Tony Gallichan is Mildly Perturbed by... Mr Dalek
I'm going to tell you a story. Its a simple kind of story. It involves a short story, some music, some narration and a psychotic killing machine, one and a quarter inches high...
As has become tradition here at Staggering Stories, every Christmas we present to our viewer a little present. A new instalement of the Dalek Empire series featuring your hero and mine, Mr Dalek. So I thought that this year I'd give you a little background on them.
Well, as you see, this years one has been...difficult to complete and the tale does need to be told as I'm hoping it'll make you laugh your socks off.
Dalek Empire IV was fairly simple..the narration went well and I set about doing the music for it. I kept it fairly simple, a few familiar Doctor Who related pieces, Macfadyan's Folly from the Buccaneer Chronicles as well as a couple of Christmas carols - and a little tip of the hat to the Box of Delights.
The next year, Dalek Empire V, the music was far trickier...I ended up using stock pieces I already had - make up wavs of music for a Time Lord In Prince Henry's Court and a couple of pieces I'd done as tests for the Schrodinger Effect, but they seemed to fit.
This year, however, it all went very very pair shaped indeed.
Karen had written the new story in October. I then spent a while trying to wrap my tongue around it. Its in the style of Dr. Seuss, an author Im not familar with. Could I get my head around the thing? Could I bollocks.
And all the time the clock was ticking.
Then it all came to a head about two weeks ago. I thought we had one more update before Christmas aside from the last one, just gone. We didn't. I'd missed the deadline.
Frantic begging to Adam won me an extra update - this one. So, I had to knuckle down to it.
Then it happened.
Viewers with short shoes and long metronomes may recall a couple of musings I've written previously on the subject of Space Mumps. Yup, you guessed it...they struck me...and struck me hard. I won't go into details. It's Christmas and your going to have enough grossness facing those spawn of Satan, Brussel sprouts - why do you do it????? You know you all hate them!!!!!
Anyway, I got the Space Mumps the worst I've had them in years - well, except for that time I managed to poison myself with a plug in air freshener - I kid you not!
Great. So, whilst Im all very very bunged up indeed, nasaly speaking, recording the narration is out of the question. And then..
This wasn't fair. How the hell could all these things be happening to me at once? I'm sure that Keith has paid another contingent of cosmic forces to poke me with a stick. It's just the sort of thing he'd do, you know....
On top of which I had to balance time doing Mr Dalek with spending time with my girlfriend. Thankfully she's been very understanding and patient.
So, I did have plans, at least, for the music. I desperatly wanted to include the Bad Wolf theme as I hadn't heard anyone else do it. I knew I'd have to do another Christmassy version of the Doctor Who theme, but to be honest, I couldn't come up with a new angle. But anyway, I knuckled down to it. The resulting opening Doctor Who theme is rather funereal. It's going to be put up on the site in our first update in 2006 and you'll see what I mean.
In the mean time I've been a regular visitor to the Whomix site - google it - its well worth a visit. Two tracks there leaped out at me. I'd been following the progress of Hardwire's mixes. He'd managed to reconstitute a Delia Derbyshire bassline and done a very good job at it. He was using it as a basis for his own version of the theme. He'd posted each new stage, each new mix up on his site and it had been fascinating to follow the developement of it.
Then he blew the whole Doctor Who theme fan community away, leaving everyone else for dust.
He came out with a track entitled 'Good as Gold'. And it was superb. He had, from scratch, done a cover of the Murrey Gold version of the Doctor Who theme, the version used for the 2005 new series. Now, I've come to respect Murrey's version of the theme..it's actually very clever, the key to it being that string arpeggio. Hardwire had done a simply perfect cover of it. However, he'd gone a few steps further. He had accentuated the original Delia Bassline so it was clearly audible. And he had put the middle eight, the break, whatever you wish to call it, back into the mix. And quite right too. He followed it up with a version of the closing theme from the same series with the brass melody and double restatement of the main melody before the radiophonics kick in. Again, the middle eight was placed back in. There's no samples from the Murrey Gold TV theme...Hardwire had painstakingly recreated every sound, perfectly. So impressed was I by these two tracks I did something unheard of in Staggering Stories history. I offered to allow his versions to be presented in our audio section, a place that until now, was solely my reserve. I mean it...It was supposed to be just me. My domain, ahahahahahahahaha!!!
Anyway, he's accepted and the first track is up this update...
However, something about his mix intrigued me. It was the Radiophonics. These can't have been taken from any version of the theme currently in release. Now, I knew he'd got his reconstituted bassline, but it was the melody - where the hell had that appeared from?
I asked - and he kindly pointed me in the right direction.
Danny and Ian Stewart were exceptionally good to me. They are also incredibly talented. They very kindly indeed gave me a perfect version of the Delia Derbyshire Bassline as well as pure, beautiful Radiophonic melodies from the original theme. To me, these represent the Holy Grail of Doctor Who composers. Mark Ayres, very rightly, guards the original make up tapes of the theme very closely indeed. Personally, I think the original make up tapes of Delia's theme should be declared art and have a preservation order placed on them.
