Whoever said recorded music doesn't have the same intensity as a live performance should meet Lead Sound, the Japanese company behind the Sympho Canvas virtual orchestra. Forty-six speakers are arrayed in a concert hall similar to the placement of instruments in a real orchestra and each speaker "plays" a discrete track. Four more fill in human voices and the rest add extra audio to improve the sonic facade. While this seems like an obvious experiment, it's actually really really creepy, too, a totally still room brought to life with the music of ghosts.
This could technically be considered 64-channel surround sound, and in that spirit Lead Sound, staging Sympho Canvas this week at the Kanagawa Science Park in Kawasaki, Japan, placed seats all throughout the speaker array for people to experience immersion from many vantage points. Besides the 50 speakers assigned to strings, percussions, brass, woodwinds and voice, six subwoofers drop the bass, and eight additional speakers—four on the ceiling and four more on side walls—create "reverberant sounds."
I know you're wondering, Where do all the discrete sounds come from? If you're thinking it would take a lot of money, headphones and soundproof glass cubicles to make a decent recording of 46 distinct instruments with no bleed, you're right. Which is why Lead Sound took the easy way out, and scored sheet music by computer instead. Well, not totally easy—once the basic tones are generated, they need to be processed extensively to get the harmonic characteristics of each distinct instrument. (The voices are from actual humans.)
The more I learn about this, the more freaked out I get. I don't know what it is, but all I can imagine is some Dr. Who episode where humans are endangered, but classical music concerts are given every night, with unwavering virtuosity. [TechOn]