... now available in it's entirety and as posted via Best Service and Time+Space.
Sound on Sound, November 2005
Bela D Media built their reputation on the excellent Diva solo soprano library, and this new library once again aims for the unique, offering a library purely of children's voices. Girls' and boys' choirs are recorded in 24-bit on separate DVD-ROMs, each having Ensemble sections of sixteen voices and Chamber sections of four voices. Both sections boast sustain, staccato, pads, and so on, and they're packed with controllable articulations such as glottals, using release triggers and crossfades. There are also phrases — from theological 'Agnus Dei' to surreal 'Mary, Mary quite contrary'!
Finally you get a series of patches designed to take advantage of the bundled Vocal Control software. Hooked up to a sequencer, this utility allows for precise manipulation of phrases. A table allows you to construct up to four chained phrases, adjusting the time spent on each syllable and the point at which one phrase switches to the next. Whilst not as comprehensive in terms of phonemes as East West/Quantum Leap's Symphonic Choirs, it's a far more accessible and user-friendly approach that is surprisingly effective. A built-in Legato tool strings notes together and slurs up and down as required in a phrase.
So how does it sound? In a word, natural. It's not clinical, it's not hyper-accurate, but it is, above all, moving. Considered use of the close and ambient patches can have shivers running down your spine with a single note. Never have I heard as much emotion from a choir that I wasn't conducting live myself! Whether soaring above an orchestra or blending into the background, the voices exude pathos.
The playable range is restricted, as befits the vocal capabilities of the girls and boys in question, and there's no oversampling or pitch-shifting at all — the intention was to construct a pure library, not in terms of perfect pitch or harmony, but rather in terms of the naturalness of the sound. Some users might frown upon hearing one or two singers lagging behind the rest in some of the more poignant phrases, but as the session conductor was heard to quip, 'If there is a choir who can sing at perfect zero all the time, firstly give me their number; and secondly you can't afford to sample them!' However, far from being detrimental, this adds to the natural feel of the library.
All this realism will be off-putting for those that want absolute perfection in every note, but if all music were perfect every session muso would already have been replaced by a synthesizer. To pitch-correct every note of a choir would be rather like strictly quantising a jazz drummer — it's just not the done thing! Pardon the paradox, but it's the impurities that make it pure. I can't be the only one thinking this way, as the first production run sold out in four days!
My biggest gripe with The Giovani Edition is that it sounds so good you can't help but cry out for more — namely adult voices. Thankfully, Bela D Media are hard at work on a sister library featuring adult choirs. The two together will be a powerful combination, and now that my appetite has been whetted, I can't wait!