With Cantus, Best Service continues to release intriguing and high-quality libraries. Andy Jones dons his cloak…
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Minimum system requirements PC Windows 7 Mac OSX 10.7
Should the name Eduardo Tarilonte be unfamiliar to you, let this sentence be his introduction. He is the man leading Best Service into fantasy land and is behind the amazing libraries Forest Kingdom 2, Desert Winds and my personal elven favourite, Shevannai. This man creates legendary sounds and is fast becoming a legend in sound design because of it.
Cantus is the latest in his vocal series – a Gregorian choir library that focuses on mystical, monk-like voices from the Dark and Middle Ages. Like Shevannai, it includes words and phrases – in this case you get 400 phrases, 20 Gregorian chants and a word builder with 24 words, three articulations and 120 syllables. Combine that with five legatos and you have a powerful voice tool.
The choir used for the recording was a proper Gregorian choir – the Schola Gregoriana Hispana, who have been singing for 25 years with conductor Francisco Javier Lara. I say ‘proper’ as Eduardo Tarilonte believed that to get a true Gregorian sound, he would have to use a Gregorian choir rather than a ‘normal’ one attempting Gregorian and missing its subtle nuances.
He also recorded the choir dry, stating: “Gregorian music and reverb are good partners, but I didn’t want to tie the recordings to any special room sound. There are so many impressive reverbs out there that I have chosen to allow you complete control to adjust the reverb sound to your own taste. I wanted you to feel the cold breath from the mouths of the monks singing in those cold monasteries. I hope you feel the same goosebumps I feel.”
And so to the collection. It’s a 2.6GB affair available on disc or download. Having a new Mac it’s the latter option for me, and after a quick unpack – the now usual ‘add library’ in Kontakt 5 – I was up and running.
The library is set out in two folders: Monks and Soundscapes. The Monks folder contains two subfolders: Cantus The Monks and Cantus Chants. The former contains the ‘a, e, i, o, u’ legatos and 24 common monk words, such as ‘mortis’ and ‘deus’. You select between these with the green keys and play them in different pitches with the blue.
There’s also a Words Builder – a cool tool that lets you to take the 24 words and create new ones by patching together 120 syllables. You’ll probably end up with some real Latin words, but with so many additional slots to fill with whole words and syllables, I’m also guessing you’ll end up with a lot of nonsense unless Latin is a super-flexible language. Either way, to these ears (it was German all the way at our school) it all sounds just like you would expect to hear down the cloisters.
Back to that reverb point Eduardo made earlier: I thought we might end up having to add reverb but there is a suitable amount included (only the original recordings are dry) plus a level control to add/reduce it. You can also control other parameters, like start, length, volume and attack. It’s a flexible and creative vocal tool that’s capable of creating a lot of different Gregorian vocals from seemingly few ingredients.
Next up it’s Cantus Chants with a similar concept, this time with whole songs chosen by the red keys (from a choice of 20) with each blue key playing a phrase of that song in the same key. There are 400 phrases in total, making up over an hour of music.
Finally the Soundscapes, with 20 pad/vocal sounds to choose from. These are a mix of atmospheres and chants, some menacing and all with the option to mix up the four elements that make up each one, add effects and change other parameters. I like this section but it’s not as varied as those you’ll find in Shevannai.
You can’t fault the recording, nor how Cantus has been put together. You can build your own words and phrases and there are some great soundscapes to add atmosphere. It’s narrow in focus, for sure, but it sets out to achieve Gregorian atmosphere and succeeds, doing brilliantly what it says on the tin. Or Abbey. Bona quidem valde.