NORTH CANTON, Ohio. In a literal meeting of East and West, Eastwest’s (EW) collaboration with multi-genre and polylingual vocalist Uyanga Bold has yielded their newest software instrument, Voices of the Empire (VoE). Produced by Doug Rogers and Nick Phoenix, this long-awaited sequel to Voices of Passion (VoP) presents a new, musically intriguing instrument. The package offers composers and musicians the potential for diverse applications in numerous musical genres.
Eastwest’s Voices of the Empire is available both as stand-alone software and as part of Eastwest’s cloud subscription service. While we are generally not fans of cloud based services in this column, Eastwest is an exception. Their subscription package is absolutely the best deal on the market. An added plus: Eastwest is that rare company that actually treats educational customers with common sense and good prices.
Users note: VoE requires the latest copy of Play software (free with the purchase of any EW product) and an iLok device to store user licenses.
Even though billed as a companion instrument to Hollywood Choirs, Voices of the Empire does render its predecessor obsolete, as Hollywood Choirs largely does with its ancestral Symphonic Choirs. Rather, potential users can view the new package as a massive addition to the VoP library. It exemplifies everything EW and its producers have learned about making great software instruments over the years.
Notably, the recordings and performances offered in this package are remarkably clean and expressive. The software includes instruments in Mongolian, Bulgarian and western styles in numerous languages.
This instrument package offers “true legato” samples on individual vowels. There are also several options for combining pre-recorded phrases and fragments. In all, users have 84 available fragments to pick from.
The instrument divides into multiple categories.
- “Legato” instruments are the simplest. They enable the most easily realized monophonic vocalise experience. Additionally, they prove both beautiful in quality and on a par with the best competing instruments in the market. These include as the now frequently heard (in games and film) Soundiron Voice of Rapture Soprano.
- The “Sustain” instruments include a more diverse array of phrase types and articulations. These include melismas, slurs, and numerous types of vibrato.
- The clever “Combo” instruments enable composers to crossfade among different types of articulations by using the Mod Wheel (CC1) or velocity. This “Combo” option may, in fact, prove the most revolutionary aspect of the instruments. It makes the combination of techniques far easier to achieve in a realistic fashion.
- The “Words” menu contains specific performances on individual words.
- Likewise, the “Phrases” menu does the same in providing improvised recorded phrases.
- Finally the much larger “Keyswitch” instrument combines multiple articulations and possibilities into a single instrument. Its rather massive library will take some time to work through as composers seek those presets most conducive to their own creative flow.
For example, the screenshot below (Fig. 1) shows a phrases instrument, wherein numerous phrases are available in different keys. With this interface, users can change the key center with a simple keyswitch. For those with lots of RAM or those looking for a comprehensive instrument in a single stave notation situation, this could be your tool of choice.
Aside from using the evocative and frankly excellent on-board impulse reverbs in the Play engine – which has really come of age despite the absence of a customizable key switch option – users can also further mix among multiple microphone settings. It takes very little tweaking to move from a lush close-mic sound to a fully produced acoustic. Because of this, composers will find it very easy to match VoE to the sonic characteristics of other third party instruments they may be using. (See Fig. 2.)
At this point, we should mention the interesting choice of mics in the setup. The close mics are a Neuman U47 and the less frequently encountered Josephson 257. The room mic is a classic AKG C24. Bringing up the “rear” the package offers a pair of equally classic Coles 40-38’s. Quite the combo, the setup yields an unmistakably evocative result. The engineers certainly deserve an acknowledgment for their fine efforts here.
As an example, we offer the video below. Here, we plugged “Voices of the Empire” straight into a sample film-style score. The top stave triggers an instrument with preset melodic lines centering on the note “C.” The second stave triggers legato notes, with the two staves combined to create a single instrument in aural reality.
We also tried to reflect the reality experienced by many composers on a budget: the combination of instruments from numerous packages. In this case we’ve added strings from the now venerable EWQL Symphonic Orchestra, brass from NotePerformer, and – because it is claimed as a sister package to VoE) – the recently released EW Hollywood Choirs. Notably, the only tweak we made was to increase the brass reverb brass to match the general EW sound. We felt the results were quite satisfactory coming straight out of the box:
As Eastwest instruments go, this latest offering is simple, effective, and efficient. For those looking to craft longer musical phrases, the challenge amounts to an old-fashioned instrument deep-dive in order to find new combinations of evocative musical fragments.
In VoE, the different styles of instruments, ranging from legato, to combi, to words, to phrases, are close enough in sound to enable more complex multi-track combinations. These choices ensure deeper individuality in the use of the instrument. The particular richness of these instruments can help composers thicken up and add personality to choral recordings and other multi-layered vocal scenarios.
Ultimately, Eastwest’s Voices of the Empire may be less useful for those working entirely in notation software and seeking a vocal playback sound. But for those composers scoring for films, games and media, this new instrument provides quite the tempting tool to add to your compositional arsenal.
Voices of the Empire’s high production quality may also tempt other studios looking for additional vocal layering and harmonizing options.
Of this new instrument, one thing is certain: Voices of the Empire is destined to quickly become a regular part of the media landscape. ##
Headline image: Splashpage version of Voices of the Empire package cover art. Image via Eastwest’s Facebook page. Fair use, product review.
(Note: A copy of Voices of the Empire was provided to the author to facilitate this review. All opinions herein are entirely those of the author.)
Voices of the Empire availability:
Voices of the Empire MSRP is $399. Currently available through Sweetwarer @ $299. Other vendors may be available.