The Rocket Dog Theme

Not’all’types’of’music’are’designed’to’get’the’same’response’from’an’ audience.’The’way’the’sound’is’produced’and’the’way’it’is’designed’to’ sound’are’intended’to’invoke’a’specific’response.’Having’an’understanding’ of’how’process’can’inform’aesthetics’is’important’in’being’able’to’produce’a’ work’to’meet’an’intended’goal’for’how’the’audience’should’react’to’the’work.

Students’can’demonstrate’this’learning’outcome’by’outlining’the’technical’ process’and’the’aesthetic’qualities’of’two’different’pieces’of’music’or’ soundtracks’from’different’styles’or’genres.’Students’should’be’able’to’ evaluate’how’the’technical’process’influences’the’difference’in’the’aesthetics’ and’discuss’how’this’impacts’the’intended’audiences’for’the’two’different’ pieces

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The purpose of this blog is to critically analyze the technical process and aesthetic qualities of the Rocket Dog theme from the Rocket Dog cartoon by Mel Roach. In this blog,  I will evaluate how the technical process influences the difference in aesthetics and discuss how this impacts the intended audience.

Rocket Dog

Firstly, I’d like the address the fact that Rocket Dog in its’ current state (Promo Release, awaiting Season 1) by definition has no real theme song. However upon conversing with the official sound designer of the show; AJ Gannon, I’ve managed to get my hands on his unreleased soundtrack to the pilot episode. In this small collection of songs there is a track titled ‘Rocket Dog Theme v1’ and it is this piece of music that I will be using for my analysis.

Rocket Dog Theme v1
https://drive.google.com/a/student.sae.edu.au/file/d/0B2RxX58Gp20kM2NRdzFCa0JIMjQ/view?usp=sharing

Screen Shot 2016-04-11 at 12.37.26 AM
Rocket Dog Theme v1 – Variations Audio Timeliner

The audio timeliner illustrates an obscure looking structure to the piece with two main sections titled ‘sleepy’ and ‘theme’, these are the two main songs within this track separated by a brief transitional section and of course an intro and outro on either ends. From this it is obvious that the track doesn’t fit conventional types of musical structures and the reason for this is that this particular piece actually follows the time line of the animation. Beginning at the start of the episode, the first scene introduced is of Rocket Dog napping in his basket. The ‘sleepy’ section illustrates the portion of this piece dedicated to that scene. A small transition then leads into what I’ve decided to coin as the main theme of this episode, the reason being, this composition similarly represents two main sections of the episode; the first being Rocket Dog’s initial flight and Rocket Dog & John @~1:28.

For the purpose of this analysis I’d like to focus mainly on the THEME section of this track. Some basic observations; tempo is roughly ~175BPM which can be seen as faster than most forms of pop music but not necessarily new to the the cartoon specific genre of soundtracks. Essentially the pace of this track denotes the speed which is illustrated in the video, Rocket Dog is rapidly flying around town with his owner John clinging to his leash as if his life depended on it and the speed of this song sonically illustrates that point.

In design, the instrumentation of this song is very minimal with only a few main elements; the group vocals, dm1 and possibly live drums and a layer of bells, possibly a kalimba or something similar. Each of these instruments add a different layer to the song which uniquely contribute the overall aesthetics.

The addition of live recorded drums separate this style of cartoon music from the purely synthetic type, it is this organic layer than gives a sense of familiarity to the viewer and also helps translate the song as something to “down-to-earth” as the cartoon animation isn’t at all perfectly designed with a rustic/human approach to the drawings.

The DM1 drum machine adds a robotic notion to the song, although the drum machine is modern and designed for the iPad, this vibe taken from drum machines in general portray a level of digitization that organic drums couldn’t possibly achieve. The addition of unrealistically perfect drum beats compliment the basic ideals behind the motif of Rocket Dog; this isn’t a real-life documentary, it’s a cartoon about a farting/flying dog.

In his video, Gannon discusses some of his main instruments which include the DM1, Live Drums and guitar. He also mentions that he samples the St. Dunstan’s Catholic Primary School Choir in his composition, using pitch shifting techniques to acquire the vocal sounding melody in his song.

The way in which Gannon manipulates this sample is rather minimal, technically, the length of the sustain on each of the vocal cuts are long enough that the choir is still distinguishable. In my opinion, Gannon has shown much restraint in sampling the choir, more often than not, it is easier to push the sample beyond recognition. I think he has approached this task in a way that suits his client; Mel Roach. At the same time, he has created an aesthetic which sonically translates well to an audience of a younger age demographic, much like the way he sampled vocals from his very own daughter for some of other compositions in this episode.

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