Marquee Audio and Sound Directions have carried out a unique sound system installation in the Turbine Hall at London’s Tate Modern in support of conceptual visual artist Bruce Nauman’s mesmerizing Raw Materials exhibition, which runs through March 28.
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 was tasked with taking 21 diverse audio tracks and samples from previous works and playing them out via a series of 28 directional electrostatic speaker elements, run 100V line, and distributed the length of the Turbine Hall. To accomplish this task, Sound Directions built special sound baffles and enclosures, which recess into the giant industrial girders of the room and are meant to "draw" visitors down the hall. To this are added four high-power suspended dome speakers.
Marquee Audio 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 for system demo. "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. "So we had to define the space between the speakers to a low hum."
However, Rougier is the first to admit that the success of the installation is due in no small part to Soundweb, Marquee Audio’s Andy Huffer agrees. "With 21 different sounds but 35 separate outputs to route, we considered some sort of matrix–possibly an analog patchbay," he says. The obvious solution, however, 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 adds. "As time was against us, we needed to program 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." A 100Hz high-pass filter, also built into Soundweb, provides additional protection for the system.
Using Soundweb, the system integrators were constantly able to repatch during the test period. "In fact, the gain settings changed constantly, right up until the day before the show opened," Huffer admits.
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 the sheer scale of the building, and having to gain access when the Gallery was [closed], so we needed a cabling solution based on speedy installation."
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