Emotion in Motion
August 28, 2023
Blog by Troels Folmann
I've always been fascinated with the idea of emotions in motion. Isn't all emotion a form of motion? A motion in thoughts? A motion of tears? A motion of love or fears?
Music is a reflection of life and on many levels, instruments are the reflections of that. The Violin. Merely a little wooden box with 4 strings on it. Yet it takes a lifetime to master and is capable of speaking more elegantly than we can with words.
In 2011 Colin O'Malley (Emmy Nominated Composer) and I set out on a quest to record the holy grail of strings. The holy grail being strings with true human emotion.
At the time Colin was scoring and orchestrating with Yanni (Multi-Award Winning composer) and we also worked on a Tomb Raider video game (TR Underworld) together.
(Hint. If you want a masterclass in how to score for video games - check out Colin's music for the Thailand Level in Tomb Raider Underworld:)
I still remember sitting at a production meeting and listening to Colin's music with the team. There was no feedback. It was just perfection and he made the world come alive.
This is what a great score does - and notice how subtle he often is - to allow for players to just explore and immerse themselves into the game world.
I had the pleasure of scoring the main theme, which is a modulation of Wagner's Valkyrie. The game was Nordic themed, so I thought that was relevant.
(Hint: The percussion in the Tomb Raider Underworld theme is the Alpha of our Epic Toms. Which I specifically built for this purpose - it was never intended to be a commercial instrument. Took me forever to figure out those chord progressions)
Anyway, Colin and I had also done some larger custom sample projects together, including a full symphony orchestra and prototype epic choir together with Thomas Bergersen and a few others.
We both felt a glaring hole in the sample world for emotional strings. So, we decided to embark on the longest sample project of my career called Adagio.
It was over 2 months of consecutive recording time, which is about 1.400 hours of recordings. We recorded both Solo Strings, Chamber Strings and Full Ensemble Strings in the same beautiful church in Berkeley, California.
We did everything ourselves, including bringing recorders, sandwiches, setting up microphones, everything.
We wanted a specific sound and placed the microphones unusually close to the players. We then spent all our living hours ensuring the sessions were inspiring.
Cause the ugly truth in sampling is ... If players are uninspired ... You will get an uninspired product.
I can't tell you how many sample libraries I have tried. Loading some string patch and never being able to really "feel" the strings. The simple reason being the players weren't inspired, so I am playing dead notes.
That changed with Adagio. I still think it stands as the most emotional collection on the market of deep-sampled strings.
Fun fact. Colin and I did 32 different legato sessions, which after years of pruning, ended up becoming two multi-layered legatos. One in the style of John Williams vibrant/shining vibrato and another more James Horner/playable style of modern string sound.
I have never been able to recreate these sounds in other sessions or libraries. We simply just hit the magic jackpot, but that was after years of trying, revising, learning, reprogramming and massaging these samples endlessly.
The Adagio series consists of multiple libraries, including Adagio, Agitato, Adagietto and Anthology, which is the latest iteration of the library. I personally prefer Anthology, since it has the newest user interface and easiest accessibility.
However, there are unique samples in the other volumes if you really wanna dive deep into emotional string sampling.
This is one of those few libraries that I call "Sample Gold". The term refers to the idea of timeless sampling. Something that only happens a couple of times in one's career. It's truly something special.