Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Garrett Vandenberg Interview


Hey folks. It's been quite a while since I've had an interview to share with the world. It's my pleasure to present to you an email interview with Garrett Vandenberg.

For those who do not know, Garrett Vanderberg is a freelance composer known for creating music for various projects including YouTube shows Messy Mondays and Say Goodnight Kevin. Additionally, he wrote and performed the "worship song written in five minutes", and helped found the hardcore band Elizabeth Crim.

Basically, he's a pretty awesome guy and you should check out his stuff.

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Reuben Horst: How did you get into composing?

Garrett Vandenberg: I got into composing at a very young age. I think I first started fooling around trying to write stuff on the piano when I was about 9. It didn't really amount to too much until later on in life when I got connected with my buddy Kevin McCreary. He really encouraged me to take music a little more seriously and try some new things. During the years I spent working on projects with him (from about 2010 until now, basically) I learned simply by doing. I learned how to write an album of music because he said, "Hey! Let's do it!" I learned how to score a radio drama because he said, "Yeah dude, you can do this." I honestly believe much of the reason I've gone as far as I have today is due to Kevin's encouragement and pushing me to see what I could really do.

RH: How did you meet the guys at Blimey Cow?

GV: Focus on the Family put on a live show for Adventures in Odyssey about 2 years ago, and Kevin and I decided to travel there and cover it for our podcast "The Odyssey Scoopcast". It was a ton of fun and we met a lot of great people—a couple of which being the Taylors. It was funny, because I think Kevin and I had only maybe seen part of one of their videos before, but they (especially Josh) were super excited to meet us because they were listeners of our show. I remember showing Josh the M'Kalister Park CD and he was really stoked on it and super encouraging. We talked for a bit at the show and exchanged contact information. From there it was just a matter of the way friendships tend to grow. We happened to have complementing skill sets, so we worked on stuff together sometimes. I really enjoy working with the guys.

RH: How did you come up with the “How to Write a Worship Song (In 5 Minutes or Less)” video?

GV: It was actually sort of a compilation of inside jokes my siblings and I have been making about the modern Christian music industry for years. One day I just decided to write it all down in the form of a skit, just for fun. I read it to my mom and she got a good laugh out of it, and I think I remember her actually mentioning that it was sort of similar to the style of videos Blimey Cow did. I'm not sure if that's what inspired me to talk to Josh about it; but regardless, I somehow ended up showing him the script. I wasn't even necessarily suggesting they do a video on it, but just wanted to share the skit with him because I thought he'd appreciate the sense of humor. When I did, he thought it was hilarious and asked me if they could do a video using my skit as the base for the script. I was thrilled to say, "Yes, go for it!" I'm really happy with what they did with the idea, and I'm super proud of how far they've come as a channel.

RH: How was Elizabeth Crim formed?

GV: Really, it was as simple as me hearing a dude at my church hardcore screaming during a worship set, and I came up to him afterward and said, "Hey dude, let's start a band."

RH: How did you come up with the name Elizabeth Crim?

GV: (I'm not super sure of the details of this story, but this is as best I can remember.) I actually didn't come up with it. Taylor, our lead vocalist, heard the name in a dream he had once about his grandmother (whose name was Elizabeth). In the dream he saw a demon screaming at his grandmother, but he heard God speaking to him and saying, "I'm going to use you to scream much louder than this demon," and since then he's been super inspired and focused on reaching the hardcore scene. The name Elizabeth Crim means "Violent Warrior for God".

RH: What are some of the musical projects you are most proud of?

GV: I've really loved all the projects that I've been able to work on with Red Chrome Media, and I think I'm the most proud of the different projects we've worked on together. I also have really enjoyed and am proud of the stuff I've had the opportunity to work on with the guys from Blimey Cow. The project I'm actually most proud of is a sort of indie rock/alt rock/acoustic album of some of my own personal songs. The problem is I'm still working on it and am not planning on sharing it with the world for a while. Someday, though.

RH: Have you ever considered composing music for video games?

GV: Yes, and in fact I have done music for a few different games. Sometimes more 8-bit chip tuney stuff, and other times more cinematic type scores. I'm really pretty eager to give anything a shot if I've got a client willing to hire me.

RH: What are some of your favorite composers and soundtracks?

