Brian LaGuardia


Composer, Orchestrator, Arranger

Heir to the Empire

Heir to the Empire I’ve been following along with the new Star Wars material by Disney as a life-long fan of the franchise. As a result, it has not gone unnoticed that they are dropping a lot of hints for fans of the Expanded Universe novels (now called Star Wars: Legends) that Thrawn is about to become the new big bad. Obviously I’m very excited about that, but simultaneously it filled me with a bit of sadness and nostalgia, because the original Thrawn story is something we’ll never actually get. The cast is too old (in some cases no longer with us), and the franchise’s sensibilities have all but moved on. Therefore, I was inspired to write an original soundtrack for the book that started it all; the book that had me totally enraptured and obsessed at the tender age of eight and eager for more EU stories. Well, I’m pleased to say that samples have evolved to a point where I can (reasonably) confidently do this! My plan is to treat this as though it were a movie adaptation of the novel, since it is itself based on a movie franchise. So it follows, naturally, that full orchestra will be the bread and butter of the score, borrowing heavily from John Williams’ style and sensibilities (mainly extremely virtuosic and thematic orchestral work, but also jazz here and there). However, there are some fun, unique opportunities in this story that will allow me to venture into new territory with things like synth and world music, borrowing from the new direction the franchise’s sound has taken with projects like The Mandalorian and Jedi Survivor. Should be a fun time, though a bit intimidating! The first tracks are available via the link to the album below. So much of this book reads like slightly harder scifi than Star Wars normally is, so while I’m largely using the JW brush, I’m also being very judicious about where music should be as opposed to writing wall-to-wall. This is a massive project, and I’ll never be able to profit off of it, so it’ll take quite a bit of time. But I’m having a blast with it, and it’s really pushing my mockup and writing abilities! Below, you’ll find the album page, which will have the mp3s, links to the youtube album and evenutally some BTS content as well on youtube. I’m releasing track-by-track rather than all at once due to these circumstances. Whether you’re a fan of the book or Star Wars in general, I hope you enjoy!

GDC Developer’s Concert

GDC Developer’s Concert One of the many wonderful things about working for Austin Wintory is being along for the ride when he invariably and anually makes history. This year was no exception: he was the mastermind behind the first-ever GDC devleoper’s concert! I had the privelage of working on four of these charts: the two big medleys, God of War and Celeste (the last of which was my arrangement featured at the World Soundtrack Awards, but paired down to a smaller ensemble). The biggest challenge was Austin’s insistence on keeping the big opening medley brutally short in its callouts, which made the transitions extremely challenging to pull of for both myself and the musicians! A lot of these charts proved to be fun challenges, some of my favorites being the ones that weren’t already orchestral. The stand-out in that regard is the Modern Warfare 3 theme, where I have the orchestra immitating the wonkey, harsh synths in the beginning with quarter-tone ad-lib slides in the strings and flutters in the brass. Speaking of musicians, the ones onstage simply crushed it in a very demanding setlist and with only 2 brief runthroughs! The concertmaster was the legendary Paul Cartwright, someone I’ve greatly admired ever since he did a lot of solo work on Bear’s Battlestar Galactica score many years ago. So it was a particular treat to get to meet him backstage! Also worthy of mention was Laura Intravia, pulling triple duty on Flute, Piccolo and a suprisingly amazing operatic voice! Also Kristin Naigus, traditionally accompanied by her small army of winds. The section players were all conservatory students, if you can believe it! San Francisco Conservatory. They did every bit as well as a group of professionals would have in their place. I was actually worried in a couple of spots that it was a bit too technical for so little rehearsal time, but they just crushed it. Dallas Crane, Austin’s assistant, handled the Bioshock chart at the end and did an amazing job closing out the concert, featuring an inceredible vocal solo from Troy Baker. I had heard his voice before on my time working with Stray Gods, but I had no idea he could really open up like that. He absolutely brought the house down, with a fantastic improvised fiddle solo from Cartwright. Here’s hoping this becomes a regular event, because it was easily one of the highlights of GDC for me! Full concert on youtube below!

Celeste at the World Soundtrack Awards

Celeste at the World Soundtrack Awards The honors just keep coming! This time I had the pleasure not only of arranging Lena Raine’s iconic music from the indie game Celeste, but also had the pleasure of e-meeting her and collaborating a bit! The brilliance of this music is apparent, but what was less apparent was how I was going to approach arranging this for live players, given its reliance on synth and the unique compositional opportunities that presents. She was adamant that she didn’t want a medley and instead wanted me to focus only on the main theme, featured in First Steps and Reach for the Summit. So from there, I decided to really delve deep into orchestration for First Steps, giving pretty much everyone a chance to shine. Reach for the Summit required a more direct approach, because there are actually strings in that bit, and the chugging ostinato works just as well in a live context. You’ll note I added things like a wind machine and brass players blowing through their instruments during the transition, which was fun. A lot of orchestration and arranging inspirations went into this one, but the biggest I would say are the amazing piano arrangements by Trevor Alan Gomez. And of course, I couldn’t end without using a Celesta. It is Celeste, after all. 😛 And to my everlasting joy, the performance was recorded! That’s below. Enjoy!

