Society of Sound: The Sound of Real World

Real World Studios. Photo: York Tillyer.

Real World Studios has been the heart and soul of Society of Sound. This is the creative hub from which some of the finest musical highlights and matchless quality recordings were created and delivered to members.

The concept of bringing together musicians from a wide range of backgrounds was foremost in Peter Gabriel’s mind when he created Real World Studios in the late 1980s.

In the search for a location for Real World Studios, chief among Peter’s requirements was that it had to be close to water. At last finding a location with a river running under the building itself in the Wiltshire village of Box.

A water mill had stood on the same site since the 18th century and was operating until the late 1950s. This remarkable set of buildings had the scale and internal space Peter wanted, and was situated in a beautiful part of the world, easily accessible from London and with the city of Bath less than eight miles away. The search was over – Real World was born.

The building was completely stripped and refurbished as studios. With so much concrete being poured (for sonic isolation), the whole building had to be underpinned and put on new foundations. The Big Room didn’t exist at all until Peter commissioned its construction.

Today, more than 25 years later, Real World’s reputation as one of the finest recording studios in the world is well established. Renowned as much for the diversity of the artists who flock there as the skill of its engineers, acoustic character of the rooms, and quality of the equipment and facilities: it’s a vibrant, creative place that adds up to far more than just the sum of its parts.

Back in 1986 Peter Gabriel had strong and, at the time, radical views on what a studio session should be. The traditional paradigm of separating performers from each other and the engineer by putting them in isolated rooms felt restrictive, a hindrance to the creative process. Peter envisioned a space without such divisions, and the idea behind Real World was born – an idea that’s not only stood the test of time for over 25 years, but also played a major part in defining the sound of innumerable records.

The Studios consist of two main spaces that can be used individually or in combination, depending on the needs of your project.

The Big Room is a vast (approximately 2000ft) all-in-one live room and control room. Natural light pours in through the huge windows, which provide a soul-stirring view of the tranquil millpond outside.

Connected to the Big Room and often used in conjunction with it, the Wood Room is a more orthodox live area with a stunning acoustic. The Wood Room can also be booked independently as an all-in-one space centred on a comprehensive mobile recording rig.

For the final Society of Sound album we have gathered together highlights from recording sessions at Real World Studios:

1. Little Axe – Soul of a Man
2. JuJu – Nightwalk
3. Spiro – Shaft
4. Creole Choir of Cuba – Fey Oh Di Nou
5. Iarla Ó Lionáird – Daybreak
6. Samual Yirga – Firm Ena Wereket
7. John Metcalfe – Parsal
8. 9Bach – Anian
9. Totó La Momposina – Chi Chi Mani
10. The Gloaming – The Hare
11. The Breath – Let The Cards Fall
12. Aurelio – Laru Beya

With thanks to Bowers & Wilkins and Real World Studios it’s been quite a journey.

Society of Sound subscribers can download the compilation here.