• Tag Archives music
  • Outsourced to Cole Wimpee – Angels In America

    Well I’ve done it again. I just finished my work on the sound design for a new production of “Angels In America Part 1: Millennium Approaches”. My dear friend Cole Wimpee, the brilliant director and most elevated thespian, was directing a production of the play, in partial fulfillment of his Master’s Degree, at the University of Arkansas.

    As most of you know, I’ve worked extensively with Cole Wimpee in the past, but always under the auspices of Aztec Economy. I am a member of Aztec Economy! (I went through an elaborate initiation ritual that I’m not allowed to talk about, but there was a coffin involved.) About eighty percent of my theatrical outsourcings have been with Aztec Economy. Some of my best friends are Aztec Economy. But this time it was just me and Cole, and we talked through the script on the phone over the course of about six weeks, I took detailed notes, and I only missed one thing! I didn’t know there was supposed to be rain in Act 2 Sc 3.

    What a dope! But I did remember the other 58 cues, so that’s not a bad batting average. And four of those cues are 10 minute soundscapes that I made for each of the two intermissions. There are four cues, because the first two I created were completely wrong! And I had to redo them!

    For my first attempt at the Intermission Cues I created two ten-minute soundscapes incorporating background elements from the scenes just before intermission. On top of those sounds, which the audience would have already heard and had been allowed to enjoy once again, I layered some music elements from the sound design for the show, notably, several distinctive drum cadences. I put these dozen or so drum cadences into a folder called “Gay Republicans”. That was my first instinct for the sound design for this play. Provocative, no? But there are gay republicans in the play, most notably the legendary political attorney Roy Cohn.

    Unfortunately, in my first attempts at intermissions, I didn’t make the gay republicans loud enough for Cole Wimpee. He yelled, “We’ve gotta keep these college kids in the theater for three hours! Your brilliantly executed and lovely soundscapes will put them all to sleep!” You gotta hand it to Cole. He’s a great director. Because what happened next I can only describe as a complete surprise. I had already had more than a couple all night sessions working on the other 40+ cues for the actual play, plus a thirteen minute pre-show sonic montage that I had completed the night before.

    I knew he wanted more drumming, so I re-recorded some of the earlier drum cues, and started layering a small number of elements, and then I was saved. I rediscovered the ‘space designer’ reverb plugin in Logic. Inside that are ‘warped’ spaces that contain resonant drones on top of the reverb, and the drums were totally activating the resonance of those silly drone spaces, and I said to myself, “Wow. That’s pretty cool. Military drums and electronica, together at last.” And I was right of course. They were together at last.

    People ask me, “Hey you, what’s it like to make crap like that all the time? Huh?” But that’s OK. You can’t please everybody half the time, but you can please somebody all of the time, as Abraham Lincoln didn’t say. And if that person is you – even better! But the nice thing about being outsourced, is that you don’t have to worry about these things. You just make your stuff and try to imagine what the director is looking for. Most of the time this is simple for ambient noises, though I did learn that you really have to muffle the equalization for ringing phones and traffic sirens. Even when the board is set on the lowest level, those sounds still cut through unless you turn down their their fundamental frequencies. Sound is so cool.

    So the intermission cues were for Cole. Cole said make it louder, so I made what I would consider to be my loudest twenty minutes. Keep in mind, its premiere was in a large University theater, with a sizable sound system. On opening night I wondered to myself what levels they set for that music. After all, there were hundreds of people for opening night – totally sold out of course. But it’s fun to make cool music for the young people, who really need cool music. And it is here that I need to share with you the greatest website for recorded natural sounds, all open-source community driven user-uploaded recorded sounds. I found some great wind, traffic, phones, distant airplanes, and all sorts of wonderful sounds that people record and share with the freesound.org community. I have not yet contributed anything of my own, but I hope to some day. Go to freesound.org and join for free and check out and download all the wildest sounds you’ll ever want to hear. From all around the world! The goto website for the low budget sound designer working in academia, and maybe for you too!

    Here is the pair of my ten-minute musical adventures (Intermission 1 and Intermission 2) used in Cole Wimpee’s legendary production of Tony Kushner’s “Angels In America:  Millennium Approaches” at the University of Arkansas.



  • Happyman is Back

    As most of you know Happyman has been on hiatus. (Sorry!). But now he is back. I have put together this little synopsis episode of the first act of the opera. (The first eleven episodes of Happyman comprise Act I of the opera. Episode 12 revealed Ratboy Genius as the creator and he invites Happyman and Green Monster out with him on their day off. Ep. 13 also took place outside of the Opera and depicted a typical sojourn to Washington D.C. for the trio.)

    When I began working on this project, I did not have a plan for the story or the music. At first I just took them one at a time and saw what happened. Then people started asking me what was going to happen to George. . . And I realized that I should probably think about things a little bit more. The fly-by-the-seat-of-my-pajamas approach took me safely up to the end of Act I (ep. 11).

    And then summer break came, and then school started again, and then I managed to get my house guest’s stuff out of my apartment, and then I started working on Happyman again.

    In the meantime, somebody sent HM 12 to somebody, and a small viral attack began on YouTube. It wasn’t just that so many people were viewing the video, but many were commenting and writing to me. Many of the comments were thoughtful and appreciative. Many were outlandishly abusive. I had to delete many comments with foul language and perverse sexual suggestions. The children!

