Feathers, horns, bleeping sounds, and wild LFOs – if you’ve ever come across Animals And Synthesizers on Instagram you’ll know what to expect. Combining archive footage of nature with an imaginative array of alien synth sounds, the account creates a new soundtrack for the animal kingdom. Sometimes comical, often surreal, creator Tomer Baruch has amassed a dedicated following of 32 thousand people since he first started in late 2017. With Native synths like MASSIVE and MONARK at the heart of his process, we thought we’d catch up with him and talk to him about his creations.
How did you first get into sound design and soundtracks?
When I was a kid I was active in the “demoscene” which is this global network of nerds creating code-based video clips that incorporate visuals, algorithms and music. I was making the soundtracks for these videos using an ancient sequencer called “Impulse Tracker”. Nowadays I’m making soundtracks professionally so animals and synthesizers is sort of a side project of mine.
What led you to create the animals and synthesizers account?
I made the first video about three years ago. I ran into a craaaazy video by National Geographic which featured some sort of a bright yellow caterpillar crawling on the back of a painfully orange lizard. That whole scene seemed so surreal and unworldly that I thought I just have to score it to complete the sci-fi feel it deserved. So I did that in like a couple of hours and posted it on my own account and people were pretty excited about it so I made a few more in that atmosphere and eventually started this dedicated account.
What’s the response been like?
It took a while for the account to get noticed but at some point a chameleon which I’ve scored went somewhat viral (thanks to the wicked sound art Instagram account @powland.tv) and since then I’ve been getting a pretty constant stream of new followers each month. So far people seem to be very positive about the whole thing which is nice!
Can you talk us through the typical process for creating a video? How do you find the original clips? How do you decide on a particular sound? Is it trial and error or do you already have a sound in your head? How long does it typically take to create the finished clip?
I find the vast majority of the original clips on Instagram. I’m following a lot of animal related accounts and some animal related hashtags so most videos just pop up my feed. Some videos I find on other platforms (Facebook and such) and some are sent to me by random people who are like “you gotta do this one!”. I download the ones I think will work best with music and stash them on my hard drive. Then whenever I got a spare moment I go over them until I find one that gives me some inspiration. I only start working on a video when I have a pretty clear concept of what I want to do. It doesn’t mean I have the exact sound in my head but I have the general theme / structure / relation between the movement and sound, and then I play around with it until it’s right.
I guess the fastest ones I made in less than an hour and the longest ones in a couple of days spread over some time. The long ones are sometimes more complex in terms of production so they just take longer to make, but mostly they take longer just because I’m not happy with the result and keep going back to it and changing it over and over.
What tools are you using to create the sounds? what does your setup look like?
I use Reaper as my DAW, I use some small analog synths that I have (Moog Sirin, Korg Monologue, Korg Volca Keys, a bunch of casio keyboards, etc…), I use some soft-synths (Massive, Monark, TAL-U-NO-LX, Dexed and a few others) and I use Supercollider when I need anything more complex. I have a small studio with everything but I tend to make many of these Animals and Synthesizers videos while I’m travelling and then I have just my laptop and headphones, which is why soft-synths come very handy.
In the breakdown video for Cecropia Moth soundtrack, you’re using layers of Massive to build quite a complex sound – why did you choose Massive for this task?
Massive is my most versatile synthesiser so I use it quite often. Specifically on that video I was trying to create an interesting sound transformation which will go along with the wing motion of the moth; something that is more complex than just opening / closing a filter or something like that. For that I used Massive’s macro control feature, which allows you to assign one macro parameter to multiple synth attributes, each of them with a different amount / scale and with a different direction, which means that one parameter change (manually mapped to the wing phase of the moth) can affect the sound of the synth in almost contradicting ways and thus create a sound which is a bit unfamiliar, not something that you can say “ah I know what’s happening here”.
There’s something quite magical about your videos – why do you think synthesized sounds work so well with nature clips?
Well, obviously everyone loves synthesizers and some people also like animals so I don’t see a reason why it wouldn’t work well together.
Also, there are so many animals and many of them move/act/look super weird, so I think that when you layer electronic sounds on a somewhat “unnatural” looking animal video it really emphasises the weirdness of it.
Would it be fair to assume you’re a nature documentaries fan? Any favorites?
I’m definitely a fan and the most mind-blowing nature documentary I saw was Blue Planet II by the BBC. A must watch! I even re-scored a clip out of it.
Any collaborations with David Attenborough planned?
Oh that would be amazing… Seriously, if anyone reading this knows him please send him the link!
Do you have a favorite animal/creature (and why)?
I love all of god’s children equally. Except mosquitos which are evil creatures and should be terminated.
What’s next for Animals and Synthesizers?
I’m currently working on an audio-visual EP that will be made of extended versions of some of the Animals and Synthesizers posts. It’s taking a bit longer than I thought but hopefully, it will be out this summer!