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The Works of Jonathan Jørgensen -- Soundtrack Critique
I love music, particularly rock. However, as a kid and even now I've always been VERY appreciative of original compositions for video games and movies. A soundtrack often manages to express a lot without the use of words, which is one of my favourite parts of art -- the nonverbal. Whilst I love certain lyrics, and REALLY love certain voices, I've always been mostly drawn to the music. As a dark ambient composer and musician myself, I respect the craft. Silent Hill is one of my favourite games of all time, and when I reminisce about it the music is always a big part of the thought. The Legend of Zelda is one of my favourite franchises, and there are many many MANY melodies and whole tracks that vividly stay in my consciousness and can be pulled up at any time. Lastly, I'd like to mention the music of Elder Scrolls (Particularly Skyrim), because from what I have heard thus far I believe some of the music in that may have influenced JJBoi quite a bit. I'm going to review every track on his Soundcloud, <URL url="https://soundcloud.com/jonathaj">https://soundcloud.com/jonathaj</URL>, and maybe the perspective will be me talking to people reading or possibly just Jon himself -- <I>GRAVELER HAS NO RULES</I>.

<COLOR color="#FF0000"><SIZE size="85">NOTE: I have hyper linked every song title.</SIZE></COLOR>

<U><COLOR color="blue"><URL url="https://soundcloud.com/jonathaj/mirage"><SIZE size="150">MIRAGE:</SIZE></URL></COLOR></U>

Appropriately titled, Mirage, is a desert themed track. It opens with what I believe is a sitar, doing a classic Arabian melody. It sounds like it's of the F# hungarian minor scale, but I can't be sure because there are a few "ethnic" scales with a similar pattern as heard here. There are also several wind instruments, and given the twang of the sitar -- it creates its own rhythm excluding the drums which is really cool. I find the percussion to SOUND appropriate here, but I believe it could be a lot better. It might sound to some of you as if it is more complicated than it is but it's very standard. I don't at all dislike this sound (starting at 0:28 btw, following a volume swell) HOWEVER percussion/rhythm is arguably the most important section in music like this (not soundtrack, but middle eastern). I would love to see more poly-rhythms, I had mentioned earlier the twang of the sitar sounds provides some rhythm, but quarter notes in 4/4 is the epitome of standard. It works, but it's standard. I love Jon's use of choral work, it almost always creates something that sounds grandiose! However I feel like it couldn't be more <I>in</I>appropriate for a desert themed track, it doesn't sound bad - like composition wise it's fine but I just think there's serious tone clash there. Around the minute mark, the melodies become emotionally ambiguous creating a sense of curiousity and wonderment followed by resolution and a very nice flute lead. The piece then takes a brief step back to let you collect yourself before ramping up again. 1:35 Jon great choral harmonies but again I think it doesn't fit well. Percussively the track begins to differ, before climaxing with these beautiful string sounds and an epic melody! You hear things quieting down and the final note, which is a C# (the first note of the melody in the beginning, bravo), RIIIIIINGS out as the door to your pyramid closes leading to no escape and then it just stops. The abrupt stop of the note (instead of a reverberated ring-out) is not pleasant in any way. I don't think your ending is cheap, or that the song is too short, but I really think you should have the note ring out and decrease in volume until it is no more -- but don't just cut it off.

Good track, look at that wall of text, man. If I had to compare this sound to contemporary Desert soundtrack atmosphere, I'd say this could (with some reshaping) fit right into Uncharted 2.

<U><COLOR color="blue"><URL url="https://soundcloud.com/jonathaj/the-arcane-arts"><SIZE size="150">THE ARCANE ARTS:</SIZE></URL></COLOR></U>

I am going to be totally transparent with you, I have already reviewed this track and have already posted my thoughts. I am going to just paste them here, and probably edit the perspective and if I have any additional thoughts while <U>reviewing my review</U> and hearing the track again I will add them and mark them as such.

