Joshua Gizelt (swashbuckler332) wrote,
Joshua Gizelt

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Destinatus mentis

On the way home tonight, I was thinking about my mix making hobby.

There is no secret to it. The very fact that I listen to a very strange and relatively unpopular genre of music only goes to show that I seek very different things from music than most people do. What I like most about film music are the textures and colors, but mostly the drama of it. Ultimately, that is why I gravitate towards this idiom over any other; while there can be dramatic moments in an opera or ballet, they are most often conveyed in different ways and are not as satisfying on this front as film music is.

When I first began to discover portable music, I would make mix tapes because that was the only way to hear music. I would keep tapes of my very favorite albums, and make mixes often enough just to have something to listen to. New stuff, for example. Over time, portable music became easier and with greater capacity. I could walk around with a knapsack full of very light minidiscs, later a CD book with mp3 CDs and now, most efficiently with a hard drive player, most of the music that I will tend to listen to is with me at all times.

However, I never stopped making mixes throughout all that, first on minidisc, then CDs. And I have to say that the reason why I'm getting more fulfillment out of making them than I ever have before is because their purpose has altered significantly from when I started. Initially, I would get a 100 minute cassette and throw my favorite tracks from other tapes and CDs on it. Over time, I started organizing them by idea, and found to my surprise that I would enjoy the tapes more if I tailored them a bit more. All of the tape decks I bought before my current one (which is the most advanced I've ever owned but I never use anymore), it was important for me to have mechanical instead of electronic buttons on them because I had started tightening and tailoring tracks.

This process was pretty much identical on minidiscs, only they were a hell of a lot easier to edit than tapes were. When I made the leap to CD, the technology wasn't quite there at the time for me to be able to do what I really wanted to do... but now it is, and the mixes I put together today are very carefully sequenced and edited; I call the process "assembling" and it is something that I really look forward to when I preparing a project. You should see my little work notebook I have; when preparing to make a mix I put all of the contender records onto my Nomad and over the course of the day I note tracks and edit marks. When I get home, the bulk of the elimination process is already done, and I have a guide to work from on individual tracks.

What is interesting about this is how the process evolved with how my music listening habits did. After a certain point, the mix wasn't about being a collection of music to listen to while commuting, but became an end unto itself. It became about my own exploration of the music that I listen to. I don't need to listen to the mix instead of listening to the album or complete score; I have the bulk of my music collection with me at all times. I do, however, like to take music and present it in a new context. I like coming up with an idea and analyzing how different composers dealt with it, or going through a particular composer's work for a certain genre or film series and discovering new threads and connections and putting them together that way.

As the process has become more involved and more engaging to me, I feel that the resulting albums have become more and more interesting. One of the reasons why I ask for feedback from people to whom I give my mixes to is because I do spend a lot of time working on them and I feel that there is something about me in them. My perspective on the subject matter of that particular mix at the very least. However, most people don't listen to film music, so it is rare that I get the chance to hear what other people think about my work.

Due to a strange turn of events, I ended up producing a package recently for somebody who looked like they might be resurfacing, but didn't end up doing so (long and not particularly interesting story), so I actually have a box here that is sort of "The Complete Swashbuckler Collection." It doesn't represent every single mix that I've made (some that I have not included in this box are even listed in this journal), but it contains the ones that lasted for whatever reason. I found it interesting to have them all here at once, with all of their artwork together (I don't bother with the cover or disc art on the copies I keep in my car); these are all discs made within the past three years, all of them fall into the final and most fulfilling incarnation of my mix making habit.

Now, I put them in a certain order in the box as they related to one another, and that is the order in which I will revisit them here, filling in any blanks:

In My Life (Various)

This is probably the best song mix I made, and it kind of illustrates why I don't make many of them anymore. There's no real point, it's really just a stream of good songs that happen to sound good when put together. Now, I made this disc not long before Songs of the Heavens (see below), and never ended up posting the track listing for it until now.


