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Jesse Harlin

Okay, Robert. Thanks for sending along your demo and I’m more than happy to take a listen. As I’ve done with everyone else, I’ll be listening to your demo as I would to evaluate someone I’m looking to hire, and I’ll write down my thoughts here for you as I go through your demo. Off we go!

1. Awaiting Wasteland: EDM of sorts, nice evocative strings. This would sound really nice with live strings. There’s a lot of space in this track. It feels like a song and like something you’d find fitting in nicely into an indie title.
2. Bonds – Main Theme: Modern take on chiptune material. Personal note: I bristle at chiptune music when I hear it. There’s a huge “me too” vibe from chiptune music that I get which I fundamentally don’t understand. Chiptunes sounded the way they did due to technological restraints in the past. Now they’re an aesthetic choice. They sound gamey. They sound dated. And what I don’t get in particular are all of the young composers doing chiptune stuff who didn’t even grow up on it. How is it nostalgic for them? I dunno, I just- Whoa. It cuts off. I guess that’s the loop point? For a demo, I prefer to have tracks fade out. So, if it’s a looping track, I’d suggest having it continue on back to the top of the piece and then fade out.
3. Bonds – Pieces Apart: Same sense as Main Theme. Also really short.
4. Bonds – Stage of Decay: I dig this. Reminds me of Metroid Prime’s main menu screen a little mixed with some Sneakerpimps. I’m starting to feel like these tracks lack percussion, though. Am I right? This is something I’ll actively listen for now.
5. The Aftermath: Very sample-sounding strings. Sounds like a cutscene track from an early Final Fantasy game. That’s not a bad thing, that’s just a … dated thing. This doesn’t sound like modern game music. This sounds like game music from twenty years ago. That said, I like your string writing; especially as the piece develops. Nice counterpoint.

WHOA. There’s a pop in “The Aftermath” at 1:50. I’ll tell you right now – if I were listening to your demo, this is where I would stop listening. You HAVE TO, have to have to have to, make sure that you never post anything with a pop in it. Why? It tells the person listening to the track a number of things:

A. It says that you didn’t double-check your mixes before you delivered them (in this case, posted it to SoundCloud)
B. It says that you can’t be trusted to deliver flawless files. The last thing I want to do, as a music supervisor, is have to check all of your files to make sure that there aren’t any pop, clicks, or ticks in them.
C. It shows that you aren’t careful.

Now, maybe none of those things are actually true, but that’s what a pop in your demo track is inadvertently saying about you. So – you need to fix that track. As I said, that’s where I’d have stopped listening, but as with other demos, I’m going to keep listening and give you feedback on the rest of your demo.

6. Fantasy RPG – Wwise Sampler: Percussion. Very artificial sounding brass. This track feels like it meanders without much focus. There doesn’t feel like much that I can hang my hat on here in terms of a memorable melody. The action section lacks something. Power? Strength? There’s something anemic about it. I think that’s in your orchestration. I probably would have skipped to the next cue after about 30 seconds.

7. Ruin and Preservation: I like your arpeggio at the top of the piece. The quality of your samples is hurting this piece. This would sound really nice with better sounding samples or even played live. Your writing chops are there, but your production techniques need work still. And I say all this as an evaluation of “are you ready for the big league, AAA work yet”. If you just want to do indie games, there are hundreds, if not thousands, of developers out there to whom your stuff will blow their socks off.

8. The Museum: Again, I really enjoy your string counterpoint work. Short cue, wish it was longer to see where it would develop to.

9. Discovery: More harp. Lots of harp on this demo. Ooo. Some nice percussion in this piece. Honestly, I think you should move this piece up much further in your demo. Maybe make it your first track. It’s nice. I find myself wishing that at 1:11, you’d expanded the strings into a full string section for a really nice, big development of the piece. But, this works nicely and is my favorite piece that I’ve heard so far.

10: Median: Related to Discovery, I’m guessing. My gut instinct is to skip this track as I feel like I just listened to something that says the same thing, basically. Remember, demos aren’t personal concerts. Demos are a communication between you and your potential employer. Each track has to say something about you. If a track is redundant, the person listening will stop listening.

11. Echo: This feels like a demo to me. It doesn’t feel like a finished piece. I would have moved on to the next track after about 20 seconds. Again, what in this track says “You should hire me over any and all other composers”?

12. Birth of a Supernova: Very much feels like the rest of your tracks. On the one hand, that’s a good thing in that I know your sound and now feel like I know what to expect from you. On the other hand, I feel like it’s redundant. I think for a demo, you could probably leave this and Echo off of your demo and you wouldn’t be missing anything that hasn’t already been said with other pieces.

So, in summary, your writing chops are there. Although, I do notice this proclivity you seem to have for certain really dissonant clashes in your writing, minor seconds and nines in places that really stand out. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Just something that I noticed. Anyway, your writing chops are there but your production skills need some work before you could be considered ready for the big leagues. You’re ready to score indies. So, you should do that. Cut your teeth on them. Keep improving your production techniques. I think you should find a game that will let you do some really beautiful string quartet writing and then track four players live. It’d be cheap and become a really great signature piece for your demo.