Quote:The sparse percussion in the beginning creates a lot of tension and uncertainty. The melody is fairly simple, just going from a minor third to a major third (which sounds reaaaaaaaaaaally dark) and then to a perfect fourth. It evokes a feeling of danger, and then immediately after (I'm not sure of the interval) an ambiguous chord plays.
I wanted to mention though, that melody is simple to play -- but because of the instrumentation it sounds really dark and epic. Kudos to the arrangement, I'm really impressed with the legitimate production quality. The choral part is beautiful, it sounds like a short reprieve as if the clouds are starting to part to reveal the sun and then the ambiguity returns, it sounds mysterious

Then I assume the climax comes, the percussion hits hard, it sounds like an enemy just spotted me in Skyrim haha. There are tense pizzicato arpeggios in the background, and I love the synth BEHIND the choral part too in addition with the percussive bells too.
My one and only criticism is the ending. So from 1:55-1:56 that could be the ending, I feel cheated in length and as if the story he's telling is incomplete (cue next track lol), but he could get away with it. AT THE TAIL END OF 1:56 right after the choral pitch bend and decrease in volume, the note breaks and then you hear the same voice again as soon as that last thick war drum bellows you hear that tacked on "ahhhhhhhh". I think it may have been an accident to be honest, but I would get rid of that additional note (however long it is) and then also the ending percussion is trailing off but I feel like it stops very suddenly even though it's so close to an appropriate volume where it should just stop. If it's a pattern you are sequencing, I recommend just playing for like one more bar, if not two, while the automation clip continues to lower the volume.

Overall, very epic track and it provided me with a lot of visuals. It sparked my imagination and sounded professional


<U><COLOR color="blue"><URL url="https://soundcloud.com/jonathaj/trolldans"><SIZE size="150">TROLLDANS:</SIZE></URL></COLOR></U>

<COLOR color="#FF0000">[Laugh at my pain and misery, this is going to be my second time writing this and due to many many years of chemical abuse I have the worst memory and barely remember fragments of what I said. If only I could have just said like "I like it", I could just rewrite it and move on. I need to back up every word, geez.]</COLOR>
First, this song makes me think of both Donkey Kong 64 and "In the Hall of the Mountain King". The bowed bass in the beginning sounds mischievous, yet like something bad is brewing. Behind the bass, strings play a classic Jon trope - two alternating notes but with one note remaining constant. I'm not sure how to illustrate this but I'll try. It would look like this: D, A, D, A, D, A, D, A, C, A, C, A, C, A, C, A, C#, A, C#, A , etc. This is a great orchestral technique. I only brought that up to show that the composer uses that a lot. The strings are then joined by Pizzicato notes for added texture. At 0:29 a cymbal crashes and things ramp up, as is usual in his work. (not necessarily the cymbal crash, but the lead up to a percussive hit). I dig it, there is a very frantic melody played on the strings, and everything has nice syncopation. Around the minute mark, begins a sort of "call and response" sort of thing going on with what I believe is some sort of horn and then strings. The bowed instruments in the back have a usual 4/4 rhythm where they just harshly go back and forth -- giving a sense of steady motion. I really enjoy this part, and may be one of my favourite things I've heard from these tracks.
A couple strong melodies finish the song off but I don't like that. It's really teasing, it's like the musical equivalent of <COLOR color="#000080">blue balls</COLOR>, pardon my crassness. It seems like a cop out almost, there's just a lot more that can be done here and I see that potential. OHWELL, I'll just go finish myself off. <I> With a resolving melody of my own, please excuse me.</I>

<U><COLOR color="blue"><URL url="https://soundcloud.com/jonathaj/endelikt"><SIZE size="150">ENDELIKT:</SIZE></URL></COLOR></U>

I am a simple American man. I have always loved the <COLOR color="#BFFFFF">cold</COLOR> Germanic languages of Eastern Europe. In all honesty I went looking for a German-to-English translator, forgetting the country of origin of Jonaj2. That origin being much colder, darker, and grim than anything Germany could ever hope to be ...NORWAY. Google translate told me that "Endelikt" is Norwegian for "Eventuality" as in, EVENTUALITY I'll get done with this non sequential retrospective, ha ha ha. ha. Alright.
Beautiful piano licks in the beginning, a bit slower than mid-tempo. Whilst I see beauty, there's a definite darkness to it. At 0:32 begins a string swell. For those who did not know, Jørgensen <I>does not actually conduct an orchestra</I>. He uses a Digital Audio Workstation which I am very familiar with. All of his orchestral samples have impressed me and sounded very organic, (hope they were worth the price!) This is the only time I've ever heard an orchestral sample of his sound <U>digital</U>. There is a strange cutoff right after the string swells, and it is unrealistic. Who would really notice though? That being said, I love it. I really like how it sounds. Piano plays in the bass cleft and it's gorgeous. Again, very dark sound but there's also warmth here. Things start to suddenly build up and there's very tense high string pitches, a technique that is often used in horror. I'd like you to just GUESS what happens here, at the end of the buildup.