The Rolling Stones - Paint It Black 3:15
(M. Jagger/K. Richards)
Pink Floyd - Pigs (Three Different Ones) 11:13
(R. Waters)
The Beatles - Dear Prudence 3:52
(J. Lennon/P. McCartney)
Led Zeppelin - Bron-Y-Aur Stomp 4:11
(J. Page/R. Plant/J. P. Jones)
Crosby, Stills & Nash - Wooden Ships 5:23
(D. Crosby/S. Stills)
The Faces - Ooh La La 3:20
(R. Wood/R. Lane)
Alice In Chains - Am I Inside? 5:03
(J. Cantrell/L. Staley)
Neil Young & Crazy Horse - Stupid Girl 3:05
(N. Young)
The Kinks - Nothin' In This World
Can Stop Me Worrin' About that Girl 2:40
(R. Davies)
B. J. Arnau - Filet of Soul (Live and Let Die) 3:15
(G. Martin/P. McCartney/L. McCartney)
Roger & The Gypsies - Pass the Hatchet 2:49
(R. Theriot/R. Leon Jr./E. S. Orpeza)
The Jimi Hendrix Experience - Wait Until Tomorrow 2:48
(J. Hendrix)
The Who - Acid Queen 3:34
(P. Townsend)
The Doors - You're Lost Little Girl 2:53
(R. Kreiger)
Roger Waters & Eric Clapton - Running Shoes 1:36
(R. Waters)
Alice In Chains - Don't Follow 4:17
(J. Cantrell)
Led Zeppelin - Thank You 4:47
(J. Page/R. Plant)
Chris Cornell - Seasons 5:44
(C. Cornell)
The Beatles - In My Life 2:23
(J. Lennon/P. McCartney)
Bob Dylan - It's All Over Now, Baby Blue 4:12
(B. Dylan)

Drivin' (Various)

This one is without a doubt the most commercial and mainstream thing I've ever done. It is also one of my masterpieces in terms of transitions. It's all pretty straightforward, but I think it works for all the reasons that it shouldn't.

I Could Have Lied (Various)

I was pretty pissed off when I put this disc together, and I think it shows. It's a lot of pissed off acoustic guitar music. It turned out to be one of my mother's favorites, though. I made this right around the same time that I made Ethereal, but I never got around to posting the track listing until now.


Led Zeppelin - That's The Way 5:34
Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young - 4+20 2:03
Bob Dylan - A Simple Twist Of Fate 4:14
Simon & Garfunkel - April Come She Will 1:47
Pink Floyd - If 4:23
Graham Nash - Sleep Song 2:56
Tim Hardin - Reason To Believe 1:55
The Beatles - Yesterday 2:02
David Crosby - Traction in the Rain 3:41
Tom Rush - No Regrets 3:49
The Rolling Stones - Love In Vain 4:16
Neil Young - Pardon My Heart 3:46
Red Hot Chili Peppers - I Could Have Lied 4:04
Cat Stevens - The Wind 1:37
Led Zeppelin - Tangerine 3:03

Blaxploitation (Various)

This is an unusual one because the actual assembly of this one was sort of an impromtu recreation of a similar compilation I had done many years ago but which is long lost. That said, because I had already made something very similar, I had an idea as to what I wanted on this disc... the James Brown selections in particular because they never appear on commercial samplers.

Urban Danger (Various)

Now this is a more recent work, so I don't have the perspective on this one that I do with some of the others here, but I will say that I never expected it to work as well as it did. I have really been enjoying this disc since I've made it, and so far I've gotten some pretty positive feedback on it. This was a very satisfying project, my preparation for which was very much an educational experience.

Songs of the Heavens (Various)

This is one of the oldest compilations in this box, but I feel that for the most part I couldn't make it sound any better than I did. This disc actually had to be restored at one point, but I don't regret the time and energy I spent making a pristine copy for archiving. I still think that it is pretty without being sentimental. My one gaffe: I really could do without the track from Glory. But, hey, it's one flaw in something that I am otherwise completely happy with.

Grace: More Songs of the Heavens (Various)

I'm not sure if I really managed to recapture the magic of the original with this follow-up, but I find myself enjoying it more and more with time. There is a lot of really good music on it, and I feel that it does have an identity of its own separate from the original but in the same vein. I think that this one is slightly more uneven than the previous volume, but it has a lot of really great moments. I sort of sat back and let the music flow on this one.