GV: I don't listen to a lot of movie soundtracks, but some of my favorite composers are Luke Howard, Keith Kennif, and Robert J. P. Oberg. My absolute favorite classical album ever (and quite possibly my favorite album period) is called "Sun, Cloud" by Luke Howard. It is absolutely worth a detailed listen if you have the time to sit down with a good pair of headphones and take it in.

RH: What are some of your hobbies not related to music?

GV: I like juggling, yo-yoing, pogo sticking, snowboarding, video games (particularly platformer, puzzle, and RTS games), spending time with my heavenly father, and loving people.

RH: If you could change one thing about the music industry, what would it be?

GV: I think that music is a reflection of who people are. I don't think I would change anything about the industry directly, because the way it operates is simply a story about how the people behind it operate. There are plenty of beautiful albums out there by really genuine people; by terrible, selfish people; by talented people; but untalented people; by people who love God and want to glorify him in everything they do; by people who hate everything and are totally broken; but I think all of these albums have their places. I find I appreciate any music that reveals truth about someone or something. I suppose if I could change one thing, I would change people to be closer to God and have a deeper understanding of beauty and love and life, so their music and the way they distribute it would reflect all of those things more.

RH: If somebody were to murder you in your sleep, how would you react?

GV: I don't think I would.

RH: What is your favorite food?

GV: I like too many kinds of food to pick a favorite. I like a lot of kinds of pasta and my sister makes a really mean taco soup.

RH: Thank you for your time!

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If you want to want to find out more about Garrett and his projects, check out his website and the website for Elizabeth Crim. If you need a composer for your project, definitely check him out.

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Soundtrack of the Month: October 2014


Welcome to the third installment of this blog series. In honor of a certain film's 20th anniversary, I present to you David Arnold's incredible score to the 1994 film Stargate. The film would spawn what was to become one of the greatest science fiction franchises of all time. I will be specifically covering the deluxe edition of the soundtrack, which contains a few track title corrections and several additional tracks.

David Arnold composed the music to the film, but when the rights for the Stargate story were later transferred to television creators Brad Wright and Jonathan Glassner to create the TV series Stargate SG-1, the job of composing was also handed off to Joel Goldsmith (son of legendary composer Jerry Goldsmith). Over time Goldsmith would create many incredible themes for the ever-growing franchise, but from the beginning a lot of the music was heavily based on Arnold's score from the original movie. The title theme of SG-1, remaining through all ten years of the series's run, was a rendition of one of the original film's themes.

The point being made is that while the television franchise differed greatly from the vision of the creators of the original film, much of the original music remained all throughout the series. It was that memorable, and it was that good.

If you know me, you know I'm a huge Stargate fan. In fact, I recently rewatched the entire franchise, from beginning to end (over 350 episodes and three movies). In addition to that, I own every Stargate soundtrack ever released, aside from the non-deluxe edition of this movie score. There were only a total of six releases (plus this deluxe edition), but it certainly cost me to collect them all. Only two of the releases are still in print. I'm a collector, though, so I just had to get them all.

Something that sets aside the original Stargate film from its television legacy is the sense of mystery surrounding the Stargate itself. What is it? Where does it lead? What will they find on the other side? All of this mystery and intrigue are incorporated into the score. Ancient Egyptian themes are throughout, providing a unique feel to run alongside and fit in with the movie. Overall, there are few movie scores as majestic and unique as this one. We can only hope that Arnold returns to score the upcoming Stargate reboot trilogy.

One more thing that sets apart the composer of the film and the composer of the television franchise is that, while they use many of the same themes, Arnold and his full orchestra give a feeling of grandeur to the score, whereas Goldsmith's score is often a lot more subtle. They're two very different styles, yet both sound incredible.

Featured Tracks
Yes, I know this section is supposed to be set aside for three of my favorite tracks, but sometimes soundtracks have so many tracks it's next to impossible to select only three. I created the rule, so I can break it as I see fit. In fact, next month I plan on breaking it even further (but for good reason).

