Last year, I collaborated with visionary photographer Randy Halverson to score his timelapse video of the night sky, “Temporal Distortion.” The film and my instrumental score were enthusiastically received by dozens of major news outlets and millions of viewers around the world. (Click here for my blog entry about “Temporal Distortion.”)
This year, Randy approached me with a new film, “Horizons,” and I leapt at the chance to work with him again. This time, I teamed up with my brother, Brendan McCreary, and his band Young Beautiful in a Hurry, and we co-wrote “I Forever,” a song for the new film.
If you enjoy that track, I’m thrilled to announce that “I Forever” was recently released by my record label Sparks & Shadows as a digital single. The track is available now on iTunes, Amazon and other digital retailers.
Having written an instrumental composition for ‘Temporal Distortion,’ I wanted to push the envelope and challenge viewers a little more by including a vocal component this time around. Lyrics add a new dimension of meaning to music, and I believe trigger responses in the mind that instrumental music simply can not on its own. (Narrative in a film or television series also has this same impact, which is why there are so many people out there whose only exposure to instrumental music comes from scores and soundtracks. In fact, the argument could be made that lyrics are effective precisely because they provide a non-musical narrative to what would otherwise be instrumental music. Hmm… this idea should probably be expanded into its own blog entry one of these days. Sorry, I digress!)
Like many composers, I’m a bit of a lone wolf and rarely co-write with anyone. Working with Brendan, however, always seems to result in music better than either of us could have accomplished on our own. (“I Forever” is the second such collaboration to be released in a month! We co-wrote “Lost To The River” which was released on the Defiance soundtrack a few weeks ago.) I knew that Brendan’s powerful voice and poetic lyrical sensibilities would blend well with my harmonic instincts for this film.
“Bear sent me the working cut of the movie and I was totally blown away,” Brendan recalled. “Randy Halverson’s film was so powerful and moving without music, I knew we had to create something special. My initial instinct was to do something fully acoustic, and Bear’s was to do something fully electronic. The resulting amalgamation was one of the more harmonious blends of the two I’ve heard in a long while.’
‘At its heart, ‘I Forever’ is a piano piece. With rolling piano arpeggios during the chorus and lush powerful chords during the verses. I wrote it using a beat I cut from Bears original sketch that I looped, and then I just stared at the movie, over and over and over again for hours, noodling away. The way Bear layered in the strings as the song progresses, it would be fit for any concert hall. The real magic begins when these big phat dubby sub bases come oozing in, and the electric guitar, and all these moody synth elements, they all come together and it feels like a dream that lasts with you long after waking.’
‘I think the song is also an incredible blend of some of our favorite artists. As we were producing the track together, Bjork’s ‘Hyperballad’ and Michael Jackson’s ‘Stranger in Moscow’ kept popping up in conversation constantly. Bjork had a huge influence on the lyrics as well. I was inspired by her latest album, ‘Biophilia,’ where each song is literally narrated by a force of nature. There’s a song called ‘Virus’ in which a virus is describing its experience living inside a person. There was a powerful and poetic simplicity in that approach, so I wrote the lyrics from the perspective of the sky. I tried to think of the way the sky provides for us, and takes away from us. The thing that Randy’s film emphasizes the most of course, is the sky. It’s the star of the movie. So I thought it only just that the sky should narrate the film as well.”
As happens in all relationships, both professional and sibling, there is occasional conflict. I approached the song from a purely electronic and orchestral perspective, while Brendan thought of it in entirely acoustic terms. This resulted in spirited discussions about what the soul of the piece really is, and where it should go. I am pretty sure I pushed Brendan out of his comfort zone a bit, and he definitely did the same for me. Brendan encouraged me to avoid adding smashing crash cymbals and epic drums during the guitar solo. This simple restraint, seemingly obvious looking back, was not so obvious at the time. I wanted to amp up the tension, but Brendan knew that the exclusion of these elements would be more effective than their inclusion. Even now, when I listen, I pick up details in the guitar solo performance that would have been covered up by a bigger percussive presence. The tension is elegant, rising and gorgeous, credited as much to what is missing as to what is actually there.
“Working with Bear was a blast. Always creative, always challenging, always rewarding,” Brendan said. “Aside from ‘Lost To The River,’ this is one of our first official co-writes together since the soundtrack to a 2003 film called ‘The Runaround.’ Maybe Bear and I will release that one day. So it was great to work together again. Bear and I have very different tastes, thoughts and approaches to music and film, and when the two of us get together to work on something, things explode and implode, expand and contract. It’s a really thrilling experience. And the end product was almost as majestic as Randy’s film itself.”
Director Randy Halverson added, “It was great working with Bear McCreary again and this time having Brendan collaborate with it. I think they did a excellent job capturing the spirit of the timelapse. The response has been great. Brendan has the perfect voice to accompany this video.”
In my opinion, every aspect of this video stands alone. The footage is obviously breath-taking, even with the sound on mute. The music production is slammin’, and one of the best tracks I’ve ever been associated with. And Brendan’s lyrics are inspired:
Music by Brendan & Bear McCreary
Lyrics by Brendan McCreary
Its time to celebrate, rainy day parades
Oh the music plays and I hear you
Sometimes it makes no sense
Your grief your happiness
All the world’s a stage and I feel you
I forever say goodnight
I forever lost in time
I forever light the light
and on and on…
A change is comin’ up
You’re runnin’ out of luck
oh and when you’re lost, I find you
There’s plenty goin’ round
A path less traveled down
All the signs are gone, I guide you
When tragedy unfurls, it spins around the world
Washed up on the shore and I soothe you
When all your hearts are broke
When everything you’ve known
Dashed upon the rocks
I love you
The most exciting thing I can imagine is getting to collaborate with insanely talented filmmakers, artists and musicians of all disciplines, and I’m so fortunate that I get to do that on a near-daily basis. For me, working with Brendan McCreary on a film for Randy Halverson is a dream come true. When I listen to “I Forever,” I am simultaneously moved emotionally and giddy knowing that I co-produced and co-wrote something so amazing.
Between “I Forever” and “Lost To The River,” maybe Brendan and I should co-write more often? What do you guys think?