August 15, 2017

The Synthesized Effect

Why Electronic Underscores Are So Effective

If you’re a fan of the great composer Hans Zimmer like we are at CSS Music, you’ve probably noticed his use of a “tick-tock” under opening scenes. His latest composition for the hit film Dunkirk utilizes the sound of an actual watch owned by the director Christopher Nolan and this sound evolves into an unsettling wash that creates a tremendous amount of tension.

More than just a simple single synthesizer or instrument, Zimmer creates what is known as the Shepard tone, or more precisely a Shepard-Risset Glissando. This is created using 3 chromatic, sequenced arpeggios—a high tone, medium register and low climbing tone, each an octave apart. The middle tone always remains constant. When the highest tone reaches its zenith it begins to fade as the low tone rises in level. The net result? A very eerie auditory effect where the music seems to endlessly rise but it’s the same sequence played over and over again.

When you’re looking for this type of sound for your show, CSS Music has a disc that decidedly embraces elements of this effect, Super Themes volume 68 Encounters (Tension, Suspense & Aggressive Undercurrents.) From the first cut, “Time Tracker” with its pulsing “time clock” accented with percussive elements, this track keeps you on the edge of your seat. Another track, “Heart Beating Tension” uses the sound of a heartbeat as the foundation and is then embellished with a dark and eerie pad that never evolves keeping scary tension throughout.

A less frightening take on this idea can be heard with “Clock Watching” that offers a static pulse with non-intrusive elements that augment the mood. If you need a more modern take on this type of music, “Remember To Breathe” offers an other worldly sequencer with a hip hop groove and piano-like melodic arpeggios. For something that still presents tension with a touch of New Age, “End Of The Day” will give you just the right vibe.

CSS Royalty Free Music continues to follow the trends in film music, advertising, pop culture and where the production music industry is moving. We will update our vast library with these new styles as they evolve and let you know via this blog what we’re doing. Til then, go forth and give your next show some super serious tension!

August 07, 2017

What’s Happened To Industrial Music?

How Pop Culture Sometimes Ain’t That Great

We at CSS Music have a question for you guys: Why is today’s corporate music so…wimpy? Has American business become too “chickafied?” What ever happened to red-blooded, rise-to-the-challenge messaging and the music that supports that message? Since we cut our teeth creating many volumes of Industrial music, we have our own thoughts and a challenge.

Just like the advertising business that looks to popular trends to “borrow” musical styles, the AV-Video crowd soon follows. With the introduction of Indie artists and the sudden rise in slightly-less-than-perfect timing of groove, ukeleles, accordions, acoustic guitars, orchestra bells, static melodies and repetitious chord progressions, the trend away from the traditional,  Light Industrial was born. While it can be said that this form of music offers a whimsical vibe, we wonder where the power and punch—even if it’s created via a strong melody and good arrangement—went? And should this new Light Industrial truly be categorized as Corporate? Really?!? Is American business now wearing flannel shirts and choosing to identify themselves as hipsters?

We think not. And CSS Music believes that like all popular trends, the public will grow weary of this musical style and revert back to music that has “emotionality” instead of light motifs with no balls. To do a comparison—and we do have hipster/Indie tracks in our library—let’s take “A Road Trip Quietly” (Powertrax 33) and pit it against “Picture Perfect.” (Super Themes 21) Both tracks have a sense of motion/forward progression and both are orchestrated with light rhythm sections, but which track stirs you? Does the laid back nature of “A Road Trip Quietly” evoke emotions like pride, can-do attitude and corporate strength? We don’t think so either.

Maybe it’s time for everyone to gaze into their crystal balls and think about what’s coming next—or where we were--and look at what really sells a scene. Do you really believe a corporate client wouldn’t like a melody they could call their own that inspires and motivates, versus a track that just sits there? We ask you to spend a few minutes with our database and explore what (we believe) is truly Corporate or Light Industrial. As mentioned, we do have Indie-inspired tracks, but exploring music with thematic continuity and a sense of purpose may put you on the path to being a real trendsetter!

August 02, 2017

Adding To Your Tool Belt

CSS Music’s Redi-Trax Helps You Build

Does this situation sound familiar? You’re working on a special project—or maybe a super creative promo—and you’ve used a popular piece of music as a temp track. There’s no way you can afford to use this temp music but everyone agrees the tempo and feel are just right. Now all you have to do is find something similar to replace it for the final.

Using CSS Music Redi-Trax that temp track can be analyzed, and by adding a keyword or two, you’ll be pleasantly surprised at the results. Plus, it’s very simple to use. From our website click on the “Redi-Trax Waveform Search” toward the bottom of our homepage. A new window will open with instructions. From there, click on the “Click Here To Enter…”

A new window appears—you’ll notice there are search parameters on the left hand side of the page for Tempo and Length--more about those shortly. At the very top of the page is a gray bar with the search magnifying glass. Drag your temp file (aiff, wav, or mp3) onto this bar. You’ll see the program import your temp track then a message saying it’s looking for matches. Resulting matches are listed as “Sonic Search Results.”

