Friday, September 2, 2011

Tales Music: Turned To Stone

Another transition piece for Tales Episode 1, 'Turned To Stone' marks the demise of the Troll Tree Removers after they're petrified by the sun's rays. I wanted it to have a haunting quality. The first idea that came to mind was the sound of tingsha (Tibetan prayer cymbals). These are small cast bronze cymbals on a leather strap which produce a high-pitched ringing when struck together. They're more like bells in that respect. Each cymbal is supposed to sound identical, but possibly mine are slightly out of whack because they produce some harsh harmonics. This just adds to the character though, making them all the more suitable for this track.

I started by recording several takes into my CAD mic and selecting the best ones. If the cymbals wobble about too much you get a wobbly-sounding recording, so after some experimentation I got some clean takes. You can be sure I kept the wobbly ones too, though - you never know when they might come in handy!

I loaded the sample I was happy with direct into Sonar (my multi-track software) and repeated it every couple of bars. I applied reverb to soften the sound a little, but had to tweak it quite a lot. Certain frequencies were bouncing around and sounding horrible. This served as my guide for adding other instruments.

Next I added a plucked spring sound, sampled from my 'Spring Thing' which is nothing more than two dishwasher springs mounted on a board. But hooked up to a contact microphone it sounds fantastic. This already had a reverb all its own, but I added extra software reverb and it totally stole the show.

For the third element I turned to the K-Station synth, with the intention of adding a slow, bright, metallic arpeggio. My tweaking produced a detuned sound - not unlike bells that have been really messed up - more suited for melody, so a melody it was. In an attempt to fit melody to tempo, I threw in a bass-drum sample to play to. That lead to the mimicked sound of a slow hearbeat, which echoes the plight of the poor trolls and further enhances the track.

Oh yes, I almost forgot about the growls. I took a sound from my modified Yamaha PSS-140 FM keyboard and pitch-shifted it way low in shortcircuit. To me it sounds like the growl of an alien animal. No real reason for adding it except that it adds some spookiness.

By then the track was pretty much finished, to my mind. But there's always the temptation to add more, and later on I thought of some string parts and had to try them out. I called upon my trusty Crumar Performer analog string synthesizer for this. I dropped the bottom and mid-range out via the on-board EQ, and modulated the pitch. The latter is a trick I used on the Doctor Who: Mechalution soundtrack / Let's Build Mecha e.p. to give the strings a wailing, melancholy quality, not unlike tape-wobble.

The final element I added was a Chinese woodblock (also called a 'wooden fish'). This was again recorded using the CAD. It sounded too bright in my first version so I pitch-shifted it about an octave lower and EQ'd out some high-end.

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