Brian Barrale is the man behind the music of Stretch Dance Co.’s Bells and Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairies videos (be sure to check them out if you haven’t had a chance!). Brian took a moment from preparing for his tour to talk about his process for creating music for Stretch. You can find out more about him on his website at: http://www.brianbarrale.com/ and be sure to check out his music from the Stretch Dance videos on iTunes.
Was this the first time you composed for a dance? How does it differ from when you compose on your own?
It was great. Most often, I have done work for hire or commission. I’ve definitely done cabaret shows where I’ve composed songs for more of a one-woman or one-man show, and I’ve also done original musicals and short vignettes that had choreography involved. Lyndell gave me a broad scope of what her vision was, but she also gave me a lot of room to experiment. She gave me specific outlines, the backbone of what she wanted. But she also let me be who I am and let me go deep with what I had in mind. She was wonderful to collaborate with.
Do you compose music differently when you know you’re composing for dancers?
I’m used to being told what to do and what’s expected. Lyndell just gave me some specifics, and let me go at it with that in mind. I had just bought a new computer at that time, and I wanted to experiment with a fresh set of sounds. So I bought a whole set of orchestra specifically for the project. I wanted to experiment that fresh set of sounds.
You bought…a fresh set of sounds?
(Laughs) Yes, but don’t tell Lyndell! (Interviewer’s note: whoops). As an electronic composer, I do compose with live instruments, but when it comes to an orchestra, I don’t always have live music. I use sample libraries—my go-to is CineSamples. It hooks up with your electronic keyboard, so when you press a key on the board, you can actually play snippets of an actual orchestra. Everything worked out wonderfully, so much so that I actually put it on iTunes and it actually hit number 13 on the Holiday music chart.
Do you always use sample libraries, or is this something you did so you could get the orchestral effect for the videos?
Sample libraries are my palate—that’s where I go to create. You know how Jerry Seinfeld only uses 9×12 legal pads to write his stuff? I use sample libraries when I’m doing music. I’ll start with the electronic version first, even if I know I will have a live orchestra. That’s because I have worked for film, TV, and video games, and they want to have the closest thing to what it will sound like as a final product. That is my go-to way of composing.
Beyond Cinesamples and Lyndell, was there anything else that inspired you while working on the music? Was there a difference for your Dark Bell Carol and Viscous Plum Faeries?
First of all, the “Dark Bell Carol” was based on Carol of the Bells. I took the traditional Ukrainian bells and worked off of that. Traditionally “Carol of the Bells” has no lyrics, so I wanted to work the sounds of the bells. And then I added the middle section which was really dark and agitated section and explored the string sections—I really wanted to get the scratchy textured sound.
As for Viscous Plum Faeries – that was very much directly inspired by the score for Coraline, specifically the end credits. It had that a very fast and staccato plucked sound. And–you’re going to love this–the driving force for the beat was that I used one of the plastic water bottles, like you would find at at an office, and used the end of a drum stick to get the sound that I wanted. It’s a very soft, but aggressive ba baba ba bum bump bumpos (Interviewer’s note: I tried to capture the sound effect).
Speaking of Viscous Fairies, that’s such an interesting name. What made you choose it?
The word viscous has stuck with me since I learned it. Ha! It’s this thick gooey black dark, evil gross kind of thing, and that’s what I was going for in the music.