(Edit: Rachel Pownall, Music: 'Pink Garden' by Joseph Smith)
Watershed and Real World Studios co-produced a 3 day Experimental Audio Camp, funded by MyWorld. The Camp hosted ten sound artists, selected through an open call, who were paired up and supported to create original works composed intentionally for a spatial system.
The Experimental Audio Camp brought this cohort together with session musicians, producers, and audio engineers (all with awesome audio credits and experience) as well as Watershed producers. We were available throughout to support the participants with developing ideas, working through musical scenarios, vision and experimentation. Real World Studios had five spaces fully kitted out for sonic experimentation, recording and mixing. Imagine a huge amount of technical kit, multiple synths, pedals, microphones, binaural Dummy Heads, monitoring systems, acoustic and electrical instruments, d&b soundscape, 360 performing and monitoring kit and headphones wherever you look. Oh and many cables.
Credit: Stewart Baxter
The way that sound can be experienced and delivered has evolved significantly in the last 15 years and the Experimental Audio Camp had a particular emphasis on spatial audio. Systems such as Dolby Atmos, Apple Spatial and Sony 360 Reality Audio for example, go beyond the traditional stereo or surround sound setups and allow for a more 'immersive' sonic experience.
These formats enable artists to position sounds in a three-dimensional space, creating a sense of depth, movement, and direction which might make people feel enveloped in the music, shift their perspective or stimulate different sensory responses. This opens up a world of possibilities for creative expression and pushes the boundaries of how music is conceived and consumed. Often music designed for stereo is converted into these formats - we wanted to understand what happens when you instead compose for and with them.
We were totally awed and humbled by the beauty, warmth and ethos of all the cohort, collaborators and the Real World Studio experience, and impressed by the beautiful work that emerged.
‘It's so exciting to be able to explore spatial sound at the origin of the music-making process, rather than only once you’ve arrived at the mixing stage.’ EAC participant
It was the first time Watershed and Real World had worked together like this, so we were learning about the format of the facilitation - which included guiding people through recording, production and post-production in often incompatible formats with a non-standardised vocabulary and lots of new relationships.
‘What excited me about the weekend was that for the dawning world of 3D sound creation, the EAC provided clear evidence of a developing language complete with vocabulary, grammar and syntax. Bringing the various technology players together (Dolby, D&B, Sennheiser and app makers) created a balanced and fertile landscape in which the musical collaborators could evolve common practices, particularly re-miking and spatial manipulation.’ Tim Oliver, Real World Studios
The three days were self-directed, but structured around listening sessions where we would all come together to play and feedback on people’s work in progress. Days would typically span from 08.30 – 22.00 (with lunch & dinner breaks where we would have a proper pause and enjoy eating delicious food prepared by Real World’s in-house chef Jerome). Throughout each team could book in time with session musicians, mixing specialists, engineers and facilities while also being able to bounce around ideas with all the staff or ask for support. On the last day everyone mixed their track into a Dolby Atmos ADM file, which means that it is compatible for playing back in Dolby and other industry tools.
‘The skills and curiosity of the cohort has been great and the experience has forced me to step outside of my comfort zone and into new ways of thinking about my practice. It was also incredibly exciting to be experimenting with state-of-the-art tools to explore sound communication with a focus on using spatiality to create new listening experiences.’ EAC participant
On our final night, when everyone’s tracks were queued for listening in the Big Room, with its cathedral like features and beautiful window façade and we’re all in prime positions for full spatial experience, there was a real sense of togetherness and achievement. Regardless of what we were going to hear.
The pieces were brilliant and unique in style, form and aesthetic. Someone said that working like this felt like ‘embracing the space compositionally, like a sculpture.’ I guess that is a good description of 3D sound.
It was an immense experience to work in this way, a fine balance between utilising tech, creativity and musicality, all of which is not really possible without keeping collaborating with people at the centre of the whole process.
We are looking forward to seeing how everyone’s work will develop and we will meet again for a day of mixing and presenting some listening at the Dolby Screening Room in Soho in September. It is extremely exciting to anticipate how the artists on this camp will continue to embrace these innovations and what processes and experiences will come out of that for both creators and listeners.
Credit: York Tillyer
You can read all about the ten audio creatives and everyone else involved below:
Jay Auborn is a British musician, producer and sound artist.
His music fuses acoustic & electronic sound worlds creating what he terms augmented acoustic music.
A background in fine art informs his approach to sound and music, resulting in the use of bold conceptual frameworks at the core of each project.
Equally at home when performing on a multitude of instruments as he is operating a recording studio, he has been able to combine creative and technical disciplines to produce countless albums, soundtracks and installations.
Alison Bown is a narrative sound designer currently working in video games and interactive audio. Recent credits include sfx design for As Dusk Falls, The Quarry and Far Cry - Rise of the Revolution. She has worked as a musician, community music facilitator, creative industries talent development consultant and - rather more randomly - is currently a lifeguard at Jubilee Swimming Pool in Knowle. The pool is the first in the country to be taken on by local people as part of a community asset transfer. Outside of sound, Alison swims long distances and studies biomechanics because movement is medicine.
