Some Thoughts On The Composition And Production Of “BEAUTIFUL BATTLE”
People are always asking me how I write music. Where does the idea come from? How do you get the inspiration? etc. Music was not meant to be described using words so what follows here is basically useless. But I thought if I jotted down some of my thoughts on how I personally interpret this music, you might leave me alone.
1/ Army Of Angels - I wanted this song to sound like something you might “feel” if you were to see an actual army of angels coming to rescue you (or some other hero) from the forces of darkness. It wasn’t easy because… well, I’ve never actually seen an army of angels. I needed choirs but used them sparingly because choirs have become synonymous with all things biblical and I wanted that stigma as far away from me as possible.
The song builds steadily throughout, except for a brief interlude. I was attempting to give the impression this was not an easy fight - it never is in an epic battle between good and evil. I used a fairly repetitive chord progression at the end, which was overlaid with relatively simple melodies. Angels are not complex, intricate entities. They represent all things good. So I kept it simple. The intro is fairly long and gentle with unison choir melodies backed by piano. The angel army appears at 58 seconds - they are coming….finally. They don’t start really doing their thing until around 1:35 when the big strings come in with a significant chord change. Anyway, close your eyes and try to imagine this. If you are an epic music fan you already have your own technique.
2/ Ashes To Ashes - The topic of death (or passage to the great beyond) is never a joyous thing, unless you are talking about someone you didn’t care for and were happy they kicked the bucket. So this song is decidedly a minor chord based song. Minor chords are the very definition of sadness. Try it. Play a minor triad on your piano and notice how it makes you feel. Then play a major triad and notice the difference in your emotional state.
This song builds toward the end as the subject nears the completion of his journey. The thematic melody becomes the main event after a brief but fairly intense interlude and the song ends abruptly as you would expect with death. It’s over, that’s all she wrote. The arrangement is extremely dense, almost a white noise effect, which I hoped would add the element of mystery surrounding life after death - or perhaps life approaching death. I’m not sure I succeeded in that attempt but it does add some gravity to the overall structure.
3/ Be Silent - The lyric here is almost entirely this one phrase - not so much as a command (shut up and eat your dinner!) but rather a suggestion. “Be silent and be true”. The song starts with an ancient sounding flute surrounded by mysterious ambience and ends with the same elements. The main body of the song has quite a bit of rhythm, supplied mostly by the ostinato strings and some percussion. It builds and becomes fairly intense near the end and then the flute and ambience finish the song.
I thought about calling this song “Ashes To Ashes” (the title of the first track) because in many ways it more accurately describes what might occur if you were making the passage from this life to the next. Composing songs like this is an organic process. I was looking for a phrase around which I could build a song and I discovered “Be Silent”. I had to manufacture the phrase, “Be true” because it didn’t exist. I had to layer vowels and consonants together, taken from different patches from different programs altogether. It took a while (about 3 hours) but I finally got it to sound like “Be True”. Nothing about this song makes any sense in a literal way, but “Be silent” is a powerful subliminal suggestion so I decided it may have enough weight to carry the song.
4/ Beautiful Battle - This is the title track and is one of my personal favorites. I never tire of listening to it as I do with most of my compositions. I think the reason for that is the chorus.
It is inspiring and uplifting in many ways and never fails to satisfy me but going from F# minor to C major is not as straight forward as you may imagine. There are a few ways to get there but you have to be careful how that is accomplished. I achieved it by pretending to go from E7 to A Major but at the last moment going to the rather unexpected C major. The result is a surprise and a real boost in energy - positive energy! The rhythm in this song is also a critical factor. It is actually the rhythm a galloping horse makes - and everyone knows that in an epic battle there are usually horses involved. It gives the song forward momentum from the first note on. When it gets to the chorus the feeling is one of being lifted off the ground. That is my impression. Your listening experience may be quite different.
5/ Blood Aurora - The title of this song has little to do with the actual music UNLESS you use your imagination. I was searching for a song title and happened to be watching an episode of “Fortitude” entitled, “Blood Aurora”. Boom, done. Blood Aurora, for those who don’t already know is a celestial event known as Aurora Borealis, better known as Northern Lights, only instead of the usual greens, whites and blues, it is bright red - hence the blood part and is an extremely rare occurrence.
Now, this is where you have to use your epic imagination skills. If you close your eyes while listening to the song and imagine a winged (otherworldly) warrior flying around in this Blood Aurora, doing battle with furious evil (otherworldly) beasts, it actually works quite well. I know, I know…..that’s a stretch. I simply have no other explanation for what the song is about. Some music just cannot be described with words. You have to believe it to see it. There is quite a bit of movement in this song, a rhythmic structure that provides some excitement while the overall mood is one of suspense, mystery, and tension. The final chorus is carried by powerful, pounding, big drums which drive it toward a fairly intense climax. Relax, this is family rated music.