Track 1: Stargate Overture – This amazing theme is how the movie begins. Many years later, after Stargate SG-1 would run its ten-year course, the series received a television movie to conclude the story. That movie's score began with the exact same composition, this time arranged by Joel Goldsmith. The difference was that where the original version deviates at a certain point to an incredible choir section representing the villain Ra, Goldsmith's version deviates to an incredible choir section representing the Ori (the then-antagonists of the television series). It's a great throwback to this film.

Track 3: Giza 1928 – As with "Stargate Overture", this track is filled with themes that would later be used throughout the television series. This is, however, one of the coolest renditions of these themes ever arranged by either composer.

Track 22: Ra - The Sun God – This is the theme of Ra, the villain of the movie. This incredible piece of score was later rearranged for the pilot of Stargate SG-1, no longer representing Ra himself, but instead simply representing his race, the Goa'uld. (Note: There are some... differences between the continuity of the original film and the continuity of the television franchise. Those will be addressed at a later time.)

Track 32: Battle at the Pyramid – This track scores five (rather awesome) minutes of the film's climax. Quite memorable, and flows through a number of the film's musical themes.

Note: I highly apologize that there is no Spotify link, and that only a portion of the soundtrack is on YouTube. Unfortunately, in order to listen to the soundtrack as a whole, you will need to purchase it.

Stargate: The Deluxe Edition is out of print, but you can still purchase it digitally from iTunes.
You can listen to it, in part, for free on YouTube.

Friday, September 12, 2014

Reuben's Ramblings: Departing Friends

It's always sad when your good friend or a family made up of your good friends move away. It's not like you'll never see them again, but you also know that that person will never again have a large part in your life. Their role is reduced to "recurring character" status, and by recurring I mean you only get to see them once every year or less.

And, of course, in some cases you never will see them again. They move to whatever state or country, and then you never, ever see them again. You can keep in touch by email or social media, but then sometimes that just doesn't happen. Sometimes you forget about each other, and sometimes your friends move on with their new lives, feeling no need to keep in touch.

This isn't just the case for people moving, either. When a friend transfers to a different school, or even a different church, sometimes they're all happy with their new friends and find no need to associate themselves with the likes of you. As far as they're concerned, you're now irrelevant. All your friendship was for naught.

But then some of them put forth an effect to keep in contact for as long as it can last. They make sure not to forget your existence. Those friends are the best friends.

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Happy Birthday to MEEEEEEEE

It's my birthday! I'm now 18! I'm a legal adult! I'm no longer an illegal adult! This is so exciting, guys. No, really. Of course I don't feel 18. But, like, dude, I am!

I honestly don't know what to talk about in this blog post. I was planning on typing something up about my birthday, but I really don't know what to type up.

Except, well, my mom made gluten-free cake, and it was reeeaaally good! (For the record, I am gluten intolerant. I'm not one of those weirdos who go off gluten just because they think it's a good diet. Seriously, I'm not that big of a joke.)

(If I just offended someone, I apologize. But seriously, if you are not intolerant to gluten or allergic to wheat, you should not be cutting gluten from your diet.)

Thanks to my amazing parents, I can now add the Hyrule Historia to my bookshelf, next to The Art of Brave, which I purchased for myself after this last Christmas. In a few years I'm sure I'll have quite the collection of amazing concept art books. It will be awesome.

I also got Arrow Season 1 (DVD) and its soundtrack, along with... wait for it... a bag of Doritos! Yeah! Don't I have the best friends and family in the world?

Now I'm kind of unsure how to conclude this post. Um... yeah. Have a great day!

Monday, September 1, 2014

Soundtrack of the Month: September 2014


Welcome to the second entry in the Soundtrack of the Month series. Last month we plunged into darkness with the debut of the blog series, and this week we shall rise into the light. Child of Light is a gorgeous video game about a little girl from 1895 Austria who was thought to have died, but instead woke up in the fantastical world of Lemuria.

Child of Light is a prime example of how video games are most certainly an art form. The visuals are incredible, the dialogue is all in poetry, and the music is absolutely beautiful. Each aspect of the game is a beautiful piece of art on its on, but they all come together to create something even greater. For a greater grasp of what I mean, you can check out the trailer.

The score was composed by French-Canadian singer Béatrice Martin, who goes by the name Cœur de pirate ("heart of the pirate"). I don't know how much experience she's had with composing, but this is her first ever score release, and it's easily one of the best video game soundtracks I have ever heard. The melodies are fairly simple yet beautiful, and the tunes will remain in your head for a very long time.

