Dance Musician | Audio Engineer | Sound Designer

Studio Dance I - Dance at Illinois

In March 2012, I designed sound for the University of Illinois Department of Dance's Studio Dance I, a concert of thesis pieces by Master of Fine Arts students in dance (view the program here).

Mid-Side Loudspeaker Array

This concert, which took place in the fully configurable black box theatre, was a challenging system design problem, as the stage had two "fronts", perpendicular to each other at 90 degrees, each with a seating bank facing it.  In this configuration, it is very difficult to get proper stereo imaging and consistent coverage for each seating bank, for music that is mixed in stereo.  The solution was a system built around a Mid-Side playback system, based on the mid-side microphone technique, but on the output tranducer end of the signal chain, rather than the input end.  Using a simple sum and difference matrix set up the center loudspeaker propagates the sum of audio information common to both left and right in the stereo source (the phantom center channel or MID = R + L), and the flanking speakers both carry the difference between the left and right information from the stereo source (SIDE = R - L).  The stereo image is sacrificed, but people each seating bank hear all of the original audio information in the mix, albeit originating from a different spatial orientation.   See the arrangement below:

The Mid-Side main array was supplemented by a L-R stereo set of EAW JF-100 loudspeakers on the deck behind the muslin-covered rear walls, firing through the walls.  Behind the upstage corner of the stage were 2 stacked 4X18 Bag End subwoofers with an EAW JF-80 loudspeaker sitting on top.  In each of the four corners of the theatre were a single JBL 4430, the stock system in that theatre.  As it always is with live theatre, you had to be there to hear all the ways this flexible system was used, but I thought it was very effective and allowed the sounds to very well support the effect of each dance moment.

View from rear, highlighting loudspeakers firing through the screens.  A slight presence bump was added to make up for high frequency absorption by the muslin. View from the house right seating bank.

Below, you can see me performing the sound design for Nibia Pastrano-Santiago's piece sweat during a rehearsal.  The piece was performed seven times, and each performance was different and progressively more complex than the last, in a sort of choreographic explosion of the process of developing the piece.  Because each performance was different, I performed a live sound design which progressed along with each version of the piece.

Jeff Zahos peforming live sound design, Studio Dance I 2012, Nibia Pastrana-Santiago's "Sweat"Here is my view from my performance position, with the Ableton Live session for Nibia's piece and the mid-side loudspeaker array visible:

View from my performance position, with Ableton Live session and Mid-Side loudspeaker array visible, Studio Dance I 2012, Nibia Pastrana-Santiago's "Sweat"

Note the L-R pair, subs and center loudspeaker in the model, obscured by and firing through the muslin screens.

Betsy Brandt's the smallest circuit.  The rear screens were projected upon and lighted creatively.

Studio Dance I 2012 - University of Illinois Dance - Photo by Natalie Fiol

Nibia Pastrana Santiago's sweat
Studio Dance I 2012 - University of Illinois Dance - Photo by Natalie FiolRebecca Walter in her dance Ruminations (Aria-ish).  Rear lighting of the screens revealed the visually interesting supportive skeleton.Please visit Natalie Fiol photographer/graphic designer: