Audio Drama Production Podcast Interview: Ep. #49-Composing Music For Audio Drama
It was in the 70s when I first heard audio drama. I remember sitting in the car with my dad, parked in the driveway, sitting on the edge of the seat, while listening to the remaining moments of an episode of CBS Radio Mystery Theater. For those already familiar with the show, you will already know it is hard to forget the sound of the creaking door, the creepy music, and the unforgettable voice of E.G. Marshall. Fortunately for me, my father didn’t mind me enjoying scary stories at such a young age. One of my fondest memories with him is going to see “The Shining” together. While the film may have scarred me for life, it became my favorite film of all-time and instilled in me a love for horror films, and more significantly, fostered my love for film music (particularly anything scary and/or retro electronic). These two things merged together over time into composing music for audio drama. Speaking of…
I was recently interviewed by the Audio Drama Production Podcast, an informative and entertaining podcast created by Matthew McLean and Robert Cudmore, that discusses subjects related to all things related with the production of audio drama. Both gentlemen have a great sense of humor and it was a pleasure to be on the show. We discuss composing for audio drama, how I got started, gear, influences, tips for new composers, and more. The episode also includes an interview with the ubiquitous, highly prolific, and talented Kevin MacLeod from Incompetech.com. You can hear both interviews at the link below.
Campfire Radio Theater: “Ghosts of Flannan Lighthouse”
Writing music is a pleasure. Writing creepy music is even better. Over the last month or so I have worked on just over thirty short pieces of music for the latest episode of Campfire Radio Theater. “Ghosts of Flannan Lighthouse” was written by Campfire Radio Theater creator, John Ballentine, and is based on an actual historical event. The Telegraph (UK) ran a short story about the event which occurred just over 100 years ago. It remains an unsolved mystery to this day.
I have seen lighthouses on the coasts of the US and in a handful of other countries and they all conjure up very specific emotions for me. Maybe it is the sense of isolation and solitude that makes me feel equally nostalgic, melancholy, and introspective. I remember a story about a lighthouse keeper who had to row his boat for hours in order to make it back to his home after his watch was over. There were no neighbors and any sort of emergency had to be dealt with on his own.
Being so alone…secluded, carrying the burden of maintaining the light without falter in order to save lives, and having to be entirely self-sufficient in so many ways seems like a rather mad way to live. Perhaps in another life where I was a lot smarter and stronger I would have taken on such a job, but in this life, I am quite content to write music in the comfort of my own home not far from grocery stores, hospitals, entertainment, friends, and family.
It was easy to visualize the lighthouse and the sea and a real pleasure to immerse myself into the atmosphere of being in such a place in my mind while writing the music. Here are some of my favorite tracks from the sessions.
Campfire Radio Theater: Audio Drama For Your Halloween Listening Pleasure!
Happy Halloween, everyone! I’ve been a fan of audio drama since I was a child. I recall sitting in the car with my dad, parked in the driveway, listening to the conclusion of an episode of CBS Radio Mystery Theater. The sound of the creaking door, the voice of E.G. Marshall, and the possibility of stories about ghosts and monsters had me hooked. If you aren’t familiar with the series, you can stream audio of almost 1,400 episodes at http://www.cbsrmt.com/.
Another favorite series of mine is the infamous “Nightfall” series from the CBC. It aired in the early 80s and scared the hell out of quite a few people. With some incredible performances of classic stories, modern horror, and filled with gruesome sound effects and excellent music, “Nightfall” became a modern classic that remains extremely popular amongst fans of audio drama horror. You can stream the entire series of 100 episodes just below. I highly recommend “The Debt,” “The Porch Light,” “Angel’s Kiss,” and “All-Niter” for starters. Keep in mind that this series is NSFW and is NOT child-friendly as it is actually quite scary in some cases with implied violence, gore, and a smattering of profanity. In my opinion, it is the greatest audio drama series made to date. But don’t take my word for it. Have a listen!
Audio drama and old horror films inspired me to compose dark ambient music. Some of the scores and library music used in these programs were fantastic! Shortly after I began composing dark ambient works, I was contacted by a film director who licensed tracks for a horror film. Another piece of good fortune popped up when I was contacted by a radio station that requested a copy of my music for airplay. How often does that happen? I was shocked and thrilled!
Years back, I contributed music to “Tomes of Terror,” a Post-Meridian Radio Players series produced by Neil Marsh. Neil and I are quite possibly the biggest fans of “Nightfall” that you can find. He is also a very talented musician. I would provide a link for listening, but I can’t locate anything online at this time. I will update the page if links turn up.
John is also a fellow audio mixing maniac. He has a great talent for creating inspired audio drama. I have listened to an estimated 12-13 thousand audio plays in my lifetime, and in my opinion, Mr. Ballentine ranks right up there with some of the best writers/producers. Now you must be thinking after hearing such high praise…”Oh really? Well then, let’s hear what he has to offer!” Can do! The episode that inspired me to contact him about getting involved with the series is called “Twilight Road.” For fans of horror, I sincerely believe you will enjoy this story. Have a listen!
After contacting John, I sent over a “promo reel” containing some of my work. This led to contributing original music to the last couple of episodes. The first is called “The Philadelphia Xperiment.” The program description reads “Confined to a mental ward in 1951 and awaiting his impending lobotomy, an enigmatic WW2 veteran known only as Patient X recalls an ill-fated experiment to render a U.S. warship invisible resulting in nightmarish side effects for the survivors as well as uncovering a mind-bending temporal terror.” You can hear it below.
“The Philadelphia Xperiment”
Next up is a twisted take on the tale of Jack the Ripper featuring some impressive vocal talent and yet another one of John’s great mixes. It was great fun scoring new music for this episode and a wonderful exercise in composition for me. To top it off, John has the ear of a musician and weaves the pieces together into a powerful audio collage that compliments the story quite well. You can hear both parts below.