MUSICIANS: Please read these Notes when creating your parts for the "The Thousand Steps" score. You can check out the picture reference edit for this piece HERE.
THE THOUSAND STEPS - SCORE NOTES FOR MUSICIANS
This short film is an animated piece with a voiceover from a man recounting his long journey up a mythical, monolithic structure with a thousand steps, searching for the eventual enlightenment he expects to find at the end of his climb.
The piece is pretty-much a long, slow rise from start to finish, and there aren’t any real stops or hit points along the way. So a cool way to score it, which also opens it up to all instrumentalists, regardless of what you play, is to treat it as a drone, with everyone playing a single complementary chord, rising in intensity through the end. Here’s what we’re looking for:
Imagine the piece as beginning very low in intensity, and at its ending, peaking at a very high one. We’re looking for long and drawn-out single notes on your instrument. We’re not looking for melodies, or anything that strays from the prescribed note beyond maybe something like a tremolo or a trill (if so, a minor 2nd is probably better than a major 2nd for this brooding kinda piece). We’ll get a more pure tone out of everyone together if nobody’s going for anything too theatrical overall.
You don’t have to hold one single note from start to finish, which obviously would be almost impossible for most instruments...You can play a long note, take a pause, then restart with a similar intensity as where you left off. All the while tho, keep building; Either in volume only, or in otherwise in tone (faster tremolo picking? Laying into the bow more? Blowing harder? crossfading into more of your distorted tone from a clean one?) And then, keep it going, up to our definitive ending noted below.
Now before we go further, here’s what: You actually want to UNDERDO your overall arc a little bit overall; When you’re playing all by yourself, you have all the space in the world to fill, and it’s natural to want to fill it. But imagine yourself in a room with about 20-30 other people doing the same thing you are...Cuz that’s the effect we’re going to make here. Two things about that: 1) If everyone is at peak intensity at once, with no higher to go, the effect essentially turns into white noise: Indistinct, hashy-sounding, all heat, with no light...Just “a lot of people making a big noise”...And I think we’re cooler than that : ) And then 2) Most instruments don’t actually SOUND very good when playing at their loudest; We want to maintain a clear tone out of everyone so everyone can fit into the mix (even if it’s a distored guitar...There’s a difference between a pleasantly creamy kind of distortion and a buzzy jagged one; If this piece is calling for distortion at all, it’s calling for the former).
Just remember: Your individual range doesn’t have to be super-wide, because once everyone is doing it together, believe me, IT’LL GET INTENSE. So: Do a crescendo, but remember that we’re all links in a chain, carrying the piece along with a bunch of other people, so no need to hold it all up by yourself.
Definitive Ending, you say?
Yes! Let’s build and build…Then, at 01:01:01:07 (one minute, one second), let’s steepen our slopes a little bit (leave yourself some room for this!) to intensify it just for the last push...And then, END your note at 01:01:08:12 (one minute, eight-and-a-half seconds), right on the word “step” of his line “...Until I reach the final step”. That will leave an intensely “pregnant” pause for his following lines “...and then, I see him. My god…” Really try to end directly on that word, as close to that spot as you can!
In the assembly, we’ll probably then grab a few notes from the earlier low-intensity part and edit them onto this section at a low level, so there’s a bit of a ring-out playing underneath this last part. And then, sound effects will take us through this last bit, too.
Notes To Play
One of the fun parts about this request is that we’re asking for as many as FOUR notes from you to play on your instrument. We’ll start with a unison root note, then slowly add three more over the length of the piece. Where exactly each note begins, we’re not going to dictate. Part of the fun will be the randomness of it. But if you’re looking for a roadmap, I suppose we could roughly think of the whole piece as four sections of 17 seconds each. By that count, our second note would come in around :17, the third at :34, and the fourth at around :51.
We’ll start the piece with everyone playing an “A”. Anyone who plays this “A” note should play right up to the climax at the end (pausing and restarting along the way if it’s necessary on your instrument, as noted...There will be others to fill in the gap whenever you do that).
Then, we’ll add an “E” note above those “A”s.
Then, we’ll add a “G” above the other two.
Finally, we’ll add a “D” on top of them all.
In each case, each note should play through to the climax at 1:08. In fact, as you play the higher notes, you might not have to play all that hard and big, even though we’re getting closer to our peak intensity...Just the simple addition of the higher notes alone will bring drama and suspense. So really, the “A” and the “E” notes will see the most variation in terms of crescendo over the piece, cuz they play the longest. And oh, yeah: The idea is to go UP with the notes...Like, the “E” should be the one ABOVE the “A”, and so on, whatever range your instrument plays in. If the total chord we’re spelling out sounds muddy in your lower register, then either do it all an octave higher, or switch to the higher octave on the “G” and “D” to keep it clean.
Technical / RECording Considerations
Feel free to play any or all of the notes as you like, on whatever instrument you like. Best if you can actually play the higher notes while watching the picture, beginning them where you’re feeling them, and leaving the requisite ‘dead air’ at the top of your recording, but I suppose if you just played it from the top of an audio file, we can always move it into place later(?) If you record more than one note, just bundle whatever you’ve done into a zip file to keep them together. As for effects: Usually, we ask people to contribute their material dry. And that’s still best in this case. But this request is more unusual than most, and if an effect on your instrument enables you to get dramatic or play longer notes, feel free to. As always tho, if you’re able to provide dry tracks as well, please do.
As always, please upload your parts as individual audio tracks, with no backing track (VO, in this case) behind them.