Experience a 21-piece orchestra with the Electric Sound Palace
One of Europe's oldest cinemas will be brought to life through 3D soundscapes. Conjure up Paignton Picture House's original 21-piece orchestra in this immersive installation created by Sound Designer and Artist Chris Timpson and friends. We caught up with Chris at Paignton Picture House to find out more about his plans for Eyeview (extra)ordinary 7-16th June.
Chris Timpson is a South Devon artist known for sonically transforming interesting spaces around the world. His recent work with the Met Museum in New York saw him recreate the sounds of Versailles by recording an original sound piece inside Oldway Mansion.
Now Chris is playing with Paignton Picture House - thought to have originally be named the ‘Electric Picture Palace’ - with his latest work ‘Electric Sound Palace’. Through exploring historic archive materials about the cinema, Chris discovered a 21-piece orchestra would accompany the silent movies. We spoke to Chris inside the wondrous place steeped in history to find out more:
“In this cinema, it’s seen the full journey of sound in film. It started from silent films of maybe a pianist and then there's orchestra in the early days and then obviously we're going to mono sound then stereo sound…
… I've got a particular interest in multi-speaker sound; creating installations where you're immersed in 3D soundscapes. That's a lot of my work, for example, binaural work with this microphone here which is a headphone experience, so really immersive 3D sound for headphones. So last year I had the great privilege of working with the Met Museum in New York on a big projects about the history at Versailles. I'm just quite intrigued by sounds and humans relationships with sound.
Living in the Southwest, I mean firstly having opportunities to work on something local can be unusual because a lot of my work is all over the place. What Eyeview (extra)ordinary is trying to do with site-specific installations is really interesting in Torbay, which has an amazing array of really interesting venues and locations, that for someone like me, who likes to get into a venue and create something specific, there is a great opportunity. The name to start with - Electric Sound Palace - was kind of inspired by Electric Picture Palace, which we think was a name of this cinema originally, though there was actually two cinemas in Paignton, so it's quite confusing when you’re looking at the history and what refers to what. But we just became interested in actually well how could we create an interesting sonic destination here?
In doing further research, there's stories that there used to be a 21-piece orchestra that would play to accompany silent movies and that instantly got my my brain ticking, because I was like wow okay what can we do with the idea of recreating the 21-piece orchestra using multi speaker technology.
There's the technical playback aspect, so we're going to create that between the screen and the audience area, we're actually planning to then use loudspeakers to recreate the 21 orchestra members in that space. So that's a kind of technical job of customising a multi-speaker sound-system and making sure everything is working together and in sync and that it sounds nice in the room.
Then there's a like a content creation part; we have been recording the Torbay Symphony Orchestra using between about 30 and 40 microphones at a time, so that we can capture individual players and individual sections with the idea that then the audience might be able to control some of those sections a little bit when they're in the experience and if nothing else, it's going to make it sound brilliant in the space, having all of those parts recorded in that way.
We're also looking at experimenting with like playable aspects to the piece as well and seeing if there's a way that the audience can participate and control or slightly alter the orchestra by using the seats in the cinema, so that's a real experimental part of the work and at this stage, I an’t tell you how that's going to pan out, but something will pan out and hopefully it'll be exciting and lead to to further work using that technology. I'm really lucky to partner up with The Media Workshop they've been helping me figure out how we're going to actually wire up some switches onto some of the seats in the space and you know this is a Grade 2 Listed building as well, so we have to do that in a very sensitive way and also a robust way.
I hope when people come into the installation that firstly it's an amazing chance to get into this beautiful building. I mean experience something different to a normal cinema type experience, as well, so my ambition is to fill the room with sound, and with beautiful sounds, and interesting sound and hopefully give the audience an opportunity to interact with that.” - Chris Timpson, Sound Design & Artist.
The Electric Sound Palace is part of Eyeview (extra)ordinary which is a collection of free events across Torbay from 7-16 June 2019. Chris Timpson’s event at Paignton Picture House is on Friday 7th June, 5pm - 8pm, Saturday 8th - Saturday 15th June, 12 noon - 8pm, Sunday 16th June, 12noon - 6pm with performances on the hour. Book your seat on the Eyeview website: https://eye-view.org.uk/extraordinary-events-listings/electric-sound-palace