Marie Tueje is a sound designer, sound artist, working primarily in feature film, short film and documentary. She also creates original sound works, soundscapes and music, as well as collaborating with other artists on installations and other immersive projects.
In her narrative sound design work she has been keen to explore a language of non-literal and non-verbal sound that is absolutely unique to the film or project she is working on.
As a sound designer and sound editor for film and television Marie helps artists, filmmakers and storytellers create experiences that are memorable and meaningful.
Alessio Festuccia is an electronic musician and sound professional specializing in bespoke sound design for films and art installations. His work features in award-winning documentaries and short films, using sound to enhance experiences and tell captivating stories in innovative ways. He has showcased his music at various immersive events, including a quadraphonic art installation at MAST Bologna and the Museum of Contemporary Arts of Rome, as well as the 360° AV immersive performance "Soundbath Experience" at BASE, in Milan. Alessio has released 8 albums across three electronic music projects (Tersø, Mr Everett, MCFdM) and launched his debut solo album as Alèfe in 2020. Currently, he works as a Sound Designer & Dubbing Mixer, focusing on sound post-production for film and TV.
Joseph Smith is a composer working across film and television, record production and digital media. His creative practice ranges from electronic beats and contemporary classical to experimental pop and dark funk - blending a background in computational arts with unconventional approaches to music production.
Liza Bec is an innovative contemporary composer, performer, producer and author. They were awarded the cross-disciplinary Fusion Fund by Help Musicians UK and built their own instrument, the roborecorder, which is on display in the Manchester Museum of Science and Industry.
Liza created audiovisual multimedia EPs INNERVATE and Beyond the Blonde. They co-wrote ‘Spinning Dance’ with acclaimed electronic artist James Holden and worked as Assistant Musical Director under renowned producer Kuljit Bhamra and composer Yu-Peng Chen on the Genshin Impact 3.0 soundtrack.
Liza holds degrees in geology and medicine. They currently produce original serial fiction podcast Spiral Dial.
Stewart Baxter is a neurodivergent musician, composer, photographer and designer based in Hull, East Yorkshire where he plays drums in the international touring band LIFE as well as working within community arts across the UK. Stewart has embraced the underground creative community for over 20 years working as an Arts and Talent Development Manager before recently set up his own company Hinterland Creative bringing creative projects and people together. Stewart has been supported by Absolutley Cultured, Sound and Music, Arts Council England and Help Musicians UK to create new work exploring a new direction in experimental composition.
Jake Spurgeon has been playing music for over 25 years and had a keen interest in music technology from an early age. He plays bass guitar and synthesisers in Ishmael Ensemble, and have played live electronic music across Europe, America and Mexico in the past few years. He composes his own music, sometimes for moving image and has worked in audio post production. He’s always been fascinated with spatial audio in multi-speakers setups and has performed with Eurorack and Ableton on a D&B Soundscape system. He is a keen collaborator and also enjoys learning topics in depth including Max for Live and modular/granular synthesis when working alone.
Natalia Mamcarczyk (aka Walya) is a Poland born, UK based sound artist, composer, producer and DJ. Her creative practice focuses on use of field recording, soundscape composition, and exploring the subject of identity. Currently a lecturer at dBs Institute and finalising MSc at University of Huddersfield, she is focusing on research into immersive audio environments, encoding systems, and binaural sound to inform her academic and artistic practice.
In the use of sound she believes in a strong purpose of improving our human condition through interaction with art, questioning the boundaries of compassion and inviting society to (sometimes) uncomfortable listening.
Some of the musicians/producers/industry advisors
Chris Hughes - Producer, composer, drummer
Hans-Martin Buff – Producer, Atmos mixer, engineer
Tim Oliver - Mixer, engineer and producer
Leslie Gaston-Bird – Engineer, producer and immersive sound specialist
John Baggott - Piano, keyboards, synths
Nicole Fermie - Singer, guitarist and writer
Stuart McCallum - Guitarist
Howey Gill - Drummer and composer
Myles Clarke - Dolby Laboratories
Alex Watts and Jack Page - D&B Audiotechnik
Real World Engineering Team
Katie May - Head Engineer
Bob Mackenzie - Studio Engineer
Louis Rogove - Studio Assistant
Faye Dolle - Studio Assistant
Watershed & Bath Spa University Team (Immersive Audio Network)
Vanessa Bellaar Spruijt - Watershed / Pervasive Media Studio
Lawottim Anywar - Watershed / Pervasive Media Studio
Jo Lansdowne - Watershed / Pervasive Media Studio
Ruth Farrar - Bath Spa University, Immersive Audio Network
Rachel Pownall - Bath Spa University
The Experimental Audio Camp was part of the MyWorld IDEAS programme, funded by UKRI. Read more about MyWorld. MyWorld is funded through UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) ‘Strength in Places fund’.
Main Delivery partners: University of Bristol, University of the West of England, University of Bath, Bath Spa University, Digital Catapult, Watershed, Aardman Animations, Lux Aeterna, Esprit Film and Television, Bristol Old Vic and Opposable Games.