Frances Prève & Scape Art Form

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Inspired by Francis Prève’s 'Rainy City Walk (2017)' referenced in the previous post, I've spent some time exploring his 'Scapes' project and couldn't resist having a go myself.  Scapes are a great way to take a break from writing tracks and present us with an opportunity to learn more about Ableton Live’s Operator synthesiser.

In this post, I'll share what I’ve learned.
 

Credits

If you’re not familiar with Scape Art Form, Francis’ idea was to create real world sounds, building a sense of space and place, using synthesis alone:

Scapes are electronic recreations of natural, acoustic sounds — with absolutely no recorded material. Every element is entirely synthesized, much like a painter creates a landscape or portrait.
- FRANCIS PRÈVE


Further background on the origin of Scapes is available from the man himself here . Incredibly detailed and breathtaking, the scapes he created are a true masterclass.  He has generously made his projects available for free, under an Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike (CC BY-NC-SA) Creative Commons license.

If you’re new to Creative Commons licensing types, you can find out more here.


Ingredients

  • Instruments

       Operator

  • Audio Effects
       Echo
       Reverb
       Chorus
       ...feel free to use any other effects that help enable capture the moment you are looking for


Method

The Forest Sounds Ableton Live Set is available for free in the article references for download to see how the sounds were created.

Here is a brief summary that describes the key stages of the process.

Environment

Imagine what could be in the surroundings of the space that you are looking to recreate.  It helps bring focus to the sounds you are going to design.  Perform a YouTube search for an audio recording and use it as a reference for these sounds.  I listened to this for some inspiration, although not all 3 hours of it!

Forest Sounds begins with the tail end of a heavy shower in a forest, followed by heavy raindrops gradually reducing in size and frequency.

Forests are home to birds so including some chirps seemed appropriate (Francis explains how to achieve this during his talk at Loop here). 

Droplets of water resulting from the earlier downpour, tapping large leaves during their descent feature too.  Coincidentally, a few weeks before, I’d also been creating the sound of droplets so I could draw upon what I learned from that.

Layers and Using Groups

Creating layers of sounds using groups.  Those droplets I mentioned were all taken from one Operator setting.  It was duplicated and parameters, including velocity and volume, modified slightly each time.  Doing this a few times resulted in the Huge Drop, Big Drop, Medium Drop & Little Drop tracks.

Effects

Echo was an obvious choice to use on the bird chirps but don’t stop there.  Experiment with stereo effects to create a sense of direction and width to the environment.  To get up and running quickly, you can use the stereo racks from an earlier post here to place the birds around the listener.

Other Tips

If you stumble across a real world sound by accident, save it in your library so you can return to it.  It could be the beginning of your own scape.

Patience & perseverance are key, it can be hugely rewarding. When it comes down to it, we just need to stick at it and continue to experiment.


Forest Sounds


What Next

Still reading?  Then it’s time for you to check out  Francis Prève’s blog and listen to ‘Rainy City Walk’, ‘Midsummer Night’, ‘Summer Brook’ and ‘The Haunting’.  He has also made all of his scape sets available for free so they are just waiting for you to pop them open in Live!

Download Forest Sounds from the article references below.

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