Fear of the Unknown Part II!

Fear of the Unknown, Part II! A while back, I wrote about my friend Thomas Eliot’s new one-shot tabletop horror RPG, and the theme I wrote for it which doubled as the theme for his horror podcast “Invasion of the Pod People.” One year later, I finally had the time to realize my initial vision: to write a full-fledged companion album for the game, which of course includes the main theme. Thomas’ initial direction was “Write a film score that’s a marriage of John Carpenter and Harry Manfredini.” For those of you horror film buffs, this provided a truly exciting opportunity to marry two very distinct styles…and also flaunt a bit of my super nerdy film score appreciation. Everyone knows Manfredini’s score to Friday the 13th: full of orchestral aleatory, piano and crucially, of analog delay, mainly used in the series’ most noteable auditory calling card: ki-ki-ki ma-ma-ma (derived from kill them, mommy). What you may not know, though, is that Manfredini is on record stating that he owed a lot of this score’s success to Jerry Goldsmith’s Alien (1979), which happens to be one of my favorite horror scores of all time with a fascinating backstory that I’ll not get into here. What’s important is, if you take a listen to that OST, you’ll immidiately see why he made that claim: all the same stuff is here! Orchestral aleatory (albeit generally more restrained), and lots of delay, in this case on the cellos and basses playing col legno battuto. In those days, Jerry had to run everything through an echoplex rather than simply slapping a delay plugin on his stem like we do today. So naturally, I threw in a few Alien callbacks in my album, since the goal of this album was mainly to be background for player sessions (though Confrontation does indeed go head-first into Friday the 13th action cue territory, but even there lies a pretty overt Alien nod). Of course, the other part of this marriage was the John Carpenter influence. For that, I turned to his love of the Prophet 5 synth. He often scored whole horror films with just this one piece of equipment, and he was also the director of his films…you don’t see that very often. At any rate, I found a few Omnisphere patches that used the Prophet 5 sound directly, but I didn’t stop there…I made synth an equal partner in this album, which included embracing how far that technology has come in the modern scoring era, while simultaneously trying to hold onto the glorious analog sound of the 80s. That said, since we were using orchestra, I couldn’t help but give a subtle nod to my favorite Carpenter film, which ironically was not scored by him. The Thing is my OTHER favorite horror film/score. That was written by the great Ennio Morricone, who did a remarkable job blending Carpenter’s love of synth with the lush palate of the orchestra. In particular, some of my string work in Inciting Incident and Epilogue are a love letter to this thorougly unsettling cue, when our heroes are investigating the Norwegion camp that has been utterly devistated by something nobody understands as yet. And of course, The Thing’s most iconic bit of score is it’s low synth pulse, which was heavy inspiration for the three eighth note low riff in Fear of the Unknown, because that’s probably the most chilling opening to a film I’ve ever seen. Just a very subtle but inevitable sense of creeping doom. When I asked Thomas how each game would generally go, he basically described phases of a story, since each campagin could potentially be in wildly different settings or time periods. This formed the basis of the structure of the album: Inciting Incident, Investigation, Confrontation and Epilogue. I kept the track names exactly that vauge, again given the massive range of potential settings, and tried to make the album as fitting as possible for any situation. Keenly aware that tabletop RPGs seldom have time to switch tracks, I also took Inciting Incident, Investigation and Confrontation and made them into bonus tracks that actually loop seamlessly on any media player! So if you don’t find one track to your liking but adore, say, Investigation (easily the most minimal of the five), you can just loop that for your entire session, and it will quietly add ambience to your game without intruding. This also marks my first album that has been properly distributed, and is now out on all major platforms! It’s also, as always, available on Bandcamp should you wish to directly support me and own high-quality audio. Links to the RPG, as well as my album are below. Happy Halloween!

Indie Symphony – Video Games in Concert

Indie Symphony – Video Games in Concert This past month, I arranged a bunch of Stray Gods and Celeste music for Orchestra Victoria! It’s always a thrill to arrange Austin Wintory’s glorious music, but it was a particular pleasure to meet Lena Raine and translate her wonderful work on Celeste to orchestra. While Austin’s work is generally more geared towards live musicians, Lena’s was purely synth-based. It’s charming melodies and grooves prooved effortless to work with, a testament to the excellent compositional prowess. Unfortunately, there isn’t any audio or footage of the concert just yet, but I will post here if that changes! Meanwhile, there are a lot of awesome things coming up at the end of the year, including some new releases from yours truly!

Stray Gods: Additional String Charts!

