Fyre Festival is the disaster that keeps on giving.
The failed Exumas, Bahamas dumpster fire promoted by rapper Ja Rule and tech bro Billy McFarland has already been excoriated in the mainstream press for its false claims, underwhelming accomodations and highly-photographed cheese sandwiches.
Now, in hindsight, we all know that Macfarland and his crew of trust fund “legends” were way in over their heads planning a festival on a Caribbean island. But these dudes can’t be accused of lacking some serious vision. Amplify has obtained an email from Fyre Festival Director of Marketing Grant Margolin to his staff with his notes on the now-famous Fyre Festival promo video, and let me tell you, it’s certainly legendary….brah.
In just under 1,000 words, Margolin lays out his delusional, detail-rich vision for the musical direction of the widely-viewed video, weaving an over-the-top web of complex compositional theory that would push even the most detail-driven composer to madness. Margolin’s email from 2016 is both insane and self-indulgent to the highest douche degree, truly living up to the video’s promise that “the actual experience (or reading this nutty rant) exceeds all expectations into something that’s hard to put to words .”
I hope this email finds everybody well this morning. It was a pleasure to meet yesterday— everything looks very strong and we’re excited to keep the momentum as we move through this process.
I know one outstanding question mark with regard to the video is music. I know that we touched on this a bit during our meeting yesterday, but wanted to provide further clarity on direction as I do know time is of the essence.
With regard to the brand piece, we’re all in agreement that an original composition is the way to go here. Would love to lock down a composer as soon as possible. I know you mentioned having a few shortlisted composers— would love to hear their work. Ideally, these individuals will have a strong theoretical background with a diverse knowledge of classical, popular and world music.
As far as the musical direction for the brand piece is concerned, we really need to pushy the sonic boundary. The track should work at most points, synergistically with the visual composition; however, at key moments having the music and visual composition run in parallel to create moments of tension (to be sonically resolved) would strengthen the overall work as a whole. Although some of the inspirations below are quite global, I think we need to develop a track with mass appeal. When global music elements are leveraged properly, the bits of unfamiliarity perhaps enhance listener attention. Cohesiveness of the overall work is so important.
Elements and inspirations:
- Use of odd-meters (i.e. compounded time signatures or something like 5/4 for more exploratory elements) with global music elements can help to inform the more “exploratory” bits of the work, where use of even meters (i.e. 4/4 straight ahead) can inform the more “emotional” segments. Use of strings in odd meter is quite effective
- Use of reverberation during water sequences (i.e. how this is achieved in genres such as tropical house) adds a more “suspended” element to the work
- Employing the use of modulation to transition in and out of various sections is good— also is the use of modulation in unexpected places (however this is cautioned as it can be quite jagged)
- Instrumentation inspirations
- Sudro (Brazilian drum)
- Tiko drums (especially during more exploratory elements)
- Tabla (which can be filtered)
- Fretless bass (as opposed to p or jazz bass would add more of a ‘glue’ specially with the more global elements— I would listen to Bakithi Kumalo on Graceland as this is the ultimate exemplar)
- String segments which fall somewhere in between bright blue music [Torke] (during the build sections) and Hassan learns French Cooking (this is perhaps overly exaggerated staccato; however, dialing back 25% on staccato will land in a nice place) is good
- Use of extremely consonant key signatures (i.e. D or G) would really help to provide “resolution” after the more “exploratory” elements— likely the composer will need to back into this compositionally if they are using an odd key (however use of borrowed chords, parallel keys, secondary dominants) would prove to be helpful
- Lack of repetition is quite important
- Heavily cutting elements (i.e. how Kiiara’s Gold is cut in the first 2-3 seconds) would also serve as good transition elements
- Global inspiration
- Rhythm of the Saints (specifically the track Can’t Run But)
- Hamadoun Toure by Sidiki Diabete— this is the classic expression of West African Kora playing which is very combinative with Brazilian Sudro and more percussive elements such as marimba
- Cool Papa Bell
- Aevintyr— the use of percussive elements and ambient accessorial elements in the extreme right or left of the sonic field // soundstage is great)
- Classical inspiration
- The string segments in Glory if dialed back 30% would be right on point
Elements to avoid in the track include:
- Regal (i.e. Hans Zimmer) style french horns— using them in the cut would be a bit “over the top” and stress “emotion” rather than imply and allow the listener to “feel”. Moreover, as french horn will likely be sampled, i’m not sure how “live” the horn lines will feel (even with sampling systems such as East/West, Vienna, Kontak, the lack of “breath” and variance with live recorded french horn will draw away from the incremental benefit of using phrases and themes. Caution against the use of english horn; however, bassoon would be a good use of woodwinds. Clarinet when combined with bass clarinet and bassoon are incredible. Would not use saxophone.
- Rock drums— sometimes in more modern composition, rock drums are contrasted with luscious string arrangements— while the final result is impactful, I do not think this method will add to the overall work
- Overly luscious string elements— all too often, it comes across as sappy and too ‘gushy’. Instead, I would recommend something a bit more reserved (i.e. leveraging an arrangement such as 5 violins, 2 violas, 2 cello and contrabass)—I know the is difficult as we are recording strings in the box via same, as opposed to live; however, in string sampling plug-ins, often times, the composer can throttle up and down the lusciousness
- Themes which are too “quest driven”— i.e. take inspiration from video games like Zelda and the like. While we do have “quest driven elements” (i.e. treasure hunt), we need to come across more as “exploratory” and less “driven on a mission.” This is where the use of unfamiliar global music elements (please see above) will come in. Most prominently, the use of xylophone (or other percussive melodic instruments) and traditional instruments from Brazil (Sudro) or West Africa (Kora) is great— luckily the global music plugins for Logic are quite amazing
- Ending on a I chord or square endings (I think ending on some variance of a IV chord can be interesting, or a subtly pickety third contrasted with another compositional element as not to make things so “square”
Although the compositional elements to this work will be important, the sound design and mix are an equally important exercise! Proper placement of instruments in the sound field allowing for not such a straight ahead compressed mix is important. White space and breath is crucial!
The above was meant to provide some frame of reference from the composer. I do think the best tracks are ones which are briefed prior to the composer putting pen to paper— that being said, I really want them to inject their own style and methods— the above is just a collection of thoughts I’d find helpful if I was writing.
With regard to the hype track, Father Stretch My Hands Part I is the track of choice. Looking forward to information regarding music publishing or licensing. If you could recommend some other track (I think use of soul samples with a contemporary lyrical approach) it’d be great.