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Notes From The Deadline

TV Music From The Inside By Paul Farrer
Published December 2008

Progress is a wonderful thing, if you're a composer of music for the media and you dream of a poolside studio in the Bahamas.

Your clients won't care whether you make your music in the studio or on the beach. And the beach definitely has its plus points.Your clients won't care whether you make your music in the studio or on the beach. And the beach definitely has its plus points.Not so long ago, my studio was crammed floor to ceiling full of equipment: ADATs, mixing desks, outboard gear, patchbays and a huge tea–chest full of cables. These days it's a Mac, a pair of screens, two speakers and a sofa. If you exclude software, the entire physical contents could probably be replaced for about 15 grand. I'm even at about 70 percent capacity with nothing but my MacBook and a pair of headphones. And I love it. In fact, my studio is so bereft of studio equipment, I even had a kid on work experience slope off indignantly after a couple of days because he said he was disappointed there wasn't a really huge mixing desk in there, like he was expecting.

You've Never Had It So Good

Don't talk to me about your racks of vintage compressors, your esoteric plate reverb that takes up half a room or the analogue console you need to get serviced every three months. You think older is better? You're an idiot.

I spent the first four years of my career battling with a two–inch 24–track tape machine that used to hate me. My life was a constant struggle against head alignment, tape warping, wow, flutter and SMPTE timecode bleed. You think updating software every now and again cramps your style? Try having a reel of two–inch tape (you know, the kind you can't back up anyway) snap, unravel and fly across the room at 30 inches per second.

Sand In The Laptop

It can only be a matter of weeks before we get a mini version of Logic Pro appear in the iPhone Apps Store, and I, for one, can't bloody wait. If you compose and produce music for a living, you have essentially a portable job, and you should make the most of it. Write music for TV? Even better. Your clients certainly don't care where you are. They just want you to do your job, and if you have your studio in a briefcase and can get to some form of Internet connection, why shouldn't you be sitting under an olive tree by a swimming pool in a hot country while doing your job? That's where I am. Right now.

The best work is work that you can do quickly. And it's a good thing, because if you get a call from a TV company asking you to submit some ideas for a project, you'd better get your skates on. They tend to expect at least three finished broadcast–quality recordings within 48 hours.

Lucky for us, then, that music technology has never been as cheap, powerful, inspiring and easy to use as it is today. And, more importantly, it allows you to quickly get your job done and off to the client so that some teenaged production intern can compare your work to that of the 20 other composers who have also been asked to submit ideas, then pick the demo that sounds most like whichever band they happen to be into that week. It's a great job, so stop moaning.