That's right! The classic Jon J percussive hit and bowed cellos rhythmically playing in the background. There's nothing wrong with it but I just feel as if a different technique could be implemented in order to give some variance on the artist's sound as a whole. Fantastic melodies around this part. It's great to hear a marching snare, very nice flaaaaaaavour. The ending: It's so close to being okay. Melodically it's fine, this is one case where it doesn't need to like wind down, it's fine being big. HOWEVER, at the very end there is a dead cut. The song ends as the final sound is still being played and so it just cuts off. For the love of God, <I>please</I> just have the volume look like the beginning of an exponential graph, you know that gradual curve? I promise it will yield better results. JJ has some impressive work, and the slightly botched endings are the only thing that I feel like really sticks out as <I>amateur</I>. He'll get the hang of it though, endelikt. (I know I'm misusing eventuality and that it should be eventually. Because I am making you aware of this knowledge, that my words are intentional, just enjoy the bad near pun joke thing.)

<U><COLOR color="blue"><URL url="https://soundcloud.com/jonathaj/woodland-sunrise"><SIZE size="150">WOODLAND SUNRISE:</SIZE></URL></COLOR></U>

I have not even started the track yet, and I just wanted to say that I'm excited for this one based upon the title. I mean I hate the sun, but woodland foresty stuff is my soundtrack jam!
Beautiful harp-esque sounding arpeggios at the beginning. I believe they are major 7th chords, but who am I and what do I know? This one appears to be going by really fast, despite it's slow movement musically. I'm not sure why that is. I actually don't have much to say about this one, it's pleasant and pretty. It could definitely be a sunrise theme, and there's a bizarre sense of danger described by the music at like 0:58, I'm not sure what that's about but I like a tinge of darkness - so it's fine. Lots of arpeggios throughout this whole track. I think the 1:13 ending time is appropriate. If I wanted to be a stickler, my criticism would be that a sunrise is longer than a minute Wink
For those who don't know what sarcasm was, that was sarcasm. It ends. I think the last note could have been held out a bit longer, but what is this I hear immediately after? 3 or 4 seconds of semi-gradual decay until the volume hits 0%, making for a professional and smooth ending? <COLOR color="#800000">Scratch that, not jarring enough. </COLOR>
Note to Jon: DO MORE LIKE THAT. I don't remember everything I said about the next track but I do remember a similar bashing of the ending. Anyway, good job with the ending here, production wise.

<U><COLOR color="blue"><URL url="https://soundcloud.com/jonathaj/ascend"><SIZE size="150">ASCEND:</SIZE></URL></COLOR></U>

<U>90 minutes</U> later and here I am, the final track available for me to review. Again, full disclosure I have heard this one before and I have given my thoughts. They were not recorded however and my memory is poor.

Intro = slight buildup and BOOM, JJ DRUM HIT. Although I'd say besides the second track I reviewed, it's super appropriate here. Immediately there's the choral samples again, but the kicker is the staccato bass notes in the back performed by some bass that would be in an electronic track. I love this combination here. It makes me think of a grander Perfect Dark. Nice melodic build with the choir, and a similar rhythm as the others. Another buildup, very dominating major chords detailing curiousity and exploration. Again the combination of electronic and orchestral samples is great. There is a melody played by some electronic instrument, and then at 1:30 as everything quiets down. The same melody plays and it sounds like there is a filter on it limiting its sound, pretty cool. An ambient sound warbles, as if something's around the corner. It feels really empty and desolate and then a piano comes in, but it's gloomy man. Then strings and a higher piano come in, shimmering hope, and then this great alien synth comes in with a bizarre melody and sound. It's hard to detail my thoughts here because there's a lot happening and the music paints such a vivid picture that it is difficult for me to explain. @3:00 this interlude goes back into the hard hitting sound levels that were playing before the calm, it sounds kind of horrific. Some of the melodies remind me of music specifically from Metroid Prime. Strings play triumphant chords as there are again electro leads playing in the background until there are electro CHORDS playing too (4/4 again, but it's fine, it's fine. 4/4 is what most people do.)