Beyond being an incredible background score for a game, the soundtrack to Child of Light is an amazing listen on its own. If you're looking for music to listen to while you're writing or drawing, look no further than this album.

Featured Tracks
Once again I remind you that this section does not necessarily show my three favorite tracks. In all honesty, if I were to list my favorite tracks, I would list nearly the entire album. Rather, here are three noteworthy tracks.

Track 2: Aurora's Theme – This is the theme of the main character, Aurora. It's heard many times in the game and multiple times in the soundtrack. It reflects the innocence of her youth, but also has a feeling of sadness to it.

Track 11: Metal Gleamed in the Twilight – While most of the tracks from Child of Light were recorded with only a few instruments, the battle themes were fully orchestrated and, to be honest, rather epic. This track is my particular favorite of the orchestrated themes.

Track 18: Off to Sleep – The credits song to Child of Light, written and performed by Béatrice. It's an amazing song on its own, but in my experience the best way to listen to it is at the end, after listening to the entire rest of the soundtrack. It's an incredible and emotional conclusion, both to the game and to the soundtrack.



Note: In the game, some of the orchestrated tracks include a choir. The choir was edited out for the soundtrack release, but that in no way detracts from the soundtrack.

Purchase the Child of Light soundtrack on BandcampiTunes, or Amazon MP3.
Or listen to it for free on Spotify or YouTube.

Monday, August 25, 2014

Television Review: Arrow - Seasons 1 & 2


First off, I am not much of a DC fan. By no means do I dislike DC; I'm just not into it as much as I'm into, say, Marvel. (Guardians of the Galaxy just came out. Did you see it? Dang, it was amazing!) Something that I have very much become a fan of, however, is the television series Arrow, which is loosely based on the DC comics superhero named "Green Arrow". To put into perspective how much I love this series, I will tell you that I watched the entire first two seasons (46 total episodes, 42 minutes each) in six days flat. That's averaging almost episode episodes per day. So what makes this series amazing? Let me tell you.

The story focuses on Oliver Queen, a young man from a family of billionaires. Five years ago he went on a trip in his father's yacht with his father and his girlfriend's sister. (That last part was obviously not a good idea.) Something happened, causing the yacht to sink. Oliver was the only survivor, and after days in a lifeboat he made it to an island where he would be stranded for the next five years. Fast forward to present day, Oliver is finally rescued and brought home—but unknown to those around him, he was given a mission by his father before he died, and Oliver has every intention of carrying it out. At night he dons a suit and hood with the intent of putting an end to the corrupt men and women who take advantage of others and rule their city through fear.

Right off the bat, the series shows itself to be strong. A young man returns home after being stranded on an island for five years... but nobody knows what really happened to him. He's a mystery. Unbeknownst to the people of Starling City, Oliver has also acquired incredible skills in archery and other manners of physical abilities. What's more, the viewers don't know how he acquired these skills either, which introduces us to one reason why this show is so spectacular: It shows the story of two timelines, not one.

The narrative alternates between the present-day adventures of the mysterious "Vigilante" and the five-years-past adventures of a broken and lost Oliver Queen, and how he becomes the so-called Vigilante. The latter storyline is usually depicted gradually, with an episode's narrative focused on the present day. However, at least one episode of each season switches the priorities of the narrative, meaning that, conversely, the episode focus is on Oliver's island story and the present-day part is shown in shorter fragments.

The Present-Day Story of Oliver Queen


Oliver returns home to a family and city welcoming him with open arms. There are, however, two people who aren't happy to see him: Laurel Lance, his former girlfriend whom he cheated on with her sister on the yacht trip; and Quentin Lance, a police detective and Laurel's father, who blames Oliver for the death of his other daughter on the yacht trip. And, you know, they certainly had every right to be pissed at him. Oliver had not been a good person five years ago, and he knows it.

However, Oliver has higher priorities to think about than his furious former friends. He's on a mission to save his city. Before his death on the yacht, Oliver's father told him that he'd not been the person Oliver thought he was. He'd done terrible things, and wished more than anything that he could atone for his sins. He told Oliver to make things right, and now Oliver has every intention of doing just that. His father left him a book of names, of corrupted people in Starling City who were taking brutal advantage of people lesser than them. Oliver uses this list as a reference as he sets out to give these corrupt individuals a second chance, and if they refuse than to take more drastic measures.

