The German city of Mannheim, birthplace of the automobile, celebrated the 125th anniversary of Carl Benz's gas-powered buggy last summer with autosymphonic, a multimedia spectacular featuring an original composition for orchestra, chorus, and various synchronized car sounds as played live on 80 carefully auditioned vehicles. To immerse an audience of 17,000 in this extraordinary sonic mix, POOLgroup of Emsdetten, Germany deployed a massive surround system comprising 296 Meyer Sound self-powered loudspeakers, all networked and controlled using Meyer Sound's D-Mitri digital audio platform.
The event was presented in Mannheim's expansive outdoor Friedrichsplatz, where the staging layout posed an extraordinary challenge to sound designer Stephan Diebel of Stockstadt/Rhein-based projekt|werk. The audience was seated in a semi-circle around a central fountain, with the music stage erected on one side and the "car ensembles" placed both inside and surrounding the audience area.
"I wanted to completely surround the audience with the car sounds and the orchestra, as well as the electronic sound effects," says Diebel. "Also, I wanted the car sounds localized to where they were being played. That required an extremely sophisticated surround system."
The system needed extraordinary power and clarity, since the festivities included the energized pop-R&B sounds of German band Söhne Mannheims in addition to the orchestral program.
To satisfy these extraordinary demands, Diebel configured a system based on 12 main tower locations, each with 12 to 14 flown MILO line array loudspeakers supported on the bottom end by four to nine 700-HP subwoofers. Rounding out the main system were dual hangs of ten-each M'elodie line array loudspeakers with four 700-HP subwoofers per side, while a dispersed complement of CQ-2, UPA-1P, and JM-1P loudspeakers—58 all told—covered the outer audience areas and VIP sections. A Galileo loudspeaker management system with eight Galileo 616 processors provided system drive and optimization.
"The MILO system was key to surrounding such a huge audience area, and to providing the full frequency spectrum of the symphony orchestra to the audience," says Diebel.
Diebel also noted the advantages afforded by Meyer Sound's D-Mitri digital audio platform, which provided signal matrixing and networked distribution. "D-Mitri allowed a clearly structured management of the huge number of surround channels," he states. "D-Mitri proved to be an exceptionally flexible tool for creating a sound mix from such a large number of signals, particularly considering the short rehearsal time."
Speaking on behalf of the spectacle's producers, mannheim:congress GmbH, Christina Guth notes, "We were very satisfied with the sound of autosymphonic. Personally, I was fascinated by the car sounds playing together with the symphony orchestra, as it was something that had never been heard before anywhere."
Mannheim's autosymphonic was conceived and written by Cypriot composer Marios Joannou Elia, with stunning video and lighting elements created by Horst Hamann, also known for his visual effects in films like "The Matrix" and "Solaris." The SWR Symphony Orchestra of Baden-Baden and Freiburg, and the SWR Stuttgart Vocal Ensemble were conducted by Johannes Harneit, with the live car sounds played by 113 volunteer students.