Woolf Works, Wayne McGregor’s first full length ballet
Woolf Works, Wayne McGregor’s first full length ballet for the Royal Ballet, performed at Covent Garden’s Royal Opera House, was met by critics and audiences with very high acclaim. The ballet triptych was based on Virginia Woolf, as viewed through her three major novels: Mrs Dalloway, Orlando and The Waves.
The original score by Max Richter was realised for the stage by sound designer Chris Ekers who successfully brought together a truly complex sound production incorporating music from a live orchestra and electronic music in an environment typically neither set up for nor suited to amplification.
Ekers commented, “It was evident from the way Max had scored each segment that amplification would be necessary. To allow full creative control, a TiMax SoundHub delay-matrix was always going to be a part of my specification, and as things quickly developed it became clear TiMax was the only device able to handle all the elements the production demanded.”
Ekers explains how it simplified things: “TiMax enabled us to very quickly create one interface, from one computer, to control every single loudspeaker without having to go to the desk to attend to each box individually – we just didn’t have that time in the day, plus we’d have been in the sound operator’s way.” Robin Whittaker from Out Board was on site during rehearsal to help fast-track the TiMax programming in the tight timescales available.
The show’s second segment, based on the novel Orlando, was scored to utilise a lot of electronic techno music. Ekers needed to create energy in the room without it being an overly loud banging club level for the audience.
An additional loudspeaker system was positioned upstage, with the techno parts’ low end provided by two subbass cabinets positioned onstage inside the prosc and facing each other, due to the issue of space. These subs were located upstage of the orchestra by about 3.5metres but downstage of the main techno speaker system by about 20metres so the timing relationship between them all was critical. “I had to take a risk, explains Ekers, “but it paid off.”
When the techno elements were running, TiMax matrixed it so all the audio was delayed back to the onstage system, which then seamlessly segued with the amplified orchestral moments from the live orchestra in the pit. As Chris points out, “Switching between delay setups, when you’ve got a signal path playing electronic music that’s heavily delayed back on to the stage, and then you’re going into a system where you’ve got an acoustic source from the pit - to seamlessly go back and forth – TiMax is really the only device that can do that.”