
LIVE IN NEW ORLEANS
New Orleans jazz with everything from a Mardi Gras feel to traditional Prohibition-era and cool 1970s cop show funk with horns and funky rhythm section. Brass bands and banjo join energetic drums and percussion.
Happy-go-lucky New Orleans brass band with energetic drums and percussion. Mardis Gras feel. 2:55
Bustling up-tempo New Orleans trad jazz from the Prohibition era. 2:59
Cool, laid back New Orleans brass band with sleazy lead trumpet & funky rhythm section. 2:38
Cool 1970s cop show funk with slick NOLA horn section. 2:48
Grooving New Orleans horn section over a busy second line beat. 3:45
Tongue-in-cheek, maudlin New Orleans Latin jazz tango with plaintive lead trumpet. 3:31
Breezy New Orleans brass band with banjo builds to wailing trad jazz. Street party feel. 3:03
A variety of jazz moods, from relaxed, with cool sax, guitar and piano solos, to easy-going, swinging dinner jazz, and Latin-inspired guitar jazz.
Risers composed for Asian sports media
A variety of risers, from tense and exciting to dark, dramatic hybrids featuring Asian percussion, traditional woodwind, melodic string instruments, erhu, flutes and drone.
Tense, exciting riser with dark synths, wailing erhu and insistent percussion
Our two new riser albums
Risers are used as transitions from scene to scene or to create drama in an edit. On film when a shark is about to attack the best way to add the sense of the impending doom or the sound of the attack itself is through the use of risers and impacts.
They can be used in any production but ours get used the most in reality television shows that the have many cuts to convey the story. Shows like River Monsters, Mysteries at the Museum, and Life Below Zero.
Long risers with epic drums and drones, vocal FX and adrenaline-surging climaxes come together with atmospheric synths, big hits and distorted guitars.
Risers return 2
Fast risers, with monster FX join with metallic swooshes and massive impacts, while unsettling drones, guitar swells and growing drums build to massive impacts and a variety of decays and tails.
Gustav Holst’s timeless, celestial classic.
From a dramatically building orchestra and choir through mercurial moments and a cheerfully epic romp, together with quieter, more magical reveals and ethereal choir with cosmic harps, Holst’s suite contains a universe of orchestral moods.
Pomp and Circumstance’s joyful orchestral march, Land of Hope and Glory’s rousing choir and the stirring Nimrod are the ultimate patriotic anthems.
A passionate Cello Concerto and Dukas’s dramatic, magical Sorcerer’s Apprentice complete this collection.
Rousing choir & orchestra perform the ultimate British patriotic anthem. 2:26
Passionate & virtuosic cello building to a thunderous orchestra. Gentle, glowering ending. 3:02
Stirring, patriotic orchestral anthem. Powerful ending. From Enigma Variations performed by the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra. 2:12
Regal, celebratory orchestral march. Upbeat & proud. 2:22
Elegiac, romantic & beautiful orchestral theme (1888). 2:56
Magical, stormy orchestral romp. Full of drama & fantasy. 2:52