Sintel, the Durian Open Movie Project » Blog Archive » Talking music


Talking music

on November 2nd, 2009, by jan

jansnapshot01Last week, I paid a two-day visit to the team in Amsterdam. Aside from getting to know each other, introducing me to the ubiquitous windmill beer and overstretching the definition of “vegetarian” at the local Thai joint, I got lots of cool insights into the production process and, of course, discussed the soundtrack with Colin and Ton.

As some parts of the script aren’t quite finalized yet, we mostly talked about the general approach while avoiding getting tangled up in details that may change later. Luckily, it turns out that Colin and I have largely the same taste in film music, so I’m positive we’ll quickly establish a musical language that works well for both of us. The central aspect of my current scoring concept is to assign a musical figure to our heroine that sticks to her throughout the story and is sufficiently flexible to transform in unison with her character. One particular thing I’d like to experiment with is deriving minimalist patterns from this theme and use them as a backdrop for larger thematic progressions… we’ll see how that will turn out. Also, while there will be a lot of action in the film, each of these sequences has a vastly different meaning in the context of the dramaturgy, so we discussed some ideas on how to avoid descending into cookie-cutter action cue territory there.

As for the production details, a lot depends on some budgetary decisions that are still pending. It seems likely that I’ll get to hire session musicians or smaller ensembles for prominent parts of the score; there’s a chance that there will be choir parts, so those would be an obvious candidate. The possibility of recording the entire score with a full orchestra is also not entirely out of the question, though I’m somewhat reluctant to try this on a constrained budget; simply put, I feel that the score might be better served with some really good session musicians and sufficient recording time instead of a rush job with an average orchestra.

During the next 2-3 weeks, I’ll be busy with a major studio relocation. Which is quite a shame, as I got back with a head full of ideas and an strong urge to spend a couple of days in front of a piano. Did I mention that they do some incredibly inspiring stuff over there? Well, they do.


24 Responses to “Talking music”

  1. NooBPoWeR Says:


  2. jachristie79 Says:

    A great score could do wonders for the story on this project without saying a word. Music speaks in all languages…

  3. dd Says:

    gending jawa (gamelan) maybe interesting for durian πŸ™‚

  4. Alfoncio Says:

    It’s true that a great score can make or break any story e.g. Ocarina of Time for a game example and Gladiator as a film example, one makes you yearn for adventure the other makes the fight scenes THAT MUCH BIGGER πŸ˜€

  5. Vincent Says:

    Love the work you did for the previous open movies, and can’t wait for this. Still, I can’t help but feel it’s a loss that it’s not licensed under a permissive CC license. I don’t know what exactly constitutes the bad experiences you had in the past with this, but even if it was used to proclaim a racist message or something I wouldn’t think that outweighs the benefits (racist messages can be spread anyways) of allowing for new creative works without the burden of having to contact you and all, and not being able to license that new work permissively.

  6. Nixon Says:

    since this is an epic or is it cipe fantasy movie i bet it will get an epic score..
    hopefully not too epic or classical…maybe use some dnb themes for fighting action and fastpace stuff…
    imagine sintel making her way with some reggae tunes…
    we haffi bun di dragon bredda…this would be kinda odd but still not too bad πŸ˜€

  7. jan Says:

    Hope you do a wonderful score like you did on the other projects. Please give loads of attention to the foley effects too. I think action movies and especially fight scenes live by having well thought out soundFX. For instance the slightly wet crunching sound on every bullet impact makes the insects in Starship troopers become live things. The sound of a heroine hitting the ground is what makes us decide her weight and help estimate the damage sustainded. For a completely virtual affair like this movie the sounds are what makes us suspend our disbelief. Go Jan!

  8. D Says:

    I know I don’t get a say on what the theme will eventuate into, but here’s two things I might have suggested:

    1 – Use a triplet somewhere in it.
    2 – Repeat the theme both prominantly and recognizably at least twice somewhere in the movie, not counting the end credits.

    Jan, you’re an awesome composer and sound designer; I’m glad to know that you’re on board. πŸ˜€ Here’s to epic music!

  9. otsoa Says:

    Hi !
    will there be a video which explains the composition ? Devlopment of the theme, orchestration, score, etc…
    sorry for my poor english.

