Stories in Care Season 2: Custom Music
Being a video production agency doesn’t limit our scope of work to just video. There are various facets to any video composition, from the scripting and the set design to the imagery and the soundtrack.
For many of our projects we utilize licensed music (purchased from a stock audio site and woven into the project), but we had some trouble finding the right atmospheric sound to match the feel of Stories in Care: Season 2.
For the second season of Stories in Care, an oral history of Covid-19 as documented by Cooper University Healthcare physicians and staff nurses, we hired a composer to create custom music. Alex Yaker, a multi-instrumentalist and sound engineer who currently teaches Multimedia Tech at the Perelman School of Medicine of the University of Pennsylvania in addition to running his own production company, has worked on projects all over the globe for the Travel Channel, IGTV, HBO, PBS, ESPN, and NPR public radio, to name just a few.
Alex helps us with sound on a lot of our projects, frequently supporting us in the field and accompanying us to shoots to record interviews or other audio, and subsequently managing the post production aspect as well. We knew we could call on him to compose a track that appropriately captured the tone of these interviews — we wanted something sparse and slightly somber, but still somewhat hopeful, that wouldn’t distract from the storytelling.
Alex helped us decide on the instrumentation for the project and ultimately recommended acoustic steel-string guitar as the right compliment for this subject matter. Having been on location with us, hearing these stories first-hand, he instinctively knew that the music should be low tempo, with plenty of space between notes to allow the stories to breathe.
He describes the experience of being on set: “It was great to have them forget that they were sitting in front of the camera with a production crew around, just speaking their mind and telling their stories from the heart. It was very heartfelt; almost everyone in the room started tearing up at some point.”
It’s easy to understand how a multi-faceted freelance artist, such as Alex, whose business comes mostly through referrals, could accurately and intuitively match the mood of a sensitive project such as this. Talking about his process, Alex said he went back to his studio and started creating different variations of the track that would ultimately be used for these interviews – four versions in total, each around 2.5 to 3.5 minutes in length. “I started out with slow, sparse, finger-picked guitar,” he explains. He felt that strumming chords would not have provided the desired sound. “Then I added light, airy piano to fill the space in a way that wasn’t intrusive.”
He shared his compositions with us and together we agreed on the selection that you hear in the videos which were launched earlier this month.
Alex enjoys doing sound for videos, documentaries, and has recently worked on corporate projects as well as regional pieces that have been featured in prominent news outlets. He’s also a talented musician in his own right – he sings vocals, plays many instruments, and composes both instrumental and non-instrumental music. You can learn more about Alexander Yaker by visiting his band’s website, roomtone.bandcamp.com.