Wednesday, December 31, 2014

2014 In Review: Highlights of Original Music + Sound Design For Film, Animation, Games, And Branding

Music + Sound Design for Animation, Branding: "Coffee Crush" by Brian Thompson for Crash + Sues

Above: Animator Brian Thompson put together this piece, about an alien who falls in love with a coffee pot, for Minneapolis post house Crash + Sues. I provided a complete musical score, sound design and mix. The piece was featured on the C+S blog for Valentine's Day, and screened as part of the local SIGGRAPH's Minnesota Electronic Theater showcase later in the year. more info

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Original Musical Score for Animation, Independent: "Make Your Mark" by Shelby Pearson

Above: Animator Shelby Pearson created this wistful, painterly piece for Kevin Obsatz's "Art/ Road/ Movie" showcase; I wrote an original musical score. It also screened at the Minnanimate 3 festival later in the year. more info

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Game Audio: Sound Design for Menchie Entertainment's "Mage Rage"

Above: The Bay Area's Menchie Entertainment commissioned me to create visceral, gritty, and textured sound effects for this online collectible card game. more info

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Audio Branding: Linnycakes

Above: Some whimsical sonic accents for an animated logo promoting the Linnycakes cupcake blog. See the lengthy development process and track the numerous drafts here.

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Original Music for Animation, Educational: "Whirl" Series

Above: My work as Audio Manager for the Sparkhouse division of Augsburg Fortress Publishers continued in 2014. The "Burt" episode of the Sparkpuse animated series "Whirl" received Best Children's Video and Best Series at the 2014 International Christian Visual Media Conference. The "Babies" episode of Whirl also screened at the 2014 SIGGRAPH Minnesota Electronic Theater showcase, where Sparkhouse animator Abby Duel won Best Student Film for her independent short Stagecraft.

Featured aboove: original music for the animated series "Whirl". more info

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Sound Design for Film: "Solitude" (Feature, Anthology Horror)

Above: Some gory SFX for a feature-length anthology horror film. The movie beat out "Wild" and "The Imitation Game" to win the Audience Award at the 2014 Twin Cities Film Festival, and creature designer Darla Edin won a slot as a contestant on "Face Off". more info

Above: a montage of original creature sound design I created for "Solitude", using my own vocal performance as source material for beastly manipulations.

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Sound Design and Original Music for Animation, Independent: Flush Studios (NSFW/ not for kids!)

Above: I'm excited to create sound and music for some new short cartoons by Josh Stifter over at Flush Studios. Our first volley of the season is a New Year's-themed toon to help you ring in 2015.

more info

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Audio Branding: Enke Films

Above: Musical sound design for Enke Films' animated logo. more info

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Sound Design: Intro to Four Letter Lie's "The Safest Way" Music Video

Above: I created a soundscape to match the shifting natural environments at the top of this music video, directed by my friend Jay Ness, which premiered on Alternative Press' web site in December 2014. more info

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Original Musical Score For Short Film: "In Shadows" by Josh Stifter

Above: An atmospheric original score for this psychological horror film. Also released as an MP3 EP. more info

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Original score For "McFowl!", An Experimental Short Film by Trevor Adams

Above: A leftfield soundscape for this montage of Super 8 live action and hand-tweaked animation. "McFowl!" premiered at the "Art/ Road/ Movie" showcase and screened at the Square Lake Music and Film Festival later in 2014. more info

Mike Hallenbeck home page

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

The Museum of Portable Sound

Recently I accepted an invitation to participate in a new project put together by my friend John Kannenberg. It's still taking shape, so nothing's definite yet, but feel free to consult the links below if you have any interest. The text below is mostly copied from John's own description. Enjoy!

The Museum of Portable Sound is a mobile museum dedicated to portable sound, initially based in London, UK. Its permanent collection is augmented with an ongoing series of rotating exhibits of no longer than 10 minutes' duration.

The Museum's galleries exist as playlists on the Museum Director's mobile phone. Visits to the Museum are by appointment only (or by bumping into the Museum Director on the street).

