This week we were pleased to welcome Strezov Sampling to the Time+Space fold. Established and run by Bulgarian orchestrator and film composer George Strezov, the company has become particularly renowned for its high-quality virtual choirs and its sounds can be heard in countless high profile movies. We caught up with George to find out more…
Hi George, so, tell us about Strezov Sampling – who are the people behind the company and how did SS come to be established?
We started our sampling endeavours in December 2012. Since that time we’ve had more than 4 years of constant experimenting, recording and tweaking till 2016, which in our humble opinion, is the year when we finally managed to do the virtual instruments we were always imagining – Freyja, Wotan and Arva.
As we like to point out, Strezov Sampling is a company made by composers for composers. I personally am a composer for TV, cinema and video games, our brilliant core team also includes Alexander Kostov (also a composer for video games and cinema), pianist and arranger Simeon Edward, sound designer Lyubomir Goshev (working for “Haemimont Games” Sofia), Alexander Koev (scripter and arranger), Plamen Penchev (recording and mixing engineer, owner of Sofia Session Studio) and last but not least all the collaborators we are working with across the globe and the wonderful musicians who agree to our crazy ideas.
We established the company mostly because we wanted to create instruments that will serve us in our daytime jobs – imagine our surprise when we saw so much enthusiasm and positive feedback from tons of musicians! And it has been a constant development of our craft since that time.
Tell us about your range of libraries
We are most popular for our choir range, however we have made really cool libraries like for instance “Macabre Solo Strings“, used by Imogen Heap on Harry Potter and the Cursed Child theatre play, as well as our percussion line Thunder X3M and Tupans X3M, used for instance in Battlefield 1 and many other soundtracks.
One thing that is important is that we try to keep the samples as close to the recording stage as possible, making them feel lively and unique. Also, for us, music is mostly connected by emotion – and heavily processing the samples will just result in the lack of said emotion.
What makes your choir libraries unique compared to other virtual choir libraries?
The sound. I have a Masters degree in choral conducting by the National Academy of Music in Sofia and these past 10 years I have sung in choirs – from church music to concerts of Ennio Morricone’s music and classics by John Williams. The way Eastern European choirs perform is very different than the Western tradition – we have female throat singing, orthodox singing in the Byzantine tradition, singing heavily influenced by the Russian traditions. I personally care very much about the recording process of our samples, especially the choral libraries – and conduct them personally, because the tone is very important for the end product.
Can you tell us more about your Syllabuilding feature?
That’s a pretty cool feature that we worked lots of time on. First, we started our experiments with the first Rhodope library – there, we allowed people to create their own words. However, it became clear that this approach – although very detailed – takes too much time, especially for people who are constantly fighting deadlines. That is what brought the concept of Wotan – a library that will allow you to connect pre-recorded syllables, to morph between them, to combine staccato and sustain samples thus creating new words and even textures. The possibilities are countless because you also have specific control over attack, release, offset of each syllable. Also, there’s an option to save and load presets – merge between projects, quickly import “lyrics”.
With the release of Freyja, we added a, in our opinion, revolutionary feature to the Syllabuilder Engine: Agile Legato. It allows the user to play polyphonic legato with every syllable available by just pressing and holding the sustain pedal. That way the sample content behaves as playable as possible and there are no limitations left. In December 2016 we released a free update for Wotan adding this exact feature, so all three of our Next Generation Choir libraries are on the same level. Producing choir mockups has always been a huge hassle in the past. The Syllabuilder Engine is our way to make this process easier as well as more accessible and inspiring.
How do you decide which type of library you’re going to create?
Well, speaking of Wotan, I will give the male choir as an example. Lots of our libraries come after careful examination of the market and searching for the exact niché that needs filling. But some of the libraries we make because we need them ourselves! By that time I was working on a video game called “Victor Vran” – a hack’n’slay RPG with gothic elements that just required that ultra-low bass profundo timbre! However there was nothing like this on the market! So I just began searching for the lowest possible voices in Bulgaria and had the honour of conducting those rare voices!
What’s been the most challenging library to create and why?
Definitely “Arva” – mostly because we have never worked with children before that and the recording process was really hard. We also recorded two ensembles – boys’ choir and girls’ choir – and it turned out that the approach is also quite different between them. We had to give up on quite a lot of the material we recorded because it just didn’t work all right within the library – and we have been recording the library for about a month – every weekend plus a couple of days during the week.
After that we had about two months of tiring production almost till Christmas – after that I am sure all of us despised Christmas carols (sung by children choirs of course!) for a while!
What’s your most popular library?
I would say it is Storm Choir 2 – it has been used on almost all trailers these past few years! It is crazy how often I go to watch a movie and hear the samples we’ve recorded. This is why it’s a very important library for us – and for almost half a year now we’ve edited and optimised it for a new upcoming title – Storm Choir 3 – that will have the wonderful features of Arva/Freyja/Wotan and the “epic” content of Storm Choir.
Your samples feature in numerous TV, video game and film soundtracks – can you give us some more examples of where they’ve been used?
As I’ve mentioned before our libraries have been used on many projects – from video games to theatre plays or trailer music. We have a large set of customers that include renowned composers like John Powell (he uses our ethnic choir library Rhodope in his template), Tom Salta (he used Storm Choir and Wotan on the latest Killer Instinct), Jesper Kyd, Imogen Heap (“Harry Potter and the Cursed Child”) and even the great Thomas Bergersen (who I think all of us sample-library nerds adore!).
What can we expect from Strezov Sampling this year (that you can tell us about!)?
As I’ve mentioned before, we’re planning a large update on the Storm Choir series, which will include optimised sample content and fantastic programming, as well as template integration between Storm Choir, Freyja, Wotan, Arva and Rhodope. Speaking of Rhodope, we’re also doing an expansion of that which is really unique. We’ve pushed the singers a bit during the recording, but in the end we’re very happy with the results – definitely a few steps above what we’ve done before!
One new venture is our upcoming library “Vibe”, which we produced together with the great E-Drum guru Michael Schack. This library will feature a huge array of drum loops played with an amazing DW drumkit inside the Sofia Session Studio hall space (the sound was huge!) that will be made especially for contemporary pop music producers – a wonderful addition to splice the drums of your EDM track.
Also, we have a couple of other products that is a bit too early to announce yet. But we’re sure that 2017 will be an exciting year! Stay tuned!