"For me, classical music is the highest league to record audio in."
- Henrik Oppermann
Henrik Oppermann is a leading 3D sound specialist, bringing with him over 15 years experience in recording studio-quality audio on location for film, advertising, music industry clients and 3D sound installations.
Henrik has worked on over 150 VR and AR projects, capturing 3D audio in a number of challenging environments including low flying military aircrafts, formula one race cars, refugee camps, mountain peaks and concert halls around the world.
An expert in his field, Henrik has developed hardware and software audio applications as well as workflows for VR collaboration with leading sound partners, to deliver the best possible immersive sound.
Henrik is the founder and director of Schallgeber and is Head of Sound at the Sennheiser Ambeo Immersive Audio Team.
FIND OUT MORE ABOUT OUR PROJECTS TOGETHER WITH HENRIK HERE.
You have worked on several VR projects, what is different about bringing classical music into the VR realm?
For me, classical music is the highest league to record audio in. An extraordinarily complex body of sound that carries intricate details – at times this whole structure of sound plays together and in other times it falls apart when diverse groups and their voices become important.
So, there is a lot of detail that begs to be captured. A classical music concert experience is extremely spatial. In that sense, it feels very natural to apply this kind of “high tech” to an Orchestra.
If I had to compare it then I would say that recording Orchestras is the Formula 1/Porsche of sound recording and I am incredibly happy to get to explore this new world together with the excellent Mahler Chamber Orchestra.
What inspired you to collaborate with the MCO?
We first worked together on the project “Symphony VR” in 2019. A 360-degree video experience that was conducted by the renowned Gustavo Dudamel.
While going through that process I learnt that the MCO is a young and very driven Orchestra, that is not closing itself towards innovation and the exploration of new narratives. Something that is not easy to find within this world of classical music.
During the first summer of Covid, by chance, I discovered a beautiful architectural space in the heart of Berlin. St. Elisabeth, a former church by Karl Friedrich Schinkel. It inspired me to record an immersive audio experience with the MCO, endeavouring new exciting paths of classical music.
This marked the start of this new partnership, embracing the technology of immersive experiences together and developing new classical music experiences, that no one has seen or heard before. All being pushed by the curiosity to try new things, to innovate.
What can immersive recordings offer our audience?
We can see to a limited degree, but we can hear in 360 degrees.
A presentation of visual elements for example on a screen makes a lot of sense as our sight is limited. But with sound we must find a completely different approach as we hear 360 degrees, our ears can locate sound sources all around us.
We have been used to listening to stereo recordings and stereo playback. Considering the above, this is undoubtedly great and not to be dismissed, but a comparably flat representation of sound. Specifically, when it comes to classical music, which is so rich in spatial details.
Immersive sound enables a natural listening experience.
Experiencing an immersive classical music performance gives the listener the feeling of being present inside the musical piece itself. The listener is enveloped in the sound and can deep dive into it. Furthermore, instead of experiencing the music from a static position, which is either determined by the seat in the concert hall or the chosen position of the sound engineer, the listener can freely decide and change positions within the performance space.
What does the future of sound look like for the MCO and its audiences?
The future of sound for the MCO and its audiences will still look and sound as it does right now: incredible performances in the greatest concert halls of the world. The only difference will be that by introducing immersive sound experiences the musical perception of the MCO will be augmented.
We create experiences that break down the wall that sits in between the Orchestra and the audience. Standing up in a performance and walking onto the stage to experience the Orchestra is something that you would never do during a concert in real life.
Now we are making exactly this experience possible, walking interactively through the Orchestra with the possibility to explore every single instrument. This brings completely new ways how we can explore and perceive music and compositions.
If you were to sit within the orchestra as the MCO performs, what position would you select, and why?
That is a tough question to answer. Surely either with the double basses or the violas. The double basses because of their wonderful full sound and the violas for their excellent expression and variety in the colour of sound.
I have been in the lucky situation, that the MCO already made it possible for me to sit inside the Orchestra at rehearsal. I was so fascinated and overwhelmed by it that I completely forgot what position I was sitting in.