Kenley Kristofferson

Composer.

Tag: drop assault

Sabbatical Roundup – Highlights

Today is the last day of my sabbatical.  Who would’ve thought 150 days would blow by so quickly?

It’s been a very productive five months, though, and I thought that I’d share some of my favourite events and projects from my sabbatical time.

1) Premiering Morgun with the Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra

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There is something very surreal about getting to work with some of the best musicians in your community.  Writing something for the WSO has always been something of an unattainable goal in my musical life.  I always sensed that they were on a different level than I am (and they really are), but a select few people with the right connections took a risk on me and, before I knew it, I had the commission – paid for and all.

While the premiere was amazing, I’ll never forget the moment that they started rehearsing it.  Both the conductor and the ensemble were in plain clothes and only Matthew Patton (composer and curator of the Winnipeg New Music Festival, which all of you should attend), Peter Johnson (editor of the Lögberg Heimskringla newspaper), Vikingur Ólafsson (the amazing Icelandic pianist with whom I had the privilege of sharing the concert) and I were in the hall.  When the strings started stacking the harmony through those opening measures, there was a feeling of awe and beauty like I’ve never felt before.

I’ll write more about the experience later on because there’s just so much to say.  It is quite surprising where music takes you.  Here are some pictures from the premiere!

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2) Meeting Maddy’s Mom

During the summer, I was asked to write a piece to commemorate the life of Madison Fleming, a 10th-grader from Olds, AB who had died suddenly just after school had been dismissed for the summer.  While the research was emotional, I was hardly prepared to walk into this girl’s home and sit with her Mom, Pam.

I wrote about the experience in Olds in an earlier post, but I didn’t write about meeting Pam – I’m not sure why, I just didn’t.  Her house was beautiful and well-kept and she greeted us at the door.  She had a friend with her and they were clearly talking about Maddy before Karri (the band teacher and commissioner) and I arrived, but she still smiled as she led us inside.

While looking at pictures and hearing stories, it was clear that the family was so happy and fulfilled before Maddy died.  While she was a fighter, she had her whole family behind her and they cherished every moment.  When you see pictures of the family at the lake or at her baseball game, there was a sense that no time was ever wasted, but instead was genuinely spent together.

Pam is a profoundly kind person and you know as soon as you see her.  She just brings an energy of warmth wherever she goes and I think about her family often.  It is quite surprising where music takes you.  #Kindnessmatters

3) Banff!

It took me a few weeks to really realize how transformative my time at the Banff Centre really was.  I worked so hard, I was exhausted, I was bitchy in the middle of it, but it was so worth it.  I met some incredible human beings, some wonderful musicians, and I got to work full-time on music for an ensemble for which I’d never written before.

Some of the people I got to meet:

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Sammy, Kelsey, Abby and Neil

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These lovely ladies, Kelsey and Jodi

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Here’s Abby, Jodi and Kenna, as well as Team Australia (Jessica and Xina, who are some of my very favourites)

And so many others too! Including the wonderful Sarah Slean, who is also one of my very, very favourite human beings.

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And here’s where we were…

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4) The Release of Horus Heresy: Drop Assault

I’ve worked on very few contracts/commissions that actually scare me – DuckTales: Scrooge’s Loot, The Matters of Kindness – but Drop Assault was definitely one of them.

I play Dungeons & Dragons with someone who is very serious about the Warhammer 40K universe, but particularly the Horus Heresy origin story of it.  When I found out that Complex Games had gotten the rights to make a game set in that universe, I was hoping that I could write for it and, thankfully, I was the guy.

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The advance for the contract was almost-entirely spent on upgrading my instrument libraries.  I knew that what I had wasn’t good enough for a game of that scope and depth, so I took inventory of what I needed and went up from there.

That being said, I’m super proud of the game and I’m quite pleased with the score.  We worked really hard on it and it took many resubmissions to get it right, but we definitely got it.  You can pick it up here if you want to check it out!

5) Finishing the “Icelandic Folk Song Suite”

It was the hardest thing I ever wrote – and by “hardest,” I mean the most technically complicated and harmonically complex.  It’s Level 5 (second hardest level in Concert Band music), four movements and eleven minutes long.  I had it kicking around in my head for about a year, but I knew that I had to get it down, I just needed the time…

And it took about six solid months.  Granted, I didn’t work on it every day, but it was always there writing itself in my head as I was doing other things.