Bond Beauties by John Barry, David Arnold, Eric Serra, Michael Kamen, Marvin Hamlisch, Bill Conti

I was surprised to that this disc recieved the almost uniformly cold responses that it has from other people. John Barry's deliberate and lyrical mode has won him Oscars and yielded platinum selling soundtrack albums. I would have thought that an album that consists of Barry writing in this style and other composers approaching material in a consistent way would have had more appeal. I love it, though. In terms of concept, execution and result, this was one of the first discs where I had such a clear concept from the moment I started that the final product is exactly what I wanted it to be. I didn't know it at the time, but this would be the first of a long series of 'franchise albums' that I would be making.

No Escape: Music from the Planet of the Apes by Jerry Goldsmith, Leonard Rosenman, Tom Scott, Lalo Schifrin & Earl Hagen

Having only made this disc last week, I can't really comment on it with any sort of distance. I will say that it is one of the most brutal assaults that I have ever put together, jangling dissonances and bizarre sounds challenging the listener. I really have to be in the mood to listen to it, but when I am, it hits a certain spot. I feel that the more conservative sound that film scores have today harmonically has caused something to be lost once; I certainly feel that Jerry Goldsmith excelled at more experimental sounds than his later, much more consonant work did. This album features the grand high poobah of this type of score, plus a bunch of others by composers who are using a similarly non-tonal and percussive soundscape. It's rough, though, so...

Gotham Avenger: Screen Tales of the Dark Knight by Danny Elfman, Shirley Walker, Elliot Goldenthal, James Newton Howard & Hans Zimmer

I really can't comment too much on this one because I just made it two days ago other than to say that I was a bit surprised at how weird the finished product is. I mean, I knew that Elliot Goldenthal's music would be pretty bizarre, but there's also a spooky theremin in Shirley Walker's otherwise solid action powerhouse Mask of the Phantasm score, and the truth is that Danny Elfman's establishing approach was never all that sane to begin with. Somehow, I did manage to fit Batman Begins in there, although I think I may have hit upon why Zimmer rubs me so the wrong way, even more so than James Horner, who I have similar criticisms of (very generic scoring style, each score sounds pretty much the same, reusing and appropriating other composer's material without even bothering to abridge it). It's Zimmer's sound. When he is using swaths of sound design to create an aural presence on the soundtrack, he is at his best. When he has to write action music (which is often), he uses a specific synthesizer sound. It appears in all of his action scores, and it plays simple lines with some sort of syncopation and advances in broad lines. It's effective, but ultimately, I feel that it it has too simple a sound. Overall, though, this disc really satisfies my desire that Germanic sturm und drang, which is a common thread throughout each of the individual scores.

Romps (Various)

This was another real concept album that I think came together. A lot of people seem to like it too, so maybe I'm not completely insane (insert laugh track here). I will say, though, that ever since waystone pointed out an air of twisted glee in the tone of the thing, I haven't been able to listen to it quite the same way. That is to say, I now hear what she's talking about and enjoy the album even more because something emerged in the mix that was a part of my personality without me intending it in. Sorry to spoil all of you modernists out there, but here in my postmodern world, I think that's pretty cool.

Flight (Various)

This was a pretty abstract idea: put together different methods by which film composers have approached the act of being aloft. I got some mixed reactions on this one. Some people loved it, others found it kind of blah. Once again, I like it, though.

The Farthest Reaches: World Influences in Modern Film Music (Various)

In terms of feedback, this was my greatest crossover achievement. The world element grounds the album by giving it good momentum through the rhythms. aerolyndt has told me that it could have been longer, but this was really the first album where I went into it with my mind made up that this disc will not be much longer than an hour, and I stuck to that when assembling it, the final product clocking in at 60:27. It remains one of my personal favorites, another case where I could probably make a cleaner edit today, but there's just no point, it's fine the way it is.

Ethereal (Various)

This one was an interesting anomaly because I actually listen to it more now than when I originally made it. I initially thought that it was something of a mess, but I ended up making a few copies for some people that asked for it, and the responses I got were that they really enjoyed it. I was therefore motivated by narcissism to revisit my own work, and I found that I do like it a lot more now than I did before. I don't know.

Textures (Various)

I never heard back from anybody on this one, but I consider it a success. It is pretty much the culmination of what I originally started with The Philosopher long ago, but refined and reigned in. I still like both the original and the revisited versions of The Philosopher, but I think that this album is more concise.

