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Eight churches, five cities, one song: Karlsruhe turns 300 with Lawo

Jon Chapple 9 October 2015
Organum, Hochschule für Gestaltung, Karlsruhe, Lawo, Media Broadcast

In an event to mark the 300th anniversary of the founding of the German city of Karlsruhe (or Carlsruhe), organists in its twinned cities – Halle an der Saale, in Germany; Nancy, in France; Nottingham, in the UK; and Timisoara, in Romania – played live with four organists in Karlsruhe itself. Performing Organum, a contemporary organ work composed by Wolfgang Mitterer especially for the occasion, the event was broadcast live via satellite to the Karlsruhe State Academy of Design (Hochschule für Gestaltung, HfG) with the help of a Lawo mc²36 audio mixing console and two V__pro8 video processor units.

Rastatt-based Audio Broadcast Services (ABS) supplied the Lawo audio and video equipment for the 19 September event. Together with the mc²36, the V__pro8 supplied the surround mix of the concert for both the live PA system and for recording.

Using Mitterer’s Organum, Dr Achim Heidenreich of the Karlsruhe Department of Education, Media and Economy created a sound and video installation, Carée, at the HfG. Carée allowede visitors to walk among eight loudspeakers and projection units, creating “their own personal experience of the music and visuals”. “Music that sounds perfect only at one particular spot in a concert hall is an outmoded relict of feudal times,” comments Dr Heidenreich. “In those days, everything was tuned so that the best sound arrived only at the monarch’s box. In our installation, visitors were invited to find their own listening position and to change it at will.”

Technical design and coordination of the project was overseen by Tonmeister Sebastian Schottke, who works in the field of contemporary music at the Karlsruhe Center for Art and Media (Zentrum für Kunst und Medientechnologie). Schottke realised that the audio and video signals needed to be acquired at the eight locations and relayed via satellite link to the HfG; this was the only way of guaranteeing a synchronous transmission with a stable delay.

Organum, Hochschule für Gestaltung, Karlsruhe, Lawo, Media BroadcastThe audio and video signals were fed to a Media Broadcast SNG van from partners located at the respective churches, and transferred via satellite link to Karlsruhe. They were received by another Media Broadcast SNG and fed into the Lawo set-up for the Carée installation (a total of nine SNG vehicles).

Schottke explains why he chose the Lawo mc²36 for the concert mix: “The key was the fidelity that I achieve with my mix, and the mc²36 gives a particularly high quality sound that didn’t require any editing whatsoever. In addition to its DSP power, the console provides a compact surface and allows fast operation.”

After conception, composition, technical preparations and rehearsals, the satellite link was booked. The organists’ performances were synchronised to the second – indicated by a radio clock – and while they were able to develop and expand the piece in improvisational passages, all were playing to a fixed schedule. “You have imagine this as eight World Cup finals which took place at the same time,” says Dr Heidenreich. “Such a thing has never existed before in this form. The audience in Karlsruhe experienced the interaction between the eight separate organs as a single, synchronous sound body.”

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