During the past month, the world of aspiring film composers was obsessed with scoring a 2 minute clip from the DC Stargirl series. This clip was the source material for Spitfire Audio’s 2nd foray into film scoring contest hosting and with Pinar Toprak endorsing and judging the contest it’s no wonder there is a lot of excited involvement. At least by my count it’s their 2nd contest, but I didn’t know Spitfire existed until 2020 so I may have missed something. I happened to get on Spitfire’s email list just a few days before the Westworld deadline so I jumped into that contest at the last minute and used it to learn how to import and synch video in my DAW. I was a first timer but in the last year I’ve done at least 10 other video projects so this time around I’d like to say I entered this one with confidence and ease but in reality the end product is always hard fought. Maybe this time I had a bit more confidence, but also a more realistic acceptance of just how huge the composer community is and just how small a number of them are making a living at music. So I’ve come to peace with finding satisfaction in applying myself in as dedicated and as true a way as I can regardless of external accolades or validation. While I know there will be a lot of high quality competition out there and only a few of those can be formally recognized (likely not mine), there’s no way I could let the opportunity to score this clip pass me by.
The Stargirl clip should be split into 2 cues in my opinion, or at least 2 distinct sections. The first is all action with an overriding worry that a bunch of innocent kids will plummet off an icy bridge to their death, and it ends with a successful rescue but everyone seems disoriented and confused. For the second cue the immediate danger is removed but the feeling of confusion and worry is pervasive, so it slows down but all is not well, a threat creeps back in and proves to cause a terrible accident in the end. There is a lot of tension in this clip and I wanted the music to convey it and even intensify it.
In my first draft I chose to bring in a slow, deep, and heavy score as the bus was teetering on the bridge, one that mimicked the groaning metallic sound effects. I added a distorted electric guitar and then let it pick up with a more driving groove as the STRIPE robot zooms in to save the bus. As Stargirl illuminates the scene with her staff, the guitar soars up and people start to realize they are safe as the phrase comes to a cadence. There is a moment to catch breath and then the second cue comes in at low volume but with tension in the piano chords. It builds up with an arpeggiating organ working into a frenzy as a new danger is revealed and cuts away abruptly as the shock of what happened settles in. I thought it was a good take, but after about a week I thought more about it and wanted to try out another version just to see if I would come up with something I liked more.
My second go had no guitar, I started it out instead with pizz strings doing a much faster tempo than my first version. This one is in some ways more traditional for an action cue. There is a drum beat helping drive it and then it opens up into a triumphant type of hybrid orchestral arrangement during the life saving scene. Since there is more danger to come I didn’t want to let people off so easy though, I needed to remind them to be on guard because Icicle is still out there after all; so the blinding staff scene is mixed with satisfying fanfares but ends in a subdued modulation creating a bit of unease. I felt that the closing cue from the first version still conveyed what I wanted it to so I used it again in the second version.
Version 1 or Version 2?
I’d like you to listen to both versions and let me know what your reaction and preferences are. I submitted my second version and it’s too late to change it now but I’d be curious to see if anyone thinks I should have kept the first one. You never know what other people will think, but I like both versions and today I think version 2 is a little better overall so that is what got sent on!