Frederik Theyssen: Creating new perspectives
Frederik is the man behind the Creative Soundpacks—from the first seed of an idea to recordings and sound design, these carefully crafted sounds are his handiwork. Frederik explains how it’s done, and describes the crazy recordings behind Arbos, in this interview.
Growing up, Frederik always had a curious musical mind. He began playing guitar around nine-years old with a little help from his father and then moved further into music production when he discovered the power of his computer at 13 years old. Since then he hasn’t looked back: “What drew me to music production was the possibility of playing more voices and sounds simultaneously. I could perform as a band by myself.”
It was the endless possibilities that sample libraries offered that fascinated him: “If you play a real instrument, you can do things that are tough to achieve with a sample library. But it works both ways. If you create a sample library, there are certain things you can’t do by playing a real instrument,” as he explains, “You can find sounds that you might have never heard before and that’s exciting to me. That doesn’t mean real instruments aren’t as good, both have their own strengths, but it is something I love to explore.”
"Before I start recording, I like to make sure the idea has a twist, so there’s something unique about the idea before we even begin."
With the Creative Soundpacks series we want to create something different, something inspirational for composers, artists, and musicians. Frederik was the perfect person to help us to do that––he’s been dreaming of creating these instruments for a long time: “My own experimentation leads into the ideas I create with Orchestral Tools. I’ve had the idea of doing something similar to Arbos for two or three years now.” He smiles, “I just needed to find people crazy enough to let me go out and do this for a month.”
It seems Orchestral Tools were crazy enough. So where did the inspiration for each pack come from?
“Before I start recording, I like to make sure the idea has a twist, so there’s something unique about the idea before we even begin. Recording the forest percussion for Arbos was interesting for me because I don’t think some of these sounds have ever been recorded.”
Along with Arbos, it was his previous experimentations that inspired Amber too: “We tuned all the string quartet instruments down a fourth before we recorded them. This is something I had already done with my guitar. I thought doing something similar with a string quartet would be interesting, so I tried it. My sister plays the violin, so we tried it out first using that, and it worked.”
For Babel it was the way in which the vocalists sang that set it apart for Frederik: “Babel uses a lot of lower dynamic layers and softer performances––which are sounds I really like. I think the syllables and marcatos and different words that the vocalists are singing make it unlike a lot of other sample libraries.”
The unconventional nature of the Creative Soundpacks made the recording process a little different from Frederik’s normal routine to say the least. “We did have some challenges whilst making these soundpacks. When we brought wooden sticks and trunks back to the studio to record parts of Arbos, there were little animals and insects living inside them.”
The musicians recording Amber also had a bit of apprehension when recording their parts, and for good reason: “Classical musicians don’t usually tune their strings that far down, so we weren’t completely sure if it was going to work. We didn’t want to damage any of their instruments. We weren’t sure whether something might happen to the bridge of the cello.” Luckily there weren’t any accidents and the musicians enjoyed the process: “The musicians were very nice and open to experimenting with us––they also really enjoyed the sounds we were making. The viola player said she wanted to keep practising using this lower kind of tuning because it sounded so nice.”
This sense of apprehension continued with the recording of Arbos, but it was short lived. “When we were recording Arbos the percussionist was playing a bunch of branches with leaves still left on them. He was playing really softly, and at one point it was really quiet and he said, ‘This really sounds like wind. It’s like I’m playing wind.’ That was a great moment. That was the point in which the percussionist really understood what it was we were trying to do.”
As soon as this clicked for him, the drummer had his own ideas for Arbos: “He had the idea to record the sound of this dead tree in the forest; he knew where it was from walking through the woods with his dog. So we recorded him playing the roots of this tree. The sound of these roots was very tonal, they had a certain pitch that was really interesting. We also had fun recording a large tree trunk that we found lying around––it sounded a lot like a kick drum.”
The fun didn’t stop there. Frederik even made his own woodland instruments for the collection. “I’m pretty proud of the Beech Nut shaker sounds we created. I gathered these old Beech Nuts when I was staying with my parents, and I let them dry out for half a year. Using these old Beech Nuts I created a shaker instrument using ropes and a little stick. It sounds really nice, I like that one a lot. I also made a rainmaker. I actually used a didgeridoo and filled it with Pine Cones, then I closed off the ends to make a forest-style rainmaker.”
Now that the recording process is over and Arbos, Babel, and Amber are out in the world, how does Frederik envision composers and artists using them?
"If a composer or musician is looking for new sounds they might not have heard before, they should try listening to Arbos, Babel, and Amber."
“The difference about these soundpacks is the twist I was talking about earlier. If a composer or musician is looking for new sounds they might not have heard before, they should try listening to Arbos, Babel, and Amber. Arbos is a great tool for layering. It has a very refreshing sound. The wind-like and forest sounds we have created are also percussive and melodic––this could be really interesting for documentary makers or electronic music producers. Electronic producers are always looking for new sounds that they can manipulate and process the hell out of. These raw sounds would be great building blocks for those styles of music.”
“Amber is a really strong string quartet, but on top of that you have swells and different sound patches that can create really interesting atmospheres. Amber would work really well for cinematic composers. Babel is also great for cinematic composition, and electronic productions as well,” as he explains, “For example, you could focus on one syllable and start processing from there. These soundpacks are designed to help you creatively, they could be a great jump-off point for switching up the sound or style you’re accustomed to.”
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