Hi Stefano, we’re really excited about ETHERA Soundscapes 2.0. Everyone in the office was a fan of ETHERA Soundscapes, and we didn’t think it could get better! For those that aren’t familiar with you and your work, how did you get into music, and what inspired you create the ETHERA series?
Hello guys, thank you so much. I’m a Sound Designer & Composer and I’ve been doing this professionally for years. I’m currently working for FOX Networks Group as Senior Sound Designer & Composer and I began my career as Sound Technician. I worked with several studios and brands during that time.
What inspired me to create the Ethera series? I got the idea while working on a trailer for FOX. I worked on many TV series & trailers (Walking Dead, Outcast, etc.) and I was always looking for a great vocal library and not only, but also, synth, arp, pad, and textures. But I was always in need of a precise type of sound and vocals that was not easily found. So I thought… Well I can create it myself. So I started recording vocals with Clara, and also many sounds from synths, sound field recording, acoustic instruments. etc. Originally it was meant to be a personal tool, but thanks to my friend, Fayez, I decided to polish it and build a complete Vocal Library, sound design and music too , which then became Soundscapes.
Clara, you’ve been the iconic voice of ETHERA since version 1, but most people probably know your voice from trailers and soundtracks without knowing it’s you! Take us through your musical journey and how you came to be the voice of the ETHERA series.
Well, I studied piano for 12 years and singing for 8 years. I participated in various competitions and festivals,
In 2014 I obtained the certificate for “Competence in the Figures CFP, Estill Voicecraft” from the Estill Voice International as Certified instructor.
I’ve gained a lot of experience over the years in music production and vocal arrangements, widening my stylistic versatility and range; that allows me to switch from Soul, Pop Rock, Electro and Cinematic Music easily. I became the voice of Ethera thanks to an intuition of Stefano… His constant search for that particular vocal sound and mood (similar to the great Lisa Gerrard's), and the consequent lack of result in that search, led us to embrace that sound and make it our own; so we thought: we should make a library out of that!
If you had to describe ETHERA Soundscapes 2.0 in five words, what would you say?
I would say :
Creative - Powerful - Helpful - Deep - Inspirational
With the ETHERA series being such a huge success, how does Soundscapes 2.0 stand apart from the rest of the series - what’s unique about it?
The main difference from Ethera 2.0 / Soul Edition and Soundscapes 2.0 is that in the latter (other than the great vocal library) we added many useful sounds: Drones, Bass, Arpeggiators, Textures, SFX. I created a big Cubase Template using only Ethera Soundscapes 2.0
Soundscapes 2.0 is obviously an upgrade from 1.2, can you give us a super quick rundown of what’s new in the 2.0 version compared to Soundscapes 1.2?
The first important new feature in Soundscapes 2.0 is the new "Emotive True Legato". Clara and I worked hard to create a powerful and realistic True Legato. In addition to several scripted legato patches, now Soundscapes 2.0 has a great emotive True Legato. Here’s some of the new features: 4 Round Robin for sustains and up to 3 velocity layers, and up to 3 True Legato velocity layers.
With this new emotional True Legato the user has more control over the sound by just setting a different velocity, people will find it very useful. In addition to everything I’ve already mentioned, Soundscapes 2.0 has several new sounds and presets for synth and ambience, a new very nice Vocal Arpeggiator . Several users asked for the ability to use “Snapshot to load Presets”... And it is now possible to do so! Last but not least there are some new beautiful and inspirational vocal phrases from Clara.
With the updates and new features available, what’s you’re favourite change that you’ve made to Soundscapes 2.0, is there anything you’ve been itching to include for a while?
That would be the new “Emotive True Legato”. The scripted legato works very well in several situations but the True Legato is awesome because we have sampled all vocal transitions with lots of different styles. All transitions are controlled by Velocity, so if you set a low Velocity value you can trigger an emotive transition, if you set a high or mid value a more powerful transition will be played. Obviously this requires a lot of work and many samples, but the result is very pleasant.
What are the sessions with Stefano like to record, are they different from other studio recordings you’ve done, Clara?
Recording sessions are all different, depending on a lot of factors. Each session has it’s own process. The recording sessions for Ethera are vastly different from recording takes for a song: behind every Ethera sample there’s a true vocal gym, a continuous updating and research of various styles, and different vocal approaches, keeping in mind that Ethera contains many different vocal styles (from Cinematic to Soul, Gospel to Pop, Electronic ... etc etc).
I can say this much: making a library that feels and plays like a real human voice, is the greatest vocal and mental exercise that a singer can experience!
With ETHERA being so expressive it really deserves to be played - not clicked in with a mouse. What controllers or extra hardware would you recommend people pick up to make the most of Soundscapes 2.0?
My favourite controllers are: Native Instruments “S Series Keyboard”, (I made a preset for this keyboard, so all parameters of Ethera Soundscapes will be mapped). I think that one of the best feature of Ethera Soundscapes is the possibility to change the sound very easily so it’s important to have all Soundscapes controls mapped on the Midi Keyboard.
