"Book And Shadow - A Dark Academia Theme" New Music

Hello lovely people!

I have a new track I’d like to share titled, “Book And Shadow - A Dark Academia Theme.” All feedback welcome and appreciated.

So, as you might tell from the title, I was inspired to write this track from a number of books with a dark academia genre or theme, namely Leigh Bardugo’s Ninth House and Hell Bent R.F. Kuang’s Babel and Mark Lawrence’s The Book That Wouldn’t Burn If you’re unfamiliar with this genre, it is a story that (usually) takes place in an academic, usually university setting, during the late 19th to early 20th centuries and usually involves some dark supernatural or human force at play.

I was attempting to make something like a TV series opening theme, so short, about 1 min 30, but it kind of got away from me and I just went with it. I tried to carry the same melodic theme throughout, across different instruments to keep it interesting, with a small break in the middle with just the string first chairs (a string quartet basically) and a different outro bit. It’s a 6/8 Tempo de Minuetto ~108 bpm with a couple of rallentando to change the feel a bit, mostly in the key of B harmonic minor.

Instruments: All Orchestral Tools’ Berlin Orchestra with a solo violin from Modern Scoring Strings.
2 Flute
2 Bassoon, Contrabassoon
4 Horns
2 Trombone, Bass Trombone
Timpani, perussion

DAW: Studio One 6 using the Dolby Atoms Render for mixing and iZotope Ozone 11 for mastering


A perfect composition in several ways. First of all, beautiful. Secondly, your instruments come in at the perfect time. Thirdly, you intuitively add interest when the ear grabs onto it. You have uncanny abilities with excellent technique. This is a piece I will listen to again.

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Very beautiful and skillfully arranged. However, the overal atmosphere could benefit from a bit more room acoustic (ambience).

Thanks for sharing!

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Hey @MaestroX - good to hear your music again!

This is a delightful and well thought-out piece. It does have TV-show opener sound with it concise orchestrating, with interesting percussion hits as well as the playful and driving rhythms. The repeating eigth-note piano figures and Mozart-like phrases give this a fun characteristic and nicely glue it all together!

My suggestions for improving:

  1. The solo violin sounds “midi” to me and distract from your beautiful writing. You might hire a real solo violinist and/or get more realistic string samples. A real string player would of course sound more real and add even more character. If you don’t know of any violinists and/or don’t have a good microphone, there are likely plenty of remote for hire musicinas out there. I guess it all depends on what you want to do with the piece and your budget. I give this suggestion as the piece is well done and could be a nice demo.
  2. Spend more time on the string writing and detail. The low string eigth-note figures are a little static and predictable after their first entrance. I recommend continued score study, particularly for strings for ideas. Write with the “player” in mind to what would be engaging (and idiomatic) for them. Limit your copy & paste and work harder to get this detail and interest. John William’s score are a treasure chest of ideas. You might check out Tchaikovsky as well or your favorite composer.

Congrats on your piece!

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Thanks for taking a listen Dori! I don’t know about ‘perfect’; still lots to improve on but I’m glad you liked it!

Thanks for the comments Jos! I did actually try a few different room reverbs but found that they really just muddied up the sound and just using the natural recorded ambience of the samples sounded clearer and cleaner. This is Orchestral Tools’ Berlin Orchestra, so all samples were recorded at Teldex scoring stage in Berlin, where many classical orchestras record and early films scores were done.

Thanks for taking a listen!

Hey Brandon! Really nice to hear from you again!

Thanks so much for the feedback, it’s been a mighty struggle to get time to compose :sob: You wouldn’t believe how many solo violin VSTs I tried for this (Probably 4 or 5!) and this was the best one I had; couldn’t afford any better at the moment. Was looking at getting the Joshua Bell one sometime.

I feel I do struggle with writing bass lines when writing in a DAW but not too much when just straight scoring in Dorico. Not sure why. That cello rhythm at the intro does change up and interacts with the violas in that minuette boom-DA-DA-boom-DA-DA-DA rhythm, but gets kinda lost in the orchestration (too much tuba?). I do have some Williams sores I look through as well as a couple Camille Saint-Saëns, but also try to listen to a lot of modern TV and game scores to hear what others are doing (or getting away with :laughing:)

Appreciate the suggestions and feedback!

I like the 3/4 cadence. Although the theme might evoke the mysterious, this beat makes it playful. The passages are right on point for the theme. I agree to a previous comment though that there is no nuance and it makes it sound like robotic MIDI. A theme like this requires interpretation because a lot of unsettling emotions are conjured. What I mean is playing with the tempo and velocity. I couldn’t hear any interpretation in the piano part. It might sound a bit lifeless without any of it.

Here is an example of a virtual violin by Mike Gorman. Use of CCs, articulation and dynamics are important. It’s more complex to work on than piano, granted.