WHISTLE (2002) is Duncan Jones’ 26 minute debut short film he has described by him as “my dry run at a feature film”. Until very recently we’ve only been able to listen to one track from WHISTLE, ‘Leaving For London’, on composer Christian Biegai’s Soundcloud. Thanks to some audio wizards Christian has been able to reconstruct and remaster WHISTLE so we can now listen to the entire score, hurrah! Christian was also kind enough to give us some background on the original creation of the WHISTLE score, and the process of reconstruction and remastering it into our grateful ears now. Over to Christian…
In 2002, I was living in New York and in the middle of my master studies at Rutgers University. I got an email from Duncan, who back then was a film student at the London International Film School, where he said that he was looking for someone to score his short film “Whistle”. I got to know Duncan during my time in London, where we met through an ad at the film school. Whenever we met, we always talked enthusiastically about film and music, both of us being at the end of our studies and the beginning of our careers. We decided to go for it, and that we wanted to record a small chamber group. I would email him the MIDI files of the score before the recording session, to make sure that the music was going in the right direction.
Since I was in New York, where of course everything was expensive, I had to be inventive to produce a film score for a very low budget. I was able to get a studio at the Manhattan School of Music for a very low price and I huddled 15 musicians (accordion, glockenspiel, timpani, piano, strings) together in a tiny recording room. Anything that sounded like a mini-orchestra.
It was one of my first scores, so everything was far from perfect. I basically had to time my VHS tape of Whistle with a stop watch and then compare it to my notation software of my computer. Different times indeed.
We recorded the music and then I sent the DAT Tape with the music to London. Luckily Duncan liked it and he used four of my tracks in his short film.
Now. Let’s switch to 2020. It’s a world pandemic!
I had nothing to do and started cleaning up my studio and found 2 DTRS 8-track back up tapes from the recording session back then (29th of May 2002). I always remembered that I was not entirely happy with how the music was edited and mixed, and I always thought one day I’d like to re-edit or remaster the music. So there I was, thinking . . . hmmmmm . . . let’s see if I can ask the recording engineer from back then, if there is a Pro Tools session with all the stems. I found a contact and got sad news: the original Pro Tools session died many moons ago on a hard drive somewhere in Canada. Alright. I bought a DTRS 8-Track machine on Ebay and tried my luck. Unfortunately one of the time codes of the tapes was broken, so the digital transfer wasn’t very good and didn’t line up with the other tracks. I had to get the stems differently. I found a pro studio that specialized in cleaning up and transferring tapes into a digital format. The engineer sent me all the materials and there I was with a whole bunch of stems that didn’t line up. One tape was recorded throughout the recording session and the second tape was always paused during takes. Argh! Meanwhile I started working on a twelve part TV series for a major German network and had no more time to play around with the material. A good old friend of mine, Alexander Klein, who is a terrific recording engineer and mixer came to my mind. We hadn’t worked together for a long time. Could I persuade him to re-edit and master the music of Whistle? I sent him the material and……he said yes! He was able to get the most out of the material. It was pure magic what he was able to do and I’m very happy about the final result.
So . . . this was my journey to finally being able to release the remastered score of Whistle. Like I said, it was one of my very first film scores. I would have to done things differently today, but as a document of time, I think it is very nice to have and I think someone out there might like it as well. Enjoy!
Keep up to date with Christian’s current projects via his web site >>> christianbiegai.com