6/ Call Of The Princess Warrior - Now THIS title has everything to do with the song. When you listen it will all become clear. The intro is unexpectedly bright, hopeful even - until exactly one minute in. At that point it begins to morph into something that promises some danger, excitement, you know, the payoff. You won’t know what that is until after the interlude, after which things get a little more serious.
The melody is the call of the Princess Warrior and as we get to the end that melody is given some weight by string sections and horns rather than the little darling princess herself. Think of it as though her calls have been answered and the big dogs are on their way to help out. During the interlude, the main character (the Princess) is thinking out loud saying, “Strong, they know…strong….he stayed strong…someday….someday”. She needs help and now it’s coming. She adds, “And now…and now…” Yes, my dear, help is on the way and here come the strings and horns. She has been saved. That’s my take on it anyway.
7/ Dragon Fire - Fairly self explanatory title here. There is a lot of dragon dive bombing in this piece. Because when you need help a dragon is your best bet….or some kind of air power anyway. There is a lot of movement in this song as you might expect wherever dragons are involved. I think the only thing you need to know is that the dragon prevails, and all the evil elements are vanquished. Just watch Game Of Thrones if you don’t believe me.
The intro starts off innocently enough with a lovely female voice singing sweet nothings into your ear until the first dragon makes a rather impressive entrance at precisely 45 seconds in. Then things get violent pretty quickly. Everyone takes a breather to lick their wounds during the interlude but this bar fight isn’t over yet. The choir sings heavenly praises of the dragon’s enormously effective battle techniques throughout the song, again signifying that evil has been vanquished - the typical good versus evil epic theme that Hollywood loves so much. The entire song is one big dragon brawl with lots of dives, crashes, and oddly satisfying violence. I really enjoyed writing this song. The modern tools available for creating violent music are really fun to use and the results are usually fairly convincing. I do hope you feel that way too.
8/ Eden - Walking The Ozarks - I don’t believe I can honestly describe this song as being in the epic genre. It is more inclined toward inspirational music with an epic garnish. The lyric is, “They saw…Eden”. Pretty straightforward. The “Walking The Ozarks” part I added to the title to impress my relatives who live near the Ozark mountains in northwestern Arkansas and parts of Missouri. The lyric, “They mean so much” was a very lucky accident. I discovered some elements of the phrase in one of my VST vocal libraries and just had to put it in, although it required a lot of editing to make it sound believable.
I personally enjoy writing music that is inspirational in nature. Believe it or not, it is more difficult in many ways than writing purely “epic” music. “Epic” music has a fairly rigid set of components or requirements - call it what you like, whereas inspirational music can take so many different forms it’s hard to decide which way to go with it. Inspirational music does require the composer to “be inspired” so sitting down to write a piece like this does take some thought, planning and if you’re fortunate, inspiration. I liked the results so much I am thinking seriously of doing an entire album in this genre sometime in the future. For now, this song doesn’t really belong on an “epic” genre album but at the very least, it is a nice change of pace from the serious nature of epic music with all the glory and violence that genre entails.
9/ Heroine’s Journey - This is a dark piece - no other way to describe it. Heroine (the drug) and Heroine (the female hero) are intertwined and interchangeable. The songs works either way. If you choose to believe the song has to do with drug runners moving large quantities in a very dangerous environment, that is perfectly fine. If you choose to interpret it as the journey of a female warrior trying to reach her goal, that works too.
Everything leading up to the last two choruses is merely a prelude to the real meat of the song. That begins at 2:54 where the intensity is ramped up for the first chorus and then amplified further for the final chorus. I found it extremely satisfying but, then again, I’ve heard good things about heroine too. I think this piece would work very well for a film about drugs and the inherent dangers in moving and selling large quantities but it is really just a song. Choose to interpret it any way that works for you.
10/ Peace And Chaos - These two themes are natural partners. There is no peace where chaos reigns and vice versa. The intro is rhythmically driven by synth ostinatos and piano predominately, with strings providing some tension. The main body of the song begins at 1:17 but is in some aspects still part of the intro. Just when you think it’s going to take off, it drops again. Sorry about that but I liked the idea of a long tease. At 2:37 the song get’s serious. The last chorus, with the lyric “We stand” gives you the impression that people have finally had enough and are standing up against oppression. It is intense.
After beating up their political opponents, the rebels stand above their defeated foes, gloating a little during the long denouement. I did not intend for this song to be a neo-protest song. It just kind of turned out that way. The phrase, “We stand” did not come easy because the original phrase which I used to build “We stand” did not sound anywhere close to that. Again, with some judicious editing of vowels and consonants I managed to get it to sound the way I wanted. When a composer has the luxury of using real live singers, creating this type of lyrical involvement in a song is easy. But when you have a phrase that sounds like “fish for sale” and you want that to sound like “We stand”, it does require some fiddling around. I wanted you to know just in case you thought I found a phrase that actually was “We stand” and just stuck it in there. That’s not how this works.
