Composing: Titanic Inspired Album Project

Since graduation, I’ve been trying to decipher what I should do next to help my hopeful career in the music business, especially as a composer. While being a freelancer where you will be paid with a check stub template, I’ve sadly had lots of bad experiences people who were commissioning me for work which left me feeling jaded by what to do now and in the future.

I’ve decided to, rather than focus on getting work, to focus on learning and producing music itself. A lot of the composers I look up to, whether they be for film, games or just freelancers like myself which I’ve discovered from various social media outlets, produce albums or collections on sites such as Bandcamp, so people can buy their work and see an example of what they could achieve for them if they were commissioned for a project. I really liked this idea so I came to conclusion of, why don’t I produce some compositional albums, each with their own underlying themes, onto bandcamp so not only do I have work that people could purchase to help fund more work and musician equipment, but so people can have a clear example of my skills and what I could bring to their projects.

I needed to think of ideas for my first compositional collection of work, and I decided that instead of just sourcing previous composition work and making a disjointed album of it, I wanted the pieces all to work together and be coherent in some way. I chose a theme that means a lot to me, making this collection of work based and influenced by the history of the famous liner, the RMS Titanic. Since I was about 6 years old, I became fascinated with all things Titanic when I watched my cousins VHS of James Cameron’s 1997 feature film of the same name. I have a Titanic collection of books to multiple copies of the same films on different formats, to pins to posters to even a necklace containing a piece of coal from the wreck site itself.  It’s something I hold dear, and I’ve always hoped I could one day score for a Titanic documentary or another piece of media, which only helped support my theme idea.

Photo: Titanic by Little Record Girl.
‘Titanic’ taken by Little Record Girl.

Idea: To create a compositional album that follows the life of the RMS Titanic, through using the pieces of music to dramatise her being built, to her maiden voyage, to the sinking and to her legacy and the pre-war era that followed. It could almost be like a film score, but to the ships sadly short lived lifespan.

How I Plan to Achieve This: I plan to study music of the early 1900’s, including popular composers of the time, instruments used and instruments that were beginning to be used more often. I also plan to study popular pieces of the time, popular traditional music especially that from Ireland (as the Titanic was built in Belfast.) Drawing from all that, I then want to create the pieces themselves. I thought this would be a good idea, as when I studied film scores in my degree, we were taught that you needed to have a good grasp of the film and its’ history and contents before starting a score, eg, if Cameron hired a dubstep composer for his 1997 Titanic film, it wouldn’t of fitted the time setting or the theme. By doing this project I can prepare myself to what would be expected of me for doing film scores in the future.

I have many Titanic books which I can draw some conclusions and research from but luckily, I am part of some very reputable White Star Line and general Titanic groups on Facebook, a lot of members who are in fact people who have been involved in various Titanic mediums such as books and television shows. Those members I can go to for general advice and help. I have also previously talked to Tim Maltin, author of some of my favourite Titanic novels, who I can hopefully get in contact with again for advice.
Outcome: An album, with commissioned artwork, to be uploaded onto Bandcamp for a fee, that contains pieces of music based upon the music of the 1900’s, that depict the RMS Titanic from her being build to the pre-war era after her. It’ll be a representation of my skills, my work ethic, and my level of research that I can bring to a score or music in general.

I may also provide a write up, similar to a dissertation, to show where I drew my research from and backing up compositional decisions that I made.

My first steps, are to share this post and my ideas to my fellow composers and my friends on the Titanic Facebook groups. My composing friends can give me advice if my idea is sound and if there’s anything I should be looking at for in particular and my Titanic group friends can hopefully give me good recommendations for people to interview to aid my research or for already published books to buy and draw from.

I’ll be updating my research on this blog from now on, to show where I’m at with the album and to upload snippets of compositions I’ve came up with relating to this project!

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