Capturing the Scandinavian zeitgeist we’ve sampled a 100 piece orchestra playing never-before-sampled instructions at the very edge of silence. Alongside orchestral content are bellows, percussion and a characterful warped synth section. Everything you need to take it down a degree or two!
In what can only be described as a sonic odyssey, the Spitfire crew has travelled northern climes to research, discover and unearth the most naked, honest and glacial set of samples we have recorded to date. Returning back to London we set about recording an enormous orchestra – but not in a style steeped in the choral tradition, echoing angelic angels from above. We sought instead to create a sonic tapestry that was of this Earth. As if it was seeping through the moss on the ground, smelling of Estonian forests, Scottish lochs, Norwegian fjords, and evoking the sense of isolation when stood on the permafrost and tundra of Iceland.
For many years now Spitfire Audio has been recording orchestras of all sizes, but a theme that has run throughout our last decade is how to unearth and discover more naked and honest performance styles. We also understand that where sampling is concerned it’s the quietest of levels where the real magic happens. By taking this into account, by studying the most popular recordings of Arvo Pärt, Sibelius and Gorecki, and by observing new emerging talent from Scandinavia and Iceland we were inspired to create a whole new set of tools.
Partnering with long term collaborator, orchestrator and contemporary composer Ben Foskett we set about recording a full dynamic set of samples where the top level was set at mp (mezzo piano, or kind of medium quiet) right down and through to the quietest recordings we have ever dared record. Our chief engineer opened up the hall at Air Studios to maximise its amazing early reflections and to liquify the fibrous and finely textured instructions we gave the 100 strong band of extraordinary London players. Samples we believe that have never been made before.
Albion V Tundra Features
Creating something extraordinary often takes a leap into the unknown. We knew we wanted the strings to have a frozen sheen to them. We felt we needed to scoop some of the lower mids out of the frequency map. So we took the bold decision of excluding violas from the orchestra and instead supporting a rich cello and bass offering of 12 & 6 players sat in the middle of the room with two massively enhanced violin sections of 20 and 18 players sat in ‘Antiphon’ (opposite sides of the room).
The huge selection of articulations created ranged from pimped classics such as our ever popular flautando, but with mutes added, and sections playing poly-divisi so that even with a band of this size, every player can be heard. Right through to unorthodox approaches; requesting that players attend the session with practise bows with NO rosin on the hair so traction was very limited, to actually BOWING the strings with the back of the bow. Jake Jackson’s real challenge, with the roof fully elevated so that the signal contains as much early reflection as possible, was trying to get the musicians louder than the ambient room tone.
We recorded the strings in two (high & low) sections with (where possible) matching articulations. Highlights alongside these cascading longs articulations are flautando legatos, brushed shorts and some extraordinary loose pizzicatos where only the principals were in possession of the click track!
WHISPERING CHORUSSES OF BRASS & WIND
We’ve got four different bands (high winds, mid winds, mid brass, low brass) all booked with a choral mode in mind. Taking experience gained with our fantastically popular Trumpet Fields giveaway instrument, our instructions to all bands were to be naked, honest, and non-conservatoire, but also with very specific textural approaches that liven the hall to create a very natural mossy patina.
Whilst the entire “Tundra” orchestra is playing from quiet markings all the way down to ‘oblivion’, where the orchestral tones are slowly deafened by silence, the end result is a deeply dynamic and timbral set of expressive instruments that quite happily act as a stand alone orchestral tool-set, albeit of a quite unique quality.
In what is always a fascinating creative process, we set about accompanying the Tundra band with a selection of Harmoniums and Shruti Boxes (bellowed single chord Indian drone makers). But it didn’t quite match up to the “Tundra” magic, so it was abandoned. Well, everything save a throw away portion of the recordings where Christian had requested for the players to perform on the knife edge between the bellow hissing, and the reeds actually sounding.
This produced an extraordinary selection of stuttering granular folk beds which we have slammed through processing and have warped and cajoled into a very special Nordic style Evo Grid. With 32 evolutions spread over 12 regions and the all important dice function to immediately randomise your preset into a near infinite number of possible outcomes.
Following from our hugely successful warped orchestral content in Albions 1 through 3 we decided to approach this set differently. Instead of using our ‘in-the-box’ pristine set of digital processing and mangling tools, we decided to go wholly out-of-the-box, employing whirring Roland Space Chorus Echoes with classic Eventides and Axe FX Pros into the mangle chain – the brief: “imagine you had put together a studio entirely made up from an abandoned 1960s American early warning system”. Not only does this collection feature orchestral material, but also the aforementioned Harmoniums and Shruti boxes which offer up a particularly unique and northern feel.
The end result of this component is as inspiring, mossy, and earthy as the rest of the library. Presented in our ever popular ‘eDNA’ engine so you can instantly make these presets your own.
Never to shy away from epic, we also felt it important to create some brooding epic drum combos designed for intermittent use to mark time or punctuate. Think Cantus in Memoriam Benjamin Britten by Arvo Pärt. Featuring unique combinations of very small drums played against massive Verdi bass drums and taikos. These drums speak of distant pagan rituals!
We’ve invited the legend Paul Clarvis (leader of the Olympic drum corps and London movie session favourite) back on to Spitfire’s dry stage with his infamous car full of “percussion that doesn’t sound like percussion instruments” to record some intimate and honest rhythmic passages to add frosty momentum to your scores. Again presented on the eDNA platform for instant tweakability, but also with a series of spring-out-of-the-box presets designed by Spitfire’s team of award winning composers and producers.
100 piece orchestra recorded to tape at Air Studios, London
133 multi dynamic orchestral articulations split across Strings, Brass and Woodwind ensembles
38 violins with 32 articulations including 19 longs, 11 shorts and 2 legatos
12 Celli and 6 Basses with 30 articulations including 17 longs, 11 shorts and 2 legatos
Brass ensembles with 17 unique articulations for both Mid and Low ensembles
Woodwind ensembles with 18 unique articulations for both High and Mid Ensembles
Legatos designed by Andrew Blaney
All have multimic control with Close, Tree, Outrigger and Ambients
Recorded by priceless valve and ribbon mics at the edge of silence
Neve Monserrat preamps into a Neve 88R desk
Recorded digitally at 96k via 2″ Studer tape
THE “VRAL” GRID
32 hand crafted drones in our “Vral” Grid
Slowly evolving drones with varying loop points
All housed within our ‘Evo Grid’ engine for almost limitless randomisation
STEPHENSON’S STEAM BAND
138 Stephensons Pads housed in our eDNA interface
Organic sounds created from the orchestral material
198 original sounds to create more content from
22 unique instruments with 52 presets
All played in triplets, 12ths, 8th and 16ths
Tempo-sync’d to your DAW
Played by the infamous Paul Clarvis
20 percussive elements
Single patch for easy playability