Speaker Park is a concert installation, which aims to bring together the openness, spatial and explorative qualities of a park, with the sonic and sensory detail of a state of the art cinematic production.
The installation it’s self comprises 24 highly unique, hand-made speakers, which form an unconventional sound system, designed for the composition and re-production of original 24-channel compositions within an engaging visual landscape.
Bringing together speaker makers, artists, composers and musicians, the project shifts focus away from the commercially motivated Hi-Fi/surround market, and challenges the criteria by which traditional sound systems and listening experiences are evaluated. Speaker Park creates a listening environment that is an open-source, audio visual artwork, which rivals and challenges what we think of as state of the art surround sound.
Original Speaker Park team (left to right): Mari Brunvoll, Roar Sletteland, Jon Pigott, Veronica Thorseth, Antti Saario, Leo Preston.
Speaker Park is also a long-term, ongoing project with a firm political standpoint, combining text, research and an open source platform for musical exchange and collaboration. The concert installation premiered at Borealis festival for experimental music in Bergen spring 2019, where it was met with enthusiasm and interest from various international programmers and bloggers/journalists. It was then shown at Oseana centre for art and culture in Os, where it received much praise for it’s combination of thoroughness, playfulness and conceptual integrity, with highly positiv reviews in Bergen’s Tidene and Barn i Byen.
The concert installation features specially commissioned works from composers Mari Kvien Brunvoll and Antti Sakari Saario, which unfold in a park full of specially constructed speakers, developed by Jon Pigott and Roar Sletteland. The audience, who occupy this park, are able to move between and around the space, changing listening perspectives, and taking in different views.
Conceived and directed by co-directors of Wrap, Leo Preston and Veronica Robles Thorseth, Speaker Park reflects this duos particular interest in collaborative projects. Their collaborative approach, combined with the physical resources and framework at Wrap, enables a particular attention to detail and thoroughness, while nurturing and benefitting from the highly unique input from each individual artist. Collective research and experimentation is an integral part of the works story.
In an interview about the state of the music industry with the Wall Street Journal on 17th May 2013, producer and Black Eyed Peas founder Will.i.am said: "You have to look at the origins of the music industry being hardware - our music was made to sell hardware... you were supposed to sell phonographs/record players... so, artists are supposed to make money when they come up with other things to sell, and use their music to sell it."
Aside from the hardware we use to consume/listen to music today, there is a huge market for both hardware and software within the realm of music production. Many of todays successful musicians are involved in the endorsement and/or development of music technology, and the practice of creating music, both live and in the studio, has become increasingly intertwined with rapid technological developments. These developments have radically changed the way people perceive live music, and arguably the definition of live music its self.
It is now common for audiences at large concerts to watch musicians on a video screen, performing to a click-track with pre-recorded instrumentation, all of which is fed to the performer through in-ear monitors which isolate the musicians from their acoustic environment. The calibration of a large modern sound system is an advanced science, involving complex calculations and specialist measuring equipment, with the aim of delivering a predictable and uniform spectrum of sound to the entire audience. Artists learn to demand predictability and uniformity, technicians obsess about particular brands and methodologies, and the concert becomes a re-production of the same "ideal" show again and again.
At the same time, in parts of Africa for instance, it is the practice of professional musicians to adapt their performance to suit the backline and sound system on which they perform. In a club in Segou, Mali, the bassist in a particular dance band uses the rattle and distortion of his sound to accentuate the groove, the drummer has a way of utilizing his trashy high hat sound to great effect, and the guitarist has quickly found where to fret his riffs on the neck so that they fit the mix. You can see the complicity between the members of the band. The audience is part of an organic live event that fills the club, and it is unlikely that anyone cares much whether or not there is more bass at the back of the room than at the front!
Based on the inference that most contemporary research and development into speaker design is motivated by commercial interests and predictability for artists and technicians, Speaker Park asks the question: How can we challenge the criteria by which traditional sound systems and listening experiences are evaluated, and create a listening environment that is an open-source, audio visual artwork of equal or greater "experiential value" to the surround systems installed in state of the art cinemas?