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09 Oct 2010, Posted by Jack

The Music

Words from the composer of the music behind The FullCircle Project, Jack Tolan:

To explain the process of creating the original soundtrack for the FullCircle Project, I must break the progression up into two distinct but ultimately parallel processes: the composition/songwriting process and the recording process.

In terms of the composition process, the big question was “how do I create an accompaniment soundtrack that will both complement the mood of the images as well as direct the emotional flow of the story for a documentary that doesn’t exist yet?”  The answer came in stages and continues to do so, but initially my approach to solving this problem was two-fold.

First, the music would need to exist on its own.  In other words, each piece would need to evoke a distinct mood independent of the direction of images and dialogue.  Composing and recording the pieces before the trip and actually having them available to listen to during the trip in Chile had an unexpected effect.  Instead of the music existing as a complement to the film that was being created, in many ways the music became a soundtrack for the experience itself.

Second, in order to capture and convey the atmosphere of the upcoming adventure, I would need to have some foresight and preemptively immerse myself in the nature of the trip.  I’ve always drawn on potent experiences to guide my compositional inspiration.  So with nostalgic recollections of smells, visuals, sentiments, tastes, and sounds from a previous South America adventure in ’07; the harmonious sensation of descending through snow with nothing but air below you; and the images and stories of the destruction from the earthquake in Chile last February, I began composing music drawing from the specific sensations evoked by these sources of inspiration. The medium through which I channel creative insight into a musical expression is the acoustic guitar. This has been the case since I picked up the instrument seven years ago.  However, in order to record my pieces I was forced to leave my comfort zone in more ways than just composing on different instruments.

Since the birth of the idea for the FullCircle Project in late December ‘09, I began the intimidating task of gathering all of the equipment and software necessary to record at home.  I blame my seeming procrastination to begin the recording process on my choice of employment for last year’s ski season. As it turns out, the salary of a trash (and recycling) man up at Solitude Mountain Resort doesn’t exactly allow for a shopping spree of musical equipment and software.

So finally, with my bedroom transformed into a makeshift recording studio, the music software successfully loaded on a borrowed computer (thanks matt), and six weeks remaining until our project would begin in Chile, I embarked on the trial and error process of learning a new program (logic 9), recording completed originals, composing new originals while recording, and experimenting with microphone placement for several different instruments.

It would be a stretch to say that the upstairs room of a house in Salt Lake City in July is a comfortable and relaxing creative environment, however, as many aspects of the project have taught me, one must be willing and able to adapt.  With that in mind, the “sweat lodge” (as referred to by my roommates) became my place of study and my place of originality.

During this brief period I recorded 14 pieces for the project soundtrack playing several instruments including acoustic guitar, electric guitar, electric bass, mandolin, vocals, hand drums, and anything else that happened to be lying around my room at the time. My older sister and musician Liz Tolan graced the “studio” with her vocal talents for a few days in late July.  Liz provided lead vocals on an original called “Home”.  We also recorded two of Liz’s originals, “El Limon Naranjado” and “Within the View” as potential additions to the soundtrack.

The post-production work on the pieces is being done as we speak by a good friend of mine, Jeff Price, who currently studies as a sound engineer at the Berklee College of Music in Boston.  Thanks once again Jeff for your hard work.

I speak on behalf of the entire FullCircle crew when I say that this project encompasses many elements aside from skiing and the mountain lifestyle that we find inspiring; travel, immersion in a new culture and situation, embarrassing oneself by trying to speak a new language, community service, and not taking for granted how privileged we are to be able to live the way we do.  For us, this project isn’t an escape from our day-to-day reality; it is a culmination of principles we view as important in our lives.  So for me, the music created for this project is both a reflection of the passionate and mindful lives we aspire to live as well as a foreword to the adventures yet to come.

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