Today is finally the release day of the Small Town Monsters documentary “The Flatwoods Monster: A Legacy of Fear” that I scored over the beginning of this year!! What follows is a behind the scenes look at the creation of the score:
No one really knows where our best creative ideas come from, and we’re always worried that right in the middle of a project is when the tap will be turned off. I've come to learn that workflow is everything - you can’t allow a laggy computer to stop you from getting down the theme the universe has just jolted into your fingers, or prohibit you from handling multiple jobs and client demands at once. This is why, just prior to starting work on The Flatwoods Monster, I invested over $3,000 into my system and software libraries. This became vital in completing the movie on time; in fact, while I’d normally have two to three months, I gave myself only the month of January 2018 to write this score.
The next thing that was different about this than the other five I had done for Small Town Monsters in the past was that I wasn’t able to be on location, helping the crew shoot the film, just due to me having moved to Los Angeles prior to the shoot. I typically love being apart of the shoots for multiple reasons, one of which is it gives me a much better understanding on what the music should be after talking to the witnesses in person and hearing the sounds/seeing the place in which these stories actually happened. As I didn’t have that luxury this time, I had many conversations with Director Seth Breedlove about the tone and style that we wanted to go for.
Due to the story taking place in the 1950’s, Seth wanted the music to be inspired by 1950’s science fiction scores, but with a modern twist. I began watching a lot of those old movies and listening to the scores, and I came to be really fascinated with one composer who became a giant influence on this score: Bernard Herrmann. If you’re unfamiliar, he is best known for his collaborations with director Alfred Hitchcock and has scored such films as Psycho, Vertigo, Citizen Kane, and Taxi Driver.
The one that influenced my score the most though was his for the movie The Day the Earth Stood Still. I began recreating a lot of the cues from the movie and then analyzing the instrumentation and harmony he was using in order to get inspiration for my own music. The main instrument I took from these studies to use was the tremolo vibraphone, in which they would use a motor and fans under a vibraphone to give it a tremolo feel. This sound was used all over this genre back then and became a huge staple in my score as well. Here is a demonstration of that technique:
Although I started a lot of the cues with 1950’s sci fi harmony and instrumentation (including the use of more woodwinds than I’d ever used before), I had to find a way to give it a modern twist. Although I used many software libraries on this score, the main one was from Native Instruments and it is called Kinetic Metal. Due to the monster in this movie being described as “mechanical”, I knew I needed some metallic sounds, and this library was perfect for that. I also used modular synths (which we’ll talk about in a moment) and many other modern sounds such as arps/synths and even a little guitar thrown in there.
Speaking of the main theme - let’s talk about that. I used a preset from Kinetic Metal called “Natural Gas Pipe” that I loved. The three note theme came to me out of nowhere, and it’s really just an E major triad, but with the sound I chose, it sounds minor and spooky. I thought it captured the mystery of this monster and its personality well. Once this theme was developed, I began placing it all over the movie and created all kinds of variations. Although we had been working towards it for a while, this is the first time I’d say that I’d successfully developed a theme for one of our monsters and used it from the first frame of the movie until the end like a proper film score. This is something I plan to do in the future as it seemed to help glue the whole thing together to really give it its sound.
The final piece of the puzzle was modular synths, which I’d had a fascination with for a while. I started going to this outdoor concert event called Modular on the Spot and met the creators of it: Rodent and Bana, and I ended up hiring Rodent to create some experimental sound design for the monster and the score. We created a ton of soundscape/sound design type of material and on a flight back from Ohio over the holidays, I edited all of that into a seamless suite of music. I then took that and placed it all over the film and although much of it didn’t end up in the film, some of it really worked such as the 1950’s satellite type ambience or other metallic sounding noises for the monster.
And that’s really it! You can buy/rent the movie by clicking the image above and can hear music from the score here. I hope you enjoy the movie and the score and please let me know what you think! I want to thank Seth and the Small Town Monsters crew, Rodent and Bana, Bernard Herrmann, and my mentors at MI who on some level mentored me during the creation of this score: Amy Gordon, Tom Villano, and Jordan Cox.
“The Hill After Dark”
“Witnesses to a Legend”
“A Tourist From World’s Away”
“Flying Saucers Invade”
“Awash With the Unusual”
“Ball of Fire”
“Facts and Fables”
“We the People”
“There is a Flatwoods, West Virginia”
“Object of Ridicule”
“A Modern Myth”