Founding member of The Human League, Martyn Ware, spoke about the power of sound and music at the International Radio Festival in Malta.
“I never learnt music, I can’t read a note, but I’ve always had a good ear for music and been interested in experimenting with sound and technology,” he said.
“I’ve sold 60 million records without ever having a music lesson… I just love futuristic sound.”
After leaving school Ware worked in the computer industry for 3 years then, in 1978, formed the synth pop group The Human League. He left the band and formed the production company/label British Electric Foundation in 1980 and formed Heaven 17 the same year.
He has produced albums for artists such as Tina Arena and Terence Trent D’arby, but now his main interest is in 3D Sound.
He told festival delegates about his immersive sound installations at Gallery Lafayette in Paris, on the Millenium Bridge in London and at Trafalgar square. Each of those locations has a 3 dimensional sound experience, thanks to the work of Martyn Ware.
“Around about the year 2000 the production jobs were getting worse and worse so I changed direction to get back to what excited me about music – the creative aspect. I thought the future is in immersive sound experiences.”
Ware and his colleagues have designed software to move 16 different sound streams around to “create an impression of immersion in 3 dimensions.” In the ancient medieval vault where the conference took place, Ware demonstrated his soundscape, moving music and sounds around the room and flying the sound overhead, using the Audioscape software he developed.
His company is currently working with Sennheiser to create 3D experiences in headphones.
His work with immersive sound led him to work with police in the clubbing region of Brighton in the UK to calm late night violence. “Sound has a physical impact on your well being. Sound can be used as medicine.”
In 2011 Ware created a six-point sound field using ethereal sound textures, initially to mask traffic noise, but later it was used to calm late night fighting as drunken party goers waited in lines to get into clubs.
The experiment worked, as Ware explains to Steve Ahern.
“Every weekend there were 10,000 young people converging on three or four massive nightclubs in the same street, all drunk and drugs… They were bored waiting to get into the clubs after being in the bars, they had to wait, the police were there… people got into fights and were unhappy… there were lots of arrests, and the police kept ramping things up.
“They said would you be interested in installing one of your 3D soundscapes and DJing the mood to see if the situation could be improved.
“We installed it and played naturalistic soundscapes and dance songs that were slowed down to slow the heart rate… ambient electronic soundscapes…
“For the first time ever they had no arrests and they called the police away