Shawn Clement: On A [Quantum] Quest with Intense Music

Award winning SONAR user – composer/producer Shawn Clement is at an exciting point in his “intense” career: 

  • His credentials and track record have allowed him to open an office/SONAR studio at the heart of Paramount Pictures.
  • He just had a major successful event at The Kennedy Center in DC where his music was premiered during “A Tribute to the Wounded Warriors.”
  • On July 29th he will be hosting a score party at Paramount Pictures for his original music in “Quantum Quest, A Cassini Space Odyssey 3D.”

Little did he know, when in 1996 Shawn Clement took on a “gig,” that he would be stapling a movement to the universe’s musical bulletin-board.  “Reality TV – what’s that? Who’s going to take interest in that?” These were some of the questions flying around the conference rooms of major television networks back then.  Well it just so happens that still to this day 95% of us get sucked into the inevitable antics of The World’s Wildest… The World’s Scariest…  The World’s Most… You know, those shows that catch your eye when you’re flicking through the channels and catch a quick glimpse of a Corvette being severed in half by a semi-truck; and there it is – wham – a half hour later and you have neither moved from that channel, nor your seat for that matter.

Well it just so happens that SONAR user Shawn Clement was (and still to this day is) the music behind one of the biggest Reality TV franchises with titles including World’s Wildest Police Videos, World’s Scariest Police Chases, Avoiding The Moment of Impact (2&3) and When Good Pets Go Bad 1 & 2 (Fox Television); plus The World’s Most Amazing Videos (NBC), The World’s Most… (series for Discovery Communications), and the World’s Scariest Ghosts, hosted by James Coburn on ABC.  In the huge volume of music written for these shows all in SONAR, Clement sparked a new musical genre that for years now, has dominated primetime viewing. ASCAP presented Clement with a most impressive award – the prestigious “ASCAP 2000 Film and Television Award” for Most Performed Underscore, recognizing this accomplishment.

 CW AR: Combining the decline of recorded music sales with the ease of making great sounding music in home project studios with DAW’s such as SONAR X1, many people are getting into the “composing” field. What brief yet specific advice can you give for aspiring young composers that are looking into this field of work?

 SC: I would say be prepared to work extremely hard and be able to wear a lot of hats.  You’re a composer, producer, performer, and engineer… all of it.  Also, it’s very important to be a team player.  “Many” people create a film or TV show [together] – not just one person.

Although a very important and relative element to Clement’s business, Reality TV is just one facet to his 10,000-foot view in the music industry.  His diversity and knack for writing, producing and composing hair-raising intense music has brought him into a full spectrum of genres in film, television and video games.  It’s also led him into some very unique projects that are off the beaten path from the normal role of a composer.  This can be exemplified by his recent participation scoring the music for “A Tribute to the Wounded Warriors” which was presented at the Kennedy Center in Washington DC. Clement was singled out as the composer/producer who could effectively arrange the music for this show.  The star-studded event was a “spectacle of Patriotism and emotion supercharged with the intense sounds of Shawn’s music,” said Cakewalk’s Steve Thomas who attended the event.  Jon Anderson, vocal soloist and lead singer for the band Yes, was one of the performers for the event who was joined by Ulysses James, David Sheets and Choral Director Carol Connors to name a few.

 CW AR:  How did you get yourself in the space to create music for this show and what was the technical process for pulling it all together?

 SC: With any project, you first have to understand the film.  Meaning, really know the story, characters and what role the score is going to play. Every production has its specific needs. Say for instance when I created the Wounded Warrior’s Hymn, this was a live performance, so what I needed to do was realize a “mock-up” version of the music so that others could hear where I was going with it.  For example, I would send my “demo” off to Jon Anderson so that he could put together what he was singing on it.  Keep in mind that the “demo” needed to sound as much like the real thing as possible so that anyone involved could really believe in it.  Beyond that, all the tracks in SONAR would then get broken down and sent out to my orchestrator so that it could finally be realized in written music form for the orchestra to play. We had 106 players with a 247 piece choir, and Jon Anderson singing on 2 of the movements. 

With being around film and TV for a good part of his career, it only makes sense that Clement has ended up somewhere epic; somewhere that rivals his musical ability and gives him the opportunity to “roll” with the movers and shakers that make the entertainment industry revolve and evolve.  That very spot is Paramount Pictures in Hollywood CA.  Last month Clement started moving some of his gear from his SONAR studio north of California to the heart of Paramount Pictures where he will align his talents and ideas with some of the biggest names in the industry. “This is a great opportunity for me and I am psyched to be here,” Clement told Cakewalk AR on a recent trip to Paramount Pictures.  “It’s the best of all worlds for me, I am still keeping my SONAR studio [ranch] in the hills north of LA, but I will also be using this 2nd room to meet with producers, showcase my work, and create and record all kinds of ideas when they hit me.”  Clement’s current studio setup includes a V-Studio 700 along with SONAR X1b where he uses the DAW to sometimes record and produce over 150 tracks a session.  Shawn told us, “I’ve stayed with SONAR over the years because it’s rock solid and it has everything I need at my fingertips – it can be as simple or as complex as I need it to be.  My world is fast, and the editing features alone on SONAR X1 save us a ton of time and allow us to focus on creating music, not fighting it.”

