The art of sound in space

Music in space

  • Great composers create space to fill it with sound.
  • Great composers make room for all instruments, so musicians can enjoy each others voice.
  • Music is the 3D development of the sound in the space we vibrate. It’s the vibrating air that makes the difference. Music needs space.
  • When music is played right, you hear the sound clouds in space. You experience a 3D world of sound clouds and colors. It’s very beautiful to get submerged into that new space created. I had not experienced that before, also that all these sound clouds have forms and colors when you visualise them in your head. I just loved this experience. It was the first time I also experienced an ‘above and below’, normally I only hear left and right.
  • Sometimes I have this feeling of the air falling on me during a chord change, it’s a bit scary. It made clear to me that you do not play the room (the wall, doors etc.), but the space in the room. First you get that by listening to the reverb, but later on you hear how a good composition also creates room for instruments to come through. I am really excited that I got this, because it made me realise that the set up of an orchestra is also part of the composition.
  • In future pieces I will also think about the set up, because in a sense music on a stage has a choreography, a very simple one. If you want people to experience exactly what you meant, you have to set them up in the right way. You have to prescribe the set-up.
  • Percussion has a more complicated choreography. You must organise the percussion ahead, or others will do it for you with a different results. Changes in set up should never be made out of necessity because the composer did not think it through. Changes should only emerge from a musical idea by the conducor or player. They should be able to add beauty and fun to the mix, not solving problems made by a lazy composer or a composer who wants the impossible.
  • The projection of the instrument is important. Especially percussion is very direction sensitive, lower brass-instruments more fill the space around you.
  • Where people are seated makes a huge difference, left you hear the clarinets loud and beeping, sitting right you hear the low brass very well because the wall doubles it’s impact on you in a harsh way. Sitting on a balcony makes the sound more even and mixed, but you loose the 3D experience (ceiling) that makes the conducters-spot so worthwhile Standing there, you really hear the beauty of the oboe (in this occassion even 4 players) with the scratching reed sounds and valves of saxopones a bit further away.
  • When you design a set up to design the soundspace, you have to think about how ears in musicians will hear it. Now: percussion hears no oboe in the mix, or flutes. Tromboneplayers are bothered by hard sounds of percussion. Sound of the horns goes the wrong direction, it needs space. Trumpetplayers and brass need to sit in a circle for the 3D effect, but do they blow in the ears of the clarinets? How are they handling that?
  • Standing makes a difference, you could prescribe that. Alt flute has to stand, otherwise it sounds muffled. Standing up instructions also saves ears, when trumpets blow over the clarinetists.

I would like to explain more about the set-up of the orchestra and it’s effect on the sound, projetion of sounds and effectiveness of conducting.

By Anneloes Wolters