Ross School - Senior Projects 2010

Student: Forrest Gray

Mentor: Hal Mckusick


Title: The Eight Songs of My Life


For my Senior Project I wrote and recorded eight instrumentals, all of which are musically based off my life. I used sounds and melodies to recreate events that happened in the course of my life starting at birth. I wrote and recorded the songs in chronological order so that when listening, one can experience my life in song form. Each song accounts for two years of my life, and each song flows right into the next one to resemble the linearity of life. Through the process I learned a lot about production and how to record with efficiency. I also learned a lot about properly writing music. For my performance, I wrote out a score for a couple string players and brought in my friends who play drums, bass and piano to play one of my compositions live.


Songs (Calm, Child, Confused, Curiosity, Exuberance, Finale, Music, Senior Project)

PowerPoint Presentation


          When I first started thinking about my project, I wasnŐt quite sure what I wanted to do. It was obvious that I was going to do something involving music, but I needed to do something that was original and that I could enjoy as well. I considered doing a Vivaldi-type piece, where I would create a composition for each season of the year. Since I had done a similar concept for my modernity project, and I wanted to do something even more original; I decided to write a song for each year of my life. I was set on this idea, but after a while I realized it would be too ambitious to write seventeen songs. I reassessed my project and came to the conclusion that I should do eight songs, each song containing two years of my life.

          When the school year started, I had a sufficient amount of material to start recording. Over the summer, I had been taking lessons with Bruce Wolosoff (outside consultant), whoŐs a professional composer and helped me organize my song ideas, so I was on a good course. For means of recording, I had a two microphone input interface compatible with my version of Garageband. I would just mic all the instruments I needed to record, and the audio would go straight into Garageband. As for as instrumentation went, I panned on playing all the instruments on the recordings with the exception of any string parts I may have wanted on the recordings. On September 28th, I got everything set up to record and came across a technical difficulty with my recording. I soon realized that the mic ports were broken and the recording interface needed to be replaced. After sometime finding a device that had the adequate features, I was finally ready to record. By the time I had my technical difficulty solved, it was already November 20th, so I had to be as efficient and as quick as possible with my recording.

          My record process included finishing a song entirely, and then showing it to my outside consultant once a week who would then critique it then add suggestions. His suggestions really helped get me through the indecisiveness I undergo while recording. After I recorded my first song, which was kind of a trial run to see if everything worked to my standards, I could finally get serious about finishing my product. I was writing and recording through the entire thanksgiving break and making good process. Though I had though I was going to do all the instrumentation on the recordings, I came across a part in a song I was in the midst of writing that desperately needed some woodwinds. I called my friend Camille to come over to my house and lay down flute tracks. I wrote out all the parts and she played them perfectly. Though she played them perfectly, it took about two and a half hours because recording is such a tedious process, I valuable lesson I learned through the course of my senior project. Once thanksgiving break was over, I had four songs complete. I planned on recording throughout the school weeks but I underestimated how hard it would be to manage my schoolwork and simultaneously record. I waited until winter break to finish up all my songs because I thought that would be the best way to focus and get my work done. When winter break came, I was working everyday, 6-7 hours a day. During the winter break, I recorded everything at my Step-DadŐs Studio, which was better then recording at my house where I had recorded the first four songs. I faced a lot of challenges, such as: time management, learning to record as efficiently as possible and not getting so angry when I messed up on recording which in turn affected my performance.

          By the end of winter break I was completely done with the recording, all I had to do now was write out the score for the songs I was going to play for performance night. I knew exactly which instruments I wanted on my songs for performance night. I called everyone I wanted who I knew were up to par for my songs, and who could sight read very well. I had my friend Chris Bareos-haigis on the cello, Coonor Vorhaus on violin, Emily Verneuille on Clarinet, Peter Landi on drums, Gabe Burford on bass, Camille Coy on flute, Shanna Polley on piano, and myself on guitar. The night before performance night, I was writing out all the music for the instruments and realized how long it was going to take me. I ended up missing school the next day just to write the score out for two songs, which ran the course of twelve minutes. Time management in regards to writing out music was also another valuable lesson I learned. As a group we only practiced the songs once, about thirty minutes prior to performing them. Everything came out perfect in the end, I couldnŐt have been happier. The sound quality of the live instruments was amazing and no one messed up.

          My project as a whole taught me a lot about writing music and being more expressive when writing. Since my project was very conceptual, I really had to acquire the skills to be as expressive and emotive as possible when making music that represented my life as a whole. The quality of the songs exceeded my original expectations and I couldnŐt be happier with the result.

Works Consulted

Butler, Win. Funeral. Arcade Fire. Rec. Aug. 2003. Arcade Fire, 2004. CD.

Davies, Ray. The Kinks. The Kinks. Rec. 24 Jan. 1964. Shel Talmy, 1964. CD.

Hendrix, Jimi. Are You Experienced. The Jimi Hendrix Experience. Rec. 26 Oct. 1966. Chas Chandler, 1966. CD.

Kent, Andy, orch. Vision Valley. The Vines. Rec. Nov. 2005. Wayne Connolly/The Vines, 2005. CD.

Martin, George, orch. Abbey Road. The Beatles. Rec. 22 Feb. 1969. George Mratin, 1969. CD.

Martin, George, orch. Magical Mystery Tour. The Beatles. Rec. 24 Nov. 1966. George Martin, 1966-1967. CD.

Martin, George, orch. The White Album. The Beatles. Rec. 22 Nov. 1968. George Martin, 1968. CD.

Nicholls, Craig. Winning Days. The Vines. Rec. 2003. Rob Schnapf, 2003. CD.

Community Member (Details)

Bruce Wolosoff-Composer