Award-Winning “Walk-in Sound Body” Project

walk in sound body

It’s the Opus AVant-garde award for the Ensemble Modern for its “walk-in sound body” at the cresc — Biennale for contemporary music in Frankfurt, Germany.

Now in its second year, Opus Avantgarde is given for works that go beyond the classic stage performance and depict current technological trends (or future staging trends). The jury and the trustees of the award include representatives from the German Media and Event Technology Association (VPLT), the European Association of Event Centres (EVVC) and other experts from the sector, as well as representatives of the trade press and Messe Frankfurt.

Under the title “MeWe” and for the sixth edition of the cresc, Ensemble Modern decided to explore the relationship between the individual and the community in a variety of modern music. Rather than limit themselves to the traditional audio concert, Ensemble Modern sought to expand on the audio by adding a post-performance technology-based physical experience.

Immediately after the live performance of “Earth Dances” (by Sir Harrison Birtwistle and staged jointly by the HR Symphony Orchestra and Ensemble Modern), Ensemble Modern invited the audience to join a novel live experience via a walk-in sound body. Forty-four loudspeaker components, supported by eight subwoofers on different levels, were arranged on the floor, at a height of 5 metres and in a ring below the studio ceiling. Led by Ensemble Modern’s sound designer and sculptor Norbert Ommer, the orchestra’s musical tones were transferred into a 3D audio installation in which the audience could move freely within the orchestra’s sound body. The playback transmitted into the room was linear and mixed live in three dimensions by Ommer via a d&b Soundscape system.

NorbertOmmer (1)

Sound sculptor, Norbert Ommer

For additional effect, the entire orchestra was rotated up to 180 degrees — as well as the additional movement of vocal instruments within the sound body. Audio specialist Crystal Sound collaborated in the technical implementation.

A musical exploration made possible by a technologically innovative concept, this post-performance extended the concert’s conventional aural impact to a new phygital (a blend of digital with the physical dimension) experience of contemporary music. The award ceremony will take place on 21 March at a gala event at Prolight + Sound.

Ensemble Modern is one of the world’s best-known ensembles — and based in Frankfurt am Main. Run as a democracy, eighteen soloists (from Belgium, Bulgaria, Germany, Greece, India, Japan, Switzerland and the USA) currently decide jointly on artistic projects, partnerships with other artists and all financial matters.

Ensemble Modern is funded by the German Federal Cultural Foundation, the City of Frankfurt, and (via the German Ensemble Academy) the Hessen State Ministry for Higher Education, Research, Science and the Arts. Every year, Ensemble Modern rehearses and performs approximately 70 new compositions, including about 20 world premieres, The cresc festival in Frankfurt area is organized by Ensemble Modern in collaboration with the HR Symphony Orchestra. The 2024 theme will be STRING FIGURES. Among humanity’s oldest games, the imaginative patterns created by strings and hands once served to depict constellations in the sky and firmament. String figures have acted throughout the ages as communication aids between peoples, myths, works of art and cosmological performances.

This year’s cresc features Ensemble Modern and guest performers dedicating themselves to this topic by weaving new artistic links and textures.