ECHO FROM THE STAGES
A project by Hanna Olsson & Oscar Björk
During covid-19, many music and theater stages around the country of Sweden have been empty, especially in the smaller cities. This project originates from the previous sound art project "Ekot av vår tid" (Echo of our time). A project supported by the Swedish Artists' Association (Kulturbryggan) to start a collection of acoustics from various Swedish buildings/rooms - to promote Swedish culture and Swedish cultural heritage. Heartifact Studio now has a unique bank of impulse responses that can be used in e.g. music production to simulate real room reverberation in real time. As we could not fully explore this method during covid-19 by using these acoustic files as filters -in live concerts - we wanted to do this. So we applied at Swedish Arts Council/Kulturrådet and got support for this new project - Echo from the stages.
We wanted to let rooms meet rooms - and artistically explore this with three live concerts on three Swedish stages. We mainly wanted to:
1. Through this unique method with the IR files (which we don't think has been tried before) highlight three Swedish stages in sparsely populated areas/smaller towns to draw attention to them and their acoustics.
2. Carry out concerts (the live show Aurora: The Weight of a Shadow) with our band Nocean where we artistically and with a digital, new method explore how the live experience of the concert will be with the help of impulse responses from e.g. Dramaten or Uppsala Domkyrka. For example adding the acoustics of Uppsala Domkyrka on the lead vocal channel or using the acoustic sound from Stockholm City Hall on the microphone channels during theatrical parts of the show to simulate a fictive city hall in the show.
3. Collect more acoustic files from the stages we arrange concerts on - to make the acoustics from those stages available in our IR bank to other cultural actors in the future.
We started out with planning which IR-files to test and why. We changed the manuscript of the already touring show "Aurora: The Weight of a shadow" and developed the scenery so that the audience would get a visual aspect of how the acoustics were simulating a certain feeling (in the theatrical parts of the show). We had a production rehearsal in October 2022 together with the assigned sound technician Ossian Lilja. Together with him and the band, we decided to use following IR-files in the show:
Stockholm City Hall (Golden Hall)
This great acoustic (long reverb) was used in one of the theatrical scenes on the microphone channels to give a feeling of a town meeting in a fictive city hall in Erville town
The Vasa Ship (The galley)
This unique IR file (never captured before) of the galley in The Vasa Ship was used in a theatrical scene on the microphone channels to give a feeling that the characters where inside an old wooden boat.
Borgholm Castle Ruin (Drabantsalen)
This IR file was used in one of the theater scenes to give a feeling that the characters where in a smaller stone-walled room.
This IR file was used in one of the theater scenes to give a feeling that the characters where in a cave.
S:ta Karins church ruin (Gotland)
This IR file was used in one of the theater scenes to give a feeling that the characters where in an outdoor stone-walled environment.
Mariakyrkan (Maria church, Sigtuna)
This IR file was used on the lead vocal microphone channel during the live performance of the music/songs.
Marmorfoajén (Marble foyer) at The Royal Dramatic Theater
This IR file was used on the drumkit - on the snare microphone to artistically enhance the sound.
Domkyrkan in Uppsala (Uppsala Cathedral)
This great IR file was used on one of the guitar channels in a guitar solo.
We arranged three concerts at Söderhamns Theater, Royal (a cinema/theater) in Eskilstuna and Kalmar Theater. Our sound technician used the IR reverbs as we planned, but he was also free to be creative during the show, taking in how the different venues added their own acoustics along with the music and the effects from the IR-files.
The first show in Söderhamn was filmed and recorded and we will be releasing it as a digital live show where the audience will be able to really hear the acoustics and how they sound.
At all three venues we also recorded new IR files from the actual venues we played at. So that we now can add them to our IR bank and let others use them in the future.
We made a digital program sheet which could be read on mobiles and the address was shown on our projector screen before and after the show. In the program sheet we described about the project and how it was implemented in the show.
What worked well and what was difficult?
Experimenting with audio files live is both interesting, quite easy to implement technically, but it can also be difficult to test. We had a production rehearsal in a large room with a quite difficult acoustic in it, we would have rather been in a room with as little acoustics as possible. It is also difficult to know how the imposed acoustic files look in premises you have not been in before. But it turned out to be an interesting experiment on site and thanks to the fact that we had planned the scenes and channels well, it went smoothly. It was a matter of not having too many different ones, but we selected a few with accuracy and precision for the purpose.
The difficult thing was also to convey the project and the experiment to the audience, other than through the actual implementation, the information in the digital program, etc. and the upcoming live recording/filmed live concert - as it is quite complex to explain in text. It will be interesting for those interested in sound art, but otherwise it will be more of a layer of artistry to be experienced by the audience. It was also fun that by creating the "rooms" in the theater scenes in the show - we also developed the lighting and the backgrounds of the scenes so that they went in line with the acoustics we had chosen. With few visual elements, we were able to add more feeling to the acoustics.
Here you can listen to the acoustics from the theaters that we captured during this project. Listen to them how they sound when they are applied as filters on common sounds!