Thomas Newman 3 Disc Set

This is an eerie one. It's exactly what I wanted it to be, but it is still pretty eerie. In a really good way.

This is full of really inventive stuff, but it goes on way, way too long.

This one is very pretty, however. Newman's "homey Americana" sound just can't be beat.

Gun and Sun: Music for the Westerns of Sergio Leone by Ennio Morricone

This was another winner. Morricone just can't be beat, and the Spaghetti Westerns have some of the strangest sounds in them you'll ever hear, but tempered by his unbeatable sense of melody. Seven words: Once Upon A Time In the West.

The Star Wars Trilogy by John Williams

I have to say that I think this might be on a personal level, one of the most satisfying projects. This is where it all began for me, many years ago, and I've found this record to be as perfect a representation of the trilogy's music as you can have on a single disc. I based this album on two overarching concepts, and I think that is part of what makes it work; the first was the film's representation of good versus evil, in this case - er - 'melodified' by the Force theme in conflict with the Imperial March, while the second is the music's representation of the mythic elements that made the films so successful. I wasn't as familiar with the software I use when I made this disc as I am now, and there are moments that I could concievably make smoother, but as it stands, I think the disc works, and if it ain't broke, I ain't gonna try fixing it.

Edit: Lo and behold, I made a liar out of myself and revised this disc twice since. The new disc is essentially the same album as this one.

The Star Wars Prequel Trilogy by John Williams

While I feel at the moment that I could go through my entire life without ever seeing a Star Wars prequel again, I must admit that the one artist involved in that sorry excuse for a franchise that really delivered the goods wash Williams, and I really feel I did a decent job of showcasing his contribution to the films. The first part of the ablum deals with the trajedy of Anakin Skywalker, while the second half concentrates more on the adventurous side. This one was made to work with the other. I made a special effort to illustrate Williams' technique of "building" themes for the prequel trilogy by withholding any bold statements of the Imperial March until towrds the end.

Edit: I also redid this one with much better results; the structure I mentioned above has been completely altered for the better.

The Adventures of Indiana Jones by John Williams

I think this one may have too much action music on it, as the effect of listening to it can be somewhat draining. I don't know what I'd cut out though. My one caveat: the chord change and sound aspect alteration that occurs when I crossfaded "The Bridge" into "The Raiders March Reprise" is something I did because I thought it sounded fine. It sounds kinda odd.

Lumos Musica! Years One, Two and Three at Hogwarts by John Williams

On the other hand, this is a disc that I went back a revisited a year after I put the first one together, feeling that the original was repetitive, technically sloppy and dragged in places. I have to say that the results here were definitely worth it, as I believe this album is much smoother and flows better. If there is one thing negative I've heard back it's that the original version opened with "Lumos," the traditional celeste opening for the albums and the second two movies, while this disc opens less iconically with the French horn arrangement that opens the first movie which I culled from the DVD. I defend my decision to do it; "Hedwig's Theme" is explored in exactly the same way in two other tracks on the disc, and I liked the idea of this being more of a "narrative" disc than a "themes" disc.

Jerry Goldsmith Memorial Set

They're Here
These were surprisingly fun to compile, and I've found that I listen to them a lot. I'm not a big horror fan, but Goldsmith composed some great music for the genre, as this 2 disc entry shows.

It Is All True (Drama)
When I first put this together, I didn't really think much of it. I recently rediscovered it and found that it is a really nice listen.

The Monument (Science Fiction)
This disc is a mess. Goldsmith's harsh staccato style of the 60s and 70s doesn't really mesh with the more florid later music. This one never really came together because what I should have done was make it exclusively the older stuff.

Valhalla (Adventure)
This was a really easy one to put together, and I think that while there are a few spots during the course of this 2 disc set that do kind of drag, for the most part it is pretty entertaining, and it's got a great ending.

Red Alert (Star Trek)
Oy. This should have been a single disc, I think, but my fascination with the unreleased cues from all of the represented films (save Star Trek V: The Final Frontier), and so I ended up loading it up too much. Each one of these by itself is a decent enough mix, but two discs worth and its a bit trying.

I've been blogging a lot today, eh?
Tags: alice in chains, beatles, doors, film music, jimi hendrix, led zeppelin, mix workshop, my mixes, pink floyd, red hot chili peppers, rock, rolling stones
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