Daniel Licht 1957 - 2017

You've heard his music before. The creepy, creative approach he took to scoring Dexter inspired many a composer (for me it was in a "why didn't I think of that?!" sort of way). His music played a massive role in setting the show apart from others, carving out a niche for itself and launching it to the most extreme heights of popularity.

I met Dan in early 2014, right after my first job in LA as an intern for Bear McCreary ended. Dan was looking for an assistant, and I applied. He invited me out to his awesome Topanga Canyon home (formerly owned by Jimi Hendrix) and immediately relaxed my nerves with easy conversation and a great cup of coffee. It's difficult to overstate just how warm and inviting a person he was. No pretense, no ego, no expectations. He was fantastically friendly and (pardon how cliche this is) radiated warmth--a rare quality in someone so accomplished in such a harsh business.

Ultimately, I wasn't the right guy for the job. However, he introduced me to his nephew and frequent collaborator Jon Licht, whose band The Roustabouts was searching for a bass player. I joined and played with them for a few years, ultimately recording the album Little Brother last spring. Dan was a constant presence the whole way through, nearly always supporting the gigs and joining us for a drink and a laugh afterwards. The band was a sort of Dexter family--the band's drummer, Mark Bensi, was music editor for the show, and Jon wrote a good deal of music for it with his uncle.

It's difficult to reconcile how quickly someone can leave us. I had just spoken to him a month ago about helping him find someone to fill the position I once applied for. His music was and will remain a constant source of inspiration: his approach to writing was inventive, curious, always searching. He could never have enough instruments or make enough new sounds. He embraced mistakes and imperfections with a very Zen, specifically Wabi-Sabi mindset, and nearly always preferred live performance and the human touch to programmed sound.

Wabi-Sabi

He left us far too early and leaves a giant hole in the LA scoring community, his circle of friends, and most importantly, his family--nothing else mattered to him beyond his family. 

Loss, messiness, and imperfection is inevitable; how we deal with it and move on is the art of living itself, and Dan was a true artist. We'd all be well-served to take inspiration from his approach to music: rather than trying in vain to fill the hole his life leaves in those who knew him, we can instead try to understand and appreciate the beauty that it happened at all.

Thanks, Dan. Safe travels.

"Scott Hamilton Today" docuseries featured on the TODAY show

I'm very proud to announce that a moving and inspiring docuseries about Olympic figure-skater and cancer survivor Scott Hamilton, for which I composed the main theme, was released today. It was directed by my ultra-talented good buddy and Highly Evolved Human creator Nick P. Ross, and developed by Soul Pancake and People Entertainment.

You can watch an interview with Scott on the TODAY show here, and watch the first two episodes (and catch more as they're released) right here.

2016: The Year In Review

What a year. 2016 was equal parts evolutionary and transformative, scary and exciting. Aside from the obvious political madness and unprecedented amount of celebrity deaths, all in all 2016 shaped up to be a pretty good year for me personally and professionally.

The year began in much the same way the previous year ended: by continuing my work as an additional music composer and music editor under Michael Picton on the Nick Jr. show Mutt & StuffThough the show is live action, it's scored more like it's a cartoon; Michael's music is extremely colorful, turns on a dime, and requires a great deal of attention to detail.

Writing for the show was a ton of fun, as any given cue could be a big orchestral piece, a synth dance track, a rock song, a country tune, or anywhere in between. The varied nature and precise timing really stretched my music editing chops, too. Shout-out to audio post head Wes Poland of Quest Pacificaand Michael's current assistant Noam Levya jack of all trades and master of many. Working for a composer as skilled as Michael taught me a ton--more than I could ever put into words here.

Two crazy things happened in February: I got really sick, and I began demoing for a gig with Danny Elfman, whom I worked for back in 2014.

With a month of Mutt & Stuff still left to go, I demoed at Danny's studio a few times a week while riding out my mystery stomach sickness, utterly miserable. After a month and a half of enduring the symptoms and undergoing lab tests, the sickness--which had been completely unresponsive to all forms of treatment--went away as mysteriously as it appeared. The doctor credited the disappearance to his last-ditch idea of having me eat absurd amounts of yogurt. When it was all said and done, I had lost nearly thirty pounds.

By April I was totally healthy, and just in time. I joined my good friend and Danny's primary assistant Melisa McGregor and Mikel Hurwitz (we had gone to Berklee around the same time and had worked for Danny at different times, but had never gotten to know one another all that well--something I'm glad we changed!) on Danny's score to the upcoming film, The Circle. The team really brought their A-game on this one, pulling 100-hour-plus weeks!

After a short break, we were joined by Jognic "JB" Bontemps and spent a good couple of months tearing out cables, ripping open computers, and generally wreaking havoc in the best way possible on Danny's studio. The end result was highly streamlined workflows, more processing power than NASA, and a very bemused but pleased Danny, who had been abroad on business for the duration of the upgrade.

