The d&b Soundscape turns printing press into a classical concert hall.

© Jake Philip Davis 1/3
© Jake Philip Davis 2/3
© Jake Philip Davis 3/3

The appreciation of classical music and the need for specific reverberant spaces has been the reason behind the beautiful architecture of some of the world’s most impressive buildings, both modern and historic.

The acoustics inside concert halls are optimised for non-amplified performances, preserving clarity while naturally enhancing the power of the voices, and the rich detail of the orchestra. This is true for venues such as the Royal Albert Hall or the Sydney Opera House - not so for Printworks London. Once the largest printing press in Western Europe, the building has since been repurposed into a destination venue for electronic music. Until recently, classical music had not featured in its repertoire.

Yet this impressive, but challenging space had been chosen by the award-winning Aurora Orchestra to stage one of their most ambitious performances to date. The orchestra invited the audience into the middle of a memorised recital of Beethoven’s Symphony No. 7. Not only did they perform without sheet music but also spaced widely around the enormous room.

For John Harte, CEO at Aurora Orchestra, choosing Printworks created opportunities. “Printworks allowed us to perform to an audience of 1000 people and let them experience the symphony from amongst the players. This way the musicians can connect with the audience on a new, more intimate level,” he enthuses.

An exciting proposition for some, daunting prospect for others. Leaving the optimal acoustic space behind is often cause for concern, specifically amongst classical music enthusiasts who expect a certain quality of sound. Will the listening experience be as accurate and emotionally direct as it would be when staged in a traditional concert hall?

The d&b Soundscape and virtual acoustic shell provided the answer, generating a mobile concert hall by adding reverberation signatures into this unconventional performance space.

Printworks offered the space and the d&b Soundscape the technical capabilities which we needed to bring this idea to life.John Harte, CEO at Aurora Orchestra

For this event a special feature of the d&b Soundscape was the key to success; the virtual acoustic shell is a special way in which to apply a Soundscape system. It utilises a software called En-Space, which recreates acoustic signatures of prestigious classical music venues from around the world and applies these to any stage, indoors or outdoors, without the need for any cumbersome structures or acoustic chambers.

By applying a separate set of speakers and microphones to the stage or performance space, reflections can be reproduced that generate the same sound qualities concert halls are built to achieve, supporting the tonal qualities of each instrument and vocals without distortion.

© Jake Philip Davis
© Jake Philip Davis

d&b partner Southby Productions have been using Soundscape for a number of years and seen first-hand the transformative power it has on any event. Director Christopher Jones explains why the technology was crucial for this event. “Printworks is a former printing press. As you can imagine back then all those presses would have generated a lot of noise. The space has actually been acoustically treated to reduce the immense noise emanating from it.

Classical music requires reverberant surfaces for the sound to bounce off. By using Soundscape we can create a virtual acoustic shell, effectively modelling an artificial ceiling and walls from which the sounds of the orchestra can be reflected. The result is a rich amplified sound that orchestras, conductors and audiences fall in love with.Chris Jones, Director, Southby Productions

A memorised symphony, a former printing press, a mobile audience and an invisible acoustic shell – this event delivered all the hallmarks of an exciting musical spectacle and is sure to be talked about for some time.

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