Recreate mystic drone from Arrival (Jóhann Jóhannsson)

Meo96

New Member
Hi guys,

For a project of short movie I am working on I'm trying to recreate the drone from Arrival. It's the scene when they enter the alien ship (track is First Encounter)


We used Arrival as a temp track because it worked very well in the scene, the main idea is to have a big beautiful drone on some parts of it. I think it's good to challenge myself to get to know how to do sounds that were made by such professional and talented composers to progress.

I have very little knowledge on advanced audio creation, I mostly always use midi and when it comes to sound design I mostly use presets in Omnisphere or Gravity for example... So I hope maybe you can give me a hint on this.

This drone is obviously composed of several layers, with pitch automation on it. The pitch automation reminds me of the end the THX intro.


Since I had absolutely no idea how to recreate the Arrival's drone (except take a brass patch, put a guitar amp on it and pitch it) I tried to make something like this with massive as a start. Here's how it sounds


The first pitch automation seems correct and I'm actually quiet please with the effect of the pitch. The only thing is that it should be like this but with a very organic feeling and I have absolutely no idea how to make this sound more organic (and also how to properly make the second pitch automation)

What I first thought was the possibility of using an audio file (something organic) and modulate it in a synth or sampler the same way I did for the recreation oif THX sound. The thing is I have no idea what to use. I know Ableton have advanced pitch features for audio but in Cubase (my main DAW) it's pretty limited when it comes to modulate pitch. So I wonder what is a good sampler to modulates pitch ? Or what synth ? And any advice how to create a similar sound would help me a lot.

Any help from you guys would really help me here!

Cheers!
 

bryla

Senior Member
Create a bunch of cello and bass tracks and have them glide each differently. Take some of them and pitch them an octave down and take some of them and filter them. We had the glisses recorded several times and layered them together. By several times I mean we spent a day recording them.

You can do this in any sampler with the pitch bend. Just make sure each track is slightly different.

I don't know if Jóhann did the octaving with tape or Cubase on Arrival but he has used both the digital and analog tools equally on several projects.
 
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Anders Bru

Active Member
Hi Meo!

This is one of my favorite soundtracks, and I think it's awesome you're trying to recreate some sounds, although this is a seemingly simple, but surprisingly complex sound. I think it has a lot to do with finding the right sounds, processing them (pitching, stretching, distorting) and layer them together.

Jóhann used pretty much no synths on this score (I believe there is a syntethic kick drum at some point), and it's all recorded material. As you can see in this video a lot of the drones was created by making a tape loop and recording sounds onto that without the attack.

"I [...] spent several days recording various instruments, creating these rich, layered analog tape loops. I recorded them at various speeds. A low note, for example, recorded at high speed and then played back at the lowest speed becomes this subsonic rumble. We did this with several instruments: cello, trumpet, the human voice. On each channel we were doing sound-on-sound recording, recording over the sound while keeping the previous sound so we had this ghostly remains of the previous loop." Source

The section you reference sounds like a lot of layers! The pitch-shifting sounds like it comes from something slowed down, not necessarily pitch-automation, but something that plays that "melody" faster but played back way slower.

Also important note, what helps that section feel really big is the part that comes just before it, which is almost nothing. Just a simple bass pizzicato (I think?), which really helps sell the moment.
 

ism

Senior Member
Didn't the good folks at @slateandash make some of the patches for ... I though it was Arrival, but maybe it was another Johhnson film? (I could easily be wrong).

Can't say I know anything about drones, but slate and ash Auras would be my goto synth if I was trying to make fun drones like this.

 
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Meo96

New Member
Bryla, thank you so much for those informations. I could not have dreamed of a better answer. I'll give it a try. Do you think I can make something decent with the sampler that came with Cubase ? (I never used it before)

Anders Bru, that's one of my favorite soundtrack too (and also film). Another good information is that the composer didn't use much synths on the project (I was persuaded he did)
The fact that the part I referenced is not necessarily pitched down but maybe just slowed down is also a good track. And I totally agree with you when you said that the quiet part that came before, the pizz gives the drone his gigantic feeling.

Ism, on their website it says they provide sounds and textures for Arrival. I didn't know their products so thank you for that.
Listening to their overviews I'd say, maybe it has been mostly used for the 'quiet' drones in Arrival.
 
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bryla

Senior Member
Sure you can do it in Cubase. As I said JJ used it to its fullest. If you record some audio files at double tempo you can pitch them down an octave by halving the speed.
I can't answer for how S+A was used for Arrival though.
 

slateandash

Developer
Didn't the good folks at @slateandash make some of the patches for ... I though it was Arrival, but maybe it was another Johhnson film? (I could easily be wrong).

Can't say I know anything about drones, but slate and ash Auras would be my goto synth if I was trying to make fun drones like this.

Thanks for the shout out @ism. yes we did some work for Johann on Arrival (and Blade Runner 2049, which obviously never made the light of day :emoji_disappointed:), and some of our REVERIE library was used for specifically the sound in the clip.

As REVERIE is no longer available AURAS would probably cover this sort of thing pretty well, or you could also layer a load of bowed metal string type things - a dulcimer and sarangi perhaps? :emoji_wink:
 

Soundlex

Member
Thanks for the shout out @ism. yes we did some work for Johann on Arrival (and Blade Runner 2049, which obviously never made the light of day :emoji_disappointed:), and some of our REVERIE library was used for specifically the sound in the clip.

As REVERIE is no longer available AURAS would probably cover this sort of thing pretty well, or you could also layer a load of bowed metal string type things - a dulcimer and sarangi perhaps? :emoji_wink:
If you don't mind me asking...is there any particular reason you guys decided to take Reverie off the market?