I recall telling Jon that I thought the ending felt a bit incomplete. I still agree with myself, but it doesn't seem as incomplete as when I first heard it. I'm not sure what is up with that but my perception can be weird from time to time. This piece of music is great, I love the style. I know it's been done but I haven't been exposed to a ton of it and I think it's very very cool.

In conclusion,

just kidding I'm not doing a drawn out.......outro. This is nowhere close to my preferred genre and is not something I go so in depth with often. Simply, it's impressive stuff for an "amateur" working out of FL Studio.
I believe that different rhythms should be used where appropriate to keep things sounding fresh, as well as avoiding certain 4/4 bowed string sounds because they were in almost everything. They're not bad, but there was an appearance from that specific technique in over half of what's public. Lengths can definitely be improved upon, although some I find to be very appropriate. More than ANYTHING else though, the endings need to be dealt with more carefully.

Time to rest my fingers.

<B>|</B><URL url="https://soundcloud.com/mutant_christ">My Primary Soundcloud</URL> <COLOR color="#000000"><B>|||</B></COLOR> <URL url="https://soundcloud.com/gravaged2">My Secondary Soundcloud</URL><B>|</B>
If you have any questions or need to contact me, email <EMAIL email="gravaged@superwerer.com">gravaged@superwerer.com</EMAIL>
Hey I figured I would check to see what else you posted, I deeply respect your knowledge of music, so I decided to listen to all the songs you reviewed on here.
That endeavor turned out to be a wise decision. You also have great taste in video games I see
Well, I have no words, [mention]Gravaged[/mention], this is incredible.

<I>Well, actually, I have words:</I>

I agree very much to the critiques you have for the music in general, like the part about endings. I have by no means tamed this aspect of composing yet, and even deciding when it's time to end a song is something I am missing a solid intuition for still. You have no idea how fun it is that you point out my "tropes", as I might often look past my own tendencies for repetition. When you're pointing out my comfort with 4/4 rhythmic string sections, that inspires me to try something different, maybe even in my next released track, not because I am ashamed of using the same stuff in my songs, but rather because I want to learn more, and how can one do that better than to jump into the deep end.

I agree with almost everything here, and I'm glad you read the same atmosphere that I did when making it. BUT, I do strongly disagree about choirs being non-deserty(?). On thing is that choirs are often associated with western and European classical culture, but I also associate them with egypt and pharaohs, and those are both enclosed by the vibe I am capturing in this piece. Specifically the combination of male choir and french horns at 0:49 is to me the most pharaohesque thing there is in music. With that being said, it's really cool that we have these different associations, it makes things way more interesting. And yes, I should listen more to the very end, because that cutoff is pure horror, now that I'm actually paying attention to it.

Glad you like this one, as it is the one that I am most satisfied from a pure music-theory perspective, aiming for a more classical sound. I'm sorry for the blue balling, but I really felt like a track with a drive like this would feel repetitive if it would continue, as I felt like "all cards were played", but it should be mentioned that I am at the moment designing a concept album including this one, Endelikt, and a handful of other unreleased tracks with a similar style and themes. The "call and response" paradigm is probably one of my favorite techniques in music, and I am trying to learn when it's appropriate so I can use it more in my work. Also, the donkey kong associations are strangely relatable, I can't pinpoint it exactly down to a track from there, but there is something going on. Also, there is no brass in this song, at the minute mark it is still strings, but I do back it up with a subtle layering with reeds, and that creates a really cool sounding instrument, imo.

Not too much to chew here, nice words. I am curious though, could you pinpoint this "synthetic" orchestral sound you're describing? Could be a messup from my side, like a clipped dynamic automation.

Woodland Sunrise
I too think of a sunrise when I hear this, which is why I named it so. That little unsettling touch at the end was very intentional, as if the day following the sunrise will bring many challenges and mysteries, but it's mostly there because I just can't bring myself to writing a piece that is completely innocent, I just can't.

Like you said, we already discussed these, so that's cool. But yeah, this is my longest and my most ambitious track, trying to capture a very specific concept, that of launching into a vast and endless space. I can totally see the metroid connection here, as it is a similar tone and genre combination. You seem to have a thing with 4/4 music, interesting.

In conclusion,

I agree with almost everything, and this is very helpful to me, more than you think. I appreciate the effort, and I will recommend your feedback service to all my friends, promising almost 3k words every time.
[Image: GFBF9Xv.png]

John Chord never forgets.


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