Stranger Things S3 Premiere
I was pretty stoked when a new client called asking if I could provide some services to support the production of a Stranger Things pop-up event put on by Netflix. This was back in 2019 when season three was about to premiere. Stranger Things is a fantastic series and I am certainly a fan, so it didn't matter what they needed, how large or small the job was, I told them I was 100% ready to provide whatever they needed. Fortunately, it was a pretty exciting set of tasks they needed handled.
This pop-up's main attraction was a walk-through experience that was going up at the Santa Monica pier had four distinct zones, three of which are immediately familiar to fans on the series. In order of guest experience, the zones were a mirror maze, the vortex tunnel, the void, and the sensory room. The overarching aesthetic was something along the lines of an 80s nostalgia carnival (set in the Stranger Things universe, of course).
Source: Tractor Vision
I don't remember the direction client gave specifically, but I don't think there was much. Generally, being familiar with the series, I already had pretty cohesive ideas about the various "locations" that each zone represented. As for the "carnival" itself, well, that's pretty simple. For this it was just essentially, make a waltz with electric organs and some synthy bits, and maybe get a bit weird with it. So that's what happened and, while, yeah, it's a weird piece of music, I actually had a lot of fun putting it together.
Mirror Maze / Carnival Theme
If I'm recalling the chronology right, the mirror maze leads to a vortex tunnel, and then the void (if you have seen the series, you're familiar with the void). The idea here was to have the vortex tunnel create a sense of motion. For that bit, I inserted the obligatory arpeggiator synth à la the title sequence for the show. The void was much more specifically sound design only, but with some eerie beating tone type synthesis. Speaking of sound design, Netflix provided some vocal cues from the character with a request to sprinkle them into the pieces in a way that kind of sequentially conveyed a kind of narrative.
Finally, there was the sensory room. Not entirely sure why it was called that, but effectively what it was as far as the music was concerned was the upside-down of the initial carnival mirror maze tune. Musically, that kind of meant all the things you'd think it would: slowing the tune down, down-shifting and micro-shifting pitches so it sounds "off," and just generally making the whole piece drearier. There was also a regularly occurring event every so often where a trailer or some other related piece of content would be shown around the fair, and the sound design piece at the end of this track is what signified that moment.
That's pretty much it! This was the first time I had explicitly written anything, or done any kind of sound design for an attraction such as this. "Experiencial marketing" I believe you'd call it? It was interesting and fun, and I thought it was pretty neat to get to put my head into that universe for a little bit.