Longtime friends and collaborators Leo Birenberg and Zach Robinson gave themselves several rules before they ran off to see who could create the better score using ARCADE.
First they agreed they only had a half hour to spend using the “Follow The Plan” kit from Obsidian. The second rule was they couldn’t listen to each other’s work until it was completed. Thirdly they decided it would be an ‘80s style Training Montage. And finally, there would be no mercy.
Birenberg & Robinson: from Disney to Daniel-san
The pair had met about a decade ago when they were part of the music department under Emmy-winning composer Christophe Beck. There they worked on the universally-loved “Frozen,” “Ant-Man,” and “Edge of Tomorrow,” among others. Currently they’re being praised for co-creating the totally ’80s musical vibe for YouTube Premium’s “Cobra Kai,” the Karate Kid TV sequel.
Both men come at music from different avenues. Robinson likes to shred on a left-handed Fender Stratacaster while Birenberg fancies himself a master of the electric pan flute. Together they utilize various elements of “Follow The Plan” to summon the sounds of the ’80s.
One man went at it with a chugging guitar
“My job is, kind of, to Eighties-ify it,” Robinson, who co-composed and oversaw the music production for YouTube’s “Sing It!” explained. After making a simple beat, he added a fuller drum sound and a few more synth vibes. Then he trimmed the loop to make it sound more robotic. Once the bed had been made, Robinson pulled the Strat off the wall and plugged in. “Sometimes I like to chug over it,” he said, adding a layer of gnarly hair metal guitar to the mix
The other man simply raged via Plotting Modular
Over in the other studio Birenberg started with the beat. “There’s a lot of knobs to play with,” he said with his cap on backwards. “Let’s see what they do.”
After some experiments, he found his way to Plotting Modular. There his eyes and ears were pleased.
“Oh man, any knob labeled Rage, I’m immediately going to turn up, and I was not disappointed,” he laughed.
His humor matches the work he has done in the past. Birenberg composed the music on Hulu’s “PEN15” and the FX series “Son of Zorn.”
With a healthy, dynamic beat, and tubular synths, Birenberg reached for his Akai Professional EWI4000S Electronic Wind Instrument. Why not? After a few notes it’s obvious the pan flute fits perfectly into the story of the karate kids who have since all grown up.
“The key to a long training sequence like this is you want to make sure your levels, your tiers, are really clear,” he explained.
The verdict: whose montage brought it harder?
Once the trash talk had ended the music began. After a few measures, Birenberg noticed that his partner was using the Four-On-The-Floor Kick… just as he had.
Great minds think alike?
Yes. “It’s a training montage,” Robinson chuckled.
“It’s really interesting how we both have a similar structure,” Birenberg smiled. Then he complimented Robinson’s synth solo on his Prophet keyboard.
Birenberg’s piece started off slower, introduced the pan flute early, and built to dramatic tiers quickly.
“We totally did a similar thing,” Birenberg said to his partner, stating that it “confirmed that we both have similar instincts when it comes to doing music like this.”
“I think we’re just meant to work together,” Robinson said.
“I think we are too,” Birenberg agreed.