Jonny Poole

Performer Composer

Recent Projects

Since joining my publishers in May 2018, I’ve been composing for a number of briefs for film and TV including: ‘Brooklyn Nine Nine’, ‘American Horror Story’ and ‘Chicago PD’. In this post, I’ll give you a snap shot of audio and a breakdown of my process.

The Art of Following a Brief-

Reference tracks can be both a help and a hindrance. In one sense they can give you a lot of insight into what the client’s are looking for in terms of genre, mood, sound and instrumentation. However, I think most composers would agree that, the tracks can be a bit of a creative downer. They narrow the way we can approach writing it.

I personally really enjoy writing to briefs as it gives me a sense of direction to my composition. It’s good practice to stick to one task and not lose sight of the desired end result (which is sometimes easier said then done). It’s exciting to try and capture the essence of a visual concept with sound.

Writing to be compared to other composers is a good way to practice dealing with constructive criticism and rejection. The film composing industry is highly competitive and even though it’s important to put your heart into every piece, you have to find a way to not take it personally. Starting out as a film composer, it’s good to be broad in your musical approach. In all honesty, you are expected to be good in a variety of different genres and styles and to be able to produce a lot of music quickly. Although when starting out this is true, you’ll know your strengths and it’s no bad thing to play to them as there may come a time when this is the niche you end up being ‘pigeonholed’ into.


 

American Horror Story

‘In Charge’ was written for the latest series of ‘American Horror Story’. They wanted music with a dark edge / creepy contemporary, hard hitting music. I approached it with caution, not wanting to slip into a more idiomatic cheesy classic horror soundtrack. Instead, a cool modern sound is what I created to catch their attention. Being an avid fan of the series myself, I had a good sense of the mood and feel of the show. I always like to research and listen to a number of the shows previous tracks before I get started, regardless of whether I am familiar with it or not. It’s important to reproduce a similar sound to the rest of the show to make it coherent and suitable. This doesn’t mean replicating or copying previous tracks, but if you can lock in a certain mood and music style, you’ll further increase your chance of getting your music featured. They also specifically stated to reference the shows previous sound tracks themselves. I did this by including the same sung melody line in the iconic ‘La La song’ in the final section of the track.

The intro to the track is simply a sax line I played and then reversed. I find one of the best ways to get an obscure and other worldly sound is using the reverse function. Instrumentally, I went for an acoustic and electronic hybrid, using a mixture of real instruments such as sax, bass and drum to electronic elements like synths and electronic percussion. For that contemporary sound, I used a lot of heavy production on the vocals and drums adding distortion and saturation among other processes. The ticking clock sound gives the track a sense of pace feeling as though its leading to something.

I usually don’t collaborate on projects of this nature however, I knew right away my friend Mick would be the man for the job as far as vocals are concerned. It needed to be hard hitting and powerful. One of the themes for the show was ruling and being in control, so the idea behind the lyrics featured that theme. The final section concludes with Mick almost shouting “I’m in Charge Now!”.

Even if you’re not composing to a specific scene, it’s good to write imagining a scene, to help keep you on track and avoid straying away from the brief.


Chicago PD

‘Momentum We Lost’ was composed for the forth coming series of ‘Chicago PD’. I had never seen the show prior to receiving the brief, so I did some research. I watched the show keeping an ear out for any music cues to take note of. The brief was simple: ‘Very emotionally driven music, very background orientated to build ambience and trigger a reaction from the viewer. Take note, The show has relatively the same underlying feel throughout’. Although sometimes reference tracks can be a composer’s worst nightmare, they were key in this case - the feel and sound of all the tracks were definitely clear to see. I kept it simple with piano, strings, guitar and drums. There was definitely a reoccurring theme with the music of Chicago PD: ‘pulsing rhythms’. I used a pulsing synth bass, taiko drum sounds with rhythmic accents to add some movement to produce the desired effect. I found this definitely was a useful tool to create tension and a sense of urgency but, it also kept it from being too attention grabbing through the monotonous pulsing, to adhere to the brief. After all, they did ask for background oriented music. The strings and SFX created the foundation to the track, controlling the mood and ambience. The piano takes on a melodic role, playing simple slow moving melodies as to not draw too much attention. The final section repeats a lot, gradually evolving and introducing a counter melody again, not being too over powering. Just enough to complement the visuals and to trigger an emotional response from the viewer.


