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Tradition meets hi-tech for Montana arts centre project

The Tippet Rise Art Center in Montana has been fitted with a versatile Alcons Audio line array system, as the multipurpose venue looks to update its sound capabilities and bring visitors into the 21st century.

Located deep in the Montana countryside, close to the Beartooth Mountains, Tippet Rise celebrates the concept that art, music, architecture, and nature are inextricably linked in the human experience. Opened in 2016, the venue’s centrepiece is the Olivier Barn, which features an Alcons Audio LR14 ultra-compact line-array system.

Set on a 10,260-acre working sheep and cattle ranch, Tippet Rise is the brainchild of Cathy and Peter Halstead. Inspired by their careers in the creative arts and education, it features both indoor and outdoor performance spaces, as well as large-scale sculptures and stunning scenery.

Tradition meets hi-tech in the Olivier Music Barn, which looks like a traditional timber agricultural building from the outside. Inside, however, there’s an Alcons LR14 system and HD digital film projection alongside the latest sustainable technology to ensure that its environmental impact is negligible.

When designs for the Olivier Music Barn’s audio system were being considered, Kevin Hodgson of Boulder, Colorado-based AV consultant K2 Consulting was approached by Mickey Houlihan.

“Mickey thought I was the right person to design the system for the Olivier Music Barn from end to end,” said Hodgson. “I met Peter and Cathy, who are very committed to classical music, so I knew that the system would need to sound very natural and not ‘amplified’. They also wanted something that was very versatile, because the venue would host other performances and film screenings.”

To make sure the right choice was made, systems by several different manufacturers were auditioned, but ultimately Alcons delivered the required audio quality and versatility.

Supplied by Boulder-based Wind Over the Earth, the chosen system comprised eight LR14/90, two LR14/120 and four BF151 compact subwoofers, all powered and controlled by two Sentinel10 amplified loudspeaker controllers.

“Olivier Music Barn was designed mainly as a classical music venue, so it’s very live,” explained Hodgson. “There are no variable acoustics, so we knew we had to be very mindful of how we excite the room with the system. Of course when amplifying sound in a classical music venue, you also want it to sound as natural as possible. The intelligibility of the LR14 is so high and there is almost no distortion. It doesn’t need to be turned up as loud as other systems to get the intelligibility.”

The physical characteristics of the LR14 system were also superior to the other systems that were considered. Hodgson continued: “We didn’t want to detract from the barn’s architecture and the compact size of the LR14 makes it as visually unobtrusive as possible. This was helped by the rigging and hardware, which provides so much adjustment flexibility. I particularly like the stepless flying angle adjuster, which adjusts the angle of the cabinets if you want to raise the system.”

Pictures: Erik Petersen Photography