One of my goals for 2019 has been to make new music. Writing and recording music has always been a passion of mine, but in the busyness of adulthood it has been pushed from the forefront. Making things worse I have so many different music projects started– conceptualized or demos recorded–that it becomes difficult picking one project to work through to fruition. There are solo EPs for Stories In Red and unrecorded songs for À La Mer! (my band with the proficient Jon Greig). But another avenue of musical creativity over the years has been making instrumental music to accompany videos. A few years ago I decided to create a soundcloud page where I could post such creations under the moniker James Mella. The dream is to someday score longer pieces of music for film.
I realized that it had been three years since I last uploaded James Mella music, but I have worked on some small projects during that time. These projects are usually finished very quickly as have imposed deadlines. Perhaps that is the reason they get done. I have just uploaded five projects that I’ve worked on over the last two years. Here are some notes to accompany the audio of each composition.
This is my most recent project. My church is starting the fall with a sermon series called ‘Back To Basics’ and we wanted to create a short bumper video to promote and introduce the series. I wanted to build a piece out of little repetitive keyboard notes. They combine with eighth-note pulsing bass notes to create an upbeat vibe. It was also a good opportunity to experiment with some vintage mellotrone sounds.
I made this piece at the start of the summer for a video that we ended up scrapping. What drove me while creating this one was wanting to incorporate an unexpected chord change in an otherwise predictable progression. Not sure if it feels unfinished. Or maybe it was just a good practice of creating something that will feed a better composition in the future.
I wrote this in May and it was the first piece of instrumental music that I had made after a few idle months. I created this piece to accompany a video depicting the text of a prayer from Saint Augustine for our service on Pentecost Sunday. The video would serve as an intro to a live performance of Breath Of God from OneChurch.to (itself a modern version of an older hymn). My goal was to create a sense of the key we would be singing the song in without establishing a firm rhythm/time signature. The goal being to allow a smooth transition from the video with recorded music into the acoustic guitar driven first verse of the live song.
Breathe in me, O Holy Spirit,
that my thoughts may all be holy.
Act in me, O Holy Spirit,
that my work, too, may be holy.
Draw my heart, O Holy Spirit,
that I love but what is holy.
Strengthen me, O Holy Spirit,
to defend all that is holy.
Guard me, then, O Holy Spirit,
that I always may be holy.
– Saint Augustine
Of all of the songs I’m featuring in this post, I may be the most proud of this one. It began with a melody that I sang over and over again before recording into the voice memo app on my phone all while my wife and I were packing to go somewhere. I then worked at turning it into bumper music, used at the beginning and end of podcasts and videos for my church at the time. It worked really well with a voice over giving information on the podcast and church.
For Christmas Eve 2017 I designed a service that would draw out the parallels of Genesis 1 and John 1. To help illustrate the connection I enlisted the help of an actor from the church to perform a dramatic reading of selections from the opening chapter of Genesis and then a second reading from the opening chapter of John’s Gospel. They were delivered at two separate moments of the service, but featured the same backing music and video clips projected on the triple-wide screen on the back of the stage. I always wanted to incorporate strings into a Christmas Eve service so I created this string demo recording that we used in the services. (I was able to fully realize my dream with a live string quintet in the following year’s service).
Out of these five pieces of music, which one do you connect with the most? What are you hearing and feeling as you listen to them? I’d love to hear what you think in the comments below.