 

Space Samurai: Oasis

‘Hypernova’ was for ‘Space Samurai,’ a new film that was in the early stages of pre-production. I love sci-fi and have some experience composing sci-fi style soundtrack music, so I was in my comfort zone for this one.

The brief itself didn’t state any particular musical direction however, gave me an over view of the plot. This helped me paint a picture of what sort of movie this was going to be. It’s set in 2050 on the international space station, clearly indicating it’s a futuristic sci-fi bonanza.

My immediate approach was to think about instrumentation - what best depicts this genre for me. I explored different musical instruments and electronics and settled on a hybrid of an orchestral and electronic soundtrack. I begin by setting the tone and atmosphere of the piece with eerie electronic drones drifting in and out of each other, combined with an unrecognisable solo cello, doused in FX like verb and delay playing a slow moving line. I used some glitch SFX that almost sounds like futuristic spaceship engines, to further enhance the futuristic feeling. The mood sets the piece up as if the listener were entering some sort of dark dystopian world. I love using low sub base impacts, they add drama and a sense of anticipation towards something quite menacing.

40 seconds in, the music opens out to a more ethereal string section again, slow moving but this time the drones are backed up with some rich harmonic movements that gradually build. They help transition from electronic to orchestral, setting up for the introduction of the full orchestral at 1:42. French horns and low brass are a go to for me when creating the feel of epic sci-fi. They are very effective in combining both a heroic, powerful feel but with a sort of menacing undertone, which in this case is what I was after as the key element of the plot is about an unlikely hero who (in short) has to save mankind from a most certain and horrible holocaust.

I gave the piece an unexpected false finish by bringing it to a big climax at 2:15 but quickly reveal that there’s more. Almost like the calm before the storm. The end of the piece strays towards the intense, aggressive nature of some trailer music. Layering both electronic and acoustic drums such as the taiko drum, really packs a big punch and intensifies climactic sections. This brings the piece to an exciting high octane finish, with the last hit being a contrasting long sub hit.


 

‘High Places’ was written to accompany a Panasonic Camera Review video, very different to other tracks on this post. It explores the electronic dance genre, specifically influenced by ‘Chillwave’ and ‘Future Bass’ styles from the likes of ‘ODESZA’. When writing dance tracks, I like to explore some more organic raw material as well as the synthesised sounds. I used samples from different percussion libraries such as shakers, rattles, claps, tambourines and even a talking drum. I begin the piece with rain sounds that underpin most of the track. Heavy use of sidechain really gives the track its bounce and helps keep it moving as the track is a relatively low tempo. I’ve just got ‘Native Instruments KOMPLETE 11’, so this was the perfect time to explore all the various synths and features. The main melody was actually a vocal sample that I put into the vocal synth ‘FORM’ (if you haven’t heard of it go check it out, it’s awesome). I spent a lot of time manipulating the sound and figuring out all the elements of the synth which, there are many! Finally settling on these outcomes:

Unlike a lot of dance music, I wanted to write something quite dynamic with contrasting sections, that would hopefully seamlessly flow from one to another. I focused a lot of my attention to the middle breakdown section 1:43-3:10. I intentionally wanted to draw this section out to really build the ambience and intensity. Dropping out the drums completely here, makes it hard to gauge where the pulse is, especially as time goes on and the syncopated vocal synth 2 (as heard above) creeps in. The loose feel and contrapuntal melodic lines, makes for a rather dream like ambience with the vocal synth floating above. All of these elements are a catalyst for an impacting drop.


 

Chaos Walking

Sea of Colour and White noise were both written for the upcoming film Chaos Walking starring Tom Holland. It’s set in a dystopian world where there are no women and all living creatures can hear each others' thoughts in a stream of images, words, and sounds called Noise.

