Saturday, May 28, 2011

The Journey of a Song

I know very little about music. I like to play around on the piano every once and a while, and sometimes I write little pieces of music just for fun, but I don't really write songs with words. I can barely read music and I've heard so many other talented people out there who are so much better than me. I have friends who amaze me with their musical abilities. However, I did write a song with words a while ago and I had the amazing opportunity to record it professionally. I learned so much about more music a long the way. Anyway, I would love to share with you about how this song came to be.

It was more than a year ago (it could have been almost two years ago), I was staying over at my cousins house that weekend and on Sunday afternoon, a beautiful relaxing Sunday afternoon I stared to play around on the piano again. The Winterton's had an electric keyboard in their front room. I was just playing some chords - I really liked the combination Bb F C Dm! My cousin Parker Winterton came over to see what I was doing, soon some notes came together. At this time I didn't expect it to be a song with words, just another one of my silly piano songs.

Almost a year later my friend Brandon Cluff invited me to go see "Chronicles of Narnia: Voyage of the Dawn Treader." That movie was so inspiring, especially when your think about the symbolism that C.S. Lewis intended. I'm not afraid to admit that I was crying when Aslan (symbolic of Christ) is talking to the children at the end! I was thinking about  how Jesus gives us the power to really change and how he wants us to reach our true potential! We are all spiritually children of our Heavenly Father and Christ know what our potential is. I started playing my song on the piano and words just kind of came out. I quickly grabbed a piece of paper and started to write.

Mean while at work I was in contact with a guy named Robert Elliott who did a lot of the music for Mormon Messages and Mormon Messages for Youth. I didn't think my song was that great, but you see I want to be a movie director someday and I decided if I could get Rob to help me record my song professionally it would help me to learn how to work with composer and I would be able to see the process. Songs are different than scores, but it would give me some kind of idea. I also firmly believe in a healthy sense of risk taking - if you don't try or ask then you'll never know.  The worst that could happen was he would say no.

I decided I would try and synthesize the song before I e-mailed him so that he would know the kind of feel I was going for. I found out my friend Lacey Furner had some awesome software that would work. I went to her house and synthesized my song - it didn't sound that great, but it was a good attempt.

I e-mailed him the two versions of the song. He told me that he would lower his usually prices a little bit for me to do it. The next thing he needed was a chord lead sheet, so it forced me to write out the music on paper, which took me a little while to get done because I can barely even read music, but I learned so much by just writing out the music.

I e-mailed him the sheet music along with the kind of instruments I wanted him the synthesize and other notes about the feel I was going for. He got something done and invited me over to listen (he just lives in Kaysville so it wasn't that far to get to). It was one of the funnest things I've done! I got to tell him what I liked and didn't like about the instrumentation and melody. He made important changes to the song and made a new version for me to hear. There were still a few changes that I needed him to make in that version, but we got it done.

Next I needed a singer. I wanted a male singer (because the beginning of the song was from Christ's perspective). I thought about using two singers for the two different perspectives, but I decided I didn't want to do that. Anyway, I e-mailed a bunch of people I thought I might want to use, but I didn't find what I was looking for yet.

One night while working on another video project for my parents, I met Daniel West (17 years-old). I had time to talk to him alone while we were driving. I told him I liked his name, it was a good Hebrew name. My name's Hebrew too and I love learning about what some of the bible names mean, so I asked him if he knew what Daniel meant. He did (it means God is righteous judge) and we stared talking about scriptures. From those first moments talking with him I knew I liked Daniel. 

I found out he could sing and later asked him to try and sing my song. I never thought about using a base, but I thought his deep voice fit the song pretty well. Later he told me he knew a girl named Mylie Johnson (16 years-old) that had such a pure, beautiful voice and he wanted me to hear her. I told him I didn't really want two people singing the song, but then he introduced me to her and I loved her voice, there was no way I could say no! I also stared really liking the idea of having two people sing. I'm glad I did too.

Up until the day before we were to record Mylie had no idea what lyrics I was going to have her sing at the end of the song. A couple days before recording I thought hard about what I wanted to write. In the original version of the song I just had "Thou art the Path. Thou are the Sun. Thou art the Living Water," and I didn't quite like that. I came up with this:

Thou hast bled
For sins so red
Thy blood doth wash me clean

Thou art the Light
That gives me sight
I could not see without Thee

When I am lost
Lost and alone
When no one else can relate

I talk with Thee
Then I can see
My purpose is greater than me

Both Daniel and Mylie didn't like the first stanza. I have to admit that first stanzas was one of my favorites, but I had to agree with them, it didn't fit in well with the rest. We decided to replace that with the original "Thou art the path . . . ." bit. 

