Encore & d&b in Brighton noise experiment

Thursday, 5 January 2012
Encore & d&b in Brighton noise experimentThe installation was part of the Brighton Festival
UK - It all makes perfect sense, conduct an experiment for the Noise Abatement Society and what's the first thing you do? Rent in a PA system. It does make sense in one way, how else can you investigate the suppression of noise without first creating it, "but this was something completely different," said John Tinline of Encore who provided the system.

"This was another Martyn Ware Illustrious Production 3D sound installation", he continued. "The event was sponsored by the City of Brighton Council. We put 18 d&b audiotechnikQ1 loudspeakers in various places around West Street in Brighton. This is the main shopping street, the installation was part of the Brighton Festival, but the purpose was not to give people something to listen to, quite the opposite."

What Ware had designed was a six point sound field, a 3D image formed by Ware's signature ethereal sound textures. Its purpose was to counter traffic noise; not to mask the sound per se, more a distraction, as Ware himself said, "To change the mood, it was not about volume, sometimes it's as low as 75-80 dB." Psychological more than environmental, Tinline explained that, "The concept was to measure the reaction of the general public as they walked through and responded to Martyn's music. The event was also captured live on video by walking cameramen and piped back to the Odeon cinema where Dr Harry Witchel, a psycho-biologist and author of You are what you hear, analysed behaviour. Most found it beneficial; the ambient sound field tricks the brain into no longer perceiving the traffic noise."

The purpose was quite serious, this was an entry for the John Connell Technology Award, sponsored by the Institute of Acoustics; this is an award that looks directly at people and organizations seeking to innovate in the field of noise control. "The gig was laborious in terms of deployment, the Q1 loudspeakers were chosen for their lightness and the Q has a fairly unique coverage pattern for a division one pro audio product. And it could deliver the levels we wanted. We had the Q1s positioned along the street on top of a canopy that protects pedestrians from the weather and also placed two loudspeakers in the windows of people's flats."

While we might be surprised to learn people perceived a benefit, there was more of a surprise for Tinline "I wasn't aware of any effect at first," he said, "but then I realized I'd forgotten about the traffic noise precisely because it wasn't there. In its absence I'd overlooked it." Anecdotal evidence suggests that during the evening Ware's composition exerted a significant calming influence on the 'clubbers rush' from pub to club. Tinline is now contemplating how he can install half a million Q1s along the main high streets of cities all over the UK: d&b declined to comment.

(Jim Evans)

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