Visitors are asked to provide their own earbuds/headphones to access the collections.


The Museum of Portable Sound is dedicated to the collection, preservation, and exhibition of cultural artifacts related to the history of sound. With a specific focus on portability, digital initiatives, and community engagement, we bring the culture of sound to the public one listener at a time.

Museum Director: John Kannenberg

Board of Directors:
Glenn Bach (Los Angeles)
Carmen Billows (London)
Kate Carr (Belfast)
Jono Gilmurray (Bristol)
Mike Hallenbeck (Minneapolis)
Maria Papadomanolaki (London)
Cheryl Tipp (London)
Lydie Valentin (Paris)
Mark Peter Wright (London)
Philip von Zweck (Chicago)

Hours: By appointment (or by bumping into the Museum Director on the street)


Twitter: @museumsound

Email: museumofportablesound at gmail dot com

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Mike Hallenbeck home page

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Original Music for Animation: "Make Your Mark" by Shelby Pearson

Shelby Pearson created a wistful, painterly, Gobelins-style animation about inspiration lost and found. Thinking sound effects weren't necessary, I scored some piano jazz tinged with accordion musette.

Originally commissioned as a part of Art/ Road/ Movie, a screening organized to premiere Kevin Obsatz's film Crazy Horse, this piece also showed a few months later as part of Minnanimate 3.


Mike Hallenbeck home page

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

New Web Series Kickstarter Video: Starring Me!

Latest promo video (with music by me!) to fund the Kickstarter campaign supporting Season 2 of the web series Theater People. This one stars yours truly, with a little help from my cats and baldness.

Help fund the return of this production, which will in turn hire me back as composer and sound designer! Donate here.

Mike Hallenbeck home page

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Kickstarter for Season 2 of the Web Series "Theater People": Please Donate!

The folks over at the comedy web series Theater People are looking to launch a second season, and would like to bring me back as composer and sound designer. Please donate to the Kickstarter campaign, and help spread the word:

I had a great time working with director Matthew Anderson and the rest of the team last time, and it'd be great to get back together for another season. Here's a highlight reel of my original music for Season One:

Season One was a great success artistically and garnered over 10,000 episode views-- not bad for a 100% indie production. We'd love to be able to up the ante this time and monetize things a bit.

Please make a donation if you can. Thank you!

Mike Hallenbeck home page

Minnanimate 3

Minnanimate, the third annual Minnesota animation festival produced by John Akre, will screen four works featuring my original music and sound design this year.

The screening will take place Thursday Sept 11 at the Film Society of Minneapolis and St. Paul’s St. Anthony Main Theater 3. Tickets are $8.50 General, $6 Students/Seniors, $5 Film Society members. More info at

The program will include four animations I originally helped out on for Kevin Obsatz's Art/ Road/ Movie showcase:

Josh Stifter's comedic "The Other Side" (I contributed voiceover for a man and two chickens, plus original music and sound design)...

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Shelby Pearson's wistful and painterly "Make Your Mark" (I wrote an original musical score)...

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Trevor Adams' Super 8 intervention "McFowl!" (I created a soundscape blending sampled field recordings and digital synthesis)...

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and Mr. Akre's own "The Bestest Place of All" (I wrote a song and John animated a piece in response).

Lots of other great stuff on the bill too, like some some work from the immensely talented Caleb Wood and Greg Bro.

Here's the trailer for Minnanimate 3:

Hope to see you there!

Mike Hallenbeck home page

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Solitude trailer

The trailer for Solitude, an upcoming feature-length, anthology-style horror film. I contributed sound design and the occasional musical flourish to both the trailer and the movie.

The film's plot spans almost a century, from the 1930s to the present day; each segment is portrayed in the style of a horror movie from that era, framed with a contemporary plot line. Stay tuned for more news on this film.

Mike Hallenbeck home page

Monday, July 28, 2014

"McFowl!" to screen at Square Lake Film and Music Festival on August 9th

[UPDATE: Time slot has been changed. "McFowl!" will now screen between 9 and 9:30 pm on August 9th.]

