The Hive at Kew

From its debut at the UK Milan Expo 2015 pavilion, The Hive has relocated to London’s Kew Gardens, where its elaborate and soundtrack is again controlled by a hybrid system using live bees, and a TiMax SoundHub playback server and audio showcontroller.

The 17m-high abstract aluminium lattice structure that comprises the immersive art installation offers visitors a multisensory experience as it responds, with the help of TiMax, to the activity of bees in a beehive located behind the scenes at Kew. The object of the walk-in figurative beehive is to help highlight the significance and plight of bees in our foodchain and ecology.

Inside The Hive, multichannel dynamic lighting and audio effects are driven by software, developed by freelance developer Andy Coates to provide realtime showcontrol data based on the activity of Kew’s bee colony. Live data is received from accelerometers installed in the Garden’s own hives by Nottingham Trent University’s Dr Martin Bencsik, the leading research specialist in the field who was central contributor to the original Milan project.

The HiveMore than 1,000 LED luminaires line the interior of The Hive, providing a continuously varying multi-coloured response to the bee colony’s activity, while remote audio feeds of their complex hive chatter are immersively floated within the structure by TiMax, alongside individual and submixed musical stems. The hypnotic musicscape was composed by core members of Spiritualised and various collaborators pulled together by installation artist Wolfgang Buttress, including acoustic and electronic musicians plus his own daughter on vocals.

Kew uses virtually the same Hive soundscape used in Milan, re-purposed and tweaked on site by Out Board director Robin Whittaker who programmed and mapped the original soundscape onto the multichannel surround system designed by Mike Bedford of Hoare Lee. TiMax receives random bee-driven Midi triggers from Coates’s software, which combine with scheduled music playback TiMax Cues to create layered spatialisation and panning effects, all rendered in the object-based TiMax PanSpace 3D spatialisation environment. As well as playback and all dynamic 3D spatialisation, TiMax SoundHub handles EQ, delay and zone level trim for the 18 miniature Meyer Sound MM4 speakers distributed around the hive structure, along with six compact Meyer Sound subwoofers.

To inaugurate the Kew installation’s 18-month run, a series of special live performances of the music and soundscape are being staged within The Hive itself in September, with Wolfgang Buttress accompanied by the musicians that comprise the Be ensemble who wrote and recorded all the original material (also released as the album One on Rivertone). This follows a successful Be Play One festival tour by the artists and TiMax, which took in Glastonbury, Blue Dot, Caught By the River and End of The Road.

See also:
Case Study: The Journey

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