Sea of Colour is a combination of iconic 80s synth sounds with more contemporary big beat production. Although the choruses are really full and punchy the slow tempo and half time feel keeps everything open and spacious leaving room for the vocals to shine through and really add to the groove, in a similar way to bands like Jungle approach melody. It needed a commercial dance pop sound with a Sci-Fi twist to match the movies aesthetic. I used futuristic synths and sound design along with powerful gritty drums and bass to achieve this.

White Noise takes it down a notch with more atmospheric elements. I wanted to depict the essence of a dystopian landscape through the elements of the sound world and vocal melody. The lyrics also backup the story line with regards to the ‘Noise’ which plagues all living creatures.

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30 Day Music Marathon

I set myself the personal challenge to write a piece of music a day for 30 days from the 9th of January 2018. I haven't set any restrictions to the style of music therefore allowing me the freedom to create whatever I choose fit. I wanted to do it as a means to practice writing material under pressure and quickly without it being substandard in quality; plus it is a good platform for me to promote my music and to build my composition portfolio. 

 

Day 1 - Tiger Bay

This track was written for wildlife photographer -Dan Abbott's- up coming 5 vlogs, filming Tiger Sharks at Tiger Beach in the Bahamas. I used the ocean as an influence towards my sound creating big atmospheric spaces with use of reverb and delays. I chose piano as the main instrument which I feel represents the idea of water as is so often the case for example in the iconic music of 'Thomas Newman' in the films 'Find Nemo' and 'Finding Dory'. I also had in mind that this was for a vlog so I wanted to keep the energy levels high but with quieter sections that Dan could use to back the dialogue. 

Day 2 - Meteor

I had Dan Abbott's Shark vlogs in mind for this one. High energy and contrasting sections was my aim to give Dan a variety of sounds to work with. I used a mix of real and electronic instruments with a contemporary feel to the production quality. Dan's aim has always been to reveal the shark's peaceful nature rather then the stereotypical aggressive portrayal. From 1:08 I created a calmer atmosphere using piano and strings to link with Dan's message. 

Day 3 - The Isotope

Continuing on from the calming influence of the previous track I focused on atmospherics and soundscapes. The depiction of lying on a beach on a warm summers day was the imagery that I wanted to reflect on, taking the listener to a happy place uplifting the spirit. 

Day 4 - Rumours

For this track I wanted to integrate real life samples, sourcing material from the likes of ticking clocks, flipping magazine pages, my voice (1:30-2:00) and (2:30-2:50), rattle snake and Indian meditation singing bowls. I built all these elements up to produce different aspects of the rhythms and flow exploring progressive house styles and trip hop. 

Day 5 - Monolith

Inspired by action movie soundtracks particularly Junkie XL's score for 'Mad Max Fury Road', I wrote an epic cinematic trailer style track. I've always wanted to produce this style of music and have attempted it in the past but feel as though I have succeeded in doing so now. Mixing heavy distorted electronics with the classic huge Hollywood Orchestra. 

Day 6 - The Master Plan

In a similar vain to the last track this one is Inspired by gaming soundtracks, from the likes of League of Legends, Skyrim, The witcher, Halo and COD. I wanted to gradually develop the piece using the same harmonic movement throughout but with dramatic changes in orchestration and feel with an unexpected twist at the end. The concept behind the piece was to represent the feelings and emotions expressed in the anticipation before and during battle. 

Day 7 - Rain Drop

As the name describes, I was inspired by rain fall as I wrote this piece in my conservatory. The heavens opened and hammered it down on the roof, creating a powerful back drop to my composition. The piece took unexpected developments in the writing process beginning as just a soft solo piano piece and building into an upbeat dance anthem. The emotions I wanted to convey was that of self empowerment; picking yourself up when your down. The track builds on syncopated rhythms following a 3/4 metre that move in and out of beat in every bar. 

Track 8 - E.A.C

Written for and inspired by my partner Evie while I stayed with her in London. The melody is representative of her character taking a motif from one of her favourite films to sing around the flat. She encouraged me to write something a little more stripped back knowing this might be a little more of a challenge for me using only piano, strings and clarinet. 

