One of the exciting things that came from July’s Intelligent Audio Visual day (iAV) and AVCF’s expanding community are the opportunities that arise. So when d&b Audiotechnik invited member Gabriel Thorp to go to WOMAD to get a behind the scenes look at the d&b Soundscape stage. Well, let Gabe tell you that story.
So, there we were driving through torrential rain leaving the capital for sunnier climes. What should have been a short journey seemed to drag on for hours. It took us some time before we realised that the Waze sat nav app had been configured to avoid motorways. It had been left on this setting because my wife is learning to drive. Which meant we had set out on the scenic route. With little preparation we had slung a few clothes into the car and set off for what was supposed to be a sunny festival time. We had checked the weather app and it was telling us that Charlton was dry and sunny but with 20 mins left of the journey it had been raining the whole way, so it wasn’t looking hopeful.
But low and behold as soon as we hit the festival site there was not a sign of rain and it looked like it hadn’t seen a drop in days! This was exactly the setting we had hoped for and things were looking up. WOMAD is one of Britain’s most established music and arts festivals and has been running since 1980. It was founded, amongst others, by the musician Peter Gabriel and was built on the ethos of bringing people together embracing enthusiasm, expression and diversity, which in my honest opinion I think they have achieved very well. And, as this was my first experience of WOMAD it really opened my eyes to see how inclusive and friendly people can be.
We had come to WOMAD, invited by d&b Audiotechnik who had recently entered a partnership with the festival to create a new stage which hosted performances for an eclectic selection of international acts. However, to me what made this stage interesting was the sound technology behind the arena. d&b are pioneers of sound and are constantly creating new concepts and design ideas that enhance our experience of sound in sometimes quite diverse environments. What makes the set up in this huge marquee unique is the way that the d&b DS100 Signal Engine which houses a 64 x 64 signal matrix allows the sound engineer to individually manipulate each speaker in the space to enhance the audience’s experience. This becomes quite clear when you enter the marquee, you instantly feel surrounded by the sound experience and so you are immediately absorbed in the live show.
The d&b Soundscape stage is the perfect showcase for this technology which allows the sound engineer/operator to virtually pull objects off the stage and position them around the event space. Bill Brooks from d&b gave me a demo of the kit scaled down in a small tent backstage. Using the En-Space software to configure the stage elements in the space allows the sound engineer to literally click and drag elements or instruments around the room. During the demo Bill switched from the mono sound signal to the surround which demonstrated well the power to manipulate the space in terms of sound and what this system can do to be essentially adapted to transform/ enhance any type of event space.
After three days of beautiful weather and fantastic people I feel incredibly privileged to have been able to experience the sites and sounds of WOMAD festival. It truly is a place unlike anywhere else. As well as the d&b soundscape stage there was so much to see, we enjoyed watching the slam poetry and drum workshops whilst passing by the ballet classes or the on mass yoga sessions. I think the most far out thing we saw was a small tent that the occupants claimed to eradicate past experiences passed on through your DNA. We asked if it was free, to which the lady replied, “only if your sober”. So unfortunately, we had to move on.
To find out more about the d&b soundscape and the projects that d&b get up to check out their website.
Gabriel Thorp AVCF