One of the coolest things about my career right now is that I get to frequently collaborate with Austin Wintory, a man whose talent is matched only by his generosity of spirit. It is always a joy and excitement when he sends me an email with work, and this was no exception. Stray Gods was released a few weeks ago, and I had the honor of contributing Additional String Arrangements to this behemoth. For those of you unaware, Stray Gods is a Roleplaying Musical – possibly the first ever created in the sense that it’s not just a musical on rails, but a game in which you can make choices mid-song and consequently change the song, altering everything from the tone of it, to potentially the hook itself and even plotlines and setlists down the road. This resulted in a game that you could literally never see the same story and set of songs unfold twice in one lifetime, even if you were to play all day every day. So naturally, this was a monumental task, and one Austin could not complete without help. He assembled a massive team to contribute more than usual because there was so much to do. As a result, I got to do more than just part-making for sessions or arranging for concerts: this was my first video game credit in which I actually have a creative role! He trusted me enough to have creative input on one of his big-time games, and that feels good. I contributed a total of six string arrangements to Stray Gods, and I’ll go through each of them because they were so fun to be a part of. Spoilers ahead! The Ritual This is probably my favorite song of the lot that I worked on, and the entire branch of it isn’t even heard unless you hit the green option at the very beginning! It’s a very somber affair, with one of the immortal gods undertaking ritual suicide to try and avoid the pain of past horrors. In this branch, you take the comforting approach, empathizing with the suffering she has endured. It’s hauntingly beautiful and such a chillingly light touch. This was one of the ones where I was initially given strict parameters of what Austin wanted out of the string accompaniment, but as the song goes on there are more branches, featuring more variations in the song. Here is where he let me experiemnt a bit. What you hear below is still only a fraction of the options available after the first branch. The Throne This was fun because it’s the polar opposite of the last one and provided a nice contrast: here he wanted the strings to be ready for battle. Here we have three competing characters with different goals, all convinced they are right and that the others are wrong. This vibe is more rock, more badass, and it was fun to throw in some staccato energy, fun rhythms and extended techniques. However, the most fun came on the very last variation of the last choice, because I had actually misread his instructions! He wanted more staccato aggression there, but I was so under the gun I straight forgot about that as I was ploughing through and ended up turning in what you here here at the end, with this sort of echoing figure taken from what was already in the vocal lines and accompaniment. I turned it in, making it clear I can redo it no problem. Instead he liked it, it gave him a new vantage point for that branch and he re-did the entire accompaniment around it! It’s Time Another that has a special place in my heart, this was the first one he gave me. There’s a moment here that gets me every time, and did even when there was only the vocals and a piano accompaniment. You essentially have to make the choice to either give up your godhood to save your best friend who sacrificed herself for you mere hours before, or to let her go and move on. I can’t overstate how incredible this cast is. It was just an absolute honor to have touched any of this at all. Let’s Have This Dance Reprise The other thre tracks were all reprises of the romance options. I loved all three of these, but Pan’s was my favorite because it’s so full of character. This guy lives life to his fullest, every moment is an adventure. And that’s kind of what the arrangement is like, too, heh. I initially put in more portamento, but Austin steered me away from that because he ended up using a lot in Apollo’s song “Phantom Pains,” which incedentally is probably my favorite musical number in this game. Oh, one other thing about this one: I actually ended up writing those harmonics more straight than they appeared. He ended up changing it so they didn’t quite happen together in a very tonal way. Super cool last-minute change that made way more sense! Dunno if he did that at the session or after the fact, I’ll have to ask him about that. If Only Reprise I really loved this one. Freddy is such a joy in this story, and it is such a gut-punch when she sacrifices herself to save you from the furies. I must admit, she was my first romance choice on my first playthrough. And this song is so adorable and so pure. This was pretty straight ahead, I knew it needed a light touch and that’s what I gave it. If Only Reprise This song grew on me as I worked on it, to the point at which it might be my favorite. It’s just so poigniant, particularly for someone who struggles with some of the same things Apollo does – mainly, how to find the courage to be joyful even in the face of hardship and darkness. This one was pretty straight ahead too, but I did throw in

The Game Awards

One of the small projects I had on my plate this year was engraving Austin Wintory’s phenomonal new “In The Blood” Arrangement for the LA Phil in a historic 10 year anniversary concert for The Game Awards. Very exciting to be a part of this, even in a small way! Sadly, I won’t be able to attend, and one of the regrettable drawbacks of Hollywood Bowl concerts is that they are not recorded. However, if you are fortunate enough to be in LA on the 25th, there is still time to grab tickets! Hearing Darren Korb and Ashley Barrett belt it out live with one of the best US Orchestras around is something you won’t want to miss. The Game Awards 10-Year Concert The Hollywood Bowl, Los Angeles CA June 25th, 8:00 PM The full arrangement is now on youtube. Check it out!

Ratliff Plays Nilsson

I arranged charts for the Rateliff Plays Nilsson concert, playing in three cities!

Fear of the Unknown

I’m scoring a tabletop horror RPG for a friend of mine and making my first podcast appearance!