Q - Why frogs?
A - I've always been quite fascinated with frogs. At the age of 9 I was the youngest member of the New York Herpetological Society, a group dedicated to studying Amphibians & Reptiles. That basically meant that my Dad would drive me to marshes around New York at 6 o'clock in the morning, and I would tromps around looking for frogs and snakes with a bunch of graduate students. It was great.
On a more symbolic level, frogs have had a special spiritual significance in many cultures since ancient times, and so have a mythic importance which I wanted to explore and share. Frogs are also an ecological bell-weather; they reflect the health of the planet in their population, which over the last several years has been mysteriously dwindling.
Q - Is "One Night In Frogtown" your first book?
A - Yes it is. I've written primarily movie screenplays and scripts before this. I've created two original tv series, and co-created a third for the producer of "Star Wars", a modern-retelling of Voltaire's "Candide". I believe that project will be in development for eternity. I also wrote & produced animated web shows for what is now Fox Interactive, and scripted & produced animated projects for another certain high profile movie studio. I can't say their name, but their mascot is a big-eared mouse.
Q - Why do you write books and music for kids?
A - All ages projects appeal to me because children are so open, free of the baggage that adults carry and project onto music. I felt kids can relate to the natural innocence and curiosity that Tad's character shows. As a composer, I enjoy working with different musical genres and making them accessible to people who may have no experience with them; often making them come alive for the first time.
Also - I think kids really like frogs that play tiny little instruments and sing.
Q - Where do you get your ideas?
A - When ideas come, they come very quickly. I tend to envision projects all at once, so the challenge for me is to get that vision down on paper as quickly as possible before it disappears. Then I spend alot of time filling in the blanks. The process is kind of like trying to remember, rather than trying to think of something new.
Q - What were some of the challenges you faced as a composer, with so many different styles of music in one story?
A - Well the biggest challenge was in recording the frogs themselves. Their instruments are so small that normal miking techniques don't really cut it. Especially underwater. So I had to experiment quite a bit to figure that all out. My background is in film-scoring, which by it's nature requires a fluid understanding of different musical genres. When I'm writing the score to a film, I try to let the story dictate the instrumentation and the production techniques I use. When I'm producing a song, I try and let the song tell me how to orchestrate it, rather than pushing a preferred instrumentation on it. It's all in service to the story being told.
So to me, I don't see the differences so much between styles of music, as much as the principles they all have in common to make them work. Your pallette of melodies, harmony and rhythm change, but the principles of good composition are always the same.
Q - How did you use frog sounds in the recordings?
A - I've always been interested in the sounds of frogs, and so as I became a sound designer working on movies, I also began collecting field recordings of frogs using a portable digital audio recorder. Many of them I recorded here in Oregon. Eventually I edited the frog calls into an array of "instruments" that I could actually play from a keyboard and use them to create some of the unique musical sounds in Frogtown.