This Is How We Begin -- my entry for Tom Holkenborg/Orchestral Tools Full-Contact Competition

Just finished this today. Holy cow did this cue push me past my limits! I did so many things on this one that I’ve never done before, it has literally changed me.

The competition brief says to compose a short piece for a post-apocalyptic future world where spoken language has been replace by drums as the main form of communication. Orchestral tools gives you a sample pack from Tom Holkenborg’s drum library which you have to use. The samples sound epic, but I was at first a little disappointed that there were only 8 total drums in the pack. Then I thought of a use for that limitation. Since this society speaks with drums, I could invent a drum language. I used the 8 drums to represent 8 different ideas. Then I combined the drums into pairs and assigned a new idea to the pair that I thought made sense. Then I went 3 deep and assigned new ideas to each triplet. This gave me a language with an almost 400 word vocabulary.

I used this language to determine which drums would play at any particular time. I imagined a conversation between 2 tribe leaders trying to end a war. I wrote out the conversation and then translated it into the drum language and used this as a chart to build the composition.

This specified the drums, but not yet the rhythm. For that I recorded myself speaking the lines of the conversation into a track. Then I listed back and tried to imagine rhythms that I felt represented each line’s cadence. Then I recorded my own voice “singing” the rhythms into a new track. Then I grabbed a couple general drum kits as temporary drums and I played in the rhythms that I had just sung. Finally, I moved the drum hits to the appropriate drums in the template I had set up with all the drum types that went along with the drum language.

But I also made my own drum sample library using various items from around my home which I played as drums. I recorded most of these samples with 5 variations for round robins with 3 variations each for dynamic layers. Then I “mapped” these with my drum language, matching them each up with the 8 Orchestral Tools drums.

I have a whole multi-page spreadsheet to map this project out with color-coded everything. Overall, the drum language translation idea mostly, worked. But there were several areas where I fudged what the language said I should put in to try to make it sound good. I played in marching bands when I was in school, and I tried to go for a marching drum corp kind of style. Honestly, I’ll probably re-use the drum language idea in the future. All I have to do is change the base 8 samples to other instruments and it changes the entire thing to something new.

Genre/Style: Film/World Music? Post-Apocolyptic Tribal Drum Corp?

Creative Vision for the Track: see above

Composition Details (Tempo, Key, Main Chords etc):
This stayed close to 120 bpm, but I used the tempo master track to vary it in places I though a real drummer would speed up or slow down.
Doesn’t really have a key, though the tonal pads and kind of hovering around D.

Main Instruments used:

  • Samples from Orchestral Tools/Tom Holkenborg’s Full Contact drum library
  • Spitfire’s Drumline
  • EastWest Stormdrum 2 & 3
  • Home Drums (my own samples)
  • Spitfire Labs
  • Pianobook Winter Voices
  • probably a few others I’m missing

Here is the English version of the “conversation” for anyone who’s interested:

BaKa: May I speak?

UhTa: Yes, let us speak.

BaKa: I have great sorrow. For 5 years our tribes have been at war. I have seen the deaths of those I love. I have caused again as much death. I am weary. I wish to let war rest.

UhTa: I am weary too. My sons and daughters have died before me. We cannot live in this way. Yet how can I begin to trust my sworn enemy?

BaKa: I am ready to trust by faith. I will burn my weapon before you for you to see. I will make a feast for you. For you and your family. Our families will eat together. We will talk. This is how we begin.

UhTa: How can we forget the dead? How can my people forget the pain you have caused us?

BaKa: You cannot. We can only honor it together. We honor it by sharing the pain. We embrace in our grief. This is how we begin.

UhTa: How can we forget the things we have lost? The ruined pieces of our home lost in fire and blood? How can we put that behind us?

BaKa: It is behind us. It is the past. It cannot play a single drum in our future. It has no power except through our stubbornness. We walk together ahead. This is how we begin.

UhTa: I cannot walk together with an enemy.

BaKa: We will die as enemies. We will embrace hate. We will remain in stubbornness.

UhTa: I can walk together with a friend.

BaKa: A friend?

UhTa: I will call you friend. This is how we begin.

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WOW !!!
It’s amazing !!!

I really like the way you translated a dialogue from words into music. It’s very complex, but the result is excellent !!! :wave: :wave: :wave:
By following the dialogue and listening to the music, you can feel the dialogue between the characters.

Good luck for the competition :crossed_fingers:

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Thank you! Another thing I tried to differentiate the conversation was with time signatures. The first guy is “speaking” in 4/4 while the other guy is mostly in 6/8 or 7/8 or doing triplet rhythms. I figured that if the drums are the words of the languages, maybe time signatures are like dialect accents.