WOMAD Festival have launched an exciting new immersive audio project in partnership with Real World Studios, bringing the essence of WOMAD directly to an online audience. Featuring eight artists from a cross-section of musical genres, ‘WOMAD at Home’ offers a unique 360° listening experience designed specifically for headphones.
Funded by Innovate UK, the UK’s innovation agency, the WOMAD at Home series has been recorded with world-class sound technology and brand new techniques developed at Real World Studios to offer an immersive audio experience that reaches beyond the possibilities of traditional stereo listening.
WOMAD at Home began last night (Thursday 17th September) with a set by Sarathy Korwar, one of the most original and compelling voices on the UK jazz scene, and the series continues every Thursday at 8pm UK time for the next seven weeks. Listen for free online at the WOMAD Festival website.
Also featuring as part of the series are artists from past and future WOMAD Festival line-ups, are stars of the new London jazz movement Blue Lab Beats and Native Dancer, alongside the Ghanaian-British band Onipa, Welsh folk act 9Bach, Chinese classical virtuoso Cheng Yu and her ensemble Silk Breeze, and electronic music innovators Hinako Omori and Voka Gentle.
WOMAD Festival hopes that in the vacuum of live music due to the COVID-19 pandemic, this eight-part series gives music fans something special to enjoy, and can also get people excited about returning to live music again soon.
Chris Smith, Director, WOMAD Festival: “The goal of this project is to offer audiences a unique experience in this brave new world of online music performances. What people are missing most about being able to attend festivals such as WOMAD is the experience of being present with musicians and hearing the music live in the performance space. This is something that is difficult to recreate with basic audio/visual recordings, but with the technology and skills at Real World Studios we have been able to develop an immersive audio experience in 360° sound. This means the listener can be transported from their homes to a completely different sonic space.”
The tagline for the series is ‘Screens off, headphones on.’ In some ways, it may be viewed as a remedy to the new normal of a working day that often involves back-to-back Zoom meetings with bad audio and glitchy visuals. Beginning on 17thSeptember for eight weeks, online audiences can enjoy these exclusive music performances each Thursday at 8pm via the WOMAD website. The audio will be broadcast live in standard and high resolution audio, and will be available to stream on-demand for seven days after it airs.
All of the musical performances were recorded under the guidance of Real World Studios’ team of renowned audio engineers using industry standard techniques and as well as newly devised methods. They not only experimented in the studios’ Big Room and Wood Room recording spaces, but also recorded on location in a variety of acoustic settings, capturing ambient sounds, and always aiming to bring the listener into the space. With the help of Innovate UK, WOMAD and Real World Studios have had the financial support needed to develop new approaches to immersive sound recording.
Oli Jacobs, Head Engineer, Real World Studios: “We have used three main methods to create an immersive audio experience: binaural recording, making use of creative reverbs and effects designed specifically for surround sound and immersive listening, and a re-amping technique involving the d&b audiotechnik soundscape and a Neumann binaural head microphone. The last of these is a new approach we have had the opportunity to develop at the studio throughout the course of this project. The finished mixes have both realistic and experimental applications of this technology, but most of all they sound really unique. We recommend that the listener puts on their best pair of headphones, grabs a comfy chair and closes their eyes to divert all of their focus into total immersive listening.”