In the summer of 2009, Jim Murphy and I were commissioned to build 12 hemispherical speakers for use in MTIID CalArts. The design is based on both the original work of Dan Truman and Curtis Bahn’s “Deloreon” speaker system, as well as Ge Wang’s less expensive model for use with the Stanford Laptop Orchestra (SLOrk). The basis for these speaker designs is rooted in the problem that electronic instruments and laptops lack a natural acoustic amplification you find in most traditional acoustic instruments. During a performance, most often electronic music is run through a PA system which can be “dissociative” for the audience, especially if there is more than one performer. These hemispherical speakers are 6-channel discrete systems that allow electronic instruments and artists to amplify sound in a localized manner, effectively simulating the natural amplification of an acoustic instrument.
We designed the speakers using modified IKEA salad bowls and hand-build T-Amplifiers, and customized xlr to six 1/4″ speaker breakout cables. Additionally, we build custom stands for the speakers that could house an audio interface, and could be mounted to short mic stands. The hemispherical speakers were first used in David Rosenboom’s Ah! Opera, which premiered at Walt Disney REDCAT in the summer of 2009. Additionally, the speakers were used as monitoring systems for The Machine Orchestra performances, as well as numerous performances from students in the MTIID department at CalArts.