In November 2019 Jan St. Werner presented "The Spatio Sensory Soundcheck," his creative collaboration with the US-American indie rock formation The National at the "Haus der Kulturen der Welt" (HKW) in Berlin.
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As part of the exhibition series "Right the Right - Ideas for Music, Copyright and Access", an exceptional sound installation caught visitor attention. In November 2019 Jan St. Werner presented "The Spatio Sensory Soundcheck", his creative collaboration with the US-American indie rock formation The National at the "Haus der Kulturen der Welt" (HKW) in Berlin. HOLOPLOT technology made a decisive contribution to the artist's ability to convey his trend-setting sound visions in a convincing form and to provide visitors with unforgettable sound moments. The HOLOPLOT technology, which won the AV Awards in 2019, applies the principles of wave field synthesis with sophisticated algorithms and real-time audio processing.
Jan St. Werner is part of the successful electronic music duo Mouse on Mars, which has contributed to the genre for more than a quarter of a century. For "The Spatio Sensory Soundcheck" he incorporated recordings of a soundcheck by The National as well as the band’s album tracks, merging existing and new sound elements.
The installation at the HKW is titled "The Spatial Sensory Soundcheck". Can you give us the background here?
Jan St. Werner: In 2018 we played at a concert of The National in Wisconsin on a stage built especially for guests from the music industry. I listened to the The National's soundcheck and found it to be very exciting: the played songs, the talkbacks of the crew, the short improvisations and solos. I let a very simple recording device run along, listened to the recording again later and immediately thought that the material could actually make for a great album of The National, if you were to edit it a little. I was standing on the guest stage, and due to the great distance to the PA, I heard a quite idiosyncratic sound, in which actually unwanted artifacts were mixed.
How did the installation at the HKW come about?
Jan St. Werner: Detlef Diederichsen, who curates the "Right the Right" exhibition series at the HKW, asked me some time ago whether we wanted to contribute something to the topic of "Copyright in the Crisis." When I received Detlef's request, it was immediately clear to me that the recordings made during The National's soundcheck would fit his concept perfectly.
What is special about HOLOPLOT for you?
Jan St. Werner: When I first heard about HOLOPLOT, it piqued my ears and I already suspected that I would have to think differently about my mixes for wave field synthesis. The classic WFS uses loudspeakers that are installed around the listener area and allow object localization on one level. At the HKW, however, we use HOLOPLOT technology, where a loudspeaker matrix is located in front of the listener area - in the mix, sound objects can be placed in the room using 3D beamforming. Specifically, in the installation a focus beam aims at a rear mounted reflector and the listeners perceive sound events as coming from behind. This also works very well with walls and the ceiling: the localization is always accurate, but the loudspeaker is not necessarily perceived as the source by those present!
At HOLOPLOT, one doesn't work against but with the room!
Jan St. Werner
Mouse on Mars
How do you rate these special playback options?
Jan St. Werner: At HOLOPLOT I think it's great that the room is understood as part of the PA. I regard this as a radical step, which I don't necessarily see to this extent elsewhere. At HOLOPLOT, one doesn't work against, but with the room! For me, the HOLOPLOT system, with its sensitivity for the environment, moves exactly in the right direction, and this sensitivity is also transferred to people who listen to the sound together with me.
What does the future development of loudspeakers look like for you?
Jan St. Werner: I believe that sound reinforcement systems will continue to develop in parallel with social and political processes. I know that what we do in Berlin with HOLOPLOT's 3D beamforming technology is interesting for many people. On the other hand, I have a friend who is very interested in electronic music and can't understand what fascinates me so much about spatial sound - for him, monophonic reproduction is good enough.
You are one of the first artists to have had the opportunity to work with HOLOPLOT technology. How would you describe your overall experience with HOLOPLOT?
Jan St. Werner: At "The Spatial Sensory Soundcheck" I tried to work with the HOLOPLOT system like with an innovative, dynamically acting musical instrument, which I found totally exciting!
According to reports, there was a redesign at short notice before the opening of the exhibition.
Jan St. Werner: Yes, because originally we wanted to cover the speaker matrix with a curtain. With the HOLOPLOT technology, this is possible in contrast to the concepts of other market participants, which can be a great advantage for both creative and commercial installations. In the end, however, I removed the curtain because I noticed that the effects coming from behind are much more intense when the audience sees the loudspeaker matrix and thus the presumed sound source in front of them. Your eyes then recognize that there are loudspeakers in front of you, but your ears notice that the acoustic event does not correspond directly with the visual stimulus. I think it's good if you can't assign sounds you hear in an installation directly to a specific loudspeaker - it's nice when sound is spatial and fills the environment!