CANTON, Ohio, December 13, 2017: In a holiday season filled with high profile choir releases, the intrepid folks at FluffyAudio give us “Dominus Choir,” a self-described “lyrical emotional choir” for users of Kontakt 5. Dominus Choir brings the composer an instrument that seems to channel the mystical nature of great modern sacred choral recordings. It also includes a Latin-based word builder which opens the door to greater creative potential.
Intended primarily for digital audio workstation (DAW) use, Dominus Choir is designed as a single instance instrument (SATB in one track), with options ranging from simple “oo” vocalizations to more complex customizable syllabic patterns.
The recording aesthetic embodies a single choir as opposed to individual sections. That is why Dominus has only a single instrument in its menu. The volume (body) of the choir seems just right, avoiding the Verdi-esque extravagance of some instruments and the transparent thin-ness of others. (Figure 1.)
Quite unlike the approach taken by most major label choral virtual instrument packages, Fluffy audio has actually taken the considerable time to create their own word construction engine. While it is not as endlessly customizable as EastWest’s “Wordbuilder,” it does indeed offer users the opportunity to create custom words using a limited amount of Latin syllable combinations by means of a “puzzle” visual metaphor.
With the Dominus word builder, users can assign a switchable pattern of words or a custom set of syllables that can be deployed via keyswitch. Each syllable is assigned a rhythmic pattern that is played by depressing and holding a key. That enables users to create a new “word,” such as “Esi-Di-Mo,” and assign a rhythmic value for each note. (Figure 2.)
When the user holds down a key or chord, the selected phrase will be sung at that rhythm, given that it is slaved to the session tempo. In the midst of this musical movement, holding down one key while moving others permits a fairly realistic melismatic movement within the phrase. Timing, however, is clearly the composer’s responsibility).
Composers must also keep an eye on the syllable/vowel slider, as well as being ready, if necessary, to experiment a bit with the internal legato settings in order to achieve maximum results.
In the video example below, we took a quick test drive with Dominus Choir straight out of the box. We created our own word selection, adapting the opening to “Ave Maria.” As you can see and hear, “Plena” had to be rendered as “Ple-ne,” while Amen had to be rendered as “A-me,” but the sound still remained mostly satisfactory. On the left side of the video, you can see the midi window and every trigger (and re-trigger to restart the word) in the sequence, as well as the use of the mod wheel to affect the dynamics.
What comes across even in this quick and dirty test drive example is a choir that sounds quite simply fantastic. It is no coincidence that FluffyAudio’s first test track is Morton Lauridsen’s “O Magnum Mysterium,” as the great quality of European sacred music is truly encapsulated in this instrument. No reverb was added. What you hear is the instrument’s actual sound. The diction of this group is also solid, a choral essential often missing in other virtual instruments. Those desiring a clearer or more distant diction have merely to tweak the reverb and microphone settings.
As is true with a real choir, certain turns of phrase elicit their own natural dynamics. For that reason, the user must be careful with the mod wheel so as to avoid over-emphasizing an already natural dynamic change. The flaw in this performance demonstrates this, and it was left in intentionally as an example.
The choir sounds mostly believable, however, even in this quick mix, with each isolated syllable coming across as completely believable. One can easily imagine a more polished session, with instrumental doublings leading to a truly believable final product.
For those searching for a gorgeous instrument to take a chair in their favorite notation software, Dominus would only be usable through the choice of a neutral syllable, such as “oo” or “ah.” But even then, its use might create certain doublings undesirable in a detailed multi-voice score.
Dominus Choir is clearly designed with a DAW in mind. It provides a powerful tool at an attractive price. It is also one of the most affecting and beautiful choir sounds available on the market, and deserves the attention of discerning professional musicians.
For an example of this product’s deeper functionality and powerful voicing options of Dominus, please view the video below.
For more information on this and other FluffyAudio products, visit the FluffyAudio website.