Composing the Music

To compose music for Pitch Black, I worked inside Finale 2008 with it’s video playing capabilities. I based most of my sounds using Project Sam’s Symphobia for KONTAKT 4, The KONTAKT 4 base library, and Project Sam’s TruStrike Tension for KORE Player.

1. The Interogation

This first stab at scoring took about 11 hours over several days to write 3 minutes of music – a lot of that time was experimenting and getting back into the mentality of writing music.


The Brass (specifically low brass) is the bad guy. The theme which you hear in this will be the bad guy’s theme (from a number perspective it goes 1, 2, b3, 2, 1, 4…).

This arrangement starts it in G (G A Bb– A,G, C—). When I wrote it way back for the preview, I wrote it in C (which is 4 notes lower and darker and more ominous). The idea is I want it to descend from G down to C in the film. Downward motion. Descending to hell.

The horns in tight chords was used as the authority. I don’t have an expert foundation in chord progression so I’m really trying to work in terms of upwards and downwards motions of the notes themselves inside the chord (then I spell them out and see if they “make sense” – I’m playing a lot with suspended 4th chords)

I almost tend to use the brass to represent “single mindedness” – be it the killer or the cop who’s pushing for more information. There’s a purity of the sound I like and luckily the libraries I have have decent sounding brass in the ranges that I’m writing (trumpets never sound right in libraries)

I’m using the strings to provide atmosphere and textures. Symphobia has some nice effects which if you look at the score is under the line “Creepy string textures” – I don’t even know what to call it – there’s wild slides and the thing where they bounce their bows on the strings randomly.

String pads I like to mix with brass for a darker sound. But ultimately strings set up the “feel” of the scene.

Then I want to use the percussion to represent the “heartbeat” of the scene. In the chase scene coming up I found a lot of really exciting tracks in a royalty free subscription library called Drama Kings that I used for temp tracks. They feature bombastic drumwork. I like that style and I’ll use that as my base – Quick string work will add the atmosphere of franticness and pounding brass will be the unstoppable evil that is pursuing the character.

2. A Little Night Music

Some one made reference to the music sounding a little bit like the music to Inception. While I greatly admire Hans Zimmer and the composer that worked on the trailer music, my intention was always to steal their idea, not just copy their work. But people kept making the connection to Nolan film.

It bothered me until I finally saw Inception and I realized that Zimmer was referencing “La Vie En Rose” and then it made total sense. And how what I was composing had nothing close to what Zimmer was doing..

Another comment on this queue was the music at the shower scene was too big – when I first watched it after not working on it for about a week, I thought so too. But I also didn’t have the 4 final notes in place yet. Now it feels right.

This scene is the first time the bad guy Ryan is invading on Haley – (there’s another scene they have together but that’s sort of a distraction). His plan is coming together and the fun is about to start.

And I’m told by my co-producer Susan (who’s actually the one going into the shed) that there’s nothing creepier than being watched in shower. For guys – we would welcome it.

I think a part of me needs the music to be that intense or else I forget that I shouldn’t be watching her in the shower. I need to remind myself and the audience that this is wrong. There’s a whole voyeurism thing going on here too…

3. The Attack

Three weeks off and I finally got to scoring the scene that I was looking forward to (and dreading). I felt that musically, this had to be really big – I had to almost throw everything out there. Only one more big moment left.

So over the last 4 days totally at least 20 hours of tweaking and listening over and over again – I’ve written about 4 minutes of music! But this is something I’m pretty satisfied with and pretty proud of. A guy sitting in a converted dining room has this orchestra in front of him… amazing…

4. The Final Showdown and Credits

Originally I planned for the walk down the stairs to be done in silence – but after several viewings I felt something was seriously lacking. So I arranged a few low strings to provide a little bit of ambience and dread.

This last musical queue also introduces a new melodic element that has never been used before in this film – a synth choir. Using a lot of big suspended fourth chords at the end, I created something, to me, sounds like a boisterous ending to an opera. It progresses and then hangs off the finaly completion for the cliff hanger at the end.

Then the credit music – where I threw basically every thematic thing from the film.


Next: End Credit Composition

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