Birmingham Conservatoire: Learning through sound

With the launch event drawing ever nearer this September, the finishing touches are being applied to Birmingham Conservatoire’s new state-of-the-art facilities.

Over the course of the past couple of months we have followed an ambitious, eye-opening journey undertaken to truly set the Conservatoire apart from the others. In this blog piece, the last before the launch event itself, we will begin to understand the importance of audio throughout the building and its impact on wider learning for students.

Sound is naturally a key component of music; without it, music simply wouldn’t exist. Beethoven, while deaf, managed to compose large scale works in the 1800s through sound by touching a piano surface, translating the resulting vibrations into music heard inside his head – quite a marvellous achievement. Now, over 200 years later, Birmingham Conservatoire has innovatively utilised sound, as well as video, to give long distance learning a whole new level of meaning.

“With my colleagues in the music technology department, we started thinking about what can we do to make our building really special to support students in digital music production, and also in digitally supported ways” – Lamberto Coccioli, Associate Principal – Birmingham Conservatoire

Lamberto Coccioli is the Associate Principal of the Conservatoire and has been involved with the new building project for the last three years. Aside from his interests in composition and interface design, he is in charge of special projects, including international relations while developing partnerships around the world for the Conservatoire’s benefit. Through discussion with other colleagues in the Conservatoire, he believes students should be given a direct understanding and contact with digital technologies, mirroring the ever-connected lifestyles of millennials.

From this, the concept for a digital infrastructure for the Conservatoire was created. Performance spaces, teaching spaces and recording studios are linked up via an audio-visual backbone which takes the digital signal from a choice of many rooms, bringing it into the users’ own space.

Coined the ‘digital learning hub’, it will also enable simultaneous broadcasts to and from the building to other sites all over the world, while bespoke technology will enable professional teaching with cutting-edge low latency visual communication equipment. This will allow the Conservatoire to deliver not only near real-time performance tuition, but also offers an opportunity to perform and record duet and ensemble music with internationally based musicians.

The technology will open huge potential in the delivery of specialist masterclasses for students, which otherwise would be few and far between at an institution with less developed technology.

To ensure a consistent level of audio reproduction throughout the facilities, from CM6s used within lecture theatres to 800 Series Diamond loudspeakers in the dedicated mastering studio, Bowers & Wilkins has provided 685 loudspeakers for all departmental staff offices. Small in size, but formidable in terms of clarity and performance in relation to its environment, they ensure all elements of education are sonically catered for, providing a strong backbone for learning, starting from the academic source.

“And of course, for us what is fantastic about this thing with Bowers & Wilkins is the fact that it’s not just about the equipment and the kit, it’s all about developing a relationship and doing something together for the future.”

Discover the first blog in this series here

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