I'm pleased to announce that McFowl!, an experimental short film by Trevor Adams that I recently had the pleasure of scoring, will screen at the Square Lake Film and Music Festival on August 9th.

This film was originally commissioned as a part of Art/ Road/ Movie, a screening organized to premiere Kevin Obsatz's film Crazy Horse. So thanks for the initial causality, Kevin!

Find out more about "McFowl!"

Mike Hallenbeck home page

Thursday, July 10, 2014

The Other Side: Music and Sound Design for Animation

Another collaboration with Josh Stifter-- a short animation that addresses an age-old question. Be advised that this cartoon contains mature (perhaps "immature" would be more accurate) content!

I performed and recorded all the male voices, placed the sound effects, wrote all the music, and mixed the finished product.

This film was originally commissioned as a part of Art/ Road/ Movie, a screening organized to premiere Kevin Obsatz's film Crazy Horse. It also screened a few months later as part of Minnanimate 3.

Mike Hallenbeck home page

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

In Shadows: Original Musical Score for Short Film + MP3 EP

Earlier this year I created an atmospheric score for Josh Stifter's short psychological horror film "In Shadows". The music has now been released as a very brief EP by John Kannenberg's venerable net label Stasisfield down in Chicago. You can download the score (free!) here.

Best known as an animator, Stifter decided to try his hand at live action with a short filmed entirely in his home and written by his friend Dan Degnan. Degnan and Stifter embarked on a project integrating home movies they shot when they were kids; the premise of the film became a reunion of two friends (played by Degman and Keith Radichel) who assemble the footage for the funeral of a deceased friend (Stifter), discovering a hideous secret along the way.

Musically I kept things understated while adding an undercurrent of anxiety. I recorded a basic melody line using a Rhodes keyboard patch, then chopped up the resulting audio and manipulated it using a variety of scrubbing techniques-- fast forward, rewind, altered speeds, glitches and splices-- to evoke the random access of both filmmaking and memory.

Below: an audio playlist excerpted from the score. Enjoy!

Mike Hallenbeck home page

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

McFowl! (Original music for an experimental short film by Trevor Adams)

I recently had the honor of scoring this short film by Trevor Adams.

Trevor shot Super 8 footage and then meticulously treated the film frame by frame. Inks, paint, and scratches accumulate as a dreamlike cascade of image and color.

I responded with tonalities culled from acoustic and electronic instrumentation, field recordings, and processed samples. The sound scrambles, tumbles, and streams in appropriate conversation with the flow of imagery.

While waiting to get a high-quality transfer of Trevor's film back from Saving Tape, I roughed in a score from memory, thinking I'd tighten up the relationship between sound and image later. But when I laid what I saw as a rough draft up against the visuals, I really liked the dialogue. The relationship was close but not exactly synced, which I found really effective.

This film was originally commissioned as a part of Art/ Road/ Movie, a screening organized to premiere Kevin Obsatz's film Crazy Horse. It also screened a few months later as part of the Square Lake Film Festival, then later at Minnanimate 3.

Mike Hallenbeck home page

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Audio Branding: Enke Films Logo Animation

Some musical sound design I created for a logo animation promoting Enke Films, animated by Jeremy Wanek.

The visual forms derive from notions of light and lenses to evoke the process of filmmaking. I responded with some crystalline, delicate lines underscored by a low orchestral drone to add drama.

Below: Jeremy also reversed the colors to offer an alternate palette for a "negative" version.

Not too many people know that this piece actually has lyrics too: if you want to, you can sing along to it using the words "It's Enke Films." You heard it here first, folks.

Mike Hallenbeck home page

Monday, May 19, 2014

Game Audio In Progress: Robot Voice

Here's some sound effects work in progress for a game I'm code-naming Dome of Chrome.

The project is in development by a rogue band of designers and programmers across the U.S. I won't reveal anything about story, visuals, or gameplay, but I can share sketches of audio elements I'm putting together.