Chances are there will be quite a few choices from the CSS Music library. You can then refine your search by clicking on the four white vertical lines on right hand side of the gray bar at the top of the page. This opens a window with an “Advanced Search” menu. Here you can type in keywords that best describe the style of your temp music, i.e. light industrial, country, jazz, new age, etc. (We suggest keeping this to no more than two keyword categories for best results.)

You will see the Redi-Trax program crunching data and refining your search even further. You can audition at this point and if you know the ballpark length you need, use the aforementioned Length window to find the appropriate time for your replacement track.

We don’t want to make Redi-Trax seem like the ultimate be-all/end-all in search engines. But we believe this is a pretty cool utensil to have in your tool belt. And you might even find you’ll want to try a CSS Music track to find other tracks with a similar feel and tempo. Give this handy search method a try and see what happens!

July 24, 2017

Keeping The Dream Alive

Why Your Goals Make You A Better Music Editor, And Vice Versa

Without going Dr. Phil/Dr. Drew/Dale Carnegie on you guys/gals, we’d like to offer a thought that will (hopefully) inspire you to come to work every day with a smile on your face and a skip in your step. What are we talking about? Your dream. That glorious idea in the back of your mind that gives you impetus to keep working your “day job” while you imagine this idea coming to fruition.

Whether it’s a film you’ve envisioned, your own album, writing a how-to book or novel, developing a podcast series or maybe starting your own service company, the road to realization begins with your current work. And here’s why: developing your dream requires more than just that Aha! Moment. You need a plan—usually starting with a business plan—and then picturing the steps you need to take to make that dream happen.

As you develop this plan, you’ll want to apply everything you currently do at work: excellence in editing, attention to every detail and superb organization. Oh. And keeping a Positive Mental Attitude (PMA) throughout the day is also crucial.

So as you go about the not-so-fun aspects of logging SMPTE codes, filing cue sheets and working on the next quarter’s budget, imagine this is YOUR business. What would you expect of someone working for you on YOUR dream?  What paperwork do you visualize necessary to see YOUR goals materialize? How are YOU going to market your final product/service?

At CSS Music we’ve dreamed of hearing our music in television and seeing our name in that LOOONNNG credit list of motion pictures. And thankfully, we’ve seen/heard both. And we can tell you from experience that keeping a “steady as she goes” attitude and tackling problems as they arise will result in success.

So when you’re laying in a CSS Music track in your next show, keep that PMA and strive toward excellence. It will definitely pay off when you begin/continue working on your dream. From the founder of McDonalds:

"Press on. Nothing in the world can take the place of persistence. Talent will not; nothing is more common than unsuccessful men with talent. Genius will not; the world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent." -- Ray Kroc.

July 20, 2017

What The French Connection Taught Us

Silence CAN Be Golden

In 1971 William Friedkin directed the Academy Award winner for Best Picture, The French Connection. This groundbreaking film starred Gene Hackman and Roy Scheider as NYC cops hot on the trail of a French heroin smuggler. American jazz composer/trumpeter Don Ellis wrote the score providing an interesting blend of modern jazz with traditional film underscore elements.

But what really grabs your ears in this film is…nothing. Just the ambient New York City street sounds. And surprisingly, this use of background only, sans music, was used in some of the most intense action scenes. For example, the extended foot chase sequence where “Popeye” Doyle (Hackman) pursues one of the bad guys along the subway line definitely has you on the edge of your seat. And all that you hear is ambience and the sound of running feet; and it IS pulse pounding!

Do you suppose Don Ellis was begging William Friedkin to let him score this scene? Or perhaps he saw/heard the results as inspired genius? Either way, this technique of editing the chase with only the actual sounds can really perk up your ears!

How would you apply this in a reality television show? Here’s an idea: your show has a situation where something has been forgotten and time is of the essence to resolve the situation—maybe someone forgot a particular item or something breaks that must be immediately repaired.

You don’t want to eat up precious screen time dragging out the scene but at the same time, the crucial nature deserves highlighting. By using quick cuts between 1) The people waiting for the forgotten/broken item, 2) The person racing to pick it up and 3) The party who holds the solution, a French Connection mood can be modeled.

Sure, we here at CSS Music are sort of shooting ourselves in the foot (ouch!) suggesting this technique, but we know you’ll want to incorporate many of our fine tracks for other scenes. Plus, you just might find our MAX-EFX library comes in handy as a B roll source. Our goal at CSS Music is to make your productions as creative and imaginative as we can, even it means suggesting the “silence is golden” rule.