Happy New Year 2019!

Much of my blogging for the past year has been over at my music theory blog. As of this fall I’m actually taking classes at the local community college. I don’t think I’ve picked up a game controller since the summer!

My current “game controller” looks like this. I have never had a piano before and it’s very challenging, but if I can play Dark Souls, I can do anything!


Here is another “game-like” tool I am using for music:


These are  helpful for improvisation, or when you get stuck. You say a prayer to RNGsus and  hope you get something interesting!

I was very inspired by the idea of composing music for my scenes in No Man’s Sky. The videos I have up (at Avie the Birdbrain Gamer) are a rough approximation of what I would like to be doing. I’m signed up for individual instruction in composing and as a result I’m trying to get all my ducks in a row for the NMS project. This blog has been very helpful in getting the chronology straight. My best (and most organized) game footage is what I took during the last week that universe existed (mid July 2018) — but I did want to include SOME material from before the burning of Neochadwickia. To help with the organization, I made video footage of my Discovery Logs the very last day the universe existed — so the information was totally up to date. It resulted in 29 pages of screen caps. Going through these 29 pages I did in fact find 300 planet names (the working title for my music composition is “The Last of the 300 Worlds”). However — now checking with this blog, I found that there were whole groups of planets and stars that were erased from the Discovery Log. I found the Nagu system — Naguxoisanorca, Rosperigosa, Noelgervay, Mantigervay — but the star had been renamed Nuguxoisa (the planet names remained). I am confused and amazed at what the software must have done every time there was a universe regeneration. How did it decide what info was kept and what was re-written?

I really don’t need to make a full documentation of my 400+ hours in the No Man’s Sky universe in order to compose music about it. But I did think that the process of writing up the 300 planet names and grabbing some screen caps would be straightforward. Instead it has led to a deep dive into a huge collection of (neatly labeled) jpgs and back to this blog!

Somewhere I also have a 3-ring binder full of notes I took while filming. I’m not sure if that info will be helpful at this stage or not (or am I just going down the rabbit hole into completionism?)

I did have a wonderful time last night sorting through pictures til 4 in the morning. There were some spectacular planets I had completely forgotten about.

For the first part of the film I plan to have a series of kaleidoscope images, made from NMS scenes — starting with deepest black, then add stars, nebulas, dark blue horizons….through violet, red, orange, yellow and finally the white-hot death of the universe. I like the idea that my memories and experiences in NMS form a collage (rather than a neat photo album) in my head. I think the music will also be collage-like rather than a literal description of the 400 hrs. ;)

Avie the Birdbrain Gamer # 3

I’ve been wanting to make videos for Youtube for ages! The computer I have now is fast enough to run No Man’s Sky while ALSO running the screen-capture software. (My previous computer can’t even run No Man’s Sky). The video editing software I’m using is called Movavi. I have been working on these videos for several weeks and I keep learning new things about the software. Yesterday I figured out how to add a “freeze-frame” (stop the film and hold it on one picture) without making a big gap in the background music.

Here is video # 3. (I’m redo-ing videos 1 and 2. ) I still need to fix the soundtrack. The sound effects coming from the game footage are in stereo (comes through both ears of your headphones) but the music I composed is only coming through one ear. I didn’t notice this flaw when I uploaded the video (because it wasn’t as obvious when using speakers). Thanks K for pointing this out!

Mid-February Music Progress

I’ve made some good progress in music lately, though I haven’t posted any new “noodles” for a while. I finally made it through the part of the Lynda.com video that talks about mixers, and I’ve been experimenting with that. The lectures at Coursera have been getting further and further out of my comfort zone (lots of terminology) so I’ve started making notecards! I’ve also been watching FL Studio tutorials by Andrew Aversa (aka Zircon). To me these tutorials are mindbogglingly complex and would be very intimidating, except that I “got to know him” by listening to an interview, and he is just such a nice guy.

Just today one of my new books arrived — it’s called The Guide to MIDI Orchestration. I expected that it would be a very dense book with tiny print, no pictures, and teeny-tiny little snippets of music scores. But I just opened the book at random and…it has pictures! The music score examples are readable! And the material sounds learnable. Ex. if you change around your wind instruments so that the low instruments are playing in their highest register and the highest instruments are playing in their lowest register (ex. bassoons high and flutes low), you get a completely different sound. That makes sense.

This video by Zircon is almost like looking over his shoulder…

This is one of his better-known songs — “Just Hold On”

My favorite interview so far

I’ve been listening to the Top Score podcasts, and this is my favorite one so far. The composer Ben Prunte was self-taught, and worked a lot of other jobs while he learned his craft as a musician. He said it took 10 years before he got good at it!

For Ben, the glamour of scoring video games did not come without effort. While working alternately as a janitor, Google diagnostician, and volunteer coordinator, he dedicated his spare time to honing his craft. After years of improvement, he received a call from the developer of the new game Faster Than Light (FTL). They asked for a score, and Ben’s life changed forever.


The music-writing software he uses is called Cubase, which has been around for a long time.

Here is a playlist of the soundtrack he wrote for the game FTL. I really like it, I think because it reminds me of the electronic music I listened to back in the 70s.


Top Score podcast — interviews with game composers

I just found out about the podcast Top Score, which discusses the music composed for, and used in, computer games. The woman who does the interviews has a classical music background. The following video talks about how the podcast interviews are made. Cute scene at 8:55 where they’re editing out the vocal flubs.

Learn the process behind Top Score, the podcast from Minnesota Public Radio that features interviews with the composers behind the world’s biggest games.