Alex Rhodes

Composer | Arranger | Editor

The Chinese Dynamo Project: End

The Project

Over 2 months ago now, the idea for this project introduced itself in a really simple way: “What if I could teach myself another style of music?”.  In my years of college, I have been able to further develop my own methods and styles of creating music rather effectively, but there is still a surplus of skills I have no experience with. In an attempt to narrow this idea down to a specific genre that I could successfully learn about and write a piece in the span of 8 weeks, I revisited some of my favorite video game scores of recent years.

I eventually decided on learning a style from the opposite end of the world, one that I have been interested in for years now, due to its incorporation into modern film and video game cues (like Jack Wall’s work, which was analyzed during this process) and its ties to my preliminary interest in music composition. Even though learning the comprehensive musical history and writing styles from a country like China was an impossible task in simply 8 weeks, I decided that studying the fundamentals in creating an original Chinese composition would allow me to understand the basics to be able to combine this knowledge within my own compositions.

The Process

In the first week of this venture, I laid out a simple structure for the project’s schedule, divided into four parts (education, composition, analysis, and implementation). However, as the weeks progressed and developed, so did the project schedule. I instead dedicated almost half of the 8 weeks towards the study of classical Chinese compositions, including the necessary knowledge of its instrumentations, harmonies, followed by a case study of a piece by Wang Jianzhong. When the second half of the project began, I got into the actual composition process: incorporated everything I had previously learned in order to create an original work in the style that I had been listening to for weeks. The actual writing took the full four remaining weeks. After several setbacks from both an artistic side (the eradication of a draft in order to completely start over) and a technical side (the necessity for better-sounding VST’s), I ended up with a product that I am very proud of. I think the piece perfectly condenses the concepts I’ve learned during this process, all the while putting into considering my own style and inspirations.

The Timeline

Bright Flash Over a Darkened Sea

After over 8 weeks of dedicated work on The Chinese Dynamo Project, the final culmination of my work is a tranquil piece entitled “Bright Flash Over a Darkened Sea”. This cue was built from the absolute foundations of melodic thought: each instrument has a theme characteristic of their own style. From there, each melody is interwoven together to form a fluid expression of each instrument’s sound, to the point of becoming a dreamily homogenous and harmonized piece of music.

This project, as a whole, was an exciting involvement for my developments in music composition and my understanding of music styles throughout the world. Even though we only scratched the surface of the rich history of Chinese music, I feel like I was successfully familiarized with a style I had never studied before. Throughout the 8 weeks, I was met with the occasional setback or agenda derailment, but attempting to reach a finished composition as the final product kept me wanting to learn about and apply these new techniques and methods into my own work.

Although this was a look into an extremely small section of overall world music theory and instrumentation, I want to be able to continue learning about these differing styles in order to become more versatile in my writing. Because of the absolutely staggering size and quality of the video game industry in recent years, it’s imperative to gain these skills in order to stand out. Even though I would already consider my style to be fairly unique and distinctive, having this knowledge and these skills will help my work turn into music that I would have never thought I could do.

Below is the piece “Bright Flash Over a Darkened Sea”. I thank you for reading along for the evolution of this project, and I hope to continue designing new ways to expand and diversify my style in the future.

-Alex