Right now I'll offer some ideas for a robot voice. That's right, folks-- it's a video game involving robots. Guess the cat's out of the bag.

Anyway, let's start with the finished version of how I imagined a robot might talk-- I figured it might speak an alien language or else some sort of Galactic/ Mech Esperanto.

To explore how it was made, let's start with the original voice performance. I recorded myself stuttering and gibbering (a brief excerpt here):

In Pro Tools' Time Shift I dialed Pitch/ Transpose to maximum and Time/ Speed to minimum, rendered, then switched settings and rendered again. This upped the glitch factor of my already stuttering performance to the intensity of a bent Speak & Spell.

I gated the signal to increase the sputter factor even more, added some EQ and the lo-fi filter (reduced sample rate and size), and limited the track a bit. Then I bounced that down, opened the result in Ableton Live and tweaked it using the Erosion filter, automating the Sine parameter within resonant points on the grid. Exported again. Back in Pro Tools, I applied a doubler and a little more limiting. Voila!

But then I figured why stop there? Why not imagine how the robot would speak when it was malfunctioning? Maybe it'd need a death rattle when it was defeated, if it were in combat... Opening the finished robot voice cue in Live again, I tweaked the clip's Transpose parameter during playback and cut together the excerpts that came out the best:

It's an interesting challenge figuring out how far to push the glitch factor while retaining a sense of the sound having been a voice originally.

I imagine the sound (whatever it winds up being; again, I consider this only a sketch) will need further tweaking depending on what sort of delivery device the robot uses to speak. For now, though, it's fun to explore the blank canvas...

Mike Hallenbeck home page

A Netflix app is glitching and creating weird new films we wish were real

I haven't checked to see if this post is real or not. I can, however, confirm that it's real funny.

Mike Hallenbeck home page

Saturday, March 29, 2014

Tuesday: Dance Film Retrospective

A while back I had the pleausre of contributing Foley arts and sound design to this dance film by filmmaker Ben McGinley and choreographer Laura Holway. The film was created for the now-defunct Dances Made to Order project, and as it disappears, so too does any reason not to post the film online in its entirety. So the other day, Ben did just that! And here it is.

Here also is the highlight reel of my Foley and sound effects work on the piece, wherein I got to bring to life the clandestine superheroics of performers Charles Campbell and Megan Mayer. More info here.

FREE BONUS VIDEO: One time Ben and I worked on a shoot at a public school in Brooklyn Center, and he shot some awesome footage of me sitting in the auditorium with the kids. So here you go:

Mike Hallenbeck home page

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Original Music: City of Lakes Community Land Trust Promo

Kevin Obsatz put together this documentary video for a City of Lakes Community Land Trust event; he asked me to contribute a long-form piece of music to underscore testimonials on the organization's work.

Here's an excerpt of the music on its own:

The temp track in use was Moby's "The Violent Bear It Away" (clearly I've been typecast as a bald composer), so I did my best to approximate the driving and uplifting aspects that Kevin found appealing, keeping it really simple to provide a bed for the visuals and voices.

I put the track together in a few hours, we did a round of revisions, Kevin mixed the music in with his audio, and the showing went over well a few days later. Quick and easy!

Mike Hallenbeck home page

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Linnycakes Audio Branding

Bespoke sound design for animation promoting Linnycakes, a line of confections by cupcake maven Lindsey Wanek. Here's the finished spot:

We got to play around with a lot of different ideas for this piece. I'll share some of them here. The original creative brief was a fairly blank slate, just general encouragement to integrate music and sound design to reflect the dynamic visuals. The audience is, of course, home baking enthusiasts, so I thought in terms of family-friendly whimsy for starters.