However, I had to start the piece somehow, and as I hadn't recorded the narration I didn't really know the length of it. I had done a rough estimate, but by now, the Space Mumps were taking hold very badly, the toothache was worse then ever and my head was as foggy as Barnes Common on a cold night in November 1963, and so the estimate was way, way out.
So, I thought I'd go down the usual route, choir, cello, the wineglass noise that is actually the 'goblins' sound from the Creative Soundblaster Live 8 meg built in soundfont. However, the trouble is, I couldn't really find anything new to say. At one point it was going to have timpanni, brass etc running through it. Well, I played it into cakewalk and it sounded terrible.
And the clock was still ticking.
So, I looked at it again. I put in a church organ bassline, slow and ponderous, cello melody, soon joined by the winglass noise and further in I played in, on the music box, a version of the Murrey Gold String arpeggio.
It sounded like a funeral dirge.
However, once recorded off and tweaked in cool edit, it was almost, almost, passable.
Then I did the Bad Wolf theme. I was going to come up with a lovely chord sequence around it, but....well, something didn't sit right with it. So, it got stripped down to the wineglass noise as the main melody and an occerana (spelling??) counter melody, both from the Creative soundfont. To finish it off, I added a tremmelo strings and string ensemble bridge from the opening Who theme into Bad Wolf.
Then came the fun part.
I took the Delia bassline that Danny and Ian had given me into Cool Edit, copied it, saved the copy off as a different file name, closed the original down and set to work on re editing it. I needed a longer intro section as well as a longer section in the middle before the Scream kicks in, a two bar section like Murrey Gold uses in his closing version - and to show where the middle eight could go in hios version for the end of two parters, lol, as well as a longer ending. That done I needed to start to put in place some new melodies and harmonies. The first thing was the choir.
And the clock's ticking was getting louder.
I thought, 'Tony, you need to make this easier so you can get it done quicker'. So I decided to record the choir in three parts. A two note chord sequence for the main theme, another one note sequence with just one other note involved, and then a three finger chord sequence for the middle eights.
It took me an hour and a half to do a simple two note chord sequence. In fact, I got so fed up with it the first night, I stormed off and didn't return to the piece till the next day.
Anyway, it was done. I slowley started to do the rest of the tracks, the quiet organ, the wineglass melody, (and countepoint once the radiophonics kick in), the cello etc. I did the Murrey Gold string arpeggio but I simpley couldn't get it to sound right - the notes were there, but the strings sounded wrong. They should be sharply finished, not bleeding into one another. I didn't want to use Hardwire's strings, even though he had kindly offered them. So I ended up with a mix sans Gold strings.
Something wasn't right. I couldn't put my fingers on it. So, I gave in and quietly placed Hardwire's strings into the mix.
So, I mixed it all down to one file.
The scream niggled me...it didn't seem right. So I grabbed the scream from the end of the last part of The Sirens Of Time and merged it to sound like it should do from the cliffhanger scream of the Pertwee/Baker years.
So, I mixed it all down to one file.
I sent it off to Hardwire and the Stewarts - they'd been so good to me over the use of their sounds I felt I had to. Hardwire made the suggestion that the scream was now too loud and would basically make everyone jump through the ceiling when it kicked in. He was quite right.
Danny pointed out something also. I'd done the Bad Wolf theme from memory from The Parting of the Ways.
I'd got it very, very slightly wrong.
So, I went back, re edited the scream and I mixed the whole thing into one again. Danny and Ian then kindly sent me a quick example of Bad Wolf for reference. This was the Sunday night before the update deadline. I also had the narration to do.
I did the narration. Thankfully the Space Mumps had eased slightly so I don't sound quite as stuffy nosed as I nowadays usually do, lol.
Then I went back to the theme. I opened up the midi file again and made the changes to Bad Wolf. I then recorded it off, remixed it all, redid the finished story track....done. Finished.
I heard it through and realised I still hadn't got Bad Wolf right.
I nearly wept.
So, at two thirty am, the Monday of the deadline, I had to set up my equipement again and redo Bad Wolf - again. I realised that I'd have to add an extra note, however, just to make the melody and counter melody fit, but it seems to have worked. I also took the opportunity to correct a tiny mistake in the counter melody, one that had been niggling away at me.
Then I mixed them all down - again. Redid the mp3's and Oggs - again.
And I now finish typing this at seven thiry the Monday morning of the deadline.
You'll hear a couple of different versions of the music in the next couple of updates. One has the original opening funeral dirge that I realised wasn't needed when the length of the narration was discovered. The other is the first mix of the end theme without the Hardwire/Gold strings.
So, my very very grateful thanks and appreciation to Danny and Ian Stewart for the Derbyshire Bassline and Melody, and to Chris (Hardwire) for the use of his Murrey strings.
Update - Monday...
Oh dear. So there I am, early this morning after writing the previous, and listening to the piece...just to make sure and what do I find? Somewhere, somehow, but not in the summertime, one of the tracks has been cut off...instead of gently, naturally fading, it just stops. How the hell it happened is anyone's guess. So this evening, what am I doing? Yup, going back into Cool Edit and correcting it. Then its mix, mp3 and ogg...yet a bloody gain....
will I never be free of the bloody thing?
(I'm still not happy with the Bad Wolf bit, you know.....)
Tony Gallichan is now a complete physical and mental wreck.