03 November 2007

Composing for Angkor Wat

Angkot Wat
(Image from Far Horizons)

I haven't touched Sibelius for quite a while since I finished an advertising song commission in March. Thanks to an old friend, Richard Tsao, a couple of days ago I received a commission to write a soundtrack for a short about Cambodia and have now started composing with Sibelius again.

I'm still with Sibelius 3 (can't be bothered to pay an exorbitant price to upgrade to Sibelius 5 just for some more functions I'll only use when Ang Lee asks me to write music for his film, but would love to do so if someone else engages me to do a similar task and pays for it). The start-up music in this old version, the opening of Jean Sibelius's 3rd Symphony, really reminds me of the time I used it to make karaoke tracks of Christian hymns in Stirling.

Since the producer hopes that the soundtrack carries a hint of the mysterious image of Angkor Wat and the state religion Theravada Buddhism in Cambodia, I have spent some time gazing into the photo of Angkor Wat while intoning a Buddhist stanza in Pali to see if inspiration would come to me.
parinibbute bhagavati saha parinibbana
sakko devanam indo
imaj gathaj abhasi
anicca vata sangkhara
uppajjitva nirujjhanti
tesaj vupasamo sukho ti

(When the Blessed One had passed away, simultaneously with his Parinibbana, Sakka, king of the gods, spoke this stanza, 'Transient are all compounded things, subject to arise and vanish; having come into existence they pass way; good is the peace when they forever cease.' )

(translation cited from Digit Library & Museum Of Buddhist Studies)
Additionally, I've also tried to find some clue from Cambodian traditional music. However, I don't think those I encountered over the Internet would help. It really doesn't sound any spiritual at all but something entertaining to me. (Check out this example from Asian Classical Music in MP3 Format.)

Anyhow, this afternoon, I put in three hours and drafted one and a half munites. The producer will decide if I am on the right path next week. If so, I shall turn it into a longer piece and try to match music to moving images as the producer wishes.

Use your earphones to avoid missing the opening low-frequency sound waves.

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