Initially I leaned pretty heavily on the musical aspect, using melodic and rhythmic elements to represent movement events and sneaking in some firecracker sfx in the background. I assembled this intricate piece as a first draft:

I also produced a couple more minimal options, exclusively musical but much more restrained. The first employed tremolo and delay effects to build some mystery and tension:

The next iteration retains the tremolo but incorporates a glockenspiel-type voice to offer a more friendly palette:

Another version went in a more laid-back direction with a Rhodes keyboard line:

These early drafts came across as too musically focused; sound effects became a more desirable communication element. I retooled the Rhodes piece with some audio I hoped would be familiar to bakers (a cracking egg, the ticking of an oven timer and the ding of its bell) to assemble this proof:

The next steps were to dial the music back even further-- removing it from the top of the piece-- and to introduce some tinkling bells to accompany the suspension of the star and its attendant particles, expanding on the "bellish" sensibility with the final ding. An abstract, rising warble heralds the star's launch into the air. The egg crack at the start became a smoother motion cue.

Ultimately we removed the final musical element and retained only sound effects. Here's the finished piece again, just to bring things full circle:

Hope this provides some insight into process. Thanks for your time!

Mike Hallenbeck home page

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Into the Void: Original Musical Score for Feature Film

"Into the Void" is a feature-length sic fi adaptation of "The Sea Wolf" by Jack London, directed by Wayne Johnson. I composed a musical score that's equal parts strident orchestration, melodic delicacy, psychedelic rock, and ominous atmospherics.

The music falls into two categories. First I'll share the actual score, dramatic elements that support action and enhance emotion, heard by the audience but not the characters:

The spacecraft in the film is entering the Void, a region of space that bounces back all the radio waves ever transmitted throughout Earth's history. So I created a variety of "antique" music cues to simulate music of varied vintage, mixing the cues with an appropriate amount of distortion and crackle. These, then, are "source" cues that exist within the reality of the film and are heard by the characters within the scenes:

Below: longer excerpts of music from "Into the Void".

Mike Hallenbeck home page

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Sound Spandrel: Ritz Theater

Back in 2013, Minneapolis' Ritz Theater invited me to present a piece as part of its Monday Live Arts series. I decided to explore, document and remix the space as part of my ongoing Sound Spandrel project.

In the discipline of architecture, the V shape between two arches is called a "spandrel"; negative space, but part of the design nonetheless. A site-specific sonic event somewhere between performance and installation, the Sound Spandrel foregrounds the marginal and the parenthetical to integrate music as part of a location's incidental soundscape.

Find out more about the Sound Spandrel project here.

Mike Hallenbeck home page

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Assassins Tale: Sound Design and Music for Feature Film

Assassins Tale is a feature film about hired killers in search of redemption, driven by an ensemble cast including Michael Beach (Sons of Anarchy, Insidious 2, The Abyss) and Lili Mirojnick (Friends with Benefits, Cloverfield).

Music supervisor Willie Wisely placed a few of my compositions in the film, including this atmospheric cue underscoring a scene where Grace (Anna Silk) confronts Anthony (Guy Garner) as he shoots heroin:

I also served as Foley artist and sound designer on the movie (highlight reel below). I created original synthesized ringtones for three characters' phones, placing each in an acoustic environment appropriate to the scene, and contextualized a narratively pivotal ringtone sampled from one of Wisely's original songs, placing it in a large parking garage as the phone is removed from a corpse's pocket.

I also created assorted impacts, water elements for a swimming pool drowning, and a sound effects tribute to "Lawrence of Arabia".

Mike Hallenbeck home page

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

New Sound Lab

A quick mention of Tor Johnson's boutique sfx library New Sound Lab. I heard about it on the Designing Sound blog, checked it out and got interested in the unique (and affordable) collections to be found there.

Many of the offerings fall into welcome nooks and crannies, providing uncommon sources like Hybrid Electric Car, Rock Slides, and the two libraries I wound up downloading: Hard Drives and Optical Drives.

Close/ contact mic strategies reveal hard drives as hidden sonic labyrinths in these two releases. All manner of whirs, chirps, static, bleeps, bloops, drones, textures, and portamento tonal movement spill forth, resembling an outre musical composition as much as a sound effects library.

A preview of the Hard Drives library:

A preview of the Optical Drives library:

I decided these sounds would work perfectly for a short film I'm working on that involves a flying saucer. Stay tuned for details!

Mike Hallenbeck home page