It premieres on May 4th, 2015 by the Winnipeg Wind Ensemble.  Going to be a wild good time!

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There is so much more I could write about (getting published in The Teacher, for example), but there’s something to be said for just having the time and energy to do things right.  Not to be rushed to finish a commission or a game contract, but just having the time to make it as great as it can be.

I am so grateful to my school and school division for allowing me to take one semester to write.

Now back to the classroom 🙂

-K

 

Horus Heresy: Drop Assault Released!

Long live the emperor, Drop Assault is released for iOS today.  You can pick it up here.

horusheresyiconPut together by the teams at Complex Games and Crooz, this Clash-of-Clans-style mobile game has been such a great experience for me.  I’ve always wanted to work on a dark and gritty game with an epic orchestral score and I finally got to do it with this game.

And what a game it is.  The controls are tight, there’s so much care and detail in the environment and so much attention to the Warhammer 40,000 lore.  The graphics are really clean (but certainly not lacking in detail) and the animations are really smooth.  There are no rough edges anywhere in the experience.

Here’s the trailer, to get you started:

Musically, it was a really big job, even though it was only 8 minutes or so. Because of the grandness of the universe, the score demanded a breadth that I don’t think is found in most mobile games.  That’s not to say that it sounds as grand as film music, which I like on its own, but this score still needed to feel like it was for a game and I tried to keep that at the front of my mind and the edge of my pencil.  Movie universes are nice, but there’s a depth that’s lost because of the forced progression of the narrative and scene structure – you can’t just hang out in a movie scene like you can in a game.  The music of Drop Assault still has the structure and design of a game soundtrack and that’s super important to me.

The music is mostly orchestral, but featuring extended percussion like a tom ensemble, taiko drums, shakers or tam and gong.  Because the universe is so mechanical, I had the urge to put chains and gears in it, but I thought it might be overkill with the SFX (which are awesome, btw).  In many of the big pieces, the low strings drive the ostinato, so finding the right string ensemble was key.  The one that I ended up using has 24 sampled celli and 8 sampled double basses, which is about two-to-three times a normal orchestral low string section.  That’s not to say that there still isn’t ample non-string writing – there’s a lot of epic brass and moving woodwind lines too.  This game is one of those few times where I really wanted to use every spice in the spice rack.

I talk about the music further in this developer diary entry from Complex Games:

I’m really proud of this game (and its music, to be honest) and I hope that you all pick it up and give it a go!

-K

Sabbatical Week 2 Roundup!

Another big week on the sabbatical:

Seeing as I got to the end of Movement IV of the Icelandic Folk Song Suite, I spent most of my work on this patching up holes in the music.  I worked the transitions a lot and figured out how they’re going to work, patching up the last one just tonight (which is still a bit of a mess).

I’m definitely at the last 10% of the piece, which is often the most time-consuming.  I’ve had this piece in my head for so long that, for much of it, I couldn’t get it down fast enough.  I knew exactly where everything was going to go and how it was going to fit – well, most of it anyway.  Now it’s the real nitty gritty.

Here’s what else transpired this week:

– I also got down some earlier choral sketches, but I’m not sure if I’m going to keep them.  I like them, but we’ll see where it goes.

– Anticipating the WSO‘s Nordic Festival, Peter Johnson from the Lögberg-Heimskringla wrote an article about me and my musical development.  It was centred around high school band, video games, and how I learned to write music.  I’m really pleased with it and I hope that you pick up a paper to read it!

– I started some upcoming video game work, but nothing new to show.  In fact, I don’t even think I can show it anyway.

– I had to rewrite some Drop Assault music because it didn’t pass the top rung of the ladder with the head company and the timeline was super tight, so Tuesday was a 15-hour day and impeded some progress on the following days.  Clearly, I am not 18 anymore and can’t work like I used to.

– Speaking of Drop Assault, I’m doing a development diary for the music that I wrapped up this week.  There will be some video, an interview portion, and a supplementary blog post on the “Combat” music.  It should be up reasonably soon.

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– And this is one of the most important ones: I put together the event for the Morgun premiere with the WSO.  It’s going to be spectacular.  If you’d like to come, all of the details are on the event page:

https://www.facebook.com/events/754205461293112/

That’s it for this week!
-K