Marquee Audio and Sound Directions have carried out a unique sound system installation in the Turbine Hall at Tate Modern (Bankside, London) in support of conceptual visual artist Bruce Nauman’s Raw Materials exhibition. Raw Materials runs until March 28, 2005.
For his fifth Unilever Series commission, the American artist has deployed a wide range of spoken texts in a way that orchestrates and measures the space of the enormous hall, with the complex routing and signal protocols carried out within Soundweb DSP architecture.
Sound Directions took 21 diverse audio tracks and samples from previous works, and playing out via a series of 28 directional electrostatic speaker elements, run 100V line and distributed the length of the Turbine Hall.
The company built special sound baffles and enclosures, which recess into the giant industrial girders of the room and are designed in such a way as to “draw” visitors down the hall. To this are added four high-power suspended dome speakers.
Marquee Audio, meanwhile, was invited to supply all the additional hardware and designed an elaborate cabling infrastructure in which the complex routing protocols have been carefully stored in the BSS Soundweb DSP engine.
The signals are taken from a 24-track, looping, solid-state playback device, with the audio information and samples stored on a series of CF cards, offering 16-bit/44.1kHz audio processing.
Nauman first arrived on-site in July 2004 for a system demonstration. “He was interested in using the structure of the building and wanted a blurring of sounds, so that if you were standing in the middle of two sound sources, you could receive both loud and clear,” recalls Sound Directions’ Fergus Rougier. “And so we had to define the space between the speakers to a low hum.”
Rougier admits that the success of the installation is due in no small part to Soundweb, a detail which Marquee Audio’s Andy Huffer agrees with: “With 21 different sounds, but 35 separate outputs to route, we considered some sort of matrix—possibly an analog patchbay,” he says. “But the obvious solution was via DSP processing, with five 9088iiLL Soundwebs and a 9000ii network hub providing the necessary 40x40 matrix.
“We had to create a system that would enable us to route any of the content anywhere,” Huffer continues. “As time was against us, we needed to program up a visualization of the room with each speaker point represented by a source selector. This offered us great flexibility and made it easy to navigate, set up and change level controls on-the-fly with EQ and a minimum of compression.” Additional protection for the system has been created by a 100Hz highpass filter, also built into Soundweb.
Huffer says that the beauty of Soundweb was its flexibility and the fact that during the test period, the system integrators were constantly able to re-patch. “In fact, the gain settings changed constantly, right up until the day before the show opened,” he reports.
Marquee Audio also had to design cable runs on a macro scale, with Rob Whittaker project-managing the whole installation. “In the end, we went for a multi-pin–type arrangement, with break-out boxes hidden behind the girders,” says Huffer. “The biggest problem was just the sheer scale of the building and having to gain access when the gallery after hours, so we needed a cabling solution based on speedy installation.”
Summing up, Rougier says that Nauman was delighted with the way in which his concept was realized. Paying tribute, he says, “Bruce was also a delight to work with. He knew exactly what he wanted and is a mathematician who also understands electronics, which was really useful for a project like this.”
For more information on Soundweb, please go to www.bssaudio.com.