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Dancing in the engine room

The Michael Clark Company performs experimental event in the Tate Modern with a d&b system, writes Dave Robinson.

The Michael Clark Company recently performed an experimental event in the Tate Modern Turbine Hall with a d&b system comprising Q1s, Q7s, M4s and Q-Subs.

“It’s what makes it work that matters,” comments John Tinline of Encore, “you’ve got to know the parameters and what the priorities are.” Such statements would be meat and grist to most members of the pro-audio community, but then he’s talking about something quite extraordinary. “It’s a three-dimensional soundscape in the Turbine Hall of the Tate Modern art gallery in London.” 
 The soundscape in question has been composed by Martyn Ware for an art installation by The Michael Clark Company. Commissioned by Tate Modern, this world premier event, which runs throughout July and August, sees choreographer Clark work with film, light and sound in response to the monumental architecture of the hall. “We’ve worked with Martyn on quite a few of his 3D compositions over the years,” said Tinline, “this one is a little more complex than normal.” 
 To create the desired sound environment Tinline assembled a system design using the building blocks of d&b loudspeakers. “You need two levels of sound system,” he said, “one at floor level, the other as far above head height as you can get it. For the vastness of the Turbine Hall we’ve rigged 10 flown positions for the high system, all Q1/Q7 combinations, one pair in each corner, the others distributed evenly in the space between.

For the low system on the floor we’ve used d&b M4 wedges in just six positions pole mounted on Q-SUBs. We need fewer low positions as they are relatively closer to the audience. Each M4 is concealed behind the tiered seating and faces the wall so their sound is reflected in a more diffuse way into the hall; it’s important that listeners don’t localise the sound to the cabinets themselves. The fundamental of the soundscape is modelled using a combination of time alignment and phasing to create the spatial hearing sensation; hence reflecting the floor system and rigging the high system as distant as possible.” 
 Ware processes his composition at Illustrious, the company he founded in 2001 to address exactly this type of compositional work (and featured in several earlier editions of PSNE). The former Human Leaguer commented: “The work I do as Illustrious for large-scale 3D audio installations with Encore PA involves the use of d&b loudspeakers and 3DAudioScape software created by Paul Gillieron Acoustic Design. This show for the Michael Clark Company is no exception, and works beautifully with the highly sculptural choreography created by Michael himself. For those of us fascinated by large-scale immersive experiences, this show is a must see.” 
 “For this piece Ware presented us with 16 channels of output,” Tinline explained, “which of course you cannot mix down, hence the DiGiCo D1, otherwise you’d lose any sense of spatial awareness. The other critical element is individual amp channels for every loudspeaker cabinet; that and the fact that audio performance needs to be perfectly matched. The d&b range is well known for its flat response and beautifully matched character of reproduction; so again for the listener there’s no perception of high and low system brought about by different loudspeaker characteristics.” 
 Ware concluded: “I am completely thrilled with the way our 3D sound design for the show has created universal praise, particularly considering the potentially difficult, long reverberation nature of the Tate Modern Turbine Hall.” Ware will also be using a similar system to create the world’s first 3D audio show with his regular band, Heaven 17, at the Roundhouse on 14 October.