What follows is an epic and thrilling adventure full of action, mystery and betrayal. An unforgettable cast of characters is introduced throughout the story, portrayed by some of the most superb actors in the industry. The writing is superb, the actors are fantastic, and the presentation is incredible. Oh, and the music? It's awesome. As the series progresses the characters continue to change and develop, and the story goes in all sorts of different turns. Throughout the first two seasons you get to watch as Oliver Queen, the Vigilante, gradually transforms from a dark antihero into the savior of Starling City. But still, after all this, there is so much we have not learned about how he became who he his.

Oliver Queen and the Island


Oliver tells people that he survived on the island alone for five years. However, that is quite a distortion of the truth. His body is covered in scars—how could this be so if he had been alone? Beyond that, the viewers know that he somehow turned from a spoiled kid into an expert warrior and archer during his time on the island. Again, how could this be so if he had been alone? Well, the truth of the matter is, he wasn't. In fact, he had many adventures on this island, and most of them were not pleasant.

As time passes in the present-day narrative, the same amount of time passes in the island narrative. Meaning, at the end of Season 1, the present-day narrative shows an Oliver that's been home for a year, and the island narrative shows an Oliver that's been on the island for a year. With that being said, after the eventual Season 5 (if the series lasts that long—which I most certainly hope it will), the island narrative will probably cease, because it will have reached the point at which Oliver got rescued present-day at the beginning of Season 1. I honestly cannot wait to see what they do with the narrative after that.

The island narrative is a really cool part of the series. First you have this really cool present-day story involving dark heroes and mastermind villains, while at the same time being shown the story of a castaway on an island full of danger and fear. I've done my best not to spoil much of the story for either narrative, as I feel it's best for you to experience them for yourself.

The Terrible and Brilliant Drama of Arrow


If there's one thing my dad doesn't like, it's character and relationship drama. Disagreements, misunderstandings, dysfunctional relationships... they can really ruin a story. Unfortunately, Arrow is full of this drama. Fortunately, it's not too much to ruin the story. On almost any other series it would be, but yet Arrow is additionally full of brilliant writing and story that is able to outweigh some of the drama that we wish would not be there.

Arguments happen, relationships happen, drama happens. Oliver knows that he was not a good man five years ago, and he retains some of his not-so-great tendencies to the present day. He still knows they're wrong, and that's one of the more intriguing parts of his character development over the years. Other characters have family and relationship problems, and they intermix, and... well... I'm not sure my dad would like this show.

...But it's so awesome! I said it before; the storytelling definitely makes up for the drama.

Even when the drama is at its worst, the actors are so incredibly amazing at acting the parts. So, even when a scene is not the funnest to watch, the presentation is still top notch. I cannot stress enough how amazing these actors are.

Season One vs. Season Two


There is actually quite a contrast between the first two seasons, both in the present-day narrative and the island narrative. For the sake of avoiding spoilers, I will only talk about the present-day narrative here.

The first season is about a man making up for the wrongs of his father. Oliver Queen is on a mission to cleanse Starling City of the corrupt individuals who hold the citizens of the city in a state of fear. He's ruthless, and while always making sure to give his adversaries a chance to right their wrongs, isn't afraid to drop bodies to make a point. He's by no means a hero; he simply has a mission and needs to see it carried out.

Season 2 is different. Things have happened, and he's changed. He goes from being not a hero to trying to be a hero. He doesn't care about a mission any longer; he cares about the people of his city, and wants to do his best to save them without sending goons and villains to the morgue. This radical change in his character starts a new chapter in his life, and is a focal point in the story of the season.

Another interesting difference between the two seasons is that Season 1 feels more grounded in reality. It feels like it's a story that could have actually happened. All sorts of pop culture references lead to a feeling that this story actually takes place in modern-day, on Earth. The second season is what makes the series start to feel more like it's from the DC universe. Subtle hints are dropped that there may exist people with supernatural abilities, and a serum that can induce superhuman strength is introduced and has a key part to play in the season plot.

