Over the years, I have used a vast array of tools to create my work. In fact, it’s a question that is frequently asked of me, but there’s no simple answer at times. One day it might be entirely led by software, the next the sudden revelations from hardware synthesisers in the studio, unravelling ideas with my barely knowing!
However, in the last twenty years there have been some items that have remained steady in my creative arsenal. A piece of music software I have used consistently since it was first released in 2002 is Kontakt by German developers Native Instruments. It’s a sampling platform that can be as simple or as complex as you wish. In fact, in recent years, it’s been used in at least 60% of my productions.
Now, for the first time ever, I was invited to created my own sounds for it, using Soniccouture’s Geosonics II instrument. Interestingly, Geosonics II uses recordings of legendary field recordist Chris Watson, captured from all around the world.
Watson was a founding member of the influential Sheffield based experimental music group Cabaret Voltaire during the late 1970’s and early 1980’s. Since then, he has developed a particular and passionate interest in recording the wildlife sounds of animals and habitats from around the world. As a freelance composer and sound recordist Watson specialises creating spatial sound installations which feature a strong sense and spirit of place.
It’s quite likely that you’ve heard his work on such television shows such as the David Attenborough ‘Life’ series including ‘The Life of Birds’ which won a BAFTA Award for ‘Best Factual Sound’ in 1996, and as the location sound recordist for the BBC series ‘Frozen Planet’ which also won a BAFTA Award for ‘Best Factual Sound’ (2012).
Watson offered hundreds of hours of recording time, from some of the world’s most extreme and inhospitable environments, to form a library of rare sonic artefacts that cannot be found anywhere else. Kontakt allows you to literally play any sound that is mapped to your keyboard, so in a sense you can literally be playing the Kalahari desert.
As you might imagine the source material was wildly inspiring! SCANNER X, my sound pack, uses all these sounds in new ways. I created 128 unique sounds, which explore a nocturnal wander through an alchemical isolationist dream, with eerie melodies, balmy pads and industrious pulses.
In searching for a focus for my sound pack I was inspired by countless sources. Visually, I imagined it somewhere in between the worlds of Panos Cosmatos’s psychedelic action horror film Mandy, a vaguely impressionist revenge tale, the moody palette of David Lynch films with their dirty, unsettling, industrial ambience, and the unsteady world of Ben Wheatley’s In The Earth and compressed locations of A Quiet Place.
Sonically it offers up atmospheres that resonate with the music of Cabaret Voltaire, Throbbing Gristle, Stockhausen, Thomas Koner, Abul Mogard, Éliane Radique, Burial, Cliff Martinez, soundscapes, innate eeriness, claustrophobia, strange echoing noises, pulsing rhythms, deteriorating harmonies, discreet textures and much more. And don’t worry, there’s also warm, seductive and dreamy sounds to balance out the darkness. It’s important to remain positive you know! 😀
I am looking forward to hearing what others make from these sounds and how they might surprise and inspire me later on too.
More on SCANNER X Geosonics II here