Desert Prayer

About the music

Transforming images, ideas and moods into sound is one of my passions. For this project I tried to capture the essence of a desert and created a slow soundscape to go along with the peaceful scenery.

Here’s a breakdown, it will hopefully make the listener’s experience more enjoyable: This music was originally composed on my ipad while walking between home and work. Once I had a good starting point and all the ideas were in place I exported the midi data to my PC continued from there.

I started with the sound of the wind and a wall of clean guitars playing the same riff in unison. A subdued synth like an organ is also present. There is a lot of space between the chords – I’m trying to capture the vastness of the images about to come and set the mood.

There’s also the percussive and muffled sound of drums from afar, another element used to create the sense of space and distance. The hi hats and cymbals are dry, with little to no reverb to create an element of proximity and put all the sounds in identifiable layers to the listener.

This was a great opportunity to explore sound design and subtle sound effects. I used a synth that, in its complexity and sonic layers, also has a chime-like sound, another element that reminds me of deserts and isolation. I used female vocal samples with an especially crafted delay with a filter in it, making each repetition a bit darker.

One of my favorite elements are the reversed guitars. They add a lot of mystery – probably because the notes don’t have an initial definition as expected from a guitar; it comes from nowhere and materializes itself while creating melodies… the phrases abruptly end but the echoes keep them alive a little longer, ping-ponging between the left and right channels. The reversed guitars used the same kind of colorful delay as the one used for the voices.

On top of everything there are many layers of clean guitars. I went for the most possible “fenderesque” chimey, crystal-clear sound and played around with their panoramic placement. It’s possible to identify some harmonic notes at the extreme right in one moment and on the left side later on.

The title “Desert Prayer” comes from how the guitar solo sounds. My goal was to achieve an invocation, supplication feel. I used an “e-bow”, a device that creates an electromagnetic field and vibrates the strings without the need of a pick. The guitar sounds mellow and can become more aggressive as higher harmonics start to intensify. This has an incredible range of emotional information. The loudness and sustain of the notes are controlled by the distance between the device and the strings. It has qualities of the human voice combined with instruments similar in texture to flutes and violins. A bit of a challenge, because it’s hard to predict and control exactly how and when the notes will come…

The last section of the music is in 5/4. I always liked odd time signatures. This part was created to be the apex of the video and to match the highest and most impactful drone shot from David. New elements are introduced, the most obvious are the up-tempo and constant rhythm section and the piano theme, with a lot of spaces between notes in order to contrast with the faster drums and to match the distance perceived in this shot. The piano is panned more to the right side, with its rhythmic echoes to the left. The deep and low synth used to fill the low frequencies space, which was present since the beginning gains more volume to increase the music’s dynamic. A sequenced filter in one of the synths, used to create more motion and go along with the complexity of the drums, extra layers of guitar chords and an outro guitar solo.

This was one of the most enjoyable music projects I’ve ever done. The images offered a lot of inspiration for sonic exploration. I used Korg Gadget for the first phase of the songwriting process and Reason for the second and final phase, where the rest of the music was recorded, composed, mixed and mastered. I used a 1982 “Dan Smith” Fender Stratocaster through my Gjika 10n guitar amplifier and an AxiomPro49 midi controller.

About the video

The video was edited and color-corrected in DaVinci Resolve. The editorial process is something I like pay a lot of attention to. I see it as more than simply adding audio to a video or vice-versa. It is the opportunity to enhance and reinforce both with the help of each other. I also used Blender, Meshroom and Nuke for some invisible VFX. Some areas of the footage (the shadows, specially) had too much noise and it was distracting in a slow-paced video. I took a single frame and projected it into the 3D geometry generated from the video itself, rendered the image with the projected frame and blended the transition from the rendered section of the video with the rest of it, once the noise in the shadows became more stable.

David’s version

You can check his version here: