The OBC aims to record with immersive sound

The OBC may not record a sold out every weekend with its concerts in Barcelona, ​​but L'Auditori has set out to be present all over the world.

Oliver Thansan
Oliver Thansan
15 May 2024 Wednesday 22:56
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The OBC aims to record with immersive sound

The OBC may not record a sold out every weekend with its concerts in Barcelona, ​​but L'Auditori has set out to be present all over the world. Through the audiovisual platform and the digital (and also physical) label, and using publication and distribution systems typical of pop, the orchestra is optimally positioned in the symphony market with the help of its ally Naxos.

The room wanted to develop tools that would allow it to generate high-quality content to launch on the Internet, and the fruits are seen in moments like now when the Barcelona composer Bernat Vivancos has responded to a commission with a piece written in scordatura. , that interpretation technique that consists of tuning part of the instrument in different keys than usual. But he has done it thinking that it would be recorded and listened to in 3D, that is, with the Dolby Atmos system.

This Thursday, L'Auditori offered, together with the director of the OBC, Ludovic Morlot, and Vivancos himself, a listening session in the Esmuc rehearsal room, with a dozen speakers arranged in a circle to reproduce, to the extent of the possible, that harmonious clash that Vivancos seeks with the work U. A title that responds both to the idea of ​​you (you in English) and the experiential fact of each one, as well as to the u of utopia, since it seeks to reflect those dreams that will not come true. “Actually this is the story of a great failure,” the composer says – he jokes –.

Those invited to listen to it at Esmuc have to fight to get the seat that is located exactly in the center of the circular structure that supports the speakers, since that is exactly where all those dissonant sounds will collide, creating a certain unrest. Anguish can even create a certain feeling of imbalance...

Vivancos knows that this is a difficult work to program in live concerts. The orchestra could just play U and go home. Because? Because he wanted to go beyond the scordatura of an instrument, a technique that he had already used in La ciutat dels àngels for 20 strings. He now wanted to divide the orchestra into three large parts: one, the central part, would be tuned to 4:42, in a tempered way. Another would be an eighth of a tone higher and the third, an eighth of a note lower.

“In this way we destroyed the harmonic world a little and obtained a clash of sonorities that, in good, quality listening, allows you to hear each of the harmonies and that resulting clash, with interesting oscillations,” details the musician. “From time to time, the central orchestra emerges, tuned to the tempered sound, but it is only a mirage within the personal chaos of life, because a clarinet re-enters here and the noise returns. You are discovering beauty, you think you have found it, but no.” The important thing about his work, he admits, is that spiritual side, that of utopia and failure. “It's not just about experimenting with tempered sounds.”

In Vivancos' music, space and the cult of sound make up 50%. Another 40% is the composition and the rest is the interpretation. So it is not a work to listen to on the radio to appreciate. But L'Auditori precisely wants to prevent cultured music from lagging behind popular music when it comes to new technologies. Hence, he wanted to put into practice the 3D that has been normalized since Apple Music and other brands have adapted the Dolby Atmos format.

Anyone with a suitable smartphone and certain wireless headphones can pick up that technology. Well, they are prepared to decode it automatically, says Santi Barguñó, artistic programmer of the room, as well as music producer and sonographer. “The collection systems are different in each project. To record U in the Pau Casals room, a main microphone and other minor ones were installed to achieve balances in post-production."

”This system allows you a connection with musical aesthetics - he adds -, it has a particularity with the groups that are in tune and in this way captures better than good stereo technology. Then, with the headphones you achieve an immersive feeling similar to the multi-channel speaker system. Hence, Dolby Atmos is the only 3D system that can be played with normal headphones.”

Ludovic Morlot, the head of the OBC, assures that Vivancos' piece is very challenging because of the cutout, and is definitely not practical live. “You are not going to be able to retune two parts of the orchestra and then do a Brahms, for example. But these ramifications were also made by Stravinsky, only when playing it live we simply do not put it into practice,” he says.

The issue here is to forget about the orchestra as we know it. “Everything is at the service of the narrative of the work. That is the interesting part of claiming orchestras as an instrument of the 21st century,” concludes Barguñó. At the moment, only the orchestras of the Paris and Berlin Philharmonics have used the advanced system. The OBC joins the dream team.