In this edition of the Developer Spotlight, I spoke with George Strezov; owner and founder of Strezov Sampling. Strezov Sampling has been around for a number of years and have produced some of the industries leading libraries ranging from orchestral, sound design tools, and choirs. George has spent over a decade working in the industry as a composer and conductor while also developing custom and commercial library tools for professionals.
Strezov Sampling has been around since 2012. Since then you have developed 25 libraries ranging from the traditional orchestra, choral, and hybrid concepts. How did Strezov Sampling spawn into a full fledge commercial developer? Was there a period of time where you were producing private libraries for composer?
Yes, as a matter of fact our team in Bulgaria has developed and recorded quite a few custom and commercial libraries. We have come a long way (and still lots of things ahead of us!) and we have learned quite a lot in the process. We have more than 5 products that we fully produced up till the end which were not good enough for release – the samples and the programming were OK, but it didn’t feel intuitive when playing. The sound that “came out” of the MIDI keyboards was just wrong and uninspiring. So since 2012 we actually produced quite more libraries and recorded tons of material before coming to this stage we are at the moment – when we have a clear concept of what we’re going to do and how to do it.
As a man of many talents, you have a long list of credits. You’ve worked with Thomas Bergersen on a number of ‘Two Steps from Hell’ library albums. You also work consistently as an orchestrator and conductor. Obviously, these roles have helped shape your company but what are some of the challenges you face, traditionally speaking, when creating new libraries.
It is always a matter of sound for me personally. I conduct all of our libraries and try to make them somehow different – especially when it comes to choirs. Freyja is one of the latest examples – we already had a female choir (although not in sections) in Storm Choir 2, but I wanted to have something inspired from the fantasy ambience in my fingertips. As a huge lover of the genre I felt the need to have roaring low basses and elvish female voices – something I was lacking on the market as a composer myself. Working as a composer/orchestrator (although the latter not so much) made me realize what people actually need when writing for media; the idea for Wotan came when I was working on the video game soundtrack “Victor Vran” – I needed some orthodox bass profundos and the ones that we had in our small library “Tropar” were not good enough; I wanted to further expand this idea and recorded a few things for the game, before knowing what to do exactly for the sample library. I like to say that I somehow tailor our libraries to my taste as a composer.
As mentioned earlier, Strezov Sampling has covered all facets of sampling. However, your specific affection towards sampling choral libraries is by far the most interesting. Earlier this year I reviewed Wotan which simply blew my mind in terms of functionality and sound. Now, we have been teased with a new library you are developing called Freyja. Can you share with us the concept behind Freyja and how do you plan to surpass the innovations developed in Wotan?
I have a Masters degree in choral conducting from the National Academy of Music in Sofia – this is why I somehow feel more connected to choral sampling. I also like to sing in choirs as a hobby and because I’ve been on both sides of the river (performer/composer) I knew exactly what to require of the singers when we’re on the recording stage. The concept and way of recording of our libraries is a special one and I have implemented new ways (I like to say it’s our company trade secret :)) for recording choral samples in a way that gets the necessary material and captures the performance in the musicians. Something that I like to say is the most important thing in a sample library nowadays.
Freyja’s concept was to get something mystical and magical; to create a choir that could go from very soft to epic and then back again to soft – kind of the same way Galadriel turned from this beautiful woman into an evil creature in the Lord of the Rings. LOTR was a huge inspiration for us and we tried to capture lots of exciting material – not just the true legato patches, but also the super-low altos, going down to C3 (C4=middle C) – almost into baritone register! Again – when I was conducting this the only thing I though was how the profundo basses in Wotan will blend with those altos. Needless to say it is 100% mysterious! Moreover, the contracting company who did the recordings – Four For Music Ltd. – signed fantastic singers who put all their hearts into the singing and all of those are recorded in the same hall – Sofia Session Studio which makes both libraries extremely easy to blend.
Do you have any plans to implement these new features into any of your previous libraries such as Rhodope and Storm Choir II?
Yes, for sure. We have slowly started to implement the Syllabuilder engine of Wotan to Storm Choir II, we have also included all new features of Freyja (the Agile legato) into Wotan (which will be released soon too). Storm Choir will take slightly more months of work but we’re really excited to add the polyphonic true legato and the morph features into this beast of a library as well. We also plan a few updates for Rhodope as well – if time permits.
One of Strezov Sampling’s standout characteristics is its willingness to try new things and push the envelope in new ways to sample and script libraries. What is next for Strezov Sampling’s journey?
Next on the list is a long-scheduled update of Thunder X3M. We introduced that powerful engine for the percussion series as well and after some suggestions from the audio community we are now adding a few extra features. Apart from that we also have another cool project that is almost done – but more for that when the time comes! 😉
Thank you George for taking the time to chat and talk about your company. For one final question, do you have any thoughts on the future of sampling and where it might be leading us?
Thank you for inviting me! Yes, I do think that there are much more possibilities for composers today than 10 years ago, when I first started out. Back then we didn’t have much choice but I can see that developers today try to push the limits and to create new and exciting products. What I like most of that competition is that people struggle to get the imagination of the composer moving – and we all sometimes need a little push to get an idea going! Really excited to see what the future holds for us more!