I compose music for film, video, theatre, and multimedia. All of my work is made from scratch, without using loops or libraries available to other sound designers or composers. I write and record everything in close collaboration with my clients - I love taking notes. The music I make

for directors, producers, and other artists is built for the unique demands their projects require. That's what makes it fun.

Press play on any of these buttons to hear some quick samples of my work

 
MAY DAYS was a feature film I scored for SCRAPPERS FILM GROUP. I got the job because I had composed a musical that the main characters saw during the plot of the
film. These tracks are a small sample of the hours of music I composed and recorded throughout postproduction. SFG empowered me with a budget to hire great Chicago musicians at a top notch recording studio.
The score features: Laura Crotte on Guitar & Vocals, Rob Frye on Flute and Saxophone, Ben Lamar Gay on Trumpet, Charlie Malave 
on Cello, Katherine Young on Bassoon, and myself on various instruments.
 

This is a short behind the scenes video from the making of May Days. It offers a peek into the full length musical that is featured in the film. Produced by Dog & Pony Theatre,

THE WHOLE WORLD IS WATCHING is about the 1968 DNC. I composed the music, wrote the lyrics, and cowrote the book with Devon DeMayo. We remounted

it in 2015 on site in Lincoln Park with the support of the Chicago Park District.

I get to record or sound design or score

lot of short videos. They're often either art films or documentaries. This film, by Ricardo Gamboa, is a combination of both. Ricardo cowrote MayDays, and he was kind enough to bring me along on this project, which is a love letter to his Father and his own identity.

 
The University of Chicago Booth School of Business 
started the 'New Venture Challenge' 
to create an incubator for businesses making a leap from the classroom to the real word. I scored this webseries to a number of different edits,so each change in timing freed up music from an earlier edit to be used in the next episode. The result was a pleasing, cohesive whole throughout the series.

THE TWINS WOULD LIKE TO SAY was easily one of my favorite projects. I even learned how to play fingerstyle guitar in order to record the score for this show the way I had imagined. Other musical motifs included 12 tone compositions and surf rock. Here's a trailer for the play, which is scored with the play's main theme.

Invariably in every process there are moments when you have to scrap everything and start 

over from scratch.

 

These tracks are all castaways from various 

projects over the years. As a rule I don't get attached to musical ideas when I'm making music in service of a larger artistic goal. At any stage in a collaboration I might mock up a sketch to elaborate upon a musical idea. It's much more efficient to press play on a sample than it is to try to communicate with words in abstraction. Even if the sketch is totally wrong,

the notes I get in process are very useful.

 

Sometimes these impastos are incorporated in the finished project, but they're meant to be a stepping stone along the way. If there's something I really want to keep developing, I can pull out that one element and throw the rest away. For this reason, I usually start in midi so I can "reskin" a melody with different patches, or play with elements like tempo and key while preserving the ideas that get carried forward.

I hold on to these recordings because sometimes old ideas resurface, especially when I'm given touchstones like "minimal" or "percussion based" by my collaborators.

 We named our band after a piece  by Sun Ra. The ensemble includes

 Ben Lamarr Gay, Will Faber, Rob 

 Frye, Brooks Johnson, Alex Inglizan,

 & Joshua Sirotiak. The Projection Design behind us is by Ben Kolak.

Our music is on No Index Records

 I also play live, usually percussion. Here's a video of

 EL is A Sound of Joy

Here I am on Drums & Cymbals for SAD BRAD SMITH. Brad assembled a really talented crew to back him up, including Marc Stevens on Keys, David Golan on Lead Guitar & Vox, Anthony Del Bosque on Bass, and Greg Hirte on Fiddle. This is from a release show we played at Schuba's for Brad's second record: Magic. 

Stephen Ptacek Sound & Music