    I was faced for the first time with the problem of having a community of critics and fans for my work on a broad scale.

    And for a while I fought with the pressure to respond favorably, and then with the pressure to ignore, and finally hit upon a new attitude with new techniques and hopefully recognizing the great challenges to get this story through season two. And I realized that even though e12 and e13 had many thousands of views, but actual Opera was averaging a very small percentage of that. So I realized very few people were paying attention to this after all, and I had nothing to worry about.

    Before the second season starts and to get you caught up with the events of Act I, I created this little teaser, a sort of “Previously: On Happyman” T.V. spot.

  • i ching – the creative

    Several years ago I composed a multimedia piece that used categories from the i ching as inspiration for a musical suite. I performed on piano, harpsichord, and a casio keyboard, operated a slide projector with slides that I created for each i ching category with photos I took in Tahiti. I also precomposed a two-channel tape part and some MIDI music for the Casio to play by itself and in the ensemble.

    The whole piece is here: http://www.ryandorin.com/undersky.html

    Today I came across some of that old music and decided to create an electronic score and a new video. This is the “creative” category. In the piece, the rhythm of the words are used to generate the music, and in the video, the line from the musical score with the words scrolls by on a ribbon.

    The words are:

    the creative – great success benefits the upright and true.


  • Happyman 12 – Intermission

    The episode opens in the office of the Ratboy Genius, in the top of the Castle in Ratboy’s Kingdom. RBG has finally revealed himself as the creator/composer/director/producer of the new exciting opera, “The Adventures of Happyman on the Red Planet”. And he is so impressed with his friends who have been starring in the production.

    It is a day off from shooting the opera, so the Ratboy Genius has invited his good friend Happyman to visit him in his office. They sing their own version of the Ratboy’s Theme Song (originally featured in Ratboy Genius #9). Then they both go down to the pool to pick up the Green Monster, who is floating there. Ratboy can’t resist the temptation to dive off his high diving board, where he scores a perfect 10 with a smooth entry and very little splash.

    The three friends all get into Ratboy’s little red buggy and drive through the magical tunnel over to Kingdom Studios for a tour of the opera sets on the studio sound stages. We see the grand entrance of the Kingdom Studios, and drive down the corridor and into Studio G. They drive the little red buggy through some of our favorite locations from the Red Planet and a grand finale ensues where they speculate on what will happen next in the opera, “The Adventures of Happyman on the Red Planet”.

  • RD Orchestra 2009 “The Adventure”

    This is the latest collection from the RDO, and represents a departure from the previous work. This collection contains music that is more hip-hop inspired than previous collections.

    “The Adventure” is an abstract concept linking all of these collected pieces together. The sequence of pieces is meant to represent a continuous journey through a night, mayhaps with various stops along the way, while both looking for, and knowing exactly where, the action is taking place. You know what I mean.

    The album is now available for sale as a download, including the video!


    I made a little video for the first song:

  • RD Orchestra Children’s Collection

    In a sense, all of the RDO collections are for children. This one is just most obviously for young listeners.


    The first track is a rarity. In fact, this might be the first available get together of the RDO. The music was composed as a piano piece when I was seventeen years old, and later orchestrated on synthesizers and recorded when I was in college. I had to rip it off an old cassette tape.

    The second track, “Nursery Rhyme”, is one of the most popular RDO song of all time. Kids of all ages fall asleep to this one. It is designed to be played as a loop. You should really listen to it at least three times in a row for the full effect.

    “Atonal Lullaby” is a corruption of the famous Brahms Lullaby. I created this while teaching a twentieth-century music theory course at NYU. Again, perhaps inspired by Charles Ives.

  • RD Orchestra Debut Collection 2004

    This is where it all began.


    It was summer of 2004, and I was living in Brooklyn and completing my dissertation and NYU. Perhaps as a diversion, I began to play around with some new (for me) music production techniques, combining MIDI sequencing and digital sampling. I ended up with eight tracks timing just under 40 minutes.

    I even made a little video for the first track, “Powell Comes Clean”. We were all surprised and not surprised when Colin Powell came out with the allegations that the information he used to sell the Iraq War to the United Nations in 2003 was basically fiction collated by the CIA from various questionable sources. Rather than to portray indignant outrage as so many Bush-haters were doing at the time, I attempted to turn this into thoughtful meditation illuminating the clash of forces that resulted in this fiasco.

    Also notable in this collection is the first musical expression of the Ratboy Genius (the figurehead character of my cultural empire). Though first a musical piece, I quickly created my first (unofficial) Ratboy Genius video of “The Adventures of Ratboy Genius in Ratboy’s Kingdom”. This rare video doesn’t appear in the standard collection of adventures, and is something between a prototype and a pilot for the series. I didn’t know at the time how far I was going to develop this series. Though the character himself was not developed yet, you can see many of the locations that would later be used in the official series (Prospect Park, Brooklyn). For you Ratboy Genius fans, this is certainly a curiosity. (The soundtrack was used again for Chapter 2 of the official series).


    The last track in this collection was created on July 4, 2004. From time to time I revisit the classic song “America the Beautiful”. I use this song to try to come to terms with my feeling of the state of affairs in this nation. At the time I was not overly optimistic about our involvement in Iraq and the Bush administration’s sacrifice of civil liberties and individual privacy in the name of national security. And listening to it now, I think I was probably inspired by Charles Ives.