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Yamaha PM1D clocks in with Pan-European Timeproject

Nov,2008

It has long been recognised that, while language, culture and physical distance divide the people of different nations, music has the power to universally unite them. And when Austrian artist Matthias Loibner devised the complex Timeproject to bring together artists from north, south, east and west Europe, a Yamaha PM1D was the console chosen to tie the entire project together.

Enjoying its debut performance this summer at the Oerol Festival in Terschelling, Netherlands, a second outing at La Strada festival in Graz, Austria and more planned for next year, Timeproject is a unique live event which sets out to connect people through the concepts of music and time.

Co-produced with In Situ - the European network for artistic creation in public areas - it features four stages set up in a circle, facing each other, with an audience space in the middle. Each stage is named after a cardinal compass point and on each one is a band from the equivalent area of Europe - thus playing on the North stage were Snö (from Sweden), the East stage Mitsoura (Hungary), the South stage Palyrria (Greece) and the West stage Familha Artús (France).

As the name implies, the fundamental concept of the show is the passage of time - the music is all played at a tempo of 60 beats per minute - one beat per second - and each live performance lasts for exactly 60 minutes. Starting with the North stage, the bands play individually, gradually working their way clockwise round the stages, but each performance segues into the next and all the musicians on add accents to the performances by the other bands.

“Matthias contacted me and fellow sound engineer Stefan Bauer in 2006 to ask how he could get this idea off the ground from a technical perspective, and which equipment we would use or recommend,” says Joseph Jabbour, who shares technical sound duties on the project with Bauer.

“The first answer was that we need a digital desk and two sound engineers! We chose the PM1D because we needed a console that is flexible, reliable, has a significant number of outputs and is easily available worldwide, as the show is planned to visit different festivals throughout Europe and possibly further afield.”

The PM1D acted as a central hub for the four stages, each of which had its own PA system and its own multicore. The north and east stage multicores each carried 16 inputs, with the south and west multicores carried 14 each. All four also carried stereo PA outputs and two stereo monitor returns. 12 further inputs came from four mono click tracks and four stereo loop tracks.

As the entire event relies on precise synchronisation of all the performances to the 60bpm tempo and 60 minute show duration, a PC running Cubase sent a MIDI synchronisation signal to each stage, with an MOTU 8x8 MIDI express interface used to reliably push the sync signal over a remarkable 80 metres with no data drop-out (“It worked!” grins Joseph).

At the other end of each MIDI line was a laptop PC running Ableton Live software, triggered by the MIDI sync signal and used to generate the click track and as a cue sheet for the artists.

Meanwhile, Cubase on the master PC was also programmed with MIDI control changes which were sent to the PM1D.

“The PM1D’s output and some input levels were controlled by MIDI control changes, allowing us to do mutes, cross fades and adjustments to levels which had to happen at certain times during the show,” says Joseph.

“This ensured that all the cues were perfectly in synchronisation with the rest of the performance, however we were mixing live as well, Stefan at the console (which was housed in the event’s control room, in a container behind one of the stages) and me outside with a remote, making minor adjustments to level or pan as required.”

This also highlighted another very unusual aspect of Timeproject - two sound engineers working on the same mix at the same time.

“Stefan and I have known each other for 18 years and have worked on many different projects together, so we know how the other one works and sounds,” says Joseph. “That was very important as we had to completely trust each other, producing a great mix together absolutely seamlessly.”

With space at a premium, the PM1D’s onboard effects proved perfect for the job and the ability to save and recall the desk’s settings makes setting up for subsequent performances of Timeproject very straightforward.

“The PM1D is absolutely the right tool for the job,” says Joseph. “We needed a lot of busses and outputs, the sound quality is very good and I really like the reverbs as well.

“With four bands from four different European countries on four stages performing for exactly 60 minutes, it is a unique and complex project. The initial programming and setup was a challenge but, with Stefan and I working seamlessly together and the console being very straightforward to use, overall it was remarkably smooth. We are looking forward to hopefully taking Timeproject to more countries in 2009.”

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