Tomita - choral sounds on "The Bermuda Triangle"?

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Tomita - choral sounds on "The Bermuda Triangle"?

Post by knolan » Tue Jul 20, 2010 5:16 pm

Hi -

Can anyone identify the source of the choral sounds from 0 sec to 47 secs., and the male choral sound from 48 secs. onwards on the Isao Tomita track "A World of Different Dimensions" from his album "The Bermuda Triangle". You can hear the track on Youtube:



I'm wondering if these are Mellotron? Or alternatively - perhaps a massive bank of Moog 55 oscillators and filters finely tuned and run through Roland and Eventide effects?


I've been listening to all of my Tomita albums again recently and for those interested in analogue synthesizers, Tomita's albums are a pinnacle of creativity and vision in the use of analogue synthesizers. “The Bermuda Triangle” in particular is simply off the scale in the heights Tomita reached - the album is so incredibly musical and visionary. It is incomprehensible to me how this man rendered these works with such breadth and depth of musicality, sound and sound colour with analogue synthesizers alone, in a time before MIDI and computers. Definitely worth buying, listening too and indeed analysing! This genre of using synthesizers remains hugely unfulfilled - there's huge scope to extend upon Tomita's visionary work IMHO. If you’re classically orientated and love synthesizers – Tomita points the way to the future!!


Having said all of that I'm not familiar with the Mellotron at all and the choral sounds I point to are amazing - any pointers to their origin will be greatly appreciated.



Cheers,
Kevin.

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Re: Tomita - choral sounds on "The Bermuda Triangle"?

Post by madtheory » Tue Jul 20, 2010 9:39 pm

Hi Kevin. The solo vocal reminds me of the one on Kraftwerk's Neon Lights, which apparently was done on a MiniMoog. The male choir is Mellotron.

Do you have Tomita's Sound Creature album? He explains how to make many of his signature sounds.

Tomás.

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Re: Tomita - choral sounds on "The Bermuda Triangle"?

Post by Micke » Tue Jul 20, 2010 9:43 pm

The following quote from an interview with Tomita might be of help:

Isao Tomita: "When I used the Mellotron, I would work like this. I would generally use a two-track tape recorder. Following the score, on one track I would record a description of when a certain key for a certain note should be depressed and released. Then, using an envelope follower on the Moog (which picks out the 'shape' of a note, and then uses this information to control a synthesizer), I would feed the Mellotron signal into the Moog, and set up the envelope controls [Attack/Decay/Sustain/Release (ADSR)] to 'play' the Moog, which would follow the notes I played on the Mellotron. An example of the use of this is the opening of 'Pictures at an Exhibition'. And yes, the Mellotron was processed through the Moog."
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Re: Tomita - choral sounds on "The Bermuda Triangle"?

Post by madtheory » Tue Jul 20, 2010 9:57 pm

Cool! Where did you find that interview Micke? I don't think that the solo vocal is a Mellotron, because there's portamento.

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Re: Tomita - choral sounds on "The Bermuda Triangle"?

Post by Micke » Tue Jul 20, 2010 10:11 pm

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Re: Tomita - choral sounds on "The Bermuda Triangle"?

Post by b3groover » Tue Jul 20, 2010 10:30 pm

Tomita is one of the first electronic artists I heard as a young kid. Amazing stuff. So is he saying he processed the Melltotron through a Moog ADSR?

The male voices of the piece above are definitely from a Mellotron. The solo voice could be a Moog.

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Re: Tomita - choral sounds on "The Bermuda Triangle"?

Post by Virgule » Wed Jul 21, 2010 1:20 am

:)
Last edited by Virgule on Mon Oct 11, 2010 8:40 am, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: Tomita - choral sounds on "The Bermuda Triangle"?

Post by knolan » Wed Jul 21, 2010 2:09 am

Thanks for the amazing answers - really insightful.

Tomás - great to meet you on this forum! Thanks for the pointer to the album and description - I'll be sure to look for that as i don't have it.

