Music is central to the life and work of rock icon Nick Cave, and to ensure his sounds were reproduced with appropriate power and subtlety for a new exhibition tracing his creative journey, the exhibit’s creators worked with Danish AV integration firm Stouenborg to design potent and precisely controlled systems of Meyer Sound self-powered loudspeakers.
Entitled “Stranger than Kindness,” the pandemic-delayed exhibition debuted last June at the Black Diamond, a museum extension of the Royal Danish Library in Copenhagen.
The importance of sound was emphasized by the direct involvement of Cave along with longtime bandmate and collaborator Warren Ellis, who together conceived and recorded the soundscapes for the exhibition. Leading the exhibition team on behalf of the Black Diamond museum was designer Christina Back.
“We wanted an immersive experience,” says Back. “We wanted people to be free in the space, without headphones, and have all their senses — even the small hairs on the back of the neck — tuned in to what is around them.”
The exhibit occupies eight rooms in the basement of the Black Diamond, seven of them with sound installations. “We have a primary speaker system in every room playing the main musical atmosphere,” says Janus Jensen, the sound engineer for the exhibition, “and then we have placed small speakers to spread out the atmosphere, or to connect with pictures or objects in that room.”
Loudspeaker selection was critical, as the concept demanded power and clarity combined with control that would keep sound from any of multiple immersive experiences from bleeding into adjacent spaces.
“Very early in the process I specified Meyer Sound loudspeakers,” says Kaspar Stouenborg, project manager for the AV installations and CEO of the company bearing his name. “I knew that sound was going to be a very important part of the exhibition, so I wanted to be sure Nick Cave and Warren Ellis had the full freedom to make it sound exactly as they wanted it. I knew I could accomplish that with Meyer Sound loudspeakers.”
A total of 29 full-range Meyer Sound self-powered loudspeakers are positioned for maximum effect through the seven rooms, with two compact MM-10™ subwoofers adding bass impact where needed. Five different full-range models are employed, scaled to achieve a range of effects from maximum impact (ULTRA-X40™), a balance of power and placement flexibility (UPM-1XP™, UP-4XP™ and UP‑4slim™), and discreet placement as a pinpoint imaged source for a specific instrument or effect (MM-4XP™).
The exhibit as a whole uses 32 discrete channels of audio playing from a MacBook Pro and controlled by QLab 4 software. Many audio programs play in extended loops, so that the exhibition’s sound design changes depending on the time of day.
“The sound system definitely turned out as I had hoped,” summarizes Christina Back, “and from my experience working with sound, it is a powerful tool in an exhibition setting.”
Sponsored by Gucci, opened in June 2020 and, fo“Stranger than Kindness”llowing an interim closure due to COVID-19, is planned to reopen for an extended period beyond its originally scheduled closing of February 2021.
Photos by Anders Sune Berg