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Interview: Composer/Producer Bill Brown

Please give a quick synopsis of your music career so far. The “elevator pitch” version.
I basically started my career writing music for games, and as I was doing that I met directors and got into scoring films and television.  I’ve been blessed to work with a bunch of cool, talented people. [Editor’s Note: Bill is being modest here. He currently scores the music for CSI:NY, and he contributed to the scores of the movies Ali and Any Given Sunday among others, along with a host of video game soundtracks.]

What are some of the unique demands that scoring for video games, movies and TV places on a composer?
Scoring work takes time, even when you’ve gotten really efficient and focused with your time, this job still demands that the composer sit there and work it out creatively. And sometimes, when I’m working on a project, or an episode of the show, my mind will keep working regardless of what I’m doing.. even when I’m sleeping!  But that’s how this gig works, and I love it.

Budget and time would both be major factors in the decision to select live instruments vs virtual ones. How are those decisions made?
Electronics are pretty amazing these days, but I try and stay away from sounds that are “synthetic” sounding in a cheesy way. Lately I’ve been using only organic sources for my music, even if I do really electronic sounding things with them. Orchestra libraries have really turned a corner in the last 3 years or so, and now it’s easier to create truly organic sounding mock-ups.  But if I need orchestra for a project, I would rather work with a real orchestra…no doubt about it.

When you need to create your score using virtual instruments, what are some unique demands that scoring places on the process? What do you look for in a VI that will help you achieve your scoring goals?
When I’m writing for live orchestra, I can send my orchestrator a rough version of the piece and we will discuss articulations, dynamics, colors, etc.  When I’m limited to samples, it takes a lot longer to try and achieve the sound I’m hearing in my head. Sometimes it’s actually not possible to do with samples, so I have to compromise in some way.  Admittedly, every year, that becomes less the case with all of the libraries coming out.

You’ve mentioned before your use of Miroslav Vitous’ new Composer’s Dream virtual strings library.  How does Composer’s Dream integrate into your composition and production process? Under what circumstances do you choose that VI over others? And why?
The new Miroslav strings (Composer’s Dream) loads up very fast, and I can write scripts to trigger them in different ways in that format and create my own custom versions of patches as well. It’s very flexible that way.  I found in using them for the demo, the lyrical violin patches were very unique – they have more soul than most of the string libraries out there.  I will go back to those for sure.  And I also liked how some of the patches had dynamics and movement within the samples.  Not as static as some of the libraries out there which I think is a good thing.   I’m hoping Miroslav will do an update that includes looped versions of the important sustained patches for this library at some point as well, that would round it out nicely.