Track 9 - Over The horizon

This is one of the only pieces that I have written just for strings (bar the clarinet at the end). It's structure formed of two halves (A and B section) The first minute being a slow moving wash of rich chordal voicing's with many suspensions and scrunchy harmonisations. very much delving down the style of cinematic string. The second half builds on one motif gradually developing into a huge wall of sound with the soaring melody cutting through on the Violins, and ending on a softer reharmonisation of the above melody.

Track 10 - Miracles

This track is written in memory of my Grandad Peter whose funeral I had attended the day before writing it. I wanted to emphasise both his caring and positive nature in the uplifting middle passage expressing the joy that he injected into so many peoples lives but also to have a moment of reflection in the sections prior to and afterwards. I hope the piece sends a positive and powerful message to anyone else who may have lost somebody close to them. 

Day 11 - Bounce

This track is the first collab of my 30 day music challenge co produced with my good friend Will Heaton aka VVilhelm! The track all started with me laying down the sax riff which plays throughout the track and we built the track up around that anchor point. Will played in the bass line and synth parts which along with the drums really gave it that groovy bouncy feel that we were after. We look to further work on this track and release it as part of our up coming catalogue of material we have been working on under the name of VV_ZZ due for summer release!

Day 12 - Flow Motion

After getting the sax out for the previous track Bounce I was keen for it to make an appearance again. Inspired by day 4's track Rumours I wanted to write another progressive dance/ house track. Sadly this time I didn't have quite the recording set up as was available at Will's the day before... Instead I recorded the sax in my conservatoire with an SM58 mic balanced on my midi keyboard (lent mic stand to friend) and had to lean over at a right angle to get the sweet spot on the mic. If you like high energy dance music with catchy sax lines go check this one out...

Day 13 - Sorry Was It something i said

My first hip-hop stroke grime stroke all out jungle beat. When setting out to write this track I started out thinking I was going to go down the Jazzy hip hop route with the initial piano chords however that quickly turned to something a little heavier with a darker twist... 

Day 14 - What We are

After so many days in a row of continuous writing I felt my creativity sapping a little bit so to help me with my lack of inspiration I flicked through the vimeo staff picks and found myself inspired by the visuals on a particular glitchy Si-Fi film. I ended up writing the track along side the visuals. 

Day 16 - Spectrum

The piece was inspired by the likes of Max Richter, Jóhann Jóhannsson and Hans Zimmer to name a few. I love the way Max can paint such a story with such a simple piano motif through lots of repetition. I wanted to start the piece in a similar way with a slowly evolving wash of sound that draws you in. Orchestrally speaking I feel its inspired by some of Hans Zimmer's work such as 'Time' focusing on one idea and building the textures of the orchestra around it. Similarly I love how a lot of Icelandic artists such as Sigur Ros build up thematic material in such an epic way gradually taking the listener on a journey.

Day 17 - Tea

Tea was written for a short film Directed by Will Garrood. It needed to be something none intrusive that would just help set the scene, complimenting the mood of the dialogue. 

 

 

Day 18 - aerial ace

Aerial Ace has a commercial dance feel and if I had more time would have loved to accompany the track with some vocals preferably female going more in the direction of tracks like Cold Skin by Seven Lions. 

 

 

 

Day 19 - Hanoi

Inspired by a film I saw about Vietnam. I studied Indian Hindustani Classical music whilst at university but other than that I rarely delve into the world music scene so I really enjoyed writing this track. I faced a few challenges in writing the piece as I only had virtual instruments at my disposal. I wanted it to sound as organic and natural as possible so to keep the authentic nature of the style. To create the main melodic line I used an alto flute sample instrument adding pitch bending to replicate that used in the Vietnamese flute the sáo.  

Day 20 - Hop Skip Jump

This track was written with influences from my jazz background and my new found love for hip hop. It has a smooth jazzy neo soul vibe which would lend well to a soul singer and or rapper. I didn't have a chance to finish this track in time however I look to finishing it in the near future. 

