The visuals of Adonis are over the top. Some of the characters are over the top. The very scenario of Adonis is over the top. Clearly, the music soundtrack needed to go in the same direction to complete the assault on the senses. That could only mean one thing: kazoos!
Film soundtracks are one thing that really got me interested in making movies. Nothing really inspires me more that listening to amazing orchestral soundtracks. I was the weirdo in 7th grade collecting soundtracks on cassettes. In high school, I started making my own music to go along with my projects. I was no Jerry Goldsmith and never will be, but it set a trend for me that whenever a story idea started stirring in my head, a theme or sound would often be swirling with it. This was certainly the case with Adonis. From the very beginning, I knew the dog would require a theme and a voice that projected fun, determination, a touch of arrogance and a dash of whimsy. I couldn’t wait for the day when I got to put on my composer hat and pull out the kazoo to compose the soundtrack.
The Adonis Theme Develops
I think the Adonis theme started developing on set as James Snyder (Kip) would often sing in between takes (he’s a Broadway star, so it was quite a treat). What if Adonis was a musical? What would the dog sing? Here’s what I thought:
I am Adonis!
I am Adonis!
OK, that’s as far as I got with the lyrics. But the jaunty theme stuck in my head as I shot the film. It was there when I edited. It was there when I went running on the beach, rode my bike or went grocery shopping. It was there when I went to one of the last INXS concerts. Instead of singing along to “I Need You Tonight” I was thinking “I am Adonis!” Basically, it became worse than “It’s a Small World.” I was stuck compositing green screen for over two years and that theme tormented me until I finally declared “Picture Lock” on May 20, 2012. At long last it was time to get it out of my head and into the movie soundtrack.
Bring on the Kazoos!
For the music techies, I compose using a Roland Fantom X8 to control my collection of East/West Platinum Orchestra and Choir samples sequenced through Apple Logic. It was fun giving Adonis a different sound than most as I often used Tuba and Trombone to sing the theme. I also whistled, hummed, sang “doo doo doo” and used dog squeaky toys. But when Adonis, the character, kicked into gear, the kazoo came out. I temporarily recorded myself on kazoo as I built the layers. Trust me: my kazoo performances sounded terrible. I’m sure my landlords and neighbors questioned my sanity. Listening to myself playing kazoo on the recordings, I questioned my sanity too.
Playing a kazoo in tune is a lot more difficult than we realized. Playing separately by ourselves, the sound is rather unpleasant. In fact, it’s kind of dreadful. However, once we heard the harmonies recorded, it was quite exciting. I’d say downright glorious.
The Adonis Drumline
Besides kazoo, I really wanted to use marching percussion. Probably because I marched with the USC Trojan Marching Band and love drum and bugle corps, I’m sort of obsessed with that syncopated drive of marching drums. Adonis is on a mission. He’s marching towards a goal. He’s hip. Marching drums made sense to me.
To create the “Adonis Drumline,” I asked my friend Brandon Operchuck, to be the arranger. He recruited Jonathan Poldberg to perform and Andrew Tomlin to be the recording engineer. Down in the small mixing room at the USC radio station, Brandon and Jonathan would work out what the drums should do in each of the soundtrack cues. The parts weren’t written out so I found it quite exciting how talented drummers could come up with such great rhythms and patterns just by listening to the music a few times. They would record each cue section by section. Each drum was recorded separately: first the snare, then pull out the tenors, then the bass drum. Then move on to the next section and do that rotation again. Finally they recorded a series of cymbal crashes and swells that could be placed anywhere in the soundtrack. [vimeo]https://vimeo.com/70340861[/vimeo]
Andrew not only mixed and edited the drums, he mixed all of the elements of the entire Adonis music soundtrack. I was so thrilled with all the drums that I wanted them to be louder. Wisely, Andrew kept them at the proper balance. It was great having these guys put their effort and talent into adding a new dimension to the soundtrack. I think the marching drums add a pop and clarity that couldn’t be created using digital samples.
Creating the soundtrack to Adonis was one of the most fun parts of making the movie. It’s that final touch that gives the film a new flavor that wasn’t there before. Just like the world of Adonis, the soundtrack features real elements with “fake” ones. I think it worked out really well. Thank you to everyone who made this fun music soundtrack possible!
Hear a clip of the music in the Adonis Trailer: