Revolutionising Festivals with d&b Soundscape.

© Mark Bennett

Worldwide – Exploring the advantages offered by spatial sound technology, music festivals are increasingly adopting the new creative possibilities – for both artists and audiences – of the d&b Soundscape. Diverse festivals have embraced d&b Soundscape as a new tool through which artists and sound designers, representing a variety of genres, can provide extraordinary new listening experiences to music fans.

In these creative hands, the system can achieve clarity and realism, or a magical, other-worldly transportation, crossing the boundaries between science, art and music. From avant garde immersive, multi-sensory environments to sensitive, unobtrusive uses for those who think sound reinforcement should be heard but not seen, d&b Soundscape is presenting practitioners and creators with powerful new options for the live sound experience.

Among the artists embracing the technology at the UK’s WOMAD this year was sound artist Jason Singh, whose work explores the energy of the biosphere, synthesising the natural ‘frequencies’ produced by plants, trees, or fungal networks. For WOMAD, Singh used ‘biofeedback’ recordings from the site’s trees, played through Soundscape to deliver the aural experience in a more enveloping way than ever before.

The Houghton Festival in Norfolk, UK, is another event continuing its association with d&b Soundscape. On Houghton’s Warehouse stage, a line-up of DJs and musical artists played live in “an AV environment as never before experienced at an electronic music festival”. One of the highlights was a new commission from visual artist Weirdcore, featuring themes explored during his work with his most frequent collaborator, Aphex Twin. Using lights, visuals, and the “mind-bending” sound of d&b Soundscape, Weirdcore expanded the perceived boundaries of the site, delivering a visitor experience to challenge the senses – in what Houghton’s organisers called “a fully immersive, multidimensional sonic space”.

In Bentonville, Arkansas, USA, is the Format Festival – a music, art and technology showcase featuring live music acts and performance artists. It took place at The Momentary, a contemporary art space, and built on last year’s successful debut, again opting to work with d&b. Soundscape was available in The RØDE House, a multi-disciplinary venue that hosted a series of experimental sonic performances, providing artists and their audiences with a new realm of creative possibility.

d&b Soundscape is not only being used to provide mind-bending, transformative sonic experiences: in opera, for example, the aim is for sound reinforcement to be as unobtrusive as possible. Held annually in Torre del Lago, the Puccini Festival this year benefited from a sensitive deployment of d&b Soundscape, in the hands of BH Audio’s Massimo Carli.

Meanwhile in Stuttgart, Germany, the popular jazzopen Festival saw a series of concerts benefiting from the d&b Soundscape. This year, on the main stage in Stuttgart’s Schlossplatz, the organisers benefited not only from the ‘natural’ presence of the sound, but also the sound object localisation available through Soundscape’s En-Scene module. The highly cardioid d&b KSL system became part of the 180° d&b Soundscape setup for performances by Joss Stone, Grace Jones, Simply Red and rock legends Deep Purple. Connected to a zactrack SMART server via its ready-made presets, Soundscape provided an impressive sound experience, linked seamlessly to the visual appearance and energy of the performers on the stage.

d&b Soundscape is also making an impact at smaller festivals. At Jazz Stroud in May, in the Brunel Goods Shed venue, organisers once again teamed up with d&b, enabling a line-up which included saxophonist Laura Misch to perform through the d&b Soundscape system. Later, the Goods Shed hosted the Hidden Notes Festival, with artists including the Manchester Collective and music producer Hannah Peel. In the Particle Shrine installation, created by composer Christo Squier, Soundscape was used to interpret the cosmic rays traveling at light speed through festival goers, transforming this stream of cosmic energy into various outputs – including generative 360˚ audio compositions, projections, and lighting design. Other artists to have presented through Soundscape in the Goods Shed include Jonny Greenwood, Sarathy Korwar and Yazmin Lacey.

The route taken with d&b Soundscape depends on the environment and the desired perception. Jack Page, from d&b’s Global Artist Relations, says. “These festivals are actively changing the way that sound is experienced by their audiences. Whether they’re large or small, they’re all playing their part in revealing the creative possibilities of Soundscape to an expanding network of musicians, sound artists and, importantly, their audiences.”

“Sound is no longer a two-dimensional, ‘good enough’ aspect of a live show,” Page adds. “Soundscape allows it to become so much more: it gives artists and designers a new level of finesse in their creative output. In some of these immersive environments we’re seeing it used in exciting new ways, to envelop and transport listeners, while in other, let’s say more ‘purist’ environments, it’s being used to be all but indistinguishable from the ideal ‘natural’ acoustic that they expect.”

He concludes, “Either way, it’s a big step forward for sound reinforcement. It’s an endlessly creative tool, and we’re seeing real excitement from artists. By working closely with these practitioners, we’re learning new things every day about what we can do together.”

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