Viklings!?

What is a Vikling? Well it’s a young viking of course! The project Viklings would have to be one of the most rewarding projects I’ve worked on and let me explain why.

Its started with the construction of a Coffee-Tin-Guitar that exceeded all expectations with sound quality and playability. When playing the CTG (coffee-tin-guitar) I felt that it had an almost primitive-sound and could transport you back in time, back to a time of adventure when instruments were less complex than their modern counterparts.

Beauty embodied in a tin
Beauty embodied in a tin

This primitive instrument making (no bells and whistles, only enough engineering to make the instrument sound and play) gives the unique timbre to the CTG, a timbre that spoke to me and said “dude, viking-music”.

With the inspiration to make some viking-music I took the CTG into SAE-QANTM and entered the Audient studio. I had a four hour booking and to tell the truth the music I played was a series of improvisations, nothing set in stone, just a vision to capture a ‘viking feeling’. For an in depth look at the recording process check out the post Ships over southern seas.

With some audio of the CTG captured, the next step was to put in some MIDI sequenced instruments from Logic X. Once the MIDI sequences were complete I uploaded the audio onto soundcloud and went about my business.

Whilst the reception of the CTG music was quite warm, nothing really came of it, that is until I had a meeting with an animator whom I showed some of my compositions and when she heard the CTG-music, inspiration struck. Almost overnight she had put together a team of four animators and started writing a story about a group of young vikings (viklings) on a quest. Within a week we had another meeting, this time with her animation team, and I was amazed at what I saw. They had concept art of each character and had created a world that had been inspired by the humble CTG! Feeling warm and fuzzy from what my music had inspired, I set about creating more music for this imaginary world.

Quality artists!
Quality artists!

The next piece of music was very similar to the first and followed along to an animatic the animation team had put together. This new version made use of a Coconut-Water-Can-Fiddle that has two strings and is bowed and can double as a hammered dulcimer-like instrument when struck.

This Fiddles sound is brash and reminds me of a mule or farm animal
This Fiddles sound is brash and reminds me of a mule or farm animal!

A lagerphone was used for percussion and the MIDI sequences were made using a demo version of kontakt 5.

It still smells like beer!
It still smells like beer!

 

The concept for the story was to follow a group of young vikings on a travel montage. For this I made the music follow the intensity of the story.

The teams leader thought this music was great but liked the energy of the first song better. At this stage I was a little confused about what direction the music should take. Montage music is usually a song that stays fairly constant throughout, but this animatic didn’t really feel like a montage, to me a montage needs to cover a greater period of time and this felt like a continuos travel scene.

Music Plan
Music Plan

After writing the theme for 2020 (another project), I felt that this project needed a similar level of intensity, maybe not as intense as 2020 but it had to have the same ‘epic’ feeling. So I needed to make this epic but also realised that something was missing, something to give that real viking feel, and that something was low, throaty male voices. The TV series Vikings title track If I had a heart, composed by Fever Ray, is a prime example of what most of us perceive to be viking-music, the drone-like quality and chant-like vocals gives the listener the feeling of being back in time and really puts you in the world of Vikings.

Trying not to blatantly copy the main theme of Vikings, I used male chants from Komplete 9 Ultimate. To get the chanting sound I used the patch ‘Bass-vowel key-switches’ from the kontakt factory sound bank, a patch that allows you to change the vowel sounds and also allows the ‘mmmm’ sound. In the picture below, you’ll notice there are some keys on the keyboard that are red, these are the keys you use to change the vowel sound.

Bass Vowels
Bass Vowels

To enhance the epic feeling I wanted an exciting string section and made use of K9U’s ‘Action Strings’. Action Strings is a patch that allows you to change the rhythms of your string section, much the same way as the bass vowel key switches. 

Lights, camera, action (strings)
Lights, camera, action (strings)

 

In addition to the voice chants and string section I added some woodwinds, percussion and female voices. The female voices were used in the middle section of the piece to give a playful feeling and another rhythm in the strings was used to give contrast. The way that the male voices give a serious feeling and the female voices give a playful feeling impressed the animation team and it was actually one of the animators ideas to change the rhythm for part of the song to break up the mood (thanks!).

Another way a playful feeling was achieved was through the flute and recorder, the flutes rhythmic melody and the recorders counter melody entwine each other and play joyfully together to break up the serious mood of the first section. Needless to say, there are key-switches on the flute that cycle through different sounds (legato, staccato etc.).

With both parts complete and the midi sequences looking like Patagonian head-wear it was time to show the animation team.

Cool Pattern!
Cool Pattern!
Pro-Tools Edit Window
Pro-Tools Edit Window

 

Screen Shot 2014-08-23 at 8.47.39 AM
Mix it!

Here is the animation so far. We needed something to show on SAE open day so there are some scenes that are still in progress but will be completed by the 29th of August 2014.

 

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