Fallas!

The Torres de Serrano illuminated in Valencian colours.

Looks like I’ve survived the first half of the second semester and made it to Fallas, a city-wide festival in which we welcome spring by fighting off winter with fireworks. The eponymous fallas (or falles), which are massive, elaborate statues of wood, mâché, and foam — alternately beautiful, comical, political, and crude — are erected in each neighbourhood, destined to be put to the torch in La Cremà (“The Burning”), a massive conflagration celebration on the night of March 19. Stay tuned for a future post with more pictures and stories.

Did I mention there were fireworks?

The Fallas season officially commenced on February 23 with La Crida, a ceremony at the Torres de Serrano where the Fallera Mayor (essentially, the Queen of Fallas) issues a call to all, far and wide, to join Valencia in celebrating Las Fallas. This was promptly followed by the first of many fireworks displays, as the overture to a cacophonous 3½-week period of nigh-endless explosions, concerts, and parties, including daily gatherings in the Plaza del Ayuntamiento (City Hall Square) for volleys of gunpowder explosions, called Mascletàs, like this one here (VOLUME WARNING!):

…all of which make the perfect backdrop for trying to work on projects and assignments, naturally.

We are currently in the throes of the most intense period of Las Fallas, which translates to a small break in the Berklee world; I reckon that we wouldn’t be able to concentrate, anyway, what with all this going on:

The Earth-shattering kaboom is in Valencia, Marvin.

There is still plenty to do, but we are grateful for a few days without classes. The semester has seen more bursts of intensity concentrated between relative lulls in activity, which accounts for the general lack of activity here. As always, my Twitter feed contains a more immediate glimpse of my world. There is much to catch up on, so let’s begin with the course round-up!

Advanced Scoring interspersed composing a mostly-electronic teaser trailer for the aborted television series, El Perseguidor (“The Chaser”), with surprise visits from George S. Clinton and Alison Plante, both from Berklee’s Boston campus, and Robert Kraft, whose visit turned into a de facto midterm as we presented group mock-pitches in a simulated bid to score Black Swan. We have also been privileged with seeing some workprint footage from a couple of Lucio’s latest films, La Vida Inesperada and Pancho, El Perro Millonario, both of which happen to be on the program at the upcoming Málaga Film Festival.

Recording/Mix Techniques has, thus far, covered microphone techniques for various instruments and the use of effects plug-ins for improving our mixes. We have been recording ourselves for this purpose, (violin, guitar, and trombone), along with some help from a couple students outside of our class (to round out a ska band!) — and I have been getting to pitch in as a Pro Tools operator. Pretty much, it’s exactly what it says on the tin.

Dramatic Electronic Composition has seen me create a slew of virtual instruments in both Kontakt and Omnisphere, use other students’ patches in electronic compositions, and score a scene that was originally without music from The Bourne Identity. Coming up after Fallas, we will undertake the building of our own sample libraries through sessions of recording other students (and hopefully, once Fallas is out of our system, nothing that we build will catch fire).

Advanced Video Game Scoring continues to introduce us to different types of audio programming and logic, first with building a simulation representing different musical behaviours within a hypothetical video game in Max/MSP, and currently with learning about the architecture of audio implementation in Wwise. I am also currently among a team of composers working on a collaboration with students from Escuela Superior Arte y Tecnología (ESAT), here in Valencia, which will be delivered by the end of the semester.

Advanced Dramatic Orchestration has continued in its vein of a more academic study of orchestration. Classes have included discussions on orchestral textures and orchestration techniques, in which we analyzed scenes which were evidently scored in the spirit of certain pieces of classical music (which has led to some interesting games of Name That Tune). We also had our second session with members of the Budapest Art Orchestra, recording their string section for a rescore of a sequence from Home Delivery, the music of which was originally composed by Alfons. In addition to producing my own session, I stepped in to assist a few students with theirs. On top of that, Alfons has had us prepare a composition demo showreel, complete with video (click here for the music-only version), in advance of an upcoming visit from student filmmakers from Escola Superior de Cinema i Audiovisuals de Catalunya (ESCAC) in Barcelona.

Looking ahead, we are going to be quite busy as we hurtle through the second half of the semester, with the ESAT video game collaboration and other assignments on top of working on our thesis projects. Stay tuned for another post about the biggest recording project we will undertake this year.

…but for now, Fallas!

¡Hasta luego!

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