CW AR:  What are a few specific features in SONAR that you utilize the most and how do they apply to your work?

SC:  There are so many!!  The main thing for me is the intuitiveness of the program.  Nothing is worse than when you have all these creative ideas flowing and then you get hung up dealing with a DAW that you can’t figure out.  With SONAR it’s very transparent, and things just get done as they get worked on; having said that, SONAR still has all the bells and whistles that you need.  I love using the built-in Synths, as well as all the effects that come with it.  I also really love the transient shaper, the Skylight View, and also being able to freeze audio and then edit that frozen audio, very cool and useful stuff!

With credits on television shows such as Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Entertainment Tonight, Extra Magazine, The Guiding Light, Ally McBeal, Donny and Marie, Married… With Children, Another World, The Maury Show, Wasteland, As the World Turns, Crime & Punishment, and American Idol [and that’s just to name a few], one would think Shawn Clement was just a one-trick-pony for mainstream television, but in fact it’s just the opposite.  Proof of this notion can currently be heard in IMAX theaters all over the United States where once again Clement was soloed-out as “THE guy” who can pull off the music for one of the grandest projects in a decade: Quantum Quest, A Cassini Space Odyssey 3D.  For this project, a project so intense and heartfelt, Clement actually recorded his score with an 80+-piece ensemble of the Skywalker Symphony Orchestra at the Skywalker Scoring Stage north of San Francisco. 

CW AR:  What was the process creating and recording the music for Quantum Quest?  Did you score all the music in SONAR by yourself at your studio and then literally translate it into sheet music?

SC: Quantum Quest was a much layered project.  I wrote everything in SONAR and recorded a lot of specialty tracks, such as Guitars, Theremin, Bowed Vibes, Waterphone and many synth tracks.  At that point I pulled out the tracks that were going to be played by the live orchestra.  We had about 80 live players, so those tracks were all orchestrated out for the orchestra to play.  I recorded up at Skywalker Ranch, which was amazing.  What we ended up with was tons of pre-recorded tracks that were done at my studio in SONAR along with the live players.  In some instances we would have 90 tracks of pre-records from SONAR along with 80 live players; pretty thick!

The premise of Quantum Quest, A Cassini Odyssey is based on education and the solar system.  The uniqueness of the film lies in the fact that it was initiated by NASA, uses actual content from ongoing NASA missions to mesmerize its viewers with stunning 3D visuals, yet it’s based around educating theater-goers on our Solar System by infusing content from 7 different actual space missions.  The film was co-created and co-directed by Dr. Kloor, a nationally acclaimed scientist with other credits including “Star Trek: Voyager and Earth: Final Conflict.”  Dr. Kloor has been on record stating, “I am delighted that my friend and colleague Shawn Clement has decided to add his brilliant and thoroughly original musical talents to our space adventure. I know his musical contribution will help ‘Quantum Quest’ fly high.”  Clement is just as grateful for the opportunity to work on the film. “This was one of the more rewarding gigs in which I’ve ever participated,” he told us. “It’s probably one of the proudest scores I’ve ever done that’s for sure.  I would constantly get gratitude from sections of the orchestra.  For example I would hear, ‘Thank you for those parts,’ and, ‘I never get to play this way.’  You just don’t hear that too often from players and I appreciated it very much.”

Another unique (and exciting) aspect of the film involves the characters voice-overs.  A meticulous cast was assembled and includes some weighty names such as Amanda Pete, Samuel L. Jackson, William Shatner, Jason Alexander and James Earl Jones to name a few.  The creators even went an extra step and included Neil Armstrong in the cast for an adrenalin shot of authenticity.

CW AR:  What was the process of the meetings with the film creators before you started making the music?

SC:  Basically, we spotted the film. There were 2 directors on this project.  We did our first spot up at Skywalker along with the sound-design team because sound-design was also playing a very big role in the film – and I was also overseeing all of the audio post aside from scoring the film.  So, we would go through scene by scene discussing what types of sounds and music would work with what sequences in the film, and also how sound-design and music would work with each other.  The second spotting session was at my studio and focused just on music.  At that point there was a temporary score that was laid in by the editor as a guide.  All and all I pretty much ignored the temp and the directors let me run with it.  We did talk about specific elements that needed to happen in certain scenes to accentuate the drama, characters, story line…if there were specific things that needed to be sung, where songs would go and all that sort of stuff.

For a guy with a very admirable personality who has over 25,000 pieces of music under his belt, one would think Shawn Clement may be ready to entertain an early retirement, but it’s actually just the opposite.  “I feel like I am just getting started actually.  This move to Paramount Pictures has inspired me to dig even deeper into my musical vocabulary and I am fired up to take on new and interesting projects.  I don’t think I could live without making music even if I wasn’t here; I’d be making it somewhere…” Shawn told us with a good smile at the end of our conversation.

This week, Shawn and his team will be hosting the Original Motion Picture Score Release Party for Quantum Quest, A Cassini Odyssey, at Paramount Pictures.  We congratulate him and his team on such a great level of success with this project, and we are honored that another great musical composition such as this one was created in SONAR; and of course we wish Shawn all the best, on and off the musical playing field.

More Information:

Shawn K. Clement 

SONAR X1

 V-Studio 700

 Cakewalk