CASE STUDY

Legends OST - 'Our Story Begins'

Title: Our Story Begins
Orchestrator/Conductor: Allan Wilson
Performed by: The Philharmonia Chamber Players
Lute: Robin Jeffrey
Low Whistle: Tony Hinnigan
Recorded at: Air Studios, London
Engineer: Simon Rhodes
Mixed at: Abbey Road Studios, London 

Chamber Orchestra:
Strings (VN1 : VN2 : VA : VC :  DB): 1 : 1 : 1 : 1 : 1
Flute (1)
Clarinet (1) 
Oboe (1)
Bassoon (1)
Lute
Recorder

Virtual Instruments (VSTi)
Era II – Medieval Legends

Throughout Fable Legends, the game featured some highly stylised ‘story-telling‘ sections called Frescos.
Designed to look like hand-painted stage productions, the hero walks though the ever changing set as a narrator tells the story.
Somehow, perhaps because fo the ‘am-dram‘ nature of these frescos, it didn’t seem right to use full orchestra on them and so Steve Brown (Lionhead Audio Director) and I came up with the idea of the music sounding like a small 17th Century ensemble of players, performing live in the orchestra pit. This meant re-composing many of the main orchestral themes into William Lawes style fantasias or Royal Consort for viols and lute. This was a massive departure from the rest of the score as we had to use a small chamber setup (comprising solo Philarmonia players) as well as a lute and recorder player.

 

It’s important to me that the virtual instrument set I use throughout composing gives a fair representation of what the final recorded version will sound like. The Vienna Symphonic Library has really good solo insrument patches for all the strings as well as a very passable recorder patch.

We decided early on that we wouldn’t record percussion on the frescos and instead I chose to use a sample library of medieval instruments called Era II: ‘Medieval Legends’ (a very apt name!). For this particular track I used the tambourine II and medium bumbac from this library which sounded extremely authentic and, indeed, that’s what you can hear in the final recording. 

We had booked Studio 1 at Air rather than use the main hall. This gave a tight intimate sound to the recording which was perfect
for the overall effect we were trying to achieve.
First we recorded all the lute parts. The player, Robin Jeffery, was early and so we decided to lay all his parts down first to a click track and spend some time getting it right. The ‘Medieval Legends’ library mentioned above has a great lute patch and I had used this to compose so Robin had a fair idea of the playing style we were looking for. He did all the frescos practically in one take. Such a superb lutist.

Hands up who knows what chord this is

The Philharmonia chamber players were accompanied by Tony Hinnigan on the low whistle. Tony always brings along an array of  wood instruments and spends time auditioning each one until you get the perfect sound for your track. Although we had originally intended to have recorder on the piece, the sound from the low whistle gave a deeper ‘woodier’ tone than the recorder (given that we were working in the key of E flat minor) and this is the instrument you hear in the recording.

I approached composing for the chamber orchestra in much the same way as I would compose for full orchestra.
This works fine up to a point until you realise that there is no ‘safety in numbers’ and everything is very exposed. Combinations of instruments and sections that work perfectly fine on a large scale may not work quite so well for solo instruments – the composition has to be fine tuned and sometimes reworked to reflect this to make sure that instruments are not ‘lost‘ in the orchestration (remember there is only one of each!). Again, this is why it’s invaluable to have a sample library that gives a fairly good approximation of the final recording. For the beginner it can really help to see where the weak points in your composition lie especially if time in the orchestral sessions is tight – you don’t want to be re-composing on the spot!

Download 'Our Story Begins' MIDI file

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