One aspect of being a composer is that to be competitive in today's market you really need to know a lot about computers and technology--something I didn't expect to enjoy so much when I first started out. This period of time was a great opportunity to focus on an entirely-different-but-parallel skill set from writing music.

Around the start of the summer I began working on a feature film score (still in progress--can't wait to show you all!) and joined my long-time mentor Inon Zur on a couple of projects, including the stunning Ubisoft virtual reality game Eagle Flight, on which I did everything from engineering recording sessions, to programming synth patches, to building Kontakt instruments. Never a dull moment with him, as he really keeps me on my toes, always pushing to broaden and deepen my skill sets.

I wrapped up the summer by scoring director Tom Murphy's short Can You Playsome advertisements, and other various projects. I loved this period, as each week looked different than the last.

On a more personal note, in July one of my best friends Andy Rumschlag married his best friend, and I was fortunate enough to be there along with the high school crew.

Looking good, gents.

Looking good, gents.

In August I returned to Danny's and helped out on the score to The Girl On The Train. I feel this is one of Danny's best scores since the millennium, and am honored to have been a part of it. It's deep, dark, and brooding, and Danny's use of solo acoustic bass on this score is as unexpected as it is effective. 

Mixing HELEN at the dub stage.

Mixing HELEN at the dub stage.

Schedules clashing again--a fact of life in this business--I quickly moved on to scoring the extremely talented Dell Sisters' horror short Helen. Excuse the overuse of this word, but Helen is riveting. I would like to talk about the film more, but it's better to just go into watching it blind. I'll be sure to post the film when it's ready to view. 

Around September I began working as music implementor on Hero's Song, an ambitious RPG scored, again, by Inon Zur. I collaborated with the team at Pixelmage Games, cutting up Inon's music and designing the music systems via Audiokinetic's Wwise middleware. Huge thanks to Steve Green, who single-handedly helmed the sound design and audio integration of my favorite game of 2016, Abzu, for answering some of my stupid Wwise questions along the way. Gentleman and a scholar, sir.

An early screenshot of Hero's Song.

An early screenshot of Hero's Song.

Unfortunately, the studio recently shut its doors and Hero's Song was cancelled after an exciting but ultimately unsuccessful run in Early Access on Steam. I'm bummed, as the game's active and loyal community (shout-out to /r/herossong--I checked all your enthusiastic posts and comments nearly every day), but I'm glad to have worked with such an awesome team and made something that I'm proud of, even if we won't ever get to play the final version.

In November, I scored the gorgeous short film, Family Portrait, a unique take on the issue of domestic violence directed by Kelsey Sante and produced by WE ARE FAMOUS

FAMILY PORTRAIT is a 360 degree video, so be sure to mouse around and check out the different viewing angles.

I also began working as composer and audio director for the upcoming game Cardamomled by Bethany MartinI'm joined on this one by my good friend and sometimes partner-in-crime Andy Forsberg, with whom I co-scored 2015's Quest For A Different Outcomeand composer Kyle Laporte.

Lastly, in December I finalized some contracts with two fantastic music libraries: Move Music LLC and Temp Love Music. In January I'll be finishing an album with the former, and beginning and album with the latter. I also began scoring a whimsical short called The Littlest Undertaker by director Kevin Molohanwhich will be released sometime this spring.

Oh, and my brother got engaged, no big deal. Way to make me feel old, bro.

I planted a lot of seeds in 2016, and 2017 is already seeing the fruits of those labors: In my "Future Projects" folder on my projects hard drive, there are more games than any other medium; I'll be releasing a very cool (well, I think so) feature film score in the coming months; and there's lots, lots more stuff that I wish I could mention here, but am prevented from doing so due to NDA's. I'll be sure to post them here, on my Twitter, and my Facebook page.

Thanks for reading, and here's to a happy, productive 2017!

New Years

I originally wrote this sometime in the autumn of 2013. I rediscovered it today and happily found it to still resonate with me. I hope it does something for you, too.

New Years

On January 1, 2012, I woke up with a lump in my throat.

The night before had seen yet another night of hard drinking at my friend’s annual New Years Eve party. I stumbled over snoring lumps and made my way to his kitchen sink, picked out what appeared to be a reasonably clean glass, and very nearly inhaled the water I filled it with.

The sun was just rising. I sputtered. Residue of Glenlivet, single malt. Ugh, I thought, Can’t ever sleep when I’ve drank… Not that I could ever sleep, anyway. My usual moderate insomnia had worsened as of late. It was six months to the day since I hurt my wrist. Six months of wading through Berklee, half-asleep, trying desperately to find a new path for my life. My old one was gone, inflamed.

The lump in my throat didn’t leave.

