Southby Production deploy d&b Soundscape for Aurora Orchestra

Southby Productions provides the largest ever d&b Soundscape acoustic shell for an immersive project where audiences and musicians share the same physical space for a whole new live experience.

Known for breaking the conventions of classical music, Aurora Orchestra once again welcomed crowds for a genre-bending project, in which attendees were able to share the same physical space as musicians and feel what it is like to be part of an orchestra. With the Printworks, London chosen as the location for this innovative project, Sound Designer, Tim Hands was tasked with transforming the venue into a space boasting the audio quality of a concert hall. To emulate the natural acoustics he sought after Southby Productions who provided a d&b audiotechnik Soundscape solution to create an acoustic shell. Southby Productions’ Chris Jones reflected on the unique project.

Regular readers of TPi are likely to familiar with Jones’ work with Soundscape from Bjork’s immersive projects to his work on the latest Nevill Holt Opera series last summer [TPi #265]. 

“The Printworks is an interesting venue,” began Jones. “As an old printing press that used to house massive machines, the whole space was treated to dampen the noise so although it is quite cavernous at 90m by 13m, the sound in there is actually very dead.”

With the lack of natural reverberation, an acoustic shell was a necessity, allowing each member of the orchestra to hear one another during the show. With over 50 d&b speakers deployed in the venue, Jones explained that this was the ‘world’s biggest acoustic shell’. “Each instrument was mic’ed and put through Soundscape and the en-space engine.”

The team at Southby was already very familiar with the principles of creating an acoustic shell for an orchestra having constructed one for the aforementioned Nevill Holt Opera this summer. 

For those performances, despite playing in an outdoor stage that was exposed to the elements, an intuitive Soundscape system created an audio replica of an opera hall. 

“One of the lessons that we brought from that project was that d&b have created a number of ‘hall models’, which have been created off the back of acoustic measurements in some of the world’s most well known venues. 

“During summer, we used a pre-set that had been modelled on the Bing concert hall at Stanford University. It’s rich and the reverb time is not too long. We enjoyed working with it so much we opted to use it for Aurora Orchestra.” 

Despite using the same pre-set acoustic model, this project had a number of differences to that of the summer, namely the size of the space they were working in. “Although it’s a much bigger space we found the software was able to scale up really well,” asserted Jones. 

“It’s really flexible, we are pushing the limits of what is possible. After a successful event, I’m pleased to report that you can indeed create a 90m acoustic shell.” During the performance, audience members could stand in the space with the orchestra. This meant that each member of the audience had a unique audio experience, depending on which instrument they were stood by. 

Following an intermission, the crowd were treated to another Soundscape performance in a neighbouring room with a Beethoven inspired DJ set, before returning to the main room and encouraged to stand somewhere else in the venue to get a different perspective. 

“It really was a unique experience. As an audience member you could stand next to the strings and see the fraying or the bow or next to the horns and see the sweat drip. At the end the crowd were so emotionally invested in the performance that they erupted with a guttural raw. It was like being at a rock show. The reviews have been fantastic and this could well be the future of classical music.” 

This article originally appeared in issue #267 of TPi, which you can read here.