5.1 surround concert halls have arrived
The prediction made here yesterday that reshaping the sound is the key to reshaping the future of classical music is coming true faster than I thought possible. Digital Spy has run a story unveiling a new generation of festival sound systems created by audiophile speaker manufacturer Bowers & Wilkins - see photos. The new system combines the range and clarity of a state of the art hi-fi speaker with the power needed to reach thousands of festival-goers. Although aimed initially at the non-classical market, the launch of the new B & W Sound System should be a wake up call for classical music. If reaching new audiences is the name of the game, how can this thinking from B & W's brand director be ignored?
The answer is that nothing beats the rush of experiencing music with others. But there's a catch. Although concerts and live events are responsible for some of our most treasured musical memories, all too often something is missing from the experience; sound quality.A marriage between high end audio and classical music is nothing new. At the 1980 Edinburgh Festival, the Usher Hall organ was deemed unsuitable for a performance of Berlioz’s Te Deum. So audiophile speaker brand KEF - who made the 104AB speakers used in my secondary listening room surround system - installed thirty-six 105.2 speakers in the Usher Hall to reproduce the sound of the organ of St. Mary’s Cathedral a mile away. The audio signal was relayed from the cathedral by an FM radio link, and a video link was installed for organist Gillian Weir. Traditionalists should note that Claudio Abbado, no less, was the conductor, and he judged the mix of natural and electroacoustic sounds to be a resounding success.
Bowers & Wilkins are a respected brand and their speakers are used as monitors in many leading studios, including Abbey Road, and made the Nautilus 803 speakers used in my main listening room. The Digital Spy article reports that the B & W Sound System will be used at the electro-acoustic Womad Festival in July, and that "there are also plans afoot for classical playbacks, letting the speakers demonstrate their full-range capability from scuzzy electro beats to intricate string sections". As I said in yesterday's post, reality is staring us in the face. New technologies have revolutionised the way people listen to recorded music. It is the same technologies that offer the opportunity to beneficially revolutionise the way audiences listen to live classical music. Bowers & Wilkins have seized the opportunity with their Sound System. How long before classical music stops talking about what audiences wear, and starts talking about what they hear.
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