 

Day 21 - Vortex

I began this piece with the initial 80s synthwave feel like that of composer Cliff Martinez and the Stranger Things composers Kyle Dixon and Michael Stein. However this quickly turned to something a little more heavy almost dubstep influenced with the rippling rolling bass. I wanted to create a sense of mystery throughout the track something perhaps other worldly with dark and sinister under tones. The track features me on Sax and Will Heaton on Trombone. 

Day 22 - The Wandering albatross

Having very little time to write a track that day I went for a short but sweet commercial style track. I wanted it to be playful and positive with an uplifting feeling perfect for an Andrex puppy advert or the like. 

 

 

 

Day 23 - The fuzz

This track marked the final week of my 30 day music marathon! It's a smooth saxy track with an industrial hip hop tone to it! Inspired by a short film I saw on the subject of police brutality. 

 

 

Day 24 - Lost souls

Lost Souls is one of my personal favourites from the 30 day challenge so far. The introductory piano part and outro really tied the piece together, painting a picture that both acted as the calm before the storm and the aftermath as we enter the quiet and tranquil eye of the storm. With the large majority of the mid section acting as a gradual build ending on a vast wall of sound mixing both orchestral and electronic instrumentation. The back bone element to the crescendo is the gradually rising distorted drums that seem to appear from nothing.

Day 25 - porcelain 

Porcelain (nothing to do with the Moby track) was written to accompany a Flow Motion film I saw on Vimeo at Norwich cathedral. I was going for an uplifting positive track that had a fair bit of momentum and drive behind it. Unusually I wanted the instrumentation to be more minimalist trying to avoid it getting to dense. I was lent an acoustic bass guitar so wanted to make the most of having it. I took a versatile approach to using the instrument using it for many different functions. I did this by manipulated it with FX in different ways such as pitching it down an octave to add another fatter layer at 1:25 and playing very high up the range to mimic a guitar, like that at 0:14.

The driving force of this piece is the rhythmic element much more then say the melodic side. The track is full of syncopated rhythms and triplets. 

Day 26/27 - Deaths door

Deaths Door is a horror soundtrack with a combination of influences from cult classics like Psycho and The Shining to more modern interpretations of horror soundtracks especially the work of Benjamin Wallfisch with such scores as IT and Annabelle: Creation. The piece was a fairly large project and had around 45+ tracks and took me two days to complete. Due to the sheer scale and length of the piece I let myself off having the extra day to complete it. Although the piece had some thematic material the main focus was the sound world and atmosphere that the piece created. I wanted it to take the listener on a journey and push them out of there comfort zone with the eerie sinister atmospheres created through both the orchestration and the sound design. The sound design was sometimes just as important if not more so then the orchestra itself, the glitching raw data sounds mixed with time stretched audio and deep sub bass anchors and glues the twisted muted trumpets and trilling chilling hum of the strings from 1:40 up towards the gritty climax at 2:16. At this point the driving force is now the orchestra.  

day 28 - adventure is out there

A short and sweet piece written with the intention of being picked up by some form of advertisement with a positive get up and go feel.  

 

 

day 29 - Evolving skies

Evolving Skies is a thought provoking, moody and futurist piece. I could imagine the piece being the back drop to a space voyage. The melody evolves from the simplistic piano line that opens the piece securing a sense of place and harmony. This is then embellished with the introduction of the arpeggiated cellos and violas which outline F major 1st inversion to F minor 1st Inversion chords. The piece then ascends to the soaring counter melodies in the Violins at 1:45. I used some unusual percussion to build the layers between 1:05 - 1:27. I used a rain stick to add an atmospheric wash of sound along with shakers and reverse floor tom and rim click rolls.  

Day 30 - the final chapter

And here it is, THE FINAL TRACK (suitably named) I thought I'd end it all on a really filthy track so if you like dance music with a heavy beat hopefully you'll enjoy this!...It developed quite a lot as I wrote the piece but instead of scraping all the original ideas I had I wanted to create one coherent track that could move seamlessly from section to section. The track builds to a gritty heavy techno feel which on further listen is some what like the blade soundtrack. I really enjoyed creating the synths for this track It turned out to be a big experiment for me creating new sounds I'd never really approached before.