In fact, a spin-off of Arrow is coming in October, called The Flash (based on the DC character of the same name). That series looks like it's going to have superpowers everywhere. As with the Marvel Cinematic Universe, the world is changing slowly from a relatable world to a world dreamed up in a comic book. I really liked the feeling of the first season, so I'm more sure if I'm a huge fan of the way this is going. At the same time, though, the series is still incredible and is no way growing any less in its level of awesome.

Conclusion, etc.


In the end, Arrow is a wonderful telling of two adventures. The characters are amazing and relatable, the actors who play them are incredibly good at what they do, and overall the presentation is top-notch. I've also noticed a number of recurring or guest characters who are portrayed by actors I know well from other series I love. So far I've recognized two actors from Doctor Who (John Barrowman and Alex Kingston), two actors from Stargate SG-1 (Ben Browder and Teryl Rothery), and two actors from Firefly (Summer Glau and Sean Maher). I also discovered that Manu Bennett, the actor who plays the character Slade Wilson, also portrayed Azog the Defiler in the Hobbit films. That's pretty darn awesome.

I hope I've done well in explaining why I love this series so much. Honestly, you'll just have to watch it to see all the stuff I've left out. I don't expect you to watch it nearly as fast as I did, but you may be tempted. This series is da bomb! If you haven't seen Arrow yet, I very highly recommend it.

Also, for the record, I'm known for being passionate about people watching things in order, but that's usually for a good reason. The episodes of Arrow are most often not self-contained. The series is a constantly progressing story, and if you jump in at a random episode, you will jump smack into the middle of that progressing story. It'd be like opening an action-packed novel to a random chapter and reading from there. It's just not a smart thing to do, and I really don't recommend it. Please start at the beginning.

Now go watch it. Peace!

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Titanic


Note: This review is far more casual than my average review, for the reason that it was initially a Facebook status addressed to friends. I'm posting it to my blog as well, after I was recommended to do so.

I set aside a number of hours a couple weeks ago to do something I only kind of wanted to do: watch Titanic, for the first time ever. Figured I'd finally get more culturally up to date.

Well... that was certainly an interesting movie. Freaking long. A lot of work was put into the thing. I mean a lot of work. The writing was kind of poor, and so was a lot of the acting, and yet some of the acting was superb. I recognized a lot of actors, and that was probably one of the coolest parts. The music... dang, the music was gorgeous. The production value was huge.

I can understand how this movie became a timeless classic, but I still had problems with it. It probably could've been a lot better if they'd shaved off an hour of it. Or perhaps half of it. I was bored and unimpressed for, like, the entire first half. Sure there were some humorous scenes, but not really enough to make up for the almost agonizingly slow pacing.

Overall, there are so many things that could have been done better, the writing and a lot of the acting included. However, as I stated before, some of the acting was superb.

Here's a list of the actors I recognized:

Bill Paxton ─ I recognized his voice more than I recognized what he looked like. You have to understand, I'm used to seeing him look over fifteen years older. He was probably one of the best actors in the movie.

Leonardo DiCaprio ─ Well, he was just as difficult to stand as my dad always told me. It's strange, since he's a brilliant actor in everything else he's in. He certainly did have his great moments, though. Overall I didn't care for the character.

Bernard Hill ─ He was probably the easiest to recognize, since he looked and sounded very similar to how he did playing Théoden in the Lord of the Rings movies a few years later. He didn't have a whole lot of lines, but they were very well-delivered.

Victor Garber ─ I knew I recognized him from something, but I just couldn't place it. I finally looked him up mid-movie (by that, I mean about two hours in), and found out that I'd seen him in one episode of one TV series, ever, and that was it. Somehow I was able to remember him enough for him to make an impression on me, I guess. That being said, I think he was probably the best actor in the entire movie. Played his part brilliantly.

Bernard Fox ─ Now, this made me geek out a bit. All these actors I recognize from parts they played years and years after Titanic, and here's an actor I know from many decades previous. I know Bernard Fox from 60s sitcoms like Hogan's Heroes, F-Troop and The Andy Griffith Show. Now here he was showing up in a 1997 movie! I geeked out.

Now, do I recommend this movie? If you like being bored, yeah. There were moments that made it worth watching, but you have to endure a lot of boredom to get to them.