Monday, 24 September 2018 — Pittsfield, MA — The Silo Songs installation at the Hancock Shaker Village is a unique testament to the mysterious Shaker melodies that inspired it. “There is a long history of the Shakers sharing these songs,” explains sound designer Jody Elff, “They believed they were divine gifts – ‘Gifts from the beyond’.” The deep spirituality of the Shakers is just one of many aspects that visitors to the Hancock Shaker Village can learn about, but it is the total immersion in their music that Silo Songs creates — bringing these 200-year old songs to life with the help of Neumann KH 80 DSP monitors.

A storied history and renewed inspiration

The project was initiated by the Hancock Shaker Village, who wanted to transform one of their historic silos into an audio installation. They invited Brad Wells, a professor of vocal science at nearby Williams College to create the piece, who then brought Jody Elff on to engineer the soundscape. Wells and Elff painstakingly recorded dozens of vocalists performing Shaker hymns in a variety of styles and groupings, and once these recordings were completed, they assembled the overlapping presentation style. “The goal was to represent the experience of these songs in a physical space,” said Elff.

This was a complex idea to realize. “One of the challenges is that there are really very few examples of speakers that sound very good and which are also very small,” Elff said, “Also, with such a limited diameter in the silo, if you hit the opposing wall with too much sound, the reflections around the interior of the silo cause you to lose a sense of where the source is coming from.”

Sennheiser stepped up to provide an almost purpose-built solution. “We were talking to Dave Missall at Sennheiser about the project and he was very excited about it. They sent over a pair of Neumann KH 80 DSPs for us to try, and once we heard them we realized they’d be ideal for our project,” Elff said. “They were really great at producing the frequency response we needed for this purely vocal music, and they did so in a very natural way while still maintaining directionality.”

Swirling sounds inside a silo

Elff installed fourteen KH 80 DSPs in concentric circles around the 35’ x 11’ (10.7 x 3.4m) space, mounting them directly to the walls of the silo. The KH 80 DPSs flexible mounting options helped make the installation seamless. “This proved to be a really useful feature for an irregular space like this,” Elff said.

“Most monitors are designed to sit on a flat surface, whereas these come with beautiful little mounting brackets that worked perfectly.” Once installed in the silo, Wells and Elff put them to dramatic use in the playback of the layered audio recordings.

On entering the silo, a visitor can hear different melodies traveling in three dimensions; left and right to evoke the circular dance patterns of the Shakers or rising and falling to follow the directions of the melody. “One of [Well’s] intentions was to give another nod back to the Shaker tradition, when the community would come together and dance in a circle or in different patterns,” Elff explained. “Having the locationality of the sound reflect those dances really engulfs you in the experience. That’s why the KH 80s were a wonderful choice, they were able to maintain directionality in a way that was really effective for this space.”

Achieving emotional intimacy through sound

Given the spiritual nature of the source material, it was important to both Wells and Elff to maintain the range of emotions encoded in both the music and the performances, so that visitors could experience the emotional rises and falls naturally. “We made a conscious choice not to compress the dynamic performances of the pieces, so there’s a real range from quiet intimate moments of solo voice to big robust moments of many voices singing loudly,” Elff said, “The KH 80s really just go there and deliver that in a way that’s beautiful. We never felt like we were close to stretching what they could do, and always had enough headroom.”

Speaking on his experience in sound installations like this one, Elff is thoroughly tuned in to the experiential nature of his work. “From the point of view of people who aren’t ‘audio tech’ people, all that they want is to walk into a space and have a beautiful experience. Sometimes having the technology be obvious takes you out of that experience.”

“The KH 80s were brilliant in this installation,” he concluded. “They’ve got energy, they’ve got punch, they’ve got a good low-end response, and they are SMALL,” he said with a laugh, “I can put them in place that most other things won’t fit and they will still sound good. For this project they were perfect.”

About Neumann

Georg Neumann GmbH, known as “Neumann.Berlin”, is the world’s leading manufacturer of studio microphones and the creator of recording legends including the U 47, M 49, U 67 and U 87. Founded in 1928, the company has been recognized with numerous international awards for its technological innovations. Since 2010, Neumann.Berlin has expanded its expertise in electro-acoustic transducer design to also include the studio monitor market, mainly targeting TV and radio broadcasting, recording, and audio productions. The company manufactures its microphones in Germany, while its world-class monitors are built in Ireland. Georg Neumann GmbH has been part of the Sennheiser Group since 1991, and is represented worldwide by the Sennheiser network of subsidiaries and long-standing trading partners.



Jingle All the Way: Luxul's XMS-1208P Managed Gigabit Switch is Available for All CI Integrators this Holiday Season

Luxul, the leading innovator of IP networking solutions for AV integrators, today announced that it's giving CI integrators the gift of enterprise-level performance at affordable price points this holiday season. It doesn't matter if they've been naughty or nice, the company's XMS-1208P 12-port/18 PoE+ managed Gigabit switch — that delivers high-speed performance while enabling simple network expansion — is now available for all. And to ring in the new year, Luxul will begin shipping its AMS-1816P 18-port/16 PoE+ L2/L3 managed Gigabit switch in early January.


HoverCam Transforms Classrooms Fit for Future-Ready Students at Val Verde USD

HoverCam, an innovative technology leader in the digital education market, announced that Val Verde Unified School District (USD) in Parris, California, successfully installed HoverCam's Pilot digital teaching stations and CenterStage interactive flat panels (IFPs) in new STEM labs in the elementary schools, with plans for an eventual rollout to the district's middle and high schools. As part of the district's goal to create future-ready students, Val Verde USD chose HoverCam digital education solutions to address the rising challenge of updating classrooms and introducing curriculum with advanced systems that will prepare students for a rapidly changing career landscape.


The Sigma Holiday Sale Is Back!

Nothing makes gift giving as enjoyable as special prices on award-winning Sigma lenses and accessories; get the lens you’ve always craved or surprise a fellow shooter with the perfect present.


Global News Agency Ruptly Relies on Riedel's MediorNet and Artist on Board New OB and DSNG Vehicles

Riedel's MediorNet real-time media network and Artist digital matrix intercom are providing the decentralized and redundant signal routing and communications backbone on board two all-new, state-of-the-art OB vehicles for Ruptly, a Berlin-based international news agency. Qvest Media, a world-leading system architect and integrator for the broadcast and media industries, designed and built the new broadcast van and DSNG vehicle.