Audio: Listen to this article.
"Let this work resonate in your minds, and on your playlists. Enjoy it in multiple formats. But first, I encourage you to take an hour, turn off the lights, put your headphones on, and experience the work in its entirety as it was originally designed, in immersive audio."
Those are the words of Eve Giglotti, Creative and Executive Producer of the immersive opera No One Is Forgotten. There's certainly no right or wrong way to listen to anything, but that statement is one I'd absolutely love to see written in the liner notes of most albums. For me, music and audio experiences are all about theater of the mind. I will never have a screen in my listening room because the scene depicted in my mind can't be bested by the highest of high resolution displays or the world's best cinematography. In fact, screens can only detract from the story and take me further from the musical escape that I love.
I once discussed this theater of the mind concept with an elderly gentleman who was near the end of his life. He told me a story of listening to a kids weekly radio program as a child in New York City in the 1950s. He envisioned all the characters, their cars, trains, houses, etc... in vibrant color and elaborate villages. One summer, his mother took him to see the radio show acted out in person at a local theater. He could barely contain his excitement. When the play started, his disappointment was palpable. He was unprepared for the reality that the world he imagined would be vastly different from the one on display for a live audience, and extremely underwhelming. The memory was forever engrained in his mind, and very vivid as he told me the story sixty years later.
A well told story, an album from our favorite band, or an orchestra playing Mahler's Symphony No. 8 are incredibly powerful on their own, without any visual elements. Now, we have the immersive opera called No One Is Forgotten, that combines a story with an opera, and it's all a treat for the ears. The piece features two characters interacting between more traditional opera singing and cello playing. It also features opera singing and cello playing mixed into the story telling. To hear the singer echo what one of the main characters says, is really neat way to emphasize a specific line of dialog.
The story, "Inspired by true accounts of the plight of captured and detained journalists and aid workers," is very compelling and worthy of its own discussion, but not on an audio site. Given the nature of any Internet forum, such discussion is bound to lose the plot quickly and prove Godwin's law true in a few minutes. Thus, I will stick to the technical aspects of this amazing production.
No One Is Forgotten is delivered in both stereo and Dolby Atmos (lossy Dolby Digital Plus and lossless TrueHD). I purchased and downloaded the "album" from Immersive Audio Album. The included liner notes include what's called an interactive listening guide that's, "intended to provide you, the listener, with additional information, content and features that enhance the listening experience." Again, something I wish was delivered with all albums.
From the liner notes:
Co-composed by Paola Pristini and Sxip Shirley with a libretto by Winter Miller adapted from her original play, No One If Forgotten is a groundbreaking opera, fully designed to be delivered to its audience in the form of an immersive operatic radio play, an invisible opera, using cutting edge immersive audio.
Through the soundscape of foley arts, actors, electronics, cello, and classical vocalists, this is a world where the audience can experience storytelling purely through sound and their imagination. By creating a work that is delivered directly to you in an intimate and portable format, our goal is to invite you to close your eyes and open your imagination, and enter the world of Lali and Beng.
Inspired by true accounts of the plight of captured and detained journalists and aid workers.
The project is commissioned by the Dallas Opera, Emitha/Lexicon Classics, and Eve Giglotti with generous support from The Henagan Foundation and our community supporters.
Like the classic radio dramas and dramatic podcasts of today, our idea was to incorporate opera into this mode of storytelling.
Let this work resonate in your minds, and on your playlists. Enjoy it in multiple formats. But first, I encourage you to take an hour, turn off the lights, put your headphones on, and experience the work in its entirety as it was originally designed, in immersive audio.
I really hope this immersive opera is only the beginning. The beginning for more opera pieces and also the beginning for other artists who start embracing the possibilities of immersive audio. Many of these concepts are likely beyond anything I can think of, but one that I'd love to hear was inspired by a photo I saw inside an album cover in 1993. No, I didn't think of an immersive concept when I initially saw the photo, but I've never forgotten the photo and the warm feeling it gave me and how amazing I imagined it would've been to be present when the photo was taken.
The photo below is on the inside cover of Pearl Jam's second album, Vs. It was taken during the recording sessions for the album. I've imagined an immersive recording, with the crackling fire in the background. The listening position could be from a chair in the circle of musicians, perhaps right between Jeff Ament and Mike McCready, where the photographer stood. Listening to members of the band discuss tracks, then play them, as if seated with them in the room, would be such a neat experience. It takes MTV Unplugged to a whole new, intimate and immersive level.