Virtual Spaces and Subterranean Thunder on the Campus

The Sound Theatre in the mdw’s newest building is a highly specialised electroacoustic sound space covering ca. 170 m² and with an audience capacity of 99 individuals (under normal conditions). This hall with two-leaf walls is intended for use as a concert and rehearsal space as well as for teaching and research. Collaborations, such as with the Department of Music Acoustics – Wiener Klangstil (IWK), are also planned. And as a space that also hosts events open to the general public, it will be unique within Vienna’s cultural landscape.

A compliment of 21+2 loudspeakers in a three-dimensional layout (initially in just three layers, hemispherical arranged) forms a 3D sound space. An additional three stage loudspeakers provide traditional stage sound, and a four-channel arrangement of corner loudspeakers plus several older vintage speakers make this space an all-rounder that’s well suited to all manner of applications having to do with electroacoustic/acousmatic music, live electronics, and traditional sound reinforcement as employed by Tonmeisters. The diversity of these varied sound sources enriches what can be heard, which is especially important for the sound-related demonstrations used in teaching. All in all, what we have here is something that one might call an electroacoustic “Wiener Klangstil” (Viennese style of sound).

Various methods of directional synthesis and spatialisation can be employed here for the creation of virtual spatial experiences. And for controlling these numerous channels and making them accessible for teaching purposes, there’s a well thought-out operational concept for the many different applications in this genre of acoustic projection.

The room acoustics in the Sound Theatre have been deliberately made dry, which facilitates special analytical ways of working—for in this acoustic atmosphere, software-synthesised spatial directions can be perceived far more precisely. Methods such as Ambisonics and Higher-Order Ambisonics (HOA), vector-based amplitude panning (VBAP), wave field synthesis (WFS), and a multitude of other experimental “spatial distribution” techniques will be discussed in teaching and applied in concert.

The oft-touted buzzword “immersive sound”, which suggests some new degree of acoustic and virtual realism, typically doesn’t signify anything meaningful. And it’s here that one realises the importance of an acoustic laboratory such as this one for a university-level aesthetic discourse and for teaching.

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