Cosmoptera Music

Analog Music for the Digital Era

I composed this piece as part of the Fourth Strike 2021 song jam. The jam was set up as a four week event where during each week, each participant would compose a song based on a specific challenge. The final week’s challenge was to create a song with gang vocals. Since I rarely compose songs with vocals, I interpreted this to mean simultaneous vocal parts by a decent number of people. To this end, I asked other members of Fourth Strike to submit samples of themselves singing a random note. These samples can be heard throughout the piece, and provide the harmonic framework for the entire song.

This piece was commissioned by a friend of mine as a theme for a specific character. The character hails from a tropical island and is very high energy, so to reflect this, the driving bass line, bongo loops, and steel drum ostinato work together to create a driving rhythm that gives the piece a fast pace and high intensity. The piece also quotes a melody from a separate piece commissioned by the same friend for a different character. This reference serves as a way to establish a relationship between the two characters by tying their themes together.

This song was composed in what I’m calling “E Half Flat,” in which the song is composed in Eb and then every instrument is tuned up by 50 cents (half a semitone). This choice was inspired by the flute sounding synth in the intro, which is a white noise source with a self-oscillating filter over it that changes the cutoff frequency with the midi note that is currently being played. For whatever reason, I couldn’t get it tuned properly, so I instead adjusted every other instrument to be in tune with the flute synth. The piece itself is heavily inspired by italo disco and house music, with the addition of orchestral sounds to evoke the sense of listening to something from a long-lost time period.

Themes and Variations was my attempt to create an album that could tell a story exclusively through instrumental music. The first track on the album, “Prelude,” outlines a number of themes (or motifs) that are reused in different contexts throughout the album. “Finale” attempts to bring those themes back together in one grand, satisfying finale. The track blends orchestral elements and analog synths to create a lush, cinematic soundscape.

Homestuck has a rich tradition of incorporating music into its storytelling, often associating characters with a specific melody. Fan music for the webcomic, like this piece, often reference these themes to imply certain emotions or scenes to the listener, especially if said listener is familiar with the motifs. In this track, I use motifs to suggest a sense of triumphant nostalgia, which is supported by 80s-style analog synths and emotional string parts. Vinculum Vitae as a whole is very similar in style to Themes and Variations, owing to them being composed with a fairly short period of time between them.

Oftentimes a song idea begins with a specific instrument: in this case, the tremolo guitar in the intro. When I first heard it, I instantly knew I needed to create the sort of song that might play at the end of an 80s teen movie (like in a prom scene, hence the name). By using darker chords, steady rhythmic string parts, and realistic sounding kit drums, the song evokes a sense of bittersweet finality. It felt like a perfect fit for the ending of Space Prom.