Spitfire Audio has announced availability of Eric Whitacre Choir. Last night we attended the launch event at the Greenwich Observatory where we were treated to a talk by Spitfire Audio founders Christian Henson and Paul Thomson - who's chance meeting with Eric Whitacre - the Grammy winning composer and choral expert, resulted in the beginnings of a project that took 4 years to come to fruition and utilizes the new Spitfire Audio Engine (not Kontakt this time) and EVO system.
Choral recording sessions that ran for 13 days at Air Studios and were all conducted by Eric himself, who was effusive about the experience and clearly found it highly enjoyable. Attendees at last night event were also treated to an astonishing live performance from the singers who were sampled - an original piece and a startling arrangement of "Hurt" written by Trent Reznor and made infamous by the late Johnny Cash. I wish we had a recording to share with you, but sadly it was a one-off.
Spitfire went on to tell us, "It captures the breathtaking range of that most personal of musical instruments, the human voice, joyfully crafted and conducted from within the luxurious Lyndhurst Hall at London’s legendary AIR Studios by namesake GRAMMY Award-winning American composer, conductor, and speaker Eric Whitacre (famed for his so-called ‘Virtual Choir’ projects bringing individual voices from around the globe together into an online choir, as well as his choral, orchestral, and wind ensemble music), ultimately showcasing his 22-singer-strong The Eric Whitacre Singers as Spitfire Audio’s arguably most anticipated virtual instrument library release to date."
Here's the Spitfire Audio press release with the full story...
ERIC WHITACRE CHOIR really represents one of Spitfire Audio’s largest library undertakings to date, taking the sound-specialising British music technology company’s decade’s worth of sampling experience and applying an authentic approach, affording music-makers a creatively-inspiring choral library that uses voices just like any other section of its orchestral libraries like no other. Famed for its exceptional acoustics, stunning architectural features, and natural light, as well as accommodating a full symphony orchestra with choir simultaneously as one of the largest recording rooms in the world, one of the world’s most experienced sampling teams returned — with Eric Whitacre and his 22-singer-strong The Eric Whitacre Singers in tow — to London’s legendary AIR Studios' luxurious Lyndhurst Hall to record the large library in question. “It was magical,” marvels the man himself, before adding: “It must be my favourite recording room in the world. There’s something about the atmosphere in there; it’s absolutely perfect for voices. It’s got just the right amount of bloom, and the spiritual uplift of its original intention as a church.” Charged with capturing this — via an ‘ear-watering’ selection of sought-after microphones, pristine preamps, and legendary tape machines — was recording and mix engineer extraordinaire (and Spitfire Audio regular), Jake Jackson, justly ensuring that the resulting stunning-sounding ERIC WHITACRE CHOIR shares the same acoustic DNA of Spitfire Audio’s acclaimed orchestral catalogue, so works well with any of those libraries.
Lest anyone needs nudging in its general direction, Spitfire Audio is also renowned for its innovative Evo Grid technology. Simple in principal, inspiring in practice, the grid — itself inspired by the breakthrough British EMS VCS3, which made musical history upon its introduction in 1969 by being the first commercially portable synthesiser available anywhere in the world, thanks to its innovative modular matrix-based patchboard dispensing with the telephone exchange-like cabling of other (much larger) modular systems in favour of making space-saving connections with (removable) coloured pegs — takes samples that change in different ways over time and arranges them across the keyboard. Play a simple gesture or chord and it will weave a ‘micro-composition’ that never stands still. Simply speaking, users of ERIC WHITACRE CHOIR can construct their own Evo — ‘Spitfire-speak’ for evolution — by placing an ‘EMS-esque’ (virtual) peg in the relevant hole on the aptly-named Eric Whitacre Choir Evo Grid screen or hitting the randomise button to generate automatically a unique instrument from an almost infinite array of possibilities! Always original, and always musical.
Evidently ERIC WHITACRE CHOIR doesn’t disappoint in that regard; in addition to a full set of orchestral samples — the Choir section of which includes six soprano, five alto, and six bass singers totalling 170 techniques, Spitfire Audio also recorded another stunning-sounding Evo Grid, with each element — 111 evolutions, no less — sculpted by Eric Whitacre. Where the choir meets that Evo Grid technology, a new instrument is born, one that so impressed Eric Whitacre that his was musically moved to comment: “Frankly, I wish I could compose like this in everyday life. The idea is that you can take up to three or four of these evolutions and combine them, or cycle through them as one of them evolves, and suddenly you’re painting music a totally different way, sculpting sound in real time. You can create minutes of profoundly beautiful music in this way.”
While clearly converted to the joy of working with his namesake Eric Whitacre Choir Evo Grid, when Christian Henson and Paul Thomson — fellow founders of Spitfire Audio — approached Eric Whitacre with the idea of sampling his choir, he took time to consider the project before eventually realising that this was the perfect vehicle with which to free composers from preconceptions about the voice and how it can be used in music. According to Eric Whitacre, “The palette of sounds is much broader than many people think when it comes to just using voices — from delicate whispers to gritty sounds at the back of the throat, to shimmering clouds of overtones.”
Once onboard the good ship Spitfire Audio, Eric Whitacre set sail towards finding himself at home with the microscopic detail of sampling. Indeed, it reflects his approach to composition, with which he crafts every sinew of sound to have its own musical life and integrity, or, as he puts it, “... hyper-musicality.” Many weeks of recording saw him conducting his choir for every thread of music destined to be housed in the ERIC WHITACRE CHOIR library, conjuring up sounds that range from familiar vocal techniques — including vowels and open vocalisations whose harmonic content transforms with changes in mouth shape — through to more unusual articulations, including shorts and rhythmic passages.
Pressing into play the welcomed assistance and advanced skillset of design and user-experience agency ustwo — responsible for DICE, the world’s fastest- growing live music discovery app, and MONUMENT VALLEY, a surreal exploration through fantastical architecture and impossible geometry, ERIC WHITACRE CHOIR creatively delivers as a bespoke, self-contained (AAX-, AU- VST2-, and VST3-compatible) plug-in, developed primarily for composers, by composers. Above and beyond that, though, it is an exceptional library, filling 200GB of audio that transcends choral cliches of sacred, angelic, and apocalyptic as an encyclopaedia of the voice, vying to enrich any composition. Cue a thought-provoking closing commentary from Eric Whitacre: “What I love about writing for voices is that sometimes a simple minor triad is all you need — no need to dress it up. It’s sophisticated because it’s so simple. And it has a gravity to it. It goes deep — at a cellular level.” Like ERIC WHITACRE CHOIR itself, surely?
Pricing and Availability:
ERIC WHITACRE CHOIR can be purchased and digitally downloaded — as a dedicated (AAX, AU, VST2, and VST3) plug-in for Mac (OS X 10.10, 10.11, macOS 10.12, 10.13 — 200GB HD or SSD space required) and PC (Windows 8, 10 — 200GB HD or SSD space required) — for a time-limited introductory promo price of £399.00 GBP (inc. VAT)/$449.00 USD/ €449.00 EUR (inc. VAT) until November 9, 2018 — rising thereafter to an RRP of £549.00 GBP (inc. VAT)/$599.00 USD/€599.00 EUR (inc. VAT)