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Apocalypse, Victorian style: JBL soundtracks Tate Britain show

David Davies 3 November 2011
Apocalypse, Victorian style: JBL soundtracks Tate Britain show

A temporary exhibition at Tate Britain, London, employs JBL Control 1 loudspeakers to provide powerful context to the apocalyptic early Victorian art of John Martin.

Exhibition curators Martin Myrone and Anna Austen wanted to give the paintings a high-impact presentation, reflecting their influence on the cultural landscape from the 19th century to the present day. For one of Martin’s most significant pieces – a triptych of paintings on the theme of the end of the world – the show directors decided to create an immersive 11 minute long son et lumière, run to a show loop, using 16 JBL Control 1s and three digital projectors.

Explaining the selection of the Control 1s, Tate audio-visual service manager Dan Crompton commented: “We wanted discreet multiple speakers around the space to fly the sound around the room – and although we were on a tight budget we didn’t go for the cheapest option. We knew from experience that the Control 1s were good speakers but just as importantly we know the characteristics of the box. They are punchy and able to overcome the main challenges of intelligibility and clarity by taming the high reverberation time of the room.

“The sound is the essence of the piece. The combination of sound effects and music are carefully matched around the 16 channel immersive space. We wanted to balance the powerful imagery with equally powerful audio somehow and JBL was a major part of the inspiration.”

The show is triggered from a Mac running QLab multimedia playback software and the JBL Control 1s – which were supplied by Peter Brotzman’s Crystal Pro Audio – are sensitively wall-mounted behind the audience and low down near the pictures themselves, with a rubber buffer behind the mount offering additional protection.

Other individuals and companies involved in the project included technical integrator Dominic Robson from Blink Design and theatre collective Uninvited Guests, whose Lewis Gibson produced the soundtrack and also suggested the multi-channel playback.

The John Martin exhibition at Tate Britain runs until 15 January 2012.

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