11/ Sail On - The title and lyric for this song are not intended to be taken literally (although that too is perfectly fine). “Sail on” is a metaphor for reaching one’s dreams but since there are several different lyrical phrases, you may find yourself interpreting the meaning of the song in a totally new way, perhaps in ways I never even imagined. That is the cool thing about music. It is completely subjective and the results are different for everyone.
While this song starts out with a dark, menacing tone it quickly becomes more gentle and hopeful, supported by piano, cello and solo female vocals. Visually, at certain points in the song there are giant crashing waves which were created by applying a ton of long-tailed reverb onto a gong crash. It was an attempt to create a visual (audible) artifact of the ocean itself - this may or may not be the case in your listening experience but I tried. Adding actual foley to any song is dangerous because film and TV editors want to add their own. Any real sound effects I add just makes their job more difficult so I left it musical rather than virtual. I am hoping this songs leaves you feeling inspired and hopeful, that anything is possible if you try hard enough. The epic journey of finding your dreams can come true.
12/ Sweet Dreams - This song gave me no end of aggravation. I really liked the string motif and because it was so rhythmically dominate, removing it from any part of the song resulted in disappointment. I finally was able to keep the song moving using a synth bass for the rhythm and then bringing back the string motif later, supplemented by an extra octave. That seemed to work but to be honest, I’m still not sure. Anyway, it is what it is.
As far as interpretation, the words, “This night, in my dreams, I see”, well…use your epic imagination to see just about anything you wish. This song builds and builds and is firmly in “epic” territory genre wise. This is one of those songs that required a thematic lyric to build the song around. “Night, dreams, I see” seemed like a promising avenue to go down and for the most part I think it works quite well. But I will leave that to you. Sweet Dreams.
13/ The Sound Of Freedom - If freedom had a sound this song might be it. The reason I say that is because even after it was finished I had still not thought of a title for the song. After listening over and over I decided on this title because it just sounded like freedom. The intro gives the impression of someone sitting alone, perhaps confined and unable to break free, contemplating the day when she could finally be out of there and become free once again. If you have ever been confined, you know how sweet freedom can be.
Her big chance for freedom comes at 1:20. Here, the urgency is cranked up as she makes her metaphorical run for it. Her dangerous struggle continues until 2:25 when she finally realizes she has actually done it! She is free and the feeling is glorious! Imagine her riding her great dragon or maybe some kind of biblical battle eagle as she soars above the cliffs and the ocean. All the madness is behind her and oh, what a lovely view from up there. I kept the girl’s voice in the melody throughout the final choruses because I didn’t want the listener to lose emotional contact with her by using strings or other instruments for the melody, although those elements are in there. The euphoria continues right up until the very end where she looks back over her shoulder at those who had abused and confined her. She sails off into the sunset and never looks back. The sound of freedom.
14/ Voyage To Valhalla - Valhalla is the mythical heaven Viking warriors (Norsemen) go to after they die - if they are worthy. The intro uses an ancient horn to signify that Valhalla awaits. The phrase, “Oh night” refers to the holy night when this mythical voyage takes place. The mystery and tension build until 1:21 where it becomes somewhat more hopeful. There is an interlude, similar to the intro with the same mystery and tension which builds again into an even larger chorus at 3:09. It would appear the warriors have been accepted into the great hall which is, of course, a great honor.
All of this metaphorical babbling I’m doing here is only my interpretation of the song. I just wanted you to see what I saw when I was composing the song. If you are a fan of the TV series, “The Vikings” all of this will be very clear to you. I was not paid to say that. Was not….was not…
15/ When Soldiers Come Home - Do not be fooled by the menacing intro. This is above all else a hopeful song. It’s difficult to describe my thought process regarding composition here however, my main goal was to create a song that had the right components to impart an emotional, musical representation of the feelings brought about by our soldiers returning in great numbers from harm’s way. Most countries and their citizens are extremely proud of their military and here in the US that patriotism is probably one of the few things keeping our country together at the moment.
There are no production gimmicks in this song. It is merely my way of saying thanks - not just to those returning but to those who did not. I did want some serious overtones to be present because otherwise it would have been just another patriotic choral arrangement, of which there are too many and they mean nothing to me. Therefore, throughout the song you will notice some tension interspersed in amongst the orchestral elements. Going to war is serious business. When you come home, you would hope that people would remember the gravity of that sacrifice which is why I tried to give the song some elements of danger.
I hope you enjoy this album as much as I did creating it. Feel free to leave any comments you like. Happy listening and warm regards to all you epic music fans out there. None of us could do this without your support. You can listen and download directly from the following link: https://www.dwaynefordmusic.com/new-releases
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