It’s a strange business doing music – by which I mean writing it and so on and I expect every musician/composer has a different approach. Mine is to start with sounds: I get a basic mood and feeling I want to portray and then find sounds to match, and then after I am satisfied with the sounds I’ve finally ended up with then I think about tunes and the like – if I want them, that is. Depends very much on the mood.
Saying that, though, sometimes I start with some voice samples – I’d done this with the piece Nulaanau. I had a piece of the Winston Churchill speech “Their Finest Hour” on the computer and thought it would make an interesting dark ambient piece – I didn’t want stirring and bombastic music to accompany Winnie’s speech so I thought something darker would be best – a sort of brooding, menacing soundscape which would seem to be a perfect fit considering what the UK was going through at the time and what would come. There’s a Soundcloud whatsit at the bottom of the page which can be played.
Mrs H says she prefers the cheerier stuff – Rinore which aims to evoke woodland walks for instance – and they are fun to do, although I always prefer doing the darker stuff (just a personal preference when it comes to listening as well) since I find it more interesting to do – finding the right sounds and manipulating them on the ‘puter till they sound correct (not that I always get it right!) and trying to create a dark landscape of sound (don’t always get that right either!) which hopefully, when done well, summons up things of a, well, Lovecraftian or nightmarish quality. Although saying that I’ve only done a couple of these properly so far – the others have elements of that in them.
In other words, I generally make it up as I go along.