Since Patterning was released back in August, we have been so pleased with the variety and quality of all the Artist Kits we have been able to share with folks. Our latest Artist Kit is no exception. “Machinist Rain,” created by Kimberly Henninger and Shawn Parke, is, in a word, wet. It is hardly a gentle drizzle, though—the samples are all sharply percussive, verging on abrasive, before they decay with a soggy metallic splash. Shawn let us know that “the drums were created on an Arturia Minibrute and melded with rain sounds and effects—meant to be used for rhythmic sound design.” In addition to being a well-curated and useful drum kit for Patterning, the samples in “Machinist Rain” provide us with a glimpse into these two artists’ work.
Kimberly and Shawn work together as Cathedral Sounds, composing music for film, commercials, video games, and more. They execute their projects in a vertically-integrated manner, performing and recording their compositions themselves.
As Shawn and Kimberly mention in the following interview, their score for a new film called Embers has been an exciting recent development for them. Embers is set amidst the backdrop of the aftermath of a global memory-loss epidemic. The score is an excellent sonic counterpoint to the film’s chilling and gorgeous depiction of a lonesome, amnesiac post-apocalypse.
We were lucky to catch Cathedral Sounds for this interview amidst their busy schedule of ongoing projects and traveling for screenings of Embers. It was inspiring to hear about their unique and collaborative process of composition for film. We were struck by their ability to cater to the vision of different filmmakers while still maintaining an undeniable artistry throughout their work.
What are you working on at the moment?
We are working on a score for several short films, some local broadcast advertisements and scoring an audio book - a horror anthology from the UK. We are always making music and a lot of it ends up with Adam Oelsner of Magic Drop - he does our licensing for us. We are working on a horror score for an imaginary horror film- with some friends across the US. We are attending as many film festival screenings of Embers as we can… it is winning a lot of awards - we will be representing Embers at the Ashland Oregon Film Festival April 7th – 11th. And we are always looking for new and exciting projects to collaborate on.
When you are working on a project, do you typically know ahead of time where it’s headed or do you just start working and find out?
When we are just making music for fun we almost always start with no end goal in mind- we will lay down a beat or a bassline or a drone or whatever then just see what we hear in it and try something else and build and build. With film, we have a very specific goal, and we confer with the director who often has a very clear vision of what they want. Often it is communicated in visual or emotional language – and we have to interpret that into music.
Do you have a creative process that you typically follow?
If we are working on something a director has give us very specific criteria then we begin with a spotting session - we think about the characters, themes, the overarching theme of the film and what issues the character face. We decide with sound how we want to represent each aspect and start to build our palette. The exploration of all the possibilities of sound creations is a huge part of the process.
Is your creative process more about quantity or quality? Put another way, do you create lots of things and edit/refine later, or are you always working towards a finished product?
Quantity first- for example for a feature we worked on last year we recorded close to 2 hours worth of material but as we got closer to finishing we refined it down to 45 minutes. We find if we make tons of stuff then we have an amazing array of material to pull from- that gives us a deep well to draw from especially for film where you have so many aspects to create.
How does technology play a part in your work? How has it changed your work?
Technology plays a huge part of how we work. Years ago a film composer would compose for orchestra - that is what you had to work with. The way we work we can use live recorded musicians and we can pull in field recordings of birds or a garbage truck brake, or a train and stretch and reverse it and add traditional instruments or effects and make some sound that has never existed. Because of technology we have access to an infinite palette of sounds, music, textures, space.
There are also so many amazing options for the composer out there. For the last feature we scored, Embers, we used Olympia Noise Co.’s Chordion to build some progressions – it was a joy to use.
Is there a tool, instrument, piece of gear, or software that is essential to your work?
Our DAW is our main instrument. That is where we arrange, manipulate and put the majority of our work.
Also the internet – we have scored several features for productions in NYC, a film from the UK and worked with folks in Australia, LA, Seattle, up and down the East Coast without being in the room with any of them – the ability to deliver audio and visual information over the internet makes it so we can work with people all over the world.
Do you typically work alone or in collaboration with others?
Composing for film is, by its definition, a collaborative process. Filmmaking has a lot of moving parts that are well hidden (if it is done right). The director has very specific vision - we have ideas to back up the vision and it requires skillful communication, patience and the ability to be flexible. There is often a back and forth, and the ability to dutifully work with what comes back from your input - no matter what your role in the production - is a must.
We have found that when a director has an idea that they can’t actually put into musical terms but only feelings and visual language and we can deliver to them exactly what they need- it’s a peak life experience.
Embers will be screening this weekend at the Ashland Oregon Film Festival, which runs April 7-11. The film plays Thursday at 3:00 pm, Friday at 12:00 pm, and Saturday at 9:30 am. Click here for a complete screening schedule, which includes many more upcoming festivals.