- Dana Kyle Kroplick
Morse Code Soundtrack Release
Updated: Mar 15, 2022
Morse Code is a 2021 short film directed by McKenzi Vanderberg, written by Maurizio Ledezma,
and produced by Da Eun Kim and Liz Lian that explores questions of mental health through suspense and horror. After a loved one’s tragic death, Stefani uses Morse code to speak with the beyond. In her search for answers, she inadvertently discovers questions far more dangerous. On instagram, follow @morsecodethefilm for more. The soundtrack was released on [tbd] and is available on most streaming services. It was mastered by Jett Galindo
Dots and Dashes
In the film, the dots and dashes of Morse code are represented by everyday objects - from flickering lights to beeping car alarms. Fitting the message that haunts our protagonist, “Hey Stef,” into music proves a bit more complicated since Morse code doesn't exactly line up with a particular time signature. Some letters are very short - the letter E (.) is represented by a single dot. Others are relatively long - Q (_ _ . _), Y(_._ _), and J (. _ _ _) all feature three dashes and single dot in varying orders. But by varying how long the silence between letters lasts, you can adapt those dots and dashes into a given time signature. In the case of the Morse code theme, that signature was 4/4, with eighth notes signifying dots and quarter notes signifying dashes.
Using a Morse Code Melody
In some cues, like “Through Our Windows,” the melody is very clear and present. There’s one moment where the entire melodic phrase for “Hey” is spelled out. But oftentimes in the score, only parts of the melody occur. The C-F-C-E pattern signifying “H” becomes a repeating motif throughout the film, at times appearing as melody but also transforming into an ostinato motor for more suspenseful moments. This incomplete “H” winds up becoming a “H-H-H-H-,” like someone trying to say something but not quite being able to, which can reflect a spirit trying to communicate with our world, but could also reflect how grief and trauma can stop us in our tracks.
Intimate Story, Intimate Instrumentation
For all the suspense and horror, this is an intimate story and the instrumentation needed to reflect that. The melody first appears in a gentle piano sound (an adjusted patch of Heavyocity’s ASCEND piano) when we meet Stef and Myra as children. As the tension builds, the instrumentation grows to a string quartet. Later, in the basement, that quartet doubles to an octet as the strings begin to play chaotic aleatoric textures, hitting and scratching the instruments. There are moments to hit, but in an intimate story like this we don’t want to go full Inception “BRAAAAM.” Though as Stef’s panic grows in “Basement Panic Attack”, some Dunkirk-inspired Sheppard’s tones are used to evoke an alarming but constant and seemingly-endless siren-like sound. The sound illusion that makes Dunkirk so intense
The film explores how we move through grief. As McKenzi put it, “grief doesn’t end, you just move through.” There are a lot of sound textures meant to evoke specific sensations in this score. There’s those round pads that seem to surround you and the scratchy pads that feel like a buzzing in your ear. “I Miss You” ends on a single repeating piano note fading off into memory. And all the instruments have a solid amount of reverb on them, an effect whose echoes are often used to evoke the sensation of melody and nostalgia.
The final two cues, “Goodbye” and “Morse Code End Credits” are meant to evoke a sense of introspection and, if not resolution, then at least movement forward. “Goodbye” brings back that Heavyocity ASCEND piano using different settings to fill the sonic space with bright chords and a sense of hope. “Morse Code End Credits” is the only fully stated expression of the theme. The instrumentation has come back down to a more intimate level - yet another group of settings of Heavyocity’s ASCEND piano and a solo cello - to evoke introspection with a sense of forward momentum.
Morse Code Original Short Film Soundtrack
1) Through Our Windows 0:55
2) I’ll Try 1:01
3) I Miss You 1:07
4) A Light in the Window 2:54
5) To the Basement 1:23
6) Basement Panic Attack 1:51
7) Goodbye 1:47
8) Morse Code End Credits 0:46
Written and Mixed by Dana Kyle Kroplick
Mastered by Jett Galindo Film:
Director: McKenzi Vanderberg Writer: Maurizio Ledezma
Producers: Da Eun Kim, Liz Lian