Audium is the first theater of its kind in the world, pioneering the exploration of space in music. Listeners are bathed in “sound sculptures” performed through 176 speakers in total darkness.
When the concept of AUDIUM began taking shape in the late 1950s, space was a largely unexplored dimension in composition. Composers who suspected space capable of revealing a new musical vocabulary found their pursuit blocked by the inadequacy of audio technology and performance spaces.
Audium, in spite of these obstacles, was born through years of experimentation by composer Stan Shaff and technical designer Doug McEachern. It is one of the first theaters of its kind, constructed specifically for live sound specialization and for utilizing the entire environment as a compositional tool.
The theatre consists of a foyer, sound labyrinth and main performance space. It is a building within a building, conceived directly for this art form, and built in part with a grant from the National Endowment For The Arts. Listeners sit in concentric circles and are enveloped by speakers in sloping walls, floating floor and a suspended ceiling. Compositions are performed live at each program by a performer who distributes sounds through a custom-designed console to any combination of 176 speakers. Sounds are “sculpted” through their movement, direction, speed and intensity on multiple planes in space. Live performance of composed works gives a human, interactive element to AUDIUM’s spatial electronic orchestra.
“Sounds touch deeper levels of our inner life, layers that lie just beneath the visual world. All sounds are communicative – sound is birth, life and death; sound as time and space; sound as object, environment or event. Audiences should feel sound as it bumps up against them, caresses, travels through, covers and enfolds them. I ask listeners to see with their ears and feel with their bodies sounds as images, dreams and memories. As people walk into a work, they become part of its realization. From entrance to exit, AUDIUM is a sound-space continuum.”
– Stan Shaff
“I want to immerse you in a world that is at once familiar, yet nothing is as it seems. Real becomes larger than itself, the fantastic drifts among the mundane. Time and space stretch and contract, the room becomes a breathing organism of sound. It’s my hope that once you leave AUDIUM’s aural universe, you’ll carry a bit of a new awareness with you back to Earth.”
– Dave Shaff