Film Composing in Spain


      I haven’t left yet, but I leave next Tuesday at 2:00pm.  I’m currently making my packing list.  I fly Indy to Charlotte to Madrid to Valencia and it takes over a day with all the stops.  There are many probably’s right now for my trip like i’m probably staying in a single at the Galileo Galilei dorm at the Universitat Polytècnica de València where I’ll probably walk 40 minutes every day to campus at the Berklee College of Music to probably take 2 classes a day for probably 8 hours a day.  I’m really not sure!  But it should be fun, regardless of the details.    

      I will be studying media scoring which is the art of writing music for movies and video games.  It coincides nicely with my studies at the Jacobs School of Music where I currently study classical composition and will be a junior starting this Fall.  Last summer in San Diego, California, I attended the Palomar Film Music Workshop where I worked with industry pros Larry Groupé and Roger Neill on media scoring.  It was a 9 day experience that culminated in a polished movie scene with music that I wrote performed by professional musicians at Studio West.  

      This trip to Spain is the next step for my interest in film scoring.  I will be abroad for 6 weeks and will at least get to visit Valencia and Paris, France.  I’m hoping to visit Barcelona, Madrid, Seville, and Granada as well.  If you have any suggestions, please comment on my Facebook or Twitter pages!  My next post will be after my first week of classes, and I will be updating this page once a week with what I’m working on and pictures of places I’ve visited.  ¡Adiós! 

11/6/2016 (Spanish date)

      Berklee is off to a great start!  I have made lots of friends, and several of them are Spanish so they are very helpful to have around.  My Spanish speaking ability has gotten much better as I’ve spoken with taxi drivers, restaurant waiters, bartenders, and now my friends. 

     Spain is quite different from the U.S.! Euros were confusing at first.  Coins are very popular, so if you’re a male who tends to wear basketball shorts then you need some kind of purse-like bag to hold all of your coins.  Coins can be worth up to 2 euros, and the smallest bill is a 5 euro bill.  The drivers still drive on the right side of the road – surprising… – but roundabouts are even crazier here.  There are stoplights in the middle of the roundabouts.  Also, the pedestrian signals give you 2 flashes of green before it turns red, so you better run if it starts to blink!

     The best new food I’ve tried so far is the paella (pah-aye-yah) which is yummy rice with chicken and rabbit meat, and also a Westin Club which consists of grilled chicken, egg over hard, tomato, lettuce, bacon, and cocktail sauce.  Yum!  Favorite drink is Agua de Valencia or champagne with Valencian orange juice, vodka and gin.  Fun fact: the Valencian oranges on their own are terribly bitter and I do NOT recommend eating them off the trees around here.  

     We’ve had two substitutes this week while our actual professors are with the Berklee Masters students in London recording their final projects at Air Studios, but Sergio and Fabian have been wonderful teachers getting us started.  Sergio actually is supposed to teach my video game scoring course next month anyway, but I found out this week that he co-wrote with composer Jack Wall on the music for Call of Duty: Black Ops 2.  Incredible!

     To clear up my schedule, I actually have class four hours a day from noon-2:00pm and 4:00pm-6:00pm.  The two classes are very intense so I’m glad it’s not more.  There is plenty of homework and lab time to keep us busy outside of class, but we still have lots of fun by going to local restaurants (like TGB – “The Good Burger”) and walking to the beach about 15 minutes away.  

     The City of Arts and Sciences is an amazing part of Valencia, and I’m so glad Berklee has its campus there.  Next weekend I’ll be heading to Paris with my good friend Ryan Van Slyke and his dad, Dave.   I can’t wait!

18/6/2016 (Spanish date)

     As I finish up my second week, I want to talk a little about my classes.  With one week left in the mini-semester (then one more mini-semester to go!), I just took my midterm exam in the Intro to Scoring Tech class.  In that class, which certainly doesn’t feel like an intro level course, we have been learning the ins-and-outs of Digital Performer 9 because our professor believes it’s the most beneficial DAW (digital audio workstation) for writing music for film.  Personally, I use Protools 12 but she has taught me numerous skills that can apply to any DAW.  