Micke - thanks also for posting the detailed description. I don't quite understand what Tomita is saying - I'll have to read it over a few times and think about it. Not quite sure what he means by the following:

1. “I would record a description of when a certain key for a certain note should be depressed and released”. Record a “description...” – what does that mean? Does he mean a digital recording of the note number (akin to MIDI recording) but instead into a track of a Roland MC-8?

2. “using an envelope follower on the Moog (which picks out the 'shape' of a note, and then uses this information to control a synthesizer), I would feed the Mellotron signal into the Moog, and set up the envelope controls [Attack/Decay/Sustain/Release (ADSR)] to 'play' the Moog, which would follow the notes I played on the Mellotron”. Is he saying that the MC-8 sequencer would trigger the Moog, whose envelopes would shape the Mellotron note(s) – giving a Mellotron its own ADSR (and other Moog processing)?

Interesting to hear that the Mellotron is processed by the Moog and the suggestion that the solo voice indeed might be a Moog.

While we're chatting about Tomita, I also notice from sleeve notes that he used the Roland RS-202 for strings. Can anyone confirm that that's what is used for the strings in "A Sea Named Solaris" and in Prokofiev's 5th Symphony Allegro movement for example? They are incredibly fast and lush. I own a VP330 and am confident that that richness of sound with fast performance could not be achieved by the VP330 alone. Perhaps again Tomita highly processed the strings with harmonizers, chorus and other effects? As an aside - does anyone know how the VP330 strings compare to the RS-202?

Sorry for all the questions but this is incredibly enlightening!!

Thanks again,

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Re: Tomita - choral sounds on "The Bermuda Triangle"?

Post by Micke » Wed Jul 21, 2010 3:21 pm

I'm not sure what he's saying in that interview either, other than that mellotron was processed through the Moog. Anyways I just came across this interesting post on AH (Analog Heaven):

"The following is taken from the liner notes (in Japanese, so forgive me if
not entirely accurate, my Japanese is a little rusty) to the double album
"Sound Creature".

The choir is definately mellotron! The basic mellotron choir (same model as
Rick Wakeman used on "Six Wives", a white one, single manual) is put
through an EG (presumably on the Moog, what else?) to round off the attack
and decay and then through heaps of reverb.

___________ _____
| Mellotron |----->| VCA |----------->
|___________|-- |_____|
| ^
--------- | (Copied from liner notes
\/ | so don't blame me!)
____________ ___________
| Envelope |--->| Envelope |
| Follower | | Generator |
|____________| |___________|

The result is then filtered.

Tomita's performance technique is interesting, however. Because of the
limitations of tape length in the mellotron (7 seconds max), he employs a
similar trick to Rick Wakeman who uses two mellotrons played alternately to
get around the 0.5 second or so delay to allow the tapes to reset. Although
Tomita only has one mellotron, he uses multitracking to get the same
result. The resulting two tracks of mellotron are then mixed down to a
single mono track to get the long lush choir."


(Thanks to the original poster).

I also read in another AH post that Tomita apparently had custom tapes made for his mellotron.
Last edited by Micke on Wed Jul 21, 2010 8:21 pm, edited 2 times in total.
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Re: Tomita - choral sounds on "The Bermuda Triangle"?

Post by Micke » Wed Jul 21, 2010 4:25 pm

Yeah, some of the string parts in the tracks you mention do indeed sound like a string-machine rather than mellotron or multi-tracked Moog. I'm sure he used a lots of outboard effects on 'em strings.
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Re: Tomita - choral sounds on "The Bermuda Triangle"?

Post by knolan » Thu Jul 22, 2010 12:00 am

madtheory wrote:

Do you have Tomita's Sound Creature album? He explains how to make many of his signature sounds.

Tomás.
Hi Tomás -

Actually - I'm wondering if you know of any legitimate sources of Sound Creatures? It sounds fascinating and I'm keen to acquire it. From searching on the Web it sounds like it’s in Japanese only - do you still find it useful?

Cheers,
Kevin.

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Re: Tomita - choral sounds on "The Bermuda Triangle"?

