On September 23rd, the ‘David Bowie Is’ exhibition makes its U.S. debut at Chicago’s Museum of Contemporary Art (MCA). The exhibition, meticulously curated by the Victoria and Albert (V&A) Museum in London, explores the incredibly diverse work of one of the greatest artists of our time. For each of the exhibits, including the MCA exhibit coming to Chicago in September, V&A has partnered with audio specialist Sennheiser to ensure the best possible audio experience for visitors.
‘David Bowie Is’, which has already been experienced by more than half a million visitors around the world during its recent visits to London, Berlin, São Paulo and Toronto, is an artistic and technical marvel that covers the entire expanse of Bowie’s luminous career: from Ziggy Stardust to Aladdin Sane and beyond. By leveraging Sennheiser’s audio expertise, including its guidePORT technology and 3D immersive sound simulation equipment, visitors are left with an unforgettable sound and style experience that explores the very essence of David Bowie. Sennheiser’s guidePORT expert Robert Généreux is on site to install and configure the system at MCA.
David Bowie’s career is marked by continual re-invention, intellectual depth, musical innovation, striking visual presentation and unwavering artistic integrity. The exhibition takes visitors on a sonic and visual journey, retracing his creativity and influences from all areas of his art using a wealth of material — including videos, stage costumes, album covers, stage sets, photographs and of course his music. To develop the exhibit, curators Victoria Broackes (V&A) and Geoffrey Marsh were given unprecedented access to the David Bowie Archive, consisting of more than 70,000 pieces.
An Unprecedented Marriage of Art and Technology:
In preparation for their sonic and visual journey, each museum visitor is given a pair of Sennheiser headphones and a guidePORT receiver — enabling them to walk freely into 25 different ‘display zones’. Inside a control room behind the scenes, Sennheiser is constantly broadcasting 25 live audio streams through transmitters that are perfectly mapped to the floor plan of the exhibit. Each time a visitor walks towards a different display, the relevant audio stream activates, broadcasting high quality audio through corresponding antennas located nearby. Small trigger units called ‘identifiers’ located throughout the exhibit are able to recognize the geo-location of each visitor and pick up the appropriate audio stream.
In addition to the pristine streaming audio occuring throughout the exhibit, visitors are also invited to experience an extraordinary 3D audio spectacle, consisting of Bowie concerts from over the years and an exclusive ‘mash up’ of his songs, created by Tony Visconti, Bowie’s long-time producer. The immersive audio experience is made possible by a special 3D upmix algorithm created by Gregor Zielinsky, Sennheiser’s International Recording Applications Manager, and the experience is delivered through an array of hidden loudspeakers from Neumann — a Sennheiser subsidiary.
‘David Bowie Is’ is groundbreaking not only as an interactive exhibition of one of the greatest artists of our time, but also in how it integrates Sennheiser technology throughout the overall experience. This is another example of how Sennheiser has been a driving force in the innovation of sound since 1945 and routinely supports innovators and artists all around the world.