     My first class each day, Intro to Film Scoring, is more of a discussion course on the film industry and the composers’ role on the team of movie makers.  We’ve watched several documentaries about John Williams, Thomas Newman, and other composers.  In that class, we are required to do reading and know terms like underscore which is the original music that the composer writes for a film with dramatic intention.  

     When I’m not at school, I find that every night I am exhausted from the day so I normally don’t go out during the week.  However, during the weekends I’ve been going to bars and to the beach and both are tons of fun!  The water is slightly colder here than in Sarasota, FL, but the sand is very fine and the boardwalk is beautiful and reminds me of South Beach, Miami.  

    My friends and I have attempted to go to clubs a few times for dancing, but it is normal in Spain to arrive at the club as late as 3:00am for dancing until 6:00am.  Even with the 6 hour difference putting those times closer to my Indiana bedtime, my work here starts early so clubbing has not panned out yet.  

     The last thing I want to talk about for this week is the bus system.  Every day I ride the bus to and from campus and the whole journey takes about 20 minutes from the time I leave my dorm room to the time I’m on campus.  The buses are great and they come every 10-15 minutes.  They seem much larger than US busses despite the roads and cars being thinner in Europe.  I am glad to have them because otherwise I’d be walking 45 minutes every day just to get to campus.  Hooray for buses!  

     Saturday morning at 5:00am I take a taxi to the airport to meet Ryan and Dave Van Slyke in Paris, France!   Next week, I will tell you all about that.  Peace out!

25/6/2016  (Spanish date)

     ¡Hola! I just wrapped up my first module or mini semester of classes here in Valencia.  A large group of us Berklee students went out last night to enjoy the city as a celebration of being halfway done but also to say goodbye to our friends who are leaving after the first semester.  

     A notable memory we made together was during our first week of classes.  On Thursday, June 9th, we all took a boating trip on L’Albufera which is a lake near the outskirts of Valencia.  We had a great time listening to music, sharing stories, singing songs, and taking pictures for the several hours we were out on the water.  We even got to enjoy the sunset!

     My first big trip outside of Spain occurred last weekend.  While all of my Berklee friends went to Barcelona, I flew to Paris, France to spend the weekend with my good friend Ryan Van Slyke and his dad, Dave.  I will briefly summarize the weekend experiences, but you should honestly just go there and see everything yourself because it was truly amazing.  I landed in Paris Saturday morning at 9:15 at the Charles du Galle airport and took a train to Gare du Norde.  Once I arrived at Gare du Norde, I was supposed to call Ryan and Dave who were already at a nearby hotel to come and get me.  However, I exited the train and realized I had no phone service.  And there’s no free WIFI anywhere in Europe it seems.  So I thought I would just look up the address of the hotel and walk there myself, but once again I was stuck having no WIFI and no cell service.  And I don’t speak French.  And no one around me spoke English.  So, I wandered helplessly for 20 minutes or so before deciding I was just going to start walking outside but keep my bearings about where the Gare du Nord was in case I needed to find my way back.

     To make a long story short, I went into a nearby hotel and was able to figure out how to get on their locked WIFI (all in French) and then figured out where Ryan was.  Once I was with Ryan, my French-speaking savior, I was just along for the ride of a lifetime!   Our first stop, naturally, was the Eiffel Tower.  We got through security and realized that with the two hour wait time to ascend and the imminent rain, we were best off going back the following morning.

     Our next stop was this incredible museum of weapons inside a fortress used during the French Revolution.  Then we went to the Champs-Élysées (pronounced shomps-lee-zay), a very famous street in Paris that has ridiculous expensive everything.  Some notables were the 5-story Abercrombie & Fitch store, the Nespresso store (with free samples!!!), and the Italian restaurant where I ate a sausage pizza with egg and a Heineken.  So good!  At one end of the Champs-Élysées was the Arc de Triomphe which was impressive like everything else in Paris, and at the other end was the Louvre.  We did not go inside because it’s massive and I could spend at least 3 days inside in there admiring all of the art.  