Anyway Ethera Soundscapes 2.0 has the “midi learn“ functionality ( right click of mouse on the controller) so it’s really easy to map all midi parameters; another awesome midi controller is the ROLI SEABOARD. In Ethera Soundscapes there are many special ROLI Patches. In particular some ROLI vocal presets are really cool.
There are really obvious themes in all of the ETHERA libraries, what was the initial inspiration behind the Soundscapes sample library? Did you hear anything in particular that made you go ‘I need to make a library based around that!’?
Yes, the first was the voice of Lisa Gerrard. I really love her voice because it is not an “operatic vocal", and of course I love Clara’s voice too and I think that their voices are very similar in the low vocal register, Clara’s is more versatile when it comes to different musical styles and it has a wider vocal range. Furthermore I love Hans Zimmer and Vangelis so my inspiration is their sound.
Clara, was there any difference in the way you approached recording the ETHERA Soundscapes library compared to ETHERA 2 or ETHERA Soul Edition?
The biggest difference lies in the stylistic approach. Ethera Soundscapes contains a deeper vocal palette, embracing a world of music bigger than ever before. While one could say that Ethera 2.0 is similar to Soundscapes, it’s atmospheres were closer to a more particular type of sound (of the epic and Celtic kind); the Soul edition instead is very specific in genre. Recording that was very stimulating and impactful (I adore Soul music).
With this latest edition (Soundscapes) we built a more “all-round” library, with a stronger sound and many different vocal approaches (from dark and powerful to soft and dreamy and so on and so forth).
How did you go about recording the samples for Soundscapes 2.0, are they all exclusively vocal samples from Clara?
All the female vocal samples are from Clara. She has a great Voice, a fantastic range and she can sing many different styles, from Cinematic to Soul to Electro, so it’s easy to create a complete vocal tool using her capabilities. In Soundscapes there are also some Male Vocal samples from another Italian vocalist. At last but not least i sampled many sounds from FM Synths, Hardware Synths, Organic Sounds, Acoustic Instruments and Many Sound Field Recordings.
Without giving away all the tricks of the trade, what kind of FX processing did you use to get the final results?
I sampled all vocals with a Neumann U87 , Neumann M147 and AKG Solid Tube with a MIC Pre Focusrite RED 6 (an awesome vintage pre). All samples are recorded very “close” to achieve an almost completely dry sound (so the users are free to add their own effects). For the Synth & Ambience samples I also used a Zoom H6 for field recording (city, lake, crowd, organic sound etc), and a simple but very useful “ contact mic" that can produce a very particular sound (so a simple fire of a candle can become a great sound texture). After the capturing work, sounds are processed, edited and exported in Cubase. A very crucial tool that I used a lot is Grainspace from Audiority.
If we dropped you onto a desert island, what 2 instruments (real or virtual) would you make music with until you were rescued?
Ok, other then Soundscapes 2.0 right? Jokes aside, I’d choose Spectrasonics Omnisphere because I think it’s the best virtual Instrument ever, and a Piano. Of course I would force Clara to be stranded with me… So we would have all we need to make music on a desert island :)
Same to you Clara, if we dropped you onto the desert island, what instruments would you be taking with you (don’t worry, you don’t have to take Stefano too!)?
:-) ….I would bring with me a good book “The Lost City of Z “of David Grann, a keyboard, paper and pen!
Are there going to be any further expansions to the ETHERA series? Can you give us any ideas on the next big Stefano and Clara project?
I think that there will be future updates, maybe the next will be something more “Soul and Pop" :-)
Are you working on any projects at the moment that you’re allowed to talk about Clara? Are we going to be hearing you on anything else in the near future?
I'm working on many projects right now. At the moment I'm collaborating with various musicians for soundtracks and albums, and I hope I can let you listen to something as soon as possible... Among the many projects, I will surely approach the Soul theme again...
I am also part of a pop / gospel choir in Rome, as a soprano, and we will be part of several musical events in the near future.
What kind of music are you listening to at the moment? Any artists in particular that you can’t get enough of?
I listen to all good music and different styles. My musical super heroes are Hans Zimmer, Vangelis, Junkie Xl, Ennio Morricone, James Newton Howard, Howard Shore, and John Williams of course. Regarding more mainstream music I listen to Daft Punk, Chemical Brothers, Skrillex, Flux Pavilion and more. Of course I also listen to “older" artists like Pink Floyd, U2, Queen, Michael Jackson, Whitney Houston (they are always timeless).
Who are your go-to artists at the moment Clara? Anyone that you can’t stop listening to?
Well.. My favorite artists right now are Sam Smith, John Legend, Hans Zimmer, Maria Callas, Muse and Bruno Mars just to name a few…
One particular song I can’t stop listening to is “Amy Winehouse - Love Is A Losing Game”… Her vocals in that track are just sublime, and the overall vibe of the song overwhelms me every time!