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Jesse Harlin

Okay, Gabe. I’ll do what I did with Sam and type notes as I listen through for the first time so that you have an honest record of how I listened to your demo.

1. Dig the opening of Saturn Rising. Reminds me of Daft Punk’s TRON Legacy score. Cool hybrid cue. Feels a little one note due to the ostinato once you’ve reached about 1:00
2. Underground city – I find myself wondering if all tracks are going to be heavy on the electronica vibe/hybrid score vibe. Again, there’s a sense of “I know what I need to know about this cue” by the time it’s about half way through. I would have jumped to another cue if I were listing to it in a real world situation.
3. The Rescue – okay. You can do things other than electro-hybrid cues, orchestral cinematic tracks notably. Production work sounds good. Levels all feel consistent from track to track. These tracks are all too long. You could get away with each track being half the length it is now.
4. Surface Tension – More electronica. I’m tempted to skip to the next track as soon as it starts just because I feel like I’ve already heard this from you.
5. Main Theme – Something different! Funky Chinese action cue. I dig it. Cool cue, cool vibe. I think you should ditch either track 2 or 4 and replace it with this. I dig this cue.
6. Campfire – Chinese ambient cue. Having them back to back makes me feel like I’m listening to a micro-soundtrack. Still, it’s produced well. But it leaves me feeling a bit “meh” by the end. I think Main Theme already does for you what this track is also attempting to do, but is more fun.
7. Hunter, Hunted – For me, this doesn’t sound like a game score. Or, if it does, it sounds like something from a dance game/racing game/music game. It’s a song. A well produced song, yes. But if I’m looking to hire a composer, this track tells me that you’re a good electronic music producer, but I don’t know if you can score to the irregular timing of picture. Part of that is this sense I have that every cue I’ve listened to has all been in 4 4. Is that correct? Now I’m actively listening for meter changes…
8. Overworld – Orchestral. Something strange going on with the percussion, like your dance music chops are almost bleeding into what feels like a very traditional orch cue. Not to my liking. Feels like a distraction from an otherwise fairly traditional march cue.
9. Boss Battle – More ostinatos. Maybe this comes from your electronic background? That definitely seems like your strength. It’s an okay track.
10. Castle Theme – 4 4. Pedal tone in low strings throughout a lot of it. Orchestral work feels kinda’ limited in scope.
11. Panisphere – Ambient cue. Definitley piqued my interest. Interesting ambient textures. I dig this cue and wish it had been much earlier in your demo. The entrance of the faint percussion gives me thoughts about it as an interactively layered cue, so that’s good. It’s long, though. For a demo, I got what I needed to get for it a while ago.
12. 70’s Horror Theme – Very Halloween. Too Halloween, even. Seems like an odd choice, to me. A very dated sound for a genre that doesn’t exist anymore. Horror has moved on so far from what it was in the 70s. Can’t imagine where you’d use this cue. If I were listening to your demo, this track is where I would turn it off and move on to someone else’s demo. But, I’m still going through it and feel like there’s an awful lot of this cue.
13. Dark Piano Theme – Another ambient cue. One thing I’m finding I haven’t commented on across 13 tracks is melody. These cues feel like they’re heavy on production and heavy on texture, but that I’m not left with many meaty melodies that I can really sink my teeth into. Nothing that I come away with humming and remembering as a theme. I remember your orchestration choices, just not your melodies.
14. Boom – Another song. Sounds like something you might license to a dance/music/racing game. Not something I would have ever paid much attention to if I were looking to hire a composer.

Okay – so. Gabe, here’s what your demo says to me. You’re extremely comfortable and talented at electronic scoring and production. It’s by far your strength. Your demo is too long and many pieces are saying the same thing. Also, there seems to be a common “start small and build” shape to many of the tracks. Have you done much in the way of scoring music to picture? I’m going to guess no based on the prevalence of 4 4-based tracks with unchanging tempos.

Your stuff sounds good and is well produced, particularly the electronic and hybrid cues. I would focus on those. I’d trim your demo pieces by about half. I’d remove Campfire and 70s Horror Theme. I’d also consider maybe two separate demos. Perhaps you have enough for a scoring demo and a separate music licensing demo where your song-oriented tracks could live? Your strength is definitely in the electronic stuff.