Spitfire Audio’s ‘Earth Encounters’ Offers A Unique World Music Sound Library

Spitfire_Audio_Fanshawe_EarthEncountersSpitfire Audio has introduced David Fanshawe – Earth Encounters Vol 1 – a new ethnomusicological virtual instrument collection for Native Instruments’ Kontakt Player platform

Earth Encounters showcases the archive left behind by pioneering English composer, ethnomusicologist and musical explorer David Fanshawe (19 April 1942 – 5 July 2010).

Fanshawe’s explorations saw him traveling throughout Africa, the Pacific, the Middle East, and the Far East with his Nagra, Uher, and Stellavox machines. Spitfire says that the recordings were made at a unique moment in time, when the ancient world lived alongside advancing technology.

Here’s a video intro to the new sound library:

Fanshawe captured these traditional sounds before modern technology let to many of these traditions becoming more homogenized. As a result, some of these recordings feature instruments, music, and languages that have since become extinct.

Here’s Spitfire’s mini-documentary on Fanshawe and the process they used for creating the sound library:

David Fanshawe – Earth Encounters Vol 1

With the Earth Encounters collection, Spitfire Audio has created a library of carefully curated loops, phrases, one-shot instruments and vocal performances recorded by Fanshawe himself.

There is also a section of ‘warped’ content where the Spitfire Audio team took the original recordings and created a variety of sounds from them, ranging from ethereal pads to pounding distorted beats.

The sounds are loaded into two ‘engines’:

  • The first provides an easy way to add ‘everyday’ effects like chorus, delay, distortion, EQ, filtering, phasing, and reverb to the original content, along with more radical sound morphing controls (within the Wobble and Yoke section).
  • The warped content includes individual and independent modulators; control of trim, bend, glide, cloning, tuning, and ADSR; wobbles that modulate pitch, volume, and filters; a gating and sequencer section with full control over amount, shape, speed, and length; 34 custom effects and impulse responses; and also an ability to crossfade between two selected sounds with speed and phase control capabilities.

Earth Encounters Vol 1 is the first release in a collaboration between Spitfire Audio, the estate of David Fanshawe and Fanshawe One World Music. The Eath Encounters collection will help support the work being undertaken to prepare the Fanshawe’s archive.

David Fanshawe – Earth Encounters Vol 1 is available directly from Spitfire Audio at an introductory price of £149.00 GBP (around $225.00 USD) — rising to £199.00 GBP (around $300.00 USD) on February 7, 2015. For additional information, see the Spitfire site.

16 thoughts on “Spitfire Audio’s ‘Earth Encounters’ Offers A Unique World Music Sound Library

  1. Wonder how the rights are arranged for something like this – Fanshawe did the recording but what about the composers & performers?

    1. It’s a very worthwhile issue to discuss.

      Ethnomusicologists paying performers and composers royalties for published field recordings is almost unheard of.

      One interesting thing that happens is a recording company ends up “owning” the copyright to traditional and sacred music of cultures, and when members of that culture later self publish they are found to be in copyright violation of the works of their own culture, which are now presumed to be owned by white european and american owned companies. A similar phenomenon happens with traditional stories. For example, Black Elk tells his life story to John Neihardt who publishes the stories. Black Elk is never paid a cent and never signed anything. But his story is now claimed to be owned by the John G. Neihardt Trust and the University of Nebraska. If Black Elk’s children, grandchildren or cousins tell the stories, they are said to be violating the legal rights of the University of Nebraska. The same situation exists for the traditional stories and songs of nearly every culture you can imagine. Some group comes in and writes them down then claims to own the copyright. The actual creators are never paid a cent, and in some cases they openly object to the publication of their cultural property, which is often contrary to their own protocols regarding intellectual property and a violation of their religious practice.

      In this case Spitfire has licensed the samples from his wife Jane Fanshawe at Fanshawe One World Music. They claim to own the rights to all the music on these recordings. Whether they are able to show signed copyright transfer agreements by all the artists involved is highly questionable, but as a rule white civilizations can not be bothered with such trivialities. The cultural data must be harvested, and once harvested, it belongs solely to the white man.

      1. I agree with what you are saying, but I wonder what is the difference between when a photographer takes a picture or a audio guy makes a recording?

        1. The difference is you don’t get sued for copyright infringement for showing your face in public?

          This is a great point and it’s about time it changed, it’s not acceptable!

          I wouldn’t be buying anyway, but it made me think a lot more about this kind of thing.

          I think if the audio recording is of ambient noise then it’s fair game, as in the audio recording/photograph comparison. If the content is more specific as in a traditional story or piece of music, then it should be treated accordingly and the original artists treated as human beings with rights instead of a commodity to rape.

