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Johann Johannsson's sound...

Creston

Active Member
I've been listening to his score to MCCanick today and it's obviously got an Arvo Part influence to it.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tutlNXtE4hk

I'm not from a classically trained background and have been going through my libraries to see if I hear any of the string articulations in his work. What's going on with the violins? Am I right in saying there's a lot of viola going on as well?

His music seems to have a shimmer to it. Lots of processing after the string recordings. The high end is very smooth. Not something I've heard from strings when the mix isn't very busy in a hall. Some of his cues are quite noisy as well with floor noise. I'm thinking maybe some audio it stretched out.

What sort of amount of string players if he using for something like his score for McCanick? Mural sounds quite close.
 

Greg

Senior Member
If you want to figure out his sound, your best bet is certainly a hiatus to Iceland. Absorb their incredible landscapes and drink lots of the tap water.
 
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Creston

Active Member
Ha! I wish it was that easy.

More curious about the orchestration with strings and his processing. I can hear a Arvo Part influence in his music as well.
 

Izolus

Member
I originally intended to skim (for lack of a better word) through the music but I'm surprised at how impressive the music in, will definitely have to listen to more :P.

What I've learnt from the first 20 minutes or so about this so far is:

He seems to like using solo instruments for very specific devices. For example that ambient note that rings in the first four-ish minutes sounds like one violin that was recorded very very close. That allows you to hear the sounds you normally wouldn't from a sample library. Such as the bow moving against the strings and the subtle resonances as well.

9:40ish there appears to be a loosly played tremolo, which is why is sounds slightly odd. I also think those rhythmic parts that pop in at times are either fff pizzicato or bartok pizzicato (bartok pizzicato is in one of the spitfire strings btw :) ), as it sounds far more percussive than usual.

Also I'd say you're right about the slowing down of samples or something to that effect. If you get someone to play a smooth note going crescendoing and decrescendoing, then you'll likely get the same effects. I'm definite he uses a lot of harmonics.

I'd say one of the more recognizable parts of this is the fact that he uses very closely mic'd centre string instruments typically as ambient devices. The sounds you wouldn't hear in a section can help add to tension.

Hopefully there'll be some of this useful to you :).

EDIT: I listened to the entire thing when I originally intended to listen to five minutes of it, woops.
 
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Creston

Active Member
That's great, thanks.

I did pick up the Harmonics and another articulation, possibly flautando?

One of the sounds he has in the mix, where you hear the string sound (usually a held note for a long period of time), and all the discrepancies you wouldn't hear in a busy mix, I've managed to recreate that by tuning down an octave and transposing up. It stretches the samples out and makes the little human elements twice as long and more audible. There's a bit of noise with this though. I do hear this in his work sometimes (the noise) so think he might do something similar.

Another way I've managed to create the shimmer effect is using Valhalla Shimmer and having some strings with sends to a bus that has a pitch corrector an octave higher which has a wet reverb delayed inserts (still playing around with this)
 

Izolus

Member
Flautando sounds likely :P.

It's an interesting sound, and I'm wondering if it's something you'd find best from recording the real deal, and then putting on effects. It's a little odd either way.

I tried to give that shimmery effect a go and I feel like that's one of those sounds that takes a to create what we hear. I had a go at shoving a bunch of slowed down samples into heavy reverb and got a sort of similar sound. I swear at times I can even hear harmonics thrown into there, so I'm thinking it might be a large collection of sounds all at the same note, with different octaves, some which are slowed down, some of which are with a specific articulation and some of which are unaffected, just to give a reliable sound as a structure.

It's interesting to figure out what he's done, definitely seems like he's a big fan of audio engineering :P.
 
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Creston

Active Member
Yeah, there's some nice reverb on there as well. It doesn't seem like there are enough players to create a smooth effect like you hear with big scores.

I always read about getting a realistic orchestra sound, but this is the sort of sound I like and I often add more reverb due to this.
 

Izolus

Member
Very nice reverb, all the sounds blend yet it avoids getting overcrowded.

I know whatcha mean, I think it just depends really. This sound works really really well for something like this.

Also lots of reverb normally works anyway :D.
 

Matt Hawken

Member
There are quite a few extended/unusual string techniques going on. Bowing so softly that the string doesn't speak and you just get the bow noise, some bowing behind the bridge, possibly even bowing the tailpiece or other parts of the instrument. All of these will be very close-miked as Izolus says.

I agree that there's a lot of pitch shifting and timestretching going on too (PaulStretch or similar). The background ambience from 13:25 onwards sounds just like PaulStretch on a string section.

I think the string section is actually quite small but with lots of overpasses and extra ambience. Perhaps Sable would give you a more similar sound?

If you want to figure out his sound, your best bet is certainly a hiatus to Iceland. Absorb their incredible landscapes and drink lots of the tap water.
I think this is probably the only correct answer. What is it about that country? Amazing score, thanks for pointing it out!
 

TheUnfinished

Senior Member
You get similar techniques and sound in the work of Olafur Arnalds.

I reckon the best way of doing this would be to find a friendly little set of string players who are open to experimentation, then work with overdubs and resampling.
 
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