Mare Vaporum

Once again, going into the studio having already decided to do something instrumental took some of the pressure off. I loaded up a piano and a pad sound and started playing to figure out where I wanted to go. And then, I immediately went there. The piano part you hear is pretty much the first thing I played.

Except that I wasn’t recording. Luckily, my recording software added a feature a version or two ago that’s always listening to what I play. With a quick menu command, the entire five minutes of improvisational noodling was safely in a new track.

  1. Mare Vaporum Ray Toler 4:48

I knew I wanted some additional textures, but the rubato nature of the piece meant that my typical arpeggiators or percussion loops wouldn’t be available, at least not easily. The trick with a piece like this is finding sounds that don’t demand attention, but reward it when you give it.

My general direction for the form this character takes is in broken sounds and dissonance. Not so much that it becomes distracting, but enough that it provides just a hint of tension or the unexpected. Sometimes this is built into the sound itself, and sometimes I use effects processors to mangle things a bit. For this track, I did both.

After selecting and adding three or four more pads, I still felt like it needed something to keep it from being boring. I already had another instance of Omnisphere loaded up, planning on adding another pad, but tried out an electric piano instead, and that was it. Initially, I just duplicated the piano part, but that just made a kind of mid-80s piano-type sound with the two blended.

At this point, I started the track playing, watching the upcoming notes and playing sparse notes on the electric piano. It wasn’t long before I’d veered very close to Vangelis-land, but if you’re going to steal, steal from the best. There are several moments in the electric piano part that strongly remind me of his mid-80s albums like the Blade Runner soundtrack or Opera Sauvage.

With the composition finished, I committed to the arrangement and recorded all the parts. I did a quick mix and went to bed to give my ears a rest. In the morning, I tweaked the mix a bit and realized that it needed some low end to anchor it. With the sub-bass added, I did a final mix. While I think I could spend a bit more time to do a better job with balancing particular moments, I was happy with my stopping point.


Instruments & Samples

Omnisphere, Keyscape, Falcon, Spitfire Polaris, Pigments, Piano in Blue

Effects, Mixing & Mastering

MOTU Masterworks EQ, Black Rooster VLA-2A, Gullfoss, Pro-L 2

Image credit: NASA

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