  10. Rafster Says:

    What is ‘deriving minimalist patterns’ in music, and ‘larger thematic progressions’?

    Any example mp3’s, or good web links??

  11. Wim Vanherle Says:


    I would love to hear a French Horn solo in the score.
    Those are always great during heroic scenes.

  12. Ben Dansie Says:

    So we aren’t going with the banjo – ukulele duet idea then?


  13. jachristie79 Says:

    As a rather bad and crude example, but a hopefully clear one, I’ll direct you to Steiner’s King Kong score (; listen to the WMA excerpt of the Main Title if you can.

    If we use 0:24 as reference for the main theme, then you will notice that the rising “progressions” at 0:41 and 0:58 are basically repeated “patterns” that derive from that same theme.
    Yeah, it’s not exactly the best or most elegant example, but that’s the general idea. πŸ™‚ You can derive a pattern from your familiar theme that can play almost like a rhythm in the background to a bigger and fundamentally seperate picture.

  14. D Says:

    Whoah, I posted as jachristie79! 8)

    I’d also like to add to the above, as a disclaimer, that I don’t really know what I’m talking about. πŸ˜›

  15. yoff Says:

    I too love what I have seen from you so far, especially your score for the Mancandy FAQ, and I am very interested in any insight into your process.

    A theme for the heroine sounds cool, maybe other characters could get a theme as well? (the dragon for instance) I you set them up cleverly, the two could be combined when they first meet πŸ˜‰

    You might even be able to tell most of the story in music, once people learn the characters themes…

  16. A Says:

    Recording the entire score with a full orchestra would be great!!!

  17. Born Says:


    The idea of hiring a small ensemble (or even an entire orchestra- yikes!) is totally awesome!

    Whatever combination (session musicians/East-West samples) settles in the end, I know Jan will do his best and undoubtedly provide the film with an incredible score.


  18. Pete Says:

    Yeah!! I hope you’re able to get all the talented live musicians you can handle! Maybe even a few good students that fancy donating their time and efforts to the Blender Foundation. (I’d gladly donate some [contra]bassoonage, but I’m not particularly talented myself.)

    There’s so much epically synthesized music flying around these days, and, while some of it is darned good, it’s always great to hear the real thing, even if it’s only a few parts. Can’t wait to see what comes of this!

  19. kram1032 Says:

    No doubt, you’ll do a great job on music πŸ™‚
    Both ED and BBB had great music which matched very well!

    I think, a really great example of how music can enhance a film, is with UP – without their film music, all the mood would be gone πŸ™‚ Now of course, it doesn’t fit the theme of Sintel, but as a general example, it’s just great!

    I’m already really curious to hear what you’ll come up with!

  20. Bmud Says:

    I love the gamalan… Thanks dd for bringing that up.

  21. haigioli Says:

    Hi, everyone involved with Sintel —

    I’ve been closely following all Blender Open Movies and this is the one that I’m most excited about, so far.

    I’d hate to bring this up here, but I’m very curious about some of the hardware you guys are using for your workstations – in particular, monitors. What make(s) and model(s) are you relying on? I’d imagine that colour accuracy is pretty important at this level.



  22. Thatonejondude Says:

    Durian Team,

    I was curious if you guys had found a solution for a musical score in the Durian Project. I myself am a veteran Blender user, but I have been a music producer for more than a decade. You guys were talking about budgets. Just because the Blender Foundation has been amazing to me the last few years, my team and I would be willing to create a score to go along with Durian at no cost. If you would like to see our work, I would be more than happy to show you!

    Jon Vigil

  23. Thatonejondude Says:

    Durian Team,

    In regards to my last message, I totally just realized that you guys already have a music dude running the boards, haha sorry about that Jan. I wasn’t sure if you were just mixing the sound or if you produced music. Or both! I can probably send you guys licks, melodies, and maybe some arrangement ideas to kinda stimulate your musical ideas. I’ve been doing this for a long time so I’d still love to help out in anyway I can! I can talk musical terms too so don’t worry about getting technical. As a musician working with other musicians, communication is key!

    Jon Vigil

  24. Mixtapes Says:

    Great stuff