Creating stellar sound

Meyer Sound is one of the performance industry’s leading providers of audio engineering solutions. Its latest pioneering innovation will allow for customised acoustics in any space, and could even influence the music being performed. Clare Wiley hears more

Founded by husband and wife team John and Helen Meyer in 1979, Meyer Sound creates and supports high quality products for sound reinforcement and recording activities. The award- winning company’s numerous innovations have earned its team a string of patents for self-powered loudspeakers for studio and stage and high-accuracy studio monitors.

Constellation Acoustic System is Meyer Sound’s latest addition to the market. The groundbreaking technology allows the acoustics of a room to be altered to suit the event. ‘Decades of research into exceptional listening spaces has informed the development of Constellation,’ says company president and founder, John Meyer. ‘To accomplish the goal of a customisable acoustic solution for each space, our team uses a combination of room microphones, advanced signal processing with patented algorithms, and a range of our award-winning self-powered loudspeakers. Not only does Constellation create extraordinary experiences for audiences, it also creates an optimal acoustic onstage environment where musicians can hear each other.’

The new system allows for a level of flexibility that isn’t currently available with traditional mechanical methods of variable acoustics, such as movable walls, drapes, orchestra shells or secondary chambers. Now, using Constellation, a wide range of venues from major performing arts spaces to restaurants, corporate offices and broadcast studios will be able to optimise and customise acoustics to suit all kinds of requirements.

Jazz at Lincoln Center’s Appel Room
Jazz at Lincoln Center’s Appel Room, which benefits from Constellation

‘Using an iPad, users can alter a room’s acoustics, miraculously transforming the space from a chamber music hall perfect for a small ensemble to a highly reverberant sacred space like a cathedral or mosque,’ says Meyer. ‘Lately, we’ve had success with using the technology in restaurants, where our system can control sonic ambience to help ensure diners enjoy consistently comfortable conversations, no matter the table size or occupancy level. Restaurant staff can maintain a perfect ‘buzz’ level at the mere touch of an iPad screen.’

‘We’re now hearing from composers and musicians that they want to incorporate the technology into how they’re actually making music,’ Meyer adds. ‘Michael Tilson Thomas at the San Francisco Symphony [SFS] has put together a full programme for their debut concert in SoundBox that offers music designed to explore the various acoustic possibilities.’

SoundBox is a new and experimental alternative performance space at SFS’s Davies Symphony Hall. Beginning this month, a series of 10 events featuring MTT, SFS musicians and composers in casual, almost cabaret-style interactive performaces. These multimedia concerts incorporate audiovisual elements, using the new state-of-the-art sound system to adapt and extensively customise the players’ sounds.

Events in the series include an acoustic exploration of classical music from Gregorian chants through to the present day; an event curated by composer Samuel Adams that draws from his experiences in electronic music, jazz, and field recording (9-10 January); the SFS percussion section is an exploration of percussion-led classics from the Western canon by Xenakis and others (13-14 February); a look at Californian counterculture led by conductor Edwin Outwater and incorporating music by, amongst others, composer Nathaniel Stookey (6-7 March); and Revolutions in Music (9-10 April) featuring the dynamic talents of Spanish guest conductor Pablo Heras-Casado.

Other performing arts venues currently using Constellation include Cal Performances’ Zellerbach Hall in Berkeley; Jazz at Lincoln Center’s Appel Room; Finland’s LoGoMo Performing Arts Centre; Estonia’s Norde Concert Hall; Russia’s Svetlanov Hall; Le Vendéspace in France; and Norway’s new Fosnavåg Concert House. Two further installations are now underway in the Bay Area, including San Francisco Opera’s new black box theatre in the Wilsey Center and Berkeley Repertory’s Thrust Stage.

‘From the start, I’ve felt that our overall mission is in service of the artists,’ says Meyer. ‘Sound professionals are there to create environments in which an artist can be sure that the sound they create is exactly what the audience hears. Constellation, like any of our products, is only successful if the artists and their audiences get to have extraordinary experiences. We think about sound so that the artists can focus on making art.’

Main image: Logomo Hall © Rabbit Photography