     Our last stop of the day was Notre Dame.  We were able to sit through some of the mass in French and listen to the incredible organ player.  It was inspiring and magical.  In fact, all of Paris was inspiring and magical.  My favorite video game company, Quantic Dream, is based in Paris and I see where they get their inspiration to create incredible works of art as video games.  

     Sunday morning, we did get to climb the Eiffel Tower.  And we actually climbed, or rather, took the stairs.  It certainly felt like a climb.  Up and up and up and up.  We made it to the top platform but not to the absolute top.  That required an extra lift ride.  Still, we could see the entire city and get plenty of memorable pictures.  We stayed up in the Eiffel Tower for about 2 hours before climbing down again, and then I was on my way back to Valencia.

     I totally fell in love with Paris while I was there.  It was the kind of city where even when it rained and the water was murky and brown in the Seine River, it was still crazy beautiful.  I will go back and spend more time when I get the chance.

     To answer the Australian couple from Canberra on the train from CDG to Gare du Nord if I was a *in a heavy Australian accent* “local or traveler”, I can say that now I am indeed a traveler.  But I appreciate the thought of them thinking I looked like a local in Paris whilst wearing my Avon Tennis jacket and IU hat.

3/7/2016 (Spanish date)

     Hello again!  I’ve just completed my first week of session 2 classes here at the Berklee College of Music in Valencia, Spain (or Balénthia, as the locals say).  I’ve met some new friends joining us for this second session from even more places around the world like San Francisco, Sweden, and Iran.  It’s amazing to see all the different perspectives because we initially have a lot of curiosity and respect for each other.  Contrary to all of our progressive and open-minded intentions, we love asking each other to say difficult words and phrases in our language so we can laugh at each other.  Just the other day I learned to say “Hey sugar” in Swedish.  It’s something like “shienna pruden”.  

     Last session, I did two big projects.  I scored a short car chase scene from The Italian Job which I’m not allowed to post, but I also did a MIDI mockup of a part of Beethoven 7.  None of the instruments are real, but we learned to make them sound convincing to the ear.  I used Kontakt and Vienna Ensemble Pro for my mockup.  Also, we learned how to use Reason and Stylus RMX.  Berklee has many fantastic MIDI libraries to choose from!  

     Session 2 is off to a great start, and I’m getting to compose a lot more music.  We compose for 1 or 2 assignments each night.  That being said, the workload is much heavier and none of us in the film scoring group are sleeping much, but at least we’re all in the same boat so we continue to have a good time.  This past week, I wrote a sketch of the main title sequence for Alan Silverstri’s Night at the Museum, I wrote a sound alike of Alexandre Desplat’s “Alan” theme from The Imitation Game, and I wrote music to accompany the video game LIMBO using a strict branching method (where events in the game trigger new music as soon as the previous music finishes).  This weekend, I’m scoring the jungle chase scene with Dash from The Incredibles.  So much work!  Because of this assignment, I’m keeping my blog short and sweet.  My blog post is already a day late.  

     Check in next week to read about more of my projects and my trip to the 

Oceanogràfic.  Only two weeks left here in Spain!

9/7/2016 (Spanish date)

     Five weeks down, one to go.  It’s been an experience of a lifetime here in Europe for these past 6 weeks.  I’ve met so many amazing people and I’ve learned a lot about myself and certainly a lot about music from Berklee.  This week I scored the main title to a documentary called Blue Planet.  I also wrote video game music to the first Jak & Daxter game.  

