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Orchestral Tools’ latest collections reviewed: Music for contrasting scenes

Recording Salu at the Arvo Pärt Centre in Estonia
2 minute read
Recording Salu at the Arvo Pärt Centre in Estonia

Looking for music? The new Salu and Metropolis Ark Ø collections continue the excellence from Orchestral Tools’ collaboration with the Berlin Orchestra and Berklee College of Music.

Imagine a scene in an empty, desolate landscape. What music will you use to reinforce the scene? Something stilling, perhaps eerie? Now imagine a scene where protesters are crushed by riot police. Obviously, you’d need more powerful, ominous music. For the former, you might use a new sample collection called Salu, while the Metropolis Ark Ø collection would be a good choice for the latter.

Salu and Metropolis Ark Ø are developed by Orchestral Tools, a German company that develops the largest part of its sample collections with the help of the Berlin Orchestra. The company works together with the Berklee College of Music and its collections come with ridiculously large numbers of instruments, articulations and ways of expression. Metropolis Ark Ø is a case in point.

Salu was created in the middle of a pine forest at the Arvo Pärt Centre in Estonia, and includes unique instruments as well as somewhat special expressions. The instruments include harps, a kannel (an Estonian plucked string instrument belonging to the Baltic box zither family), a soft upright Steinway K-132 piano, and experimental percussion. The Salu collection is great for eerie, detached and delicate soundtracks. A scene in a documentary about the last people living isolated on an island in the North Sea would be a good candidate for Salu, as would a scene in a psychological thriller.

Metropolis Ark Ø was captured at the Teldex Scoring Stage in Berlin and concentrates on large orchestral movements that go hand in glove with majestic scenes. It gives composers and sound designers the behemoth power of a large orchestra playing as one to create colossal musical moments. There are three orchestral styles in the set — tutti, high, and low — for different playing styles and sonic variations, and as with all Orchestral Tools libraries Ark Ø comes with multiple mic positions.

I took both sets to the test. The sound quality of Orchestral Tools’ collections is typically very high and these two are no exception. You never get a sense of playing sampled instruments. They all sound true to life even when playing staccato notes rapidly in succession, which some other developers make sound as if a machine gun is being fired.

I found that Salu by itself forces you into a state of mind of quiet and, given the right chord progressions, sadness even. That is largely due to the instruments and articulations that invite you to create simple harmonies, unadorned notes or triads, and rhythmically simple pieces.

However, you can use Salu together with more mainstream collections like Metropolis, e.g. to contrast quieter scenes in a movie with much action or violence. As its name suggest, the Metropolis Ark collections suit movies with a dark, threatening quality or scenes that make the audience feel the main character is invincible. And if you like the sound of big symphonic orchestras, Ark Ø is close to addictive.

Metropolis Ark Ø can be purchased for €150 + tax, or as part of the larger Ark series bundle. Salu retails for €399 + tax.

Tags: Audio