Post by 0e0 » Fri Dec 24, 2010 9:24 am

knolan wrote: Hi Tomás -

Actually - I'm wondering if you know of any legitimate sources of Sound Creatures? It sounds fascinating and I'm keen to acquire it. From searching on the Web it sounds like it’s in Japanese only - do you still find it useful?

Cheers,
Kevin.
it's actually pretty neat. I really like when he demonstrates the string articulations. It's also interesting to think about that he would do many passes of the same line to get a more realistic chorusing effect.

it's a great trick to use these days considering how lost that kind of thing is with computer based sequencing.

j

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Re: Tomita - choral sounds on "The Bermuda Triangle"?

Post by Synthaholic » Fri Dec 24, 2010 5:42 pm

knolan wrote:1. “I would record a description of when a certain key for a certain note should be depressed and released”. Record a “description...” – what does that mean? Does he mean a digital recording of the note number (akin to MIDI recording) but instead into a track of a Roland MC-8?
I think that means he vocally recorded descriptions, such as "press C3 now... release C3 now...", and then while recording, he would monitor that track and hit the keys as the recording told him to. Sort of a "human MIDI sequencer". ;)
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Re: Tomita - choral sounds on "The Bermuda Triangle"?

Post by ndkent » Sun May 08, 2011 3:57 pm

Pity that description didn't bug me when I first read it because I think had dinner with him right after he came back to Tokyo from London as I recall (1999, unfortunately not since). I think his translated interview answer has something to do with the 7 second sustain limit on the Melotron.

On "Sound Creature" the demonstration album he made in the late 70s, he says he uses a Moog envelope follower module on the Mellotron to extract a gate signal that he can then trigger Moog envelopes from which he drive his VCFs and VCAs.

Another major technique is the whole concept of laying down a control track on a multi track recorder that isn't heard in the mix but is re-processed to control synth parameters on subsequent overdubs.

On "Sound Creature" Tomita describes a technique where he lays down a conductor click on a track. Then he plays gate tones to a second track. In other words not the note needing to be played but a control signal as audio for the gate duration. Then he tracks the real track with his sequencer providing the correct note advanced by the control track, not the sequencer clock. His control track provides perfect human timing and leaving his hands free to tweak some knobs. So he could record tight fast performances with no wrong notes dozens of times to build up a great sounding genuine ensemble sound. His sections are dozens of overdubs with "natural" chorus and tweaks to the envelopes and filters.

So while I still don't understand exactly what's going on in the interview about the Melotron, I'm theorizing he's doing multitracking to get the sustained raw melotron sound on the right spot on his multitrack, then he's probably doing his envelope following technique, maybe with a control channel to trigger new envelopes to process the final sound through the Moog.

As for a different kind of vocal sound, on Sound Creature he also mentions he would program his sequencer to sequence I guess 3 filters, likely resonant bandpass ones to make some of those nonsense voices you hear from time to time

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Re: Tomita - choral sounds on "The Bermuda Triangle"?

Post by cornutt » Sun May 08, 2011 4:43 pm

Micke wrote: I also read in another AH post that Tomita apparently had custom tapes made for his mellotron.
I'm sure Micke knows this already, but the Mellotron 400 (which is what it sounds like Tomita had) is a three-track machine which lacks the "stations" of the Mark II, so on a 400 you can only have three sounds at a time. What the 400 did have was interchangeable tape frames, which you could swap out in twenty minutes or so, if you wanted to be able to load different sounds. When you bought a 400, it came with one tape frame, and you could buy additional ones.

As I understand it, there was no "standard" set of tapes for the 400. Each time you ordered a new 400 or an additional tape frame, you told Streetly which three sound banks you wanted on it. Streetly had a master library of 100 or so sound banks that you could choose from. AFAIK there were only a few choir sounds available: a male choir, a female choir, a mixed choir, and I think there was a boy's choir. So it seems likely that most of the artists who were using Mellotrons to do choir sounds in that time period were all using the same few sounds.
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