Human Transmutation

Made by Mauricio Cano

Created: December 5th, 2014


I will probably cut out a piece of the kingdom hearts intro video. My goal is to recreate the same feeling that the original soundtrack creates--the feeling of a epic mission, with some suspense, some inspiration, some magic. The intro sequence is called birth by sleep, and sora goes through a lot of water so maybe some water sounds. The actual background music sounds like techno so maybe imitate that somehow. 


After some thought, I decided to go with another clip. This time, a scene from an anime called Fullmetal Alchemist. Below is the unedited version: 


And the final result: 


Curatorial Statement: 

For this new clip, I hoped to create an ominous and foreboding atmosphere. I wanted to communicate that the boys are up to something sinister and that things are about to go very wrong. Things like the boys cutting their fingers, the lightning around the circle changing from blue to a reddish purple, their bodies fizzing away were all events that I tried to highlight with the sounds I chose and their timing. In the end, I wanted to extol Alphonse's whole body disintegrating as the climax of the scene and then incorporate a very sudden, similarly disturbing ending after it. 

Account of the Process:

For this project, I muted out all sound from the original clip except for a few instances where the boys talk at the beginning to keep it from looking awkward or unfinished. The sound effects for the water, falling, screaming, writing with chalk, crows and lightning come from and I used two non-apple loops from I changed their speed, cut out some undesired parts and changed the key to match the mood of the scene.  

Composition theory:

- Climax: In this scene, I tried to compose the music to reach a climax which would act as a turning point by having it culminate and give way to a new idea. The novelty of a changes of setting in the scene (and the accompanying silence) is a perfect way to fulfill the preceding climax. 

I also tried to make the build up for the climax (when Alphonse dies) long and drawn out, and kept the climax itself short to keep the listener from losing interest. 

- Interruption: In the scene, I interrupted the choir loop, the fizzing and the electricity with a loud percussive-sounding attack. Beyond creating tension, I hoped this would create the feeling that the preceding idea (that of carnage and terror) would return later. (It eventually does) 

- Unresolved harmonies: I used two loops in the beginning to try to create a disconnect between the beginning of the scene (with the house) and the following scene inside. The disconnect helps give the listener an expectation, that something creepy is about to happen but then fail to fulfill it by just going inside the house to see normal stuff. 

- Flow vs. Break / Continuity vs. Surprise: This is achieved by having a sonic boom when the lights around the circle turn from blue to purple/red,  by having a large whoosh when the eye opens and then smaller shattering effects when their legs and arms start to disintegrate. With this, I hoped to break the flow of the loop playing and create a feeling of surprise and change. 

Ending gesture, climax vs fade out -- given how dramatic this scene already is, I chose to use a climax ending gesture to make it even more dramatic. To achieve this, I made the music go from one extreme (loud and intense), to the opposite extreme (silence). I hoped this would create a feeling of incompleteness since the boys's horrors are really only beginning. 

Connections to artist:

I tried to imitate the style used for the ending of  Chopin - Ballade No. 4  and the Star Wars theme by creating a build-up which got louder (though in this case not faster) and resulted in a climactic ending. 

Technical Issues:

A big issue was making sure individual sound effects faded in and out properly as to not break the continuity of the loops playing. This was especially difficult at the beginning when I had the crow sound. 

Timing was a second problem. The biggest challenge was getting the timing right when playing back some of the sound effects. For the voices of Al screaming at the end, I created a sample instrument from a clip of screaming voices. It was tricky trying to get the right pieces of the sound to play at the right times. Similarly, I made sample instruments out of thuds and fizzing noises to emphasize their bodies disintegrating. 

Integrating Feedback:

The most important unit of feedback that I employed here was making sure that I drew distinction from the changes in mood in the scene. 

In the beginning, I changed the mood from imminently scary to a less critical, but still creepy one. I used a third loop (rising choir) to illustrate the change in mood as they began executing the transmutation. Then, using the large whoosh sound effect when the eye appeared and setting up a new, louder choir loop, I marked the proceeding few seconds as darker and more critical than the rest. I then hoped to illustrate the increasing urgency of the situation (as their bodies broke apart more and more) with a crescendo which built from when the eye formed and reached its highest point as Alphonse disappeared. The final mood change is executed by the loud effect at the end and the transition to silence. I hoped this would exemplify the change from terror and fear to a disturbing, unexpected and out-of-place sense of peace. 

Critical Response: 

 How do you respond to your piece now?

I find that the piece accurately illustrates the themes I was trying to communicate. In hindsight, I feel that I should've made the sounds that served to mark changes in mood more distinct and prominent (I think they might've been too subtle). Also, I would've liked to incorporate more ideas from other works--one component I think I would've wanted to use was a dissonant tune to help create an ominous mood. By this I mean, playing notes at special intervals to create the sense of unholiness I think this piece exemplifies. (A good example of this is the tritone, sometimes called the devil's interval) 

How would you have responded to your piece before this semester? I think that before this module, I would've been unaware of the role that the actual placement of the sounds has on the feelings they generate in the listener. The climax and ending particularly, I would have been able to say that the ending made me feel disturbed and surprised but would not be able to say that it is due to the break in the flow, the sudden interruption and the fact it the music takes us from a musical high to a musical low in an instant.