Diary of a Song: Illumination

This is the sixth of a series of blog posts entitled “Diary of a Song“, where I share the stories behind each of the songs from my new album “Illumination“.

At the end of each post, I also include a link to buy the sheet music, and the MP3 download.


“Illumination” is track #3 and the title track on my new album.

The story behind this song is this…


About two years ago, I saw an ad on one of the many TV/Film 3rd party company licensing websites where a European luxury car commercial was looking for music for a commercial.  I don’t normally compose from scratch for opportunities like these (usually just submit already finished works), but the payout on this one was quite substantial and therefore I made an effort.  Okay, it was VERY substantial.  This one licensing opportunity would have paid me more than my music made in one year. AND the description of music that they were looking for basically almost perfectly described my style of music.  I knew I had to try.

I spent a lot time imagining a fast sleek car winding down a highway with curves. A BMW perhaps? Mercedez?  Who knows.  In my mind, I pictured a sort of Bond car, or luxury sedan.  Aston Martin perhaps.  I imagined the wheels turning and turning and the rhythm it created with its movements.

And thus the opening 16th notes of Illumination were born:

Because I knew this has to be a 1 minute clip of music, my attack on the composition of this song was quite different than how I normally compose.  I was crunched for time and needed to get to the main melody of the song from the get-go, so right after that short intro I immediately went to the theme of the music. Again….imagining a fast car zooming by.

And then, the next portion of the song, is me imagining the car driving off into the distance, sparkling clean, shiny wheels and a nice logo and a man’s voice coming on (sexy English accent) to say something about the car or whatnot…

That was basically my entire composition for the car commercial, which I then added orchestra to.  I wanted it to be simple, yet powerful.

So I only added: Violins, French horns, Percussion (Glen Gabriel designed the percussion, which also includes some synth effects). And the final end result for the 1 minute commercial version of “Illumination” ended up like this:

I proudly submitted the song by the deadline and waited to hear back.



What Happened With the Car Commercial…

And finally, heard back. My song did NOT make the cut for the commercial and yes I was super sad.  Especially because I spent a lot of time and effort on tailoring (what I thought) was the perfect song for this car commercial.

So the funny part about this story, is several months later, I was online watching new movie trailers on Yahoo’s movie section.  Before one of the movie trailers, a car ad came on.   I immediately looked up and took notice, because the song sounded an awful LOT like my song “Illumination”.  It was even weirder that my husband came in from the other room to find out what it was, because his response was also “Hey, isn’t that you?”.

But it wasn’t me.  But it was so incredibly close to my song that I almost thought it was mine.

I was in such shock that I didn’t catch the name of the car.  I thought I had seen Land Rover on the commercial, but I wasn’t certain.  Will and I must have refreshed the browser a hundred times trying to find that commercial again, but it never popped up. We also searched YouTube and the Lexus/Landrover websites trying to find this commercial, and yet we could not find it. So annoying.  So I just forgot about it.

But as I was in LA last year and met with my sound engineer, Rob Beaton, who deals a lot with sound libraries and companies that scout music for commercial work – I told him about what had happened with my song and that car commercial.  He told me that often times these ad agencies that scout music for commercials will find the music that they DO want, but they won’t want to pay the fee for it, so they will actually hire composers to write something very similar to it.

I don’t want to start drama or whatever, because I have no proof and I’ve never been able to find the commercial since then, but I have this little inkling that my song was heard by the ad agency (that I submitted it to), and perhaps replicated by another composer and variated ever so slightly so they could not be accused of plagiarizing. I have no way of proving this since I used a 3rd party to submit my song – I don’t know the name of the ad agency, nor the name of the car company. 😦

BUT the story does not end badly.

The GOOD news in all of this was that I still owned the rights to the song. It was mine to do whatever I wanted with.

I let it sit for a long, long time until I finally came up with the inspiration to work on it again.  It was kind of hard – as I had the first version really stuck in my head.  But eventually I was able to go back to the drawing board, dissect it a bit, and start over.

What I ended up with was a 4 minute long extended version, a couple key changes, a major-keyed section, and a pretty dramatic ending.  You can hear a sample of how I changed the transition of the short clip to extend here:

My album “Illumination” was actually originally going to be called “Portraits”, but as I kept working on it – the title Illumination just seemed more fitting for the vibrant cinematic music evolving for it.  And as I was choosing photography to go with the song (as this was an art-based album with my Dad’s photography), I chose this photo as the perfect representation of Illumination.


You can purchase that beautiful photo of Ruby Beach, Oregon Sunburst directly from my Dad at his website.

More Illumination Projects

As if the song hadn’t evolved enough, there was still more to come.

In the summer of 2012, I met with the conductor of the Evergreen Philharmonic Orchestra and arranged for me to perform with the orchestra in December of 2012.  It was a lot of hard work to transcribe the song for a full live symphony orchestra, but it got done.  I had the help of a couple transcriptionists (Travis Tagart, Daniel McBride).  While I did a lot of the notation myself, I wasn’t familiar enough with the various clefs of brass and woodwind instruments and wanted to be sure I got it exactly right.  I was so thankful for the help.

I should also note, that as I said, I originally only wrote the song for Violins, French Horns, Percussion and then later added Celli as well.  Transcribing it for a full symphony meant adding MANY more additional parts that were not in the original, and also dividing up the violin parts among the various string instruments. For example, in my recording, there are about EIGHT different violin sections playing various harmonies. But in a real orchestra, there are only TWO violin sections. So I transcribed some of the parts over to the violas, and then had each stand within the two sections playing different parts. Usually there are 2 violinists to one music stand and they play the same part, but instead I had them each split with different harmonies.

The end result was obviously NOT the same as the recording, but still very fun and surreal to hear my music performed LIVE with an entire symphony!  Here is the video if you care to watch.  I made a few blips here and there, but overall it was a really great concert and experience.

I’m still planning to shoot a music video for this song, but the plans for it have undergone many changes and I’m still waiting for the stars align for it to all work out how it’s supposed to.

Sheet Music

And now for the moment many of you have been waiting for, here is the link to BUY THE SHEET MUSIC for “Illumination”. I’ve noted in the music that there are a few measures where when I play it live, my part is minimal and the orchestra plays a lot.  But for the solo piano version, I have done some “orchestra reductions” into the part.

BUY THE SHEET MUSIC $3.95 – http://jenniferthomasmusic.com/store/productdetail.php?product=179


BUY THE MP3http://www.amazon.com/Illumination/dp/B008O0NUSM/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1357268285&sr=8-2&keywords=jennifer+thomas+illumination

BUY AN AUTOGRAPHED COPY OF ILLUMINATION directly from Jennifer while copies are still in stock:  http://jenniferthomasmusic.com/store/illumination-audio-cd


5 responses to “Diary of a Song: Illumination

  1. I LOVE this song – so glad that you decided to rework it – and if that agency did rework it – the Universe will see to their “reward”…in the meantime – I am loving your CD! Good job!

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  3. Great description of how this beautiful composition was born! I loved reading how you dissected it and what you were trying to paint in the listener’s mind. Too bad you never found the people who stole your composition.

  4. Oh it’s a shame they didn’t pay for your work, but I have to say I was blown away today as I finally discovered you and listened to this song. Gorgeous!!!! Absolutely stunning

    • Awe thank you so much Lilly! ALso received your youtube comments – you are a sweetie, and thank you SO much for your very kind words about my music. Means a lot! – Jennifer

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