The silence of the living room made me uncomfortable, so I braved the cold and left for home. The silence of the road was just as bad. The freshly plowed highway was empty save for the standard way-too-many-cops-for-such-a-small-town looking out for the especially hard partiers who would be driving drunk along side me. Thankfully, the cops didn’t have much of a job to do. Like they ever do…

I was tired of Indiana, as usual. By this time each year, my friends would all be back at their respective college campuses, each about two hours away, give or take. God, I can’t wait to get back to Boston. But why? What was there for me? My spring schedule was full of guitar classes I couldn’t play in, and the way my fast-track degree was going, I’d be out in the so-called “real world” by September of 2012. If I somehow managed to miraculously heal and finish my degree at all. Without my livelihood, my love, the only thing I’d ever wanted…what would I do? My future looked as empty and grey as the highway, but I had no choice but to keep driving.

Little did I know that in exactly a week, I would opt out of the Spring 2012 semester at Berklee College of Music. I would stay home, depressed and scared, wearing braces on my wrists to sleep every night, painfully dipping both my forearms in ice water three times a day, going to intense physical therapy twice a week. I would get a catering job that depressed me even more but hardened my resolve to return to music and make a life for myself that I could stand to live.

Little did I know that my best friend of twelve years would die in just 43 days, two weeks before her birthday that came only once every four years. That I would demand on being present at her death so she wouldn’t have to go it alone, and that I would, for the first time in my life, understand that “crying yourself asleep” isn’t just a melodramatic saying.

Little did I know that over the next four months I would rediscover a love of orchestral music, of film music, of story-telling in general. That in three months I would befriend the conductor of the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra, and in three and a half would be wakeboarding, something I thought I’d never do again. Little did I know that in just two months, I would lose the use of three of my four limbs (instead of just my two arms/wrists) for five weeks due to the removal on my one-day-going-to-probably-be-cancerous mole on my toe. I would hop around on crutches, hurting my wrists even more, building up a reservoir of anger to unleash in the gym once I got walking again.

Shivering in my car at 7:30am at the start of a new year, I couldn't know that my little vegan experiment two months away would change the life of one of my best friends forever. I didn’t know that the horrible news regarding a musical employer of mine that said now-vegan friend delivered to me just four days earlier would hit the internet in two months. As he said, “The shit hit the fan.” And oh, what shit it would be.

I quietly shuffled inside my home, taking care not to wake my sleeping parents. Their car was gone. Right…Sunday…church…I didn’t know that on the same day of my dog’s death, I would talk to my mother about being an atheist, and she would finally be mostly/sort of ok, but would still curiously maintain that “you have to believe in something.”

I stripped and let the hot water do its best at washing away my hangover. It failed somewhere between “splitting headache” and “ALEX NEED SLEEP,” but I left the bathroom light off, so that helped. Reveling in the warmth, I had no way of knowing how fun my upcoming summer break would be, about all the dating I’d do (and the subsequent songs written about my failures), about the friends made in the fall semester, the extent to which I’d push myself farther than I ever had before. I didn’t know about the amount I’d learn of production and composing and about what I wanted and didn’t want out of a musical life. I had no way of knowing that I had a voice inside that, with a little brushing-up, could entertain some peoples’ ears…even though it still pained mine.

Hungover in the shower, I definitely couldn’t imagine that in just six months, I’d be jumping out of a goddamn plane.

While ravenously munching down an English muffin (covered in extra crunchy peanut butter, of course), I didn’t yet entertain the idea that my creative idols could disappoint me, and that I could come to love musicians whose music I was just so sure I hated. I didn’t understand the depth to which I would come to love former acquaintances and lose faith in old friends.

And while drinking my coffee, I had no idea I’d actually start enjoying the process of writing just as much as the final product of having written. Or that in a year I’d have enough scoring projects to feel comfortable putting together a reel and hopping on a plane to LA next spring break. Or that I could learn about something as seemingly foreign as the insides of computers.

I didn’t know that I would be typing this on my laptop’s keyboard instead of my ergonomic one that looked like it belonged in the Millenium Falcon. Sure, the pain would still be there, and it always will be to some extent. But it would be my pain, and I would own it, control it, reel it back in when it became too much.

At that quiet moment in time, scared shitless, I had no way of knowing that I was exactly where I needed to be. I could not have possibly understood that all the pain I would go through over the coming months was just what the doctor ordered. That life, in its mysterious, chaotic, crazy way, was putting me on the right path, and that in just 21 months, I would look back on that morning and smile, truly understanding how much a life can change.

I type this from my new home of Los Angeles, California, with a lump in my throat. Tomorrow I begin the next chapter of my life, starting at the bottom of the ladder (this time, as an intern). A freshman, of sorts.

So now I’m off to not sleep again (my usual moderate insomnia, you know), but first, cheers to the things I don’t know yet. Cheers to the life that still is yet to happen. Glenlivet, single malt.

New project: The Secret Life of Marilyn Monroe

I had the immense pleasure and honor of writing some music with composer David Carbonara (Mad Men) for the Lifetime film, The Secret Life of Marilyn Monroe, starring Kelli Garner, Susan Sarandon, and Emily Watson.

There’s nothing like hearing your music brought to life by an orchestra–this was an incredible experience that I’ll never forget.

Linked here is my musical contribution to the film. I'd love if you gave it a listen.