Why Agnes Obel built 200 layers of strings on her song 'Familiar'

Agnes Obel breaks down the anatomy of her song 'Familiar,' off her 2016 album Citizen of Glass.
Agnes Obel's latest album, Citizen of Glass, came out on Oct. 21, 2016. (Alex Bruel Flagstad)

Danish singer-songwriter Agnes Obel took no shortcuts writing her song, "Familiar." 

The track, off her 2016 album Citizen of Glass, is a gorgeously haunting song about "the transformation of being in love," and its lush production is thanks to a laborious process of building layers. 

"I knew where I wanted to go but it wasn't that clear; I couldn't sit and write it down on a piece of paper," Obel explains. "There were many textures that I wanted and I could only get them when I had many layers of cello and violin on top of each other." 

So, she meticulously recorded, edited and re-recorded 200 layers of strings — and the results were worth it. 

Today, Obel breaks down the parts within "Familiar," the meaning behind the song and how an accidental experiment with pitch-shifting led to one of the song's most dynamic moments. 

— Produced by Elaine Chau


To encourage thoughtful and respectful conversations, first and last names will appear with each submission to CBC/Radio-Canada's online communities (except in children and youth-oriented communities). Pseudonyms will no longer be permitted.

By submitting a comment, you accept that CBC has the right to reproduce and publish that comment in whole or in part, in any manner CBC chooses. Please note that CBC does not endorse the opinions expressed in comments. Comments on this story are moderated according to our Submission Guidelines. Comments are welcome while open. We reserve the right to close comments at any time.

Become a CBC Member

Join the conversation  Create account

Already have an account?