The visual landmark: The ZKM_Cube
The ZKM_Cube is not only the visual landmark of the ZKM, it also forms the core of the work of the ZKM | Institute for Music and Acoustics (IMA). The blue Cube was planned by the architectural office Schweger and Partner as a large-volume, acoustically optimized sound studio; a free-standing architecture, realized to guarantee optimized acoustic detachment from the environment.
ZKM | Institute for Music and Acoustics
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This objective was implemented at considerable structural expense: for example, the steel girders are mounted on rubber buffers, all spaces in the Cube are executed with double-walls, and dual, high-insulation doors were installed. Elaborate wooden interior fittings provide the sound studio with superior spatial acoustics.
The ZKM_Sound Dome is the unique heart of the institute. The dome-shaped set up comprising forty-seven loud speakers is an ideal location for the development and reproduction of spatial electro-acoustic or acousmatic music. New compositions can be produced and then performed here. In addition to the works produced at the ZKM, the Sound Dome also serves as a special venue for international guest performances and festivals, and as a special concert space.
The Sound Dome is controlled by the free software Zirkonium, which the ZKM | IMA has been developing since 2004. In addition to a recording space, the studio also serves as a public concert hall and laboratory for research in the field of musical acoustics. Initiated by the state of Baden-Württemberg, the so-called Sound Dome was designed and realized for the Cube as part of the »Zukunftsoffensive« [future offensive] research project. The studio space has since been equipped with forty-seven high-quality loudspeakers, which are located around the listeners in a dome-shaped arrangement. The studio and the attached directors’ space in the ZKM_Cube are the main work locations at the ZKM | IMA.
The Sound Dome, a high-tech instrument for sound spatialization in the ZKM_Cube, was completed in 2006 after a three-year design, planning, and construction phase. Forty-three Meyersound loudspeakers hang three-dimensionally in the space on an elliptically shaped ring system; and an additional four are placed on the ground. With this unique instrument of loudspeakers, complex polyphonic space-sound movements can be realistically presented and perceived from all locations within the concert space. The space’s precise plasticity can be controlled by way of the specially developed control software, Zirkonium.
The connection of sound synthesis and spatialization is technically innovative, since this allows modulation of the spatial acoustics. The Sound Dome is thus is an instrument that can be controlled by composers, making superfluous specialists between composer, as interpreter, and acoustic reification. In the Sound Dome, forty melodies can be grouped to a point or distributed throughout the space. Spectral forms can be installed directly into the space through the direct connection to sound synthesis software.
The Sound Dome is the basis for numerous research projects centering on diverse interfaces for spatial modulation as well as the reproduction of spatial sound information in up-to-date consumer formats (binaural sound recording, HRTF, artificial-head microphone technology). Furthermore, spatial modulation of the Zirkonium software is the subject of ongoing research and development.
Connecting the world of computer music with professional recording and production studios
The ZKM | IMA connects the world of computer music with professional recording and production studios and has available on-site studios, conductor’s rooms, and music studios. The studios and conductors’ rooms are especially designed for each space as high-quality acoustic environments with special studio equipment.
Artists and composers throughout the world use the technologies for their artistic work and research new possibilities for their use. The combination of artistic work with a high-end studio environment stimulates new approaches, which would be impossible elsewhere. The guest artists work in the fields of live electronics, sound synthesis, algorithmic composition, and multimedia integration with open computer systems. The music studio is available for those who have an extended work stay at the institute.