     Last Saturday my friends and I got free tickets to go to the Oceanogràfic.  It’s Valencia’s aquarium, and it’s INCREDIBLE.  The aquarium is actually attached to the East end of Berklee’s campus at the City of Arts and Sciences.  It was a large aquarium and had similar futuristic architecture as the Palau (opera house).  Many of the fish tanks had tunnels that you could walk through so the fish would swim right overhead.  This included the shark tank, where there had large, scary sharks that were able to be walked under.  There was a cool outdoor penguin exhibit (I guess these kind prefer it to be hot?), sea lion exhibit, and many others.  The dolphin show was quite impressive with 8-10 dolphins all doing flips and tricks in sync to music.  We had lots of fun, and enjoyed a couple hours there before spending the rest of the weekend in the lab scoring a scene from The Incredibles.  

     As an English speaker trying to teach my foreign comrades English as well as learn their languages, too, I’ve been baffled by how much I use idioms.  The idioms generally don’t make since to foreigners, and when I am asked what they mean, I sometimes accidentally explain them with other idioms.  But the tables have turned and the shoe is on the other foot as I’ve been frustrated many times when trying to speak Spanish to native Spaniards because they don’t understand my super-proper idiom-less Spanish.  For instance, I ordered a chicken sandwich at Burger King and was doing well ordering (numero siete menu con una cola y lo necesito para ir) until I got to the “I need it to go“.  They didn’t understand what I meant by “to go”.  I just kept saying it because that’s how we would say it in America.  Finally after some wild gesturing, she understood and I received two bags: one for my food, and one for my empty drink cup… strange.  Anyway, afterward I learned that the phrase used in Spain literally means in order to take instead of to go so that’s where it went wrong, I guess.  

     Regardless of the difficulties, Spain is a lot of fun and I have many great memories.  Last night, after another long week in the labs, we Berklee students went up to the rooftop of our dorm and sang and played guitar together until early in the morning.  It was a special moment, and one that I’ll remember as this program comes to a close next week.  Next weekend, I will post my final blog summarizing my thoughts about Spain and this trip and international experience in general including tips I have on traveling in case you ever go.  ¡Hasta luego!

16/9/2016 (Spanish date)

Please enjoy this musical playlist of cues I wrote at Berklee while you read this week’s blog.  It is recommended that you use higher quality speakers so you can hear the effort that went into crafting the low end of these tracks:


     This week, Week 6, I completed my last week of school at the Berklee College of Music in Valencia, Spain.  It was stressful finishing the final projects, but it was overall a rewarding experience.  I wrote cues for Far Cry 4 and How To Train Your Dragon.

     Last summer, I attended the Palomar Film Music Workshop in San Diego, California, where I made many great new friends and learned where to begin with film scoring.  One of my good friends from that trip, Jordyn Davis, was in Europe at the same as me this summer, so she came over to Valencia to end her study abroad trip before heading back to Michigan about two weeks ago.  I took her on a tour of campus here at Berklee, and then we enjoyed dinner and reminisced our wonderful memories of last summer at PFMW.  It was great to have Jordyn visit, and she gave me some great travel advice that I wish I would have known much sooner.

     With this in mind, here are Tyler’s Travel Tips for when you go abroad next time:

     1) When traveling in Europe, take your time and go with the flow.  Ask questions if you need help.  Don’t get mad or embarrassed when that person doesn’t speak English.  Just move on until you find what you need.  Understand that each airport and train/bus station may ask you for different things.  Be prepared to provide ID’s, passports, tickets, and remove all laptops and iPads from bags when going through security.

     2) Be prepared to get pushed.  It is common to push your way through crowds to get where you need to go.  If someone pushes you over, it is not personal: it is just common for the region.  Be able to hold yourself and don’t let all the touching get to you.  I’ve had strangers lean on me in line for food while they were deciding what to order like I was a wall.

     3) Be direct with what you want.  Americans tend to saying things like “Do you think that I could possibly have ____” whereas in Europe you can just say “I want ___”, and it is not considered rude.

