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AES Live

Innovative Uses of Spatial Audio Technology for Composition and Performing Arts: Wave Field Synthesis and “sound holograms”

May 27, 2021 2:00pm ‐ May 27, 2021 3:00pm


Wave Field Synthesis (WFS) is a spatial audio rendering technique that places virtual sound sources in real space. Using high density arrays consisting of approximately 200-600 discrete loudspeakers, it is possible to place sound sources accurately in physical space in front of the speakers -- in short, create sound holograms or "holophones." While this technology has long been thought of as logistically impossible, there have been a number of systems created in the last few years with the rise of audio-over-IP. This panel discussion focuses on composers and other creators in the performing arts who have been leading the way in how to use this new spatial audio technology for artistic expression. The conversation will begin with a brief introduction about the technology, but focus mainly on how artists are using it and why “sound holograms” have caused a fundamental shift in how they think about making artistic work with spatial audio. In the past, everyone in a listening experience hears everything at the same time. Now there can be individual sonic experiences in a live event without headphones. The technology is incredibly flexible and there is enormous room for creativity. The panelists include composers, sound designers, and a choreographer who have worked closely with WFS. The three projects discussed focus on how the artists are using the technology differently. One is a concert with a roaming audience who walk inside of the sound sources (accompanied by beams of light). One is a seated audience hearing sounds whisper in their ears and moving through them. And the other is a dance in which the sound of the dancer’s movement is separated from his body like a ghost, in a conceptual piece about gravity.


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