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Topic: Spooky Part 1 Bookend< Next Oldest | Next Newest >
Craig Evans Offline




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Posted: Mar. 21 2017, 12:20

I have always been curious as to how Mike Oldfield created that synthy panpipe sound that bookends Hergest Ridge Part 1.  I have always loved this sound.  It gives a nice spooky edge to Hergest Ridge and rounds off Part 1 lovely.

But how did Mike create such a sound in 1974? Actual polyphonic synths were not used on Hergest Ridge since they were still very few and very far between in 1974 but there were 3 analog electronic organs on Hergest Ridge.  All of them polyphonic which begs the question which one?  Mike had already abandoned the Hammond Organ from Tubular Bells by this point.  We could probably rule out the Gemini Organ for starters since that has very limited programmability and sound options.  This spooky sound is a very sophisticated sound and unlike typical combo organ sounds like da Gemini.  Infact it is more reminiscent of a spooky gliding sound from an even earlier monophonic synth known as the Ondes Martenot of Mid-Summer Murders fame.  The spooky flute-like sound really does have a distinctive glide to it which suggests the Lowrey Organs special glide function was used.  The Farfisa Professional Organ apparently lacks a glide system which would probably also rule that out.  But what combination of preset tabs did Mike select on the Lowrey Organ to create that sound?  The very strong echoed and sustained effect to this sound suggests a high flute voice mixed with a string and/or chime voice.


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"It is good to be on Horseback" - Mike Oldfield "On Horseback"

"(Insert "The Thunderstorm" here)"
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qcfoetus Offline




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Posted: Mar. 21 2017, 15:13

Great question! I love that sound too and would really like to know how it was done. Listening to Rob Reed's attempt at recreating something similar in Sanctuary (which I also love, btw) makes me realize just how good the original was!
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Korgscrew Offline




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Posted: Mar. 24 2017, 17:45

It's a chorus of penny whistles, as far as I know. From somewhere or other, I remember getting the idea that it was Terry Oldfield playing there, but I can no longer find any decent reference to that. Mike was credited as playing 'flageolet' (which, though historically it's an instrument in its own right, is also sometimes used as another name for the tin whistle) on Tubular Bells, so it's entirely possible he played them himself. Either way, it's not credited!

There's a breakdown by David Bedford here - http://progistasty.tumblr.com/image/2404341582 - I assume that was based on close listening to the master tape and conversations with Mike, as part of his work on the Orchestral Hergest Ridge.

Listen carefully and you'll hear the player taking breaths at certain points...unfortunately it's not enough to aid in telling whether it's Mike or Terry, though. ;)

The 'glide' is done by gradually blocking or unblocking the holes on the whistle, like this video demonstrates:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3YYgthnH-L8&t=2m44s

As a slightly off topic side note, the Midsomer Murders theme is a theremin, played by Celia Sheen - again, I think the slight imprecision in intonation that's pretty much unavoidable with theremins is part of the eeriness of the sound.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YTZK9FNgK74
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Cavalier (Lost Version) Offline




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Posted: Mar. 26 2017, 19:55

Quote (Korgscrew @ Mar. 24 2017, 17:45)
There's a breakdown by David Bedford here - http://progistasty.tumblr.com/image/2404341582 - I assume that was based on close listening to the master tape and conversations with Mike, as part of his work on the Orchestral Hergest Ridge.

Wonderful, wonderful picture, Korgscrew - thank you for the link!  Given how he picks up the Scottish Highlands from a later section, he clearly doesn't get much Chinese or Spanish out of Tunes E and G! ;)


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"Who was that?"
"That was Venger - the force of Evil!  I am Dungeon Master - your guide in the realm of Dungeons & Dragons!"
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shenry Offline




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Posted: Oct. 25 2018, 04:22

Yeah I always assumed it was just a chorus of penny whistles? The little trills right at the very end before the fade out give it away.

It's the background "bed" drone that interests me more, that high pitched angelic sound that starts and ends the piece. I had always assumed it was an Arp Solina string synthesizer, but then I found out he didn't start using that until Ommadawn! So what is it? Is it really just an organ drone (maybe a group of organs played together and processed with heavy reverb/echo)?
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qcfoetus Offline




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Posted: Oct. 25 2018, 11:50

Excellent question! That "bed" drone sound got me hooked the instant I first heard it in 1974. Lately I've tried to recreate it using synths, but alas with limited success...
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nightspore Offline




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Posted: Oct. 25 2018, 19:13

Irrelevant aside... "bed" is an interesting word in that its shape actually looks like a bed (seen side-on: the "b" is the foot of the bed, and the "d" is the bed head.)
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omgmo Offline




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Posted: Oct. 25 2018, 19:15

This is why beds are called beds. :laugh:
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nightspore Offline




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Posted: Oct. 25 2018, 23:13

But pillows are called pillows and they look pretty uncomfortable with those two prongs sticking up in the middle!  :p  :laugh:
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larstangmark Offline




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Posted: Oct. 26 2018, 15:56

I always thought the HR drone sound is very similar to the organ sound Robert Wyatt used several tracks from "Rock Bottom".

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Y1Wss9RHi_Q


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"There are twelve people in the world, the rest are paste"
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shenry Offline




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Posted: Oct. 26 2018, 16:43

I'll need to listen to that sometime. I've never really heard much of Robert Wyatt.
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