Recording was so fun! I loved giving direction to Daniel and Mylie. I went in to the room they were singing in (sound proof with a window) and talked to them privately during their singing, we talked about how it should sound and feel. I remember privately asking Daniel how he was feeling. He tenderly told me that he was thinking about Christ singing to him, he told me he was hoping that these are the things Christ would tell him. I told him to keep those thoughts in his head.

When I went in to talk to Mylie I told her that her part needed to sound really humble. I told her to pretend that she was on her knees praying. Mylie was singing the last part the way we planned, but I decided I still didn't like the "Thou art the Path. Thou art the Sun . . ." bit, so I went in to talk to her again. I asked her what she would say to or about the Savior if she could say anything. She said she would say something about joy or warmth. Then she said she would say something about being home. It took us a little bit, but we came up with a better stanza.  Here's what Mylie and I came up with:

Thou art the Sun
Thou art my warmth
Where I can always call home

Here is the final version of the song.  I hope you enjoy it. Think about the words and what they mean to you. What would you say to or about your Savior if you could say anything? What would you want to Savior to say to you?

I had lots of fun making this song. I learned so much more about music and I'm so grateful to do it. It has really spiritually uplifted me and I hope this song touches at least one person out there. Thanks everyone who helped me make this a reality!

You can download my song for free by clicking here.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

The Business of Film Making

One thing I've learned from working in the Media Services (formally Audiovisual) department of the Church of Jesus Christ of Later-day Saints is that things can change fast or get pretty messy.

For example, when I first stared working with the Church I was put in charge of heading up a video about the Media Services Department for an internal department social. It was a great opportunity to head up a video project (I was in a sense acting like a producer, because there were no producers that could devote their time to that project).  Anyway, I wrote a script for the narration and met with the narrator in a studio under the Conference Center.  We recorded the whole script and I met with the editor to get the narration in the video. That day a few people were looking at the script and decided it needed some changes. It's great that they were there to help to make it better and give their insight (I mean they had a lot more experience than me), but we had already recorded the narrator!  So, we had to go back and rerecord from scratch.

Since I've been with the Church I've learned that those kind of things happen sometimes.  We have even filmed and edited entire projects that don't see the light of day.  It makes sense because what we produce is representing the Church.  General Authorities always approve of Mormon Messages and Mormon Messages for youth, if they don't like an idea it doesn't get produced.  People could misread something and judge the entire Church based on a few mistakes of the editors or producers.

Recently we had an experience like this.

These are pictures (and the pictures from earlier in the post) are from a video on Chastity we stared to produce.  The idea was to use simple animation on a white board along with narration. It would be something new and fresh - the Church has never produced something like this before.

The producer edited  the whole thing together.  Unfortunately, it didn't end up looking exactly like we had envisioned it.  There were some technical problems, so the whole project was redone from scratch.

It's a little frustrating because I had put some work into it. I had helped to find an artist that could draw on a white board (we were looking for a specific art style).  I helped schedule all the production days and I helped on production. At the same time I've gotten used to redoing things before.  I've learned that it's better to create a quality project than to just get something out there for the sake of getting something out there.  My work was also not completely for nothing.  The artist we ended up choosing is going to be working on the new version, and we've learned a lot from our technical mistakes the first time around.

Here is the new version of the video: 

It's interesting to note that this version is all computer animation - no one is actually drawing on a white board. Oh, the magic of film making!

Monday, April 18, 2011

Institute Video

I did not help out with this project, but I was there the day they filmed the scene where the main guy is in the hall talking to his friends.  The part that takes place in the halls wasn't really filmed at a college - the sound effects were added later.  It was filmed at the building where Mormon Messages are produced and edited.  It's just about a block away from the Church Office Building in Salt Lake City.

It was funny to watch these actors improv.  The actors trying to get the main character to come and play videos games just went off about the video game, and some competition, and how it took up all their time, making up little nerdy details that seemed so real.  Most of there improv was cut out of this clip, but it was really funny to listen to.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Film Festival

I am going to be coordinating the Davis Film Festival before I leave on my mission!  I'm excited to help out with Film Club as a Davis High Alumni, and I'm extra excited for this festival! Also, read more about the event speaker and his upcoming film "17 Miracles" by clicking here.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

I Love My Job

How often does someone get to go to work and consistently be inspired.  The videos that I help work on and get to see everyday are uplifting and edifying!  Also the people that I work with are real good, honest, hard working people!  They are great examples to me!  And, I'm so glad, I work with the Audiovisual Department of the Church