      2. Scott –

        I call BS on the Indigenous Studies 101 ‘white privilege’ rambling.

        Nowhere has sampling been more rampant than in the world of hip hop, to the extent that DJ Spooky has characterized audio copyright laws as a type of enslavement, trying to control what artists do.

        1. Tara –

          I call BS on the psuedo-beatnik ‘fight the power!’ rambling.

          Money itself is a type of enslavement – because it is trying to control what people do.

    2. Dear Thomas
      I would be happy to comment directly about your reaction re Rights.
      Many of the musicians David recorded were paid. Royalties are being ‘ploughed back into the Archive’ for digital transference for catalogue and international educational purposes. Upkeep and preservation of the Archive (in Trust) is paramount for future generations and placement in local cultural centres. We at Fanshawe Music really mind. Please feel free to contact me directly. Jane F

  2. Where can you imagine using these loops and instruments? Where would they actually fit & where would they be just totally out of place?

    1. Plasmatic nails it. You either have a project for which these things are well-suited or you don’t. You can’t pretend that they aren’t what they are. You can use them in an idiomatic manner or you can turn them sideways for obvious pop uses, but you can’t lay claim to the work it took to make them possible. Its haunting to like the idea of paying people from dead cultures for their musical work. It requires a certain cognitive disconnection. I love chants and African choirs, but I just don’t see them as fair game very often. They’re too strong in their spatial and cultural definitions. I love going for drums and bells, but the vocals and performance loops don’t feel right to me as potential clay. Deep Forest and Mickey Hart have done very fine things in that area, but going much outside those borders feels like a cheat. I have an E-mu Planet Earth and a fistful of random percussion sets that suit my finger-drumming needs well, but one of those African choirs? No. You don’t buy a snapshot of that to noodle on. You just sit back and gape in awe.

  3. The cynic will complain about cultural appropriation and copyright.

    The reality is that Fanshawe recorded a vast wealth of sounds from around the world at a time when nobody cared about these things. Most of the people who he recorded will be dead by now, and many of things that he recorded are memories now, too.

    And these recordings, while culturally significant, don’t have much economic value in an archive with limited access.

    The only way most people will ever hear the voices and sounds on these recordings is through a sound library like this. It will probably be used in some cheesy ways, but also some very musically interesting ways, too, like Fanshawe’s own ‘African Sanctus’.

    And it sounds like the proceeds support a good cause – the preservation of Fanshawe’s original recordings.

  4. Although, some cultures don’t always consider their songs as “music” in the western tradition of calling things “music”. Some songs are sacred to the culture and not mere entertainment or musical ideas to be used as samples in other types of music. Ethnomusicology is worth investigating before accidentally using sacred songs in western music. I wouldn’t wear a sacred tribal head-mask during a performance or wear an indigenous people’s head dress at Coachella. To me it comes off a bit similar when culturally significant songs are used as an “exotic” aesthetic which does a disservice to the original culture. It’s a very ethnocentric thing to do. A good example would be Enigma’s use of Kuo Ying-nan and Kuo Hsiuo-chu’s singing of a traditional Amis song in Return to Innocence. It wasn’t just a sample in the French archive’s to make a pop-tune out of, It was a misrepresentation of a culture. http://symposium.music.org/index.php?option=com_k2&view=item&id=9238:“return-to-innocence”-in-search-of-ethnic-identity-in-the-music-of-the-amis-of-taiwan&Itemid=124

    Most ethnomusicological archives don’t present the recordings of cultures as mere sample packs either.

  5. expdog, I have to agree with you up to a point. Its a strange artifact of technology that we can have this debate at all. I love the sound of gamelans, but I’d never sit and try to recreate a gamelan orchestra by hand. I mean, NO, man, just NO, heh! One of those sets is a group event, in real-time, that one time only. I make one small concession and look up any new instrument I don’t know so I can *mostly* play the sound in a proper range and manner. Then I crank the pitch way up or down and discover a fine new madness. :)) Its a synth-thing. So while I’m happy to have the unique added colors of dumbeks and ouds, I won’t drop someone else’s performance into the middle of my own. Its just too Milli-Vanilli. Well, I do sometimes make use of more designed loops that come in Alchemy and the like, but that’s an agreed-upon collaboration you get when you buy the goods, whereas a full choir moment in a field, from the heart, is as far from musical snack food as you can get. So is selling an instrument like this a cultural rip-off or an act of preservation? I suppose that depends on your actual goals and your capacity for outrage. I’ll just be glad for the clay drums I could not have in any other way.

    1. I’m not really arguing the merits of using audio samples of various instruments. One doesn’t need to sample one hits from a tradtional performance. I’m more curious about the mistepresentation of cultural identity, exoticisation, and the ethics of sampling performances that were not intented for production.

Leave a Reply