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Memoirs of Composer Chance Thomas

Chapter 22 - Sneak Peek Excerpt


My imagination was running wild, envisioning a glorious collision of high fantasy game music and Monday Night Football. I wanted screaming trumpet riffs and epic choral chanting, bristling synth lines and a full live orchestra. The first cue I composed morphed all of those elements into one heroic barn-burner. I sent the mockup to Tim for review. “Sounds great to me,” he said. Mike was onboard too, “Full speed ahead!” They cut me loose, and cues came together like wildfire. I had rarely written music so quickly, and I was enjoying the style immensely.  

My digital orchestral library was robust, but my virtual synth collection was a little weak. One of my composer friends, Or Kribos, connected me with Hybrid Two's CEO, who supplied complimentary copies of two riveting virtual instruments, Project Alpha and Project Bravo. I used them both generously throughout the new score.  

Once the music was composed and approved, I hired a 48-piece orchestra and a 24-voice choir, hoping to bring the score to vibrant life. The orchestra performed fabulously. The choral singing was so epic!

The recording sessions were among the best I had ever produced, the rare project where every performance lands in the sweet spot. All of the recordings were crisp and clean. When I left the studio, I knew I had gold in those tracks.   

But I soon received unsettling news. Mike Roskelley, my longtime mixing collaborator, abruptly announced that he was taking an unplanned sabbatical from mixing music. He was leaving the very week I planned to mix the DOTA 2 score. As an olive branch, he offered to let me use his studio while he was away, and encouraged me to mix the score myself. After the successful recording sessions, I may have been riding too high on a cloud of endorphins. Against my usual better judgment, I decided to tackle the mix personally. 

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It was during this mix that I encountered one of the strangest and most disturbing phenomena I had ever experienced in a studio. I had booked a week to mix the score, and found myself going at it pretty much around the clock. The music was complex, with multiple layers, and there was a lot of it. I was having a tough time wrangling all the tracks into shape, and time was evaporating quickly. When exhaustion would completely overcome me, I would pull three chairs together and lie down across them to snatch a few hours of sleep. I would set a phone alarm for two or three hours, then rise and get after it again.   

Toward the end of the week, probably Thursday afternoon, I became frustrated. I was trying to blend some sampled strings into the live string tracks. But everything sounded distorted. No matter what I dialed back – EQ, effects, levels, etc. – nothing removed the distortion. I rebooted the system, checked the amplifier and speaker thresholds, soloed tracks, everything I could think of to troubleshoot. No good. I knew those tracks were clean because I had listened to them critically during the recording sessions and afterwards while editing. Still, the distortion persisted.   

And then, something truly alarming happened. I accidentally knocked a note pad from the desk onto the floor and it sounded distorted. Everything in my mind ground to a halt. I was trying to make sense of what my ears had just told me. I snapped my fingers. Distorted. I clapped my hands. Distorted. I made several other noises in the room on various surfaces. All fuzzy and distorted...