     4) Learn how to say “Do you speak english?” and “I need help” in the language of the places you visit in addition to other important words like hotel, food, and taxi.

     5) Download MyTaxi app on your phone.  (Tip courtesy of Jordyn Davis) Apparently it’s the European version of Uber and will take you where you need to go and you can pay with a credit card.  This is handy if you would have trouble speaking with a taxi driver because the app tells the driver where to take you.

     6) Bus drivers tend to be more or less on time, but they won’t wait for you.  Also, if you’re at the stop, you still have to wave them down to stop.  If you’re just sitting there, they may drive on by.  Be prepared to pay or scan your card quickly.

     7) Turns out it’s illegal in Spain for foreigners to not have their passports on them at all time.  We found that out when we stayed at a Hostel and the man working the reception desk told us if we couldn’t show him our passports, he would have to call the police to take us to jail.

     8) Look ahead at the potential weather and pack light and smart.


     Last Sunday, some friends of mine and I traveled to Madrid, the capitol of Spain.  We took a bus for 4 hours from Valencia.  Once there, we toured west/central Madrid around the Gran Via, where our hostal was.  Gran Via is like the Broadway of Madrid.  We saw the Royal Palace and some monuments and tried to see The Lion King live show, but it was sold out.  Instead, we got to see the St. Petersburg Ballet perform Swan Lake.  Later, we met up with Claudia, a friend from Berklee session 1 who lives in Madrid, and we enjoyed dinner and drinks on Gran Via.  It was a fun short trip!


     I’d like to share with you some final thoughts on the program here in Valencia, Spain.  During my 2 sessions, I took 4 grueling courses, 3 of which were on film music and 1 that covered video game music.  I learned many useful skills that will hopefully help me get more job opportunities in the future.  Some of those skills were unexpected, such as working efficiently under extreme pressure, eating less (not overindulging) in order to work more , and keeping a positive attitude in the midst of adversity.  I also was able to work on leadership, planning, teamwork, foreign language, and people skills everyday abroad.   I’ve never been pushed so hard to do something that I love, and I’m pleased with everything I personally got out of the program.  I will miss my new friends from the film scoring group Dani, Miguel, Stephanie, Adam, Emily, Simon, and Sydney and all the other great people from around the world that I met at Berklee.  I’m going to miss my incredible professors Alfons, Vanessa, Lucio, Sergio, and Fabien.  I’m not going to miss my cot at the dorm, though!

     Of everything in Spain, what will I bring back to ‘Merica? I’m really not sure what will stick with me.  I’ve enjoyed using military time which is 00:00-24:00.  I never accidentally set my alarm for 8:00pm instead of 8:00am when using military time.  I now enjoy walking because I’ve had to so much while in Valencia.  I also realize how crucial my cup of coffee is in the morning.  I’ve come to enjoy wearing sandals and living in beach weather everyday, but I realize that probably won’t happen in Indiana.

      I’m really glad to be coming back to America.  I like my personal space, I like my bed, my friends and family, and my home studio.  European people, I have found, don’t mind sharing space so most days I play bumper-people (think bumper cars) to get to class.  It’s not bad, just different!  You have to be able to hold yourself stronger to get around in crowded areas in Europe than you do in the States.  So coming home will be easier in that sense.  I love cooking and will be able to do that again.  My diet here has consisted of bread, pan (bread), and rice.  I like to cook and eat meat.  As my friend Simon says, “Man need meat!”

      I’d like to especially thank my girlfriend, Erin, for being so understanding of and believing in me enough to allow me to be gone for eight weeks straight (sorry!) and my parents for their support in this journey as well.  I’d like to give a shoutout to my brother, Daniel, who will begin a new phase of life in Japan in August.  You will have so much fun!

      Thanks for reading my blog in these past weeks! I hope you have enjoyed learning about my experience, and I hope it helps you if you decide to travel in the future.  Peace out.

Published in 2016/2017 by the Berklee College of Music

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