Scoring Competition

This is my entry for the Spitfire Audio / HBO Westworld Scoring Competition 2020. A four-minute car chase scene from Westworld Series 3 Episode 5 was provided. The music on the version of the scene that aired was Wagner’s Ride of the Valkyries. Of course I immediately thought, I can improve on that. Just kidding, but the competition was a nice excuse to hone these skills and come up with something interesting.

My composition takes advantage of the anatomy of diminished chords. Diminished chords create a sense of tension, they sound fairly discordant in isolation. Within a composition, this tension is usually resolved when the chord changes to a more conventional major or minor chord. Diminished chords can be really effective within a chord sequence, creating depth and interest, but the diminished chord is usually a supporting character, it’s rarely the star in its own right. For this sequence, I decided to build everything on a single diminished chord, only straying from it once or twice.

The diminished D uses the notes D, F, G# and B. Each of these notes is 3 semitones apart, this 3 semitone interval continues up and down the keyboard in both directions to create different voicings of the same chord. It is the bass notes that define the root of the chord. So the diminished D becomes a diminished F, diminished G#, or diminished B if you change the bass note. In a sense, these are all the same chord, it’s all the same notes just with different bass emphasis. The bass note riffs (played on layered string pads) jump between these alternate root notes, sometimes fast, sometimes slow. In the background, the timpani pulses like a war drum, alternating the D note in two octaves. BOM-bom-BOM-bom!

For the car chase, I extracted as much tension from the diminished chord as I could. It never resolves, it only changes form. The one exception is the moment when the homing missile is fired. The music ceases for a moment, the missile misses the car. As the missile flies into the air and turns around again to seek its target, I added some other chords around the diminished chord, then I return to the recurring motif just before the missile hits the car. Another beat of silence, and the return of the ominous long bass note as we see another pursuant car emerge from the flames of the destroyed car’s wreckage.

I’m fairly happy with how this came out. Whether or not it leads to paid work scoring for HBO or a collaboration with Ramin Djawadi, I can at least take solace in the fact that I kicked Wagner’s ass. I’m sure we can all agree on that.