What If Women Ruled the World?

Playing for four nights at Mayfield Depot during the 2017 Manchester International Festival, the world premiere of Israeli artist Yael Bartana’s compelling live performance experiment What if Women Ruled the World? gave tube uk its first opportunity to use its new Sennheiser D6000 radio microphone system.

With a stark set reminiscent of Kubrick’s Dr Strangelove post-apocalyptic war room and sound designed by Tel Aviv-based Daniel Meir, the vast and long-derelict Mayfield Depot was well suited to the piece, in which a professional cast was joined by a group of female experts – scientists, activists, politicians, thinkers – to confront and solve a global nuclear emergency – as the clock ticks.

Melvyn CooteThe work was also recorded each night (potentially for a future film project), prompting tube’s Melvyn Coote to invest in the new D6000 radio technology from Sennheiser. The sound needed to be clear, realistic and also have warmth and fullness – in a barn-like, highly resonant and charismatic environment. The conversations, debates and statements that provided the drama, comedy and intensity of the situation had to be intelligible.

As the set-up evolved in discussions with Meir, known for his work in the world of films and sonic art and performance, Coote ordered the 12 beltpack transmitters and six D6000 dual receivers complete with all their infrastructure, which he describes as ‘revolutionary’ in terms of technology. They were used on this production in conjunction with DPA4061 mic heads, which were attached to the ten performers. tube’s radio mic and RF tech for the show was Liam McShane.

The RF performance of the D6000 is made possible by using hardware selective RF filters at the RF input stage of the receiver. It provides true equidistant frequency spacing - eliminating the need for complex frequency intermodulation calculations – by using hardware isolators at the RF output stage of the transmitters. Using linear amplifiers, this reduces the intermodulation to being virtually non-existent.

‘Intermods and intermod spacing have long been issues in all types of live audio scenarios, so this really is a ground-breaking development for Sennheiser,’ Coote explains. ‘Transmitters can be placed exactly where they are needed, and we can now fit 21 transmitters into the same TV channel frequency space, that would previously only support ten or 12.’

Converting the signal immediately to digital in the transmitter also enhances the overall quality and texture of the sound – particularly noticeable in spoken work scenarios. It removes the need to apply any compression technology, broadcasting full bandwidth audio from the mic into the receiver and throughout the rest of the system. The D6000 also runs on rechargeable batteries – Coote reckons that tube consumes approximately 15,000 standard batteries a year running radio systems, so this will be environmentally friendly as well as cost-efficient.

What if Women Ruled the World?

What if Women Ruled The World was the first time that tube has worked in the Mayfield Depot, which has been a regular venue for the constantly growing biennial MIF event since at least 2013, and remains otherwise unused. Meir mixed the soundscape and effects, while tube’s Martin Wallace took care of all the mic mixing and integrating the two sonic elements – vocals and surround sound effects – using a Yamaha CL5 mixing console. This was running over Dante and fully integrated with the Sennheiser D6000 system.

The challenge in the system design was delivering a clean and clear sound to the audience seated in a big, damp, dark and highly reverberant room – built in the early 1900s as a storage facility beneath the station. Addressing this was a system of d&b audiotechnik loudspeakers and amplifiers all, running AES digital links straight to the amps to keep the signal digital.

Twelve d&b Y8 elements in a left-centre-right configuration were flown in front of the seating tribune, with a rear surround ring of E8s, plus E6 front fill, all run off d&b D80 amplifiers. Under the stage one B2 and two Y-Subs provided some serious low frequency atmospherics. Along the long, shadowy entrance area were four E8s either side on scaff poles and four Y-SUBS a side on the floor, creating a sinister surround experience as the audience entered the space.

Meir, whose career includes designing sound for documentary and feature films and interactive media installations as well as many creative art projects, has enjoyed working with the tube team on the show: ‘They are a great team of people – very knowledgeable and the system has been excellent to work with,’ he says. ‘It’s delivered everything we needed’.

For Coote, ‘It’s been an incredible experience working on this thought-provoking show and helping to realise Daniel’s sonic creativity and Yael Bartana’s amazing vision. I am extremely pleased with the Sennheiser system. The success and acclaim garnered by the production has definitely underlined that it was the right decision’.

Manchester- and London-based tube is involved with a wide range of art, performance and music projects and, over the course of the MIF17, has supplied audio to around 30 productions, performances, installations and interventions.

More: www.tubeuk.com

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