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Audio at the Musical Instrument Museum, Part 2

Apr 22, 2014 10:37 AM, With Bennett Liles


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Editor’s note: For your convenience, this transcription of the podcast includes timestamps. If you are listening to the podcast and reading its accompanying transcription, you can use the timestamps to jump to any part of the audio podcast by simply dragging the slider on the podcast to the time indicated in the transcription.

Every type of musical instrument imaginable is played in performance in the theater at the Musical Instrument Museum in Phoenix and when they decided to improve their front fill they got a demo of the K-array Anakonda. Ted Greenbaum, the Music Theater Manager, couldn’t believe what he was hearing and not seeing. He’s here to talk about that coming right up on the SVC Podcast.

Ted Greenbaum, it’s great to have you with us on part two of the SVC Podcast from the Musical Instrument Museum in Phoenix and its Music Theater. What’s been going on there?

Well, boy, there’s a lot of stuff going on. If you’re not familiar with the museum, it’s the only global instrument museum in the world. It’s quite remarkable. Every country is represented except for maybe – well, they’re still represented, but countries like North Korea, we haven’t been able to get any instruments out of. [Timestamp: 1:17]

I would think that might be a problem. I don’t know how much music they’ve got going on there anyway.

There’s music everywhere in the world. I think they’re singing the blues up there.

I think they would be. Since it’s a musical instrument museum and we’re dealing mainly with sound, you must have plenty of sound exhibits there.

Oh yeah, yeah. In fact, we have the world’s largest deployed system of Sennheiser’s guidePort system. Basically what happens is that at each exhibit, you see instruments displayed and then there’s a videoscreen and you see those instruments being played usually – and they’re field recordings, a lot of them, so you’ll see people from those countries playing the instruments. And as you walk up to the exhibit, you are wearing a receiver with headphones and it automatically tunes in. It’s the proximity that you are in relation to each exhibit. So it tunes in as you walk up to the exhibit and you’ll hear the instruments playing and seeing them on video. It’s pretty remarkable. [Timestamp: 2:19]

When you said headphones I had been wondering how you managed to avoid having a lot of sound leakage from one exhibit to another and headphones would be the obvious solution.

Yeah, yeah. In fact, we get a lot of comments about that. It’s really interesting when you walk through the museum. It’s really quiet if you don’t have your headphones on, whereas other museums I’ve had feedback from other people that have been to other music museums where it can be kind of a cacophony of sound, whereas here it’s not. It’s a very sort of an intimate experience you have with each exhibit. [Timestamp: 2:53]

And the best vehicle for seeing some of those instruments played live is right there in your theater.

Well, that’s right.

And you’ve got a very nice house sound system there. I was looking at the pictures. Where have you got the main house speakers stashed? I don’t see them anywhere.

A lot of people wonder about that. The sound system is pretty close to invisible. It’s a Meyer installation. There are, on each side of the stage, there are some screens that they’re behind. They were built into the architecture. And then we also have some, up above in the center of the theater, we have a center fill that’s up above, and then about halfway back there are two more fills and then we have booths. We have got two side booths and a rear booth that have speakers there. And they’re all, of course, time-aligned. The volume of each of them is such that your sense is that it feels like you’re surrounded by sound but that it’s coming from the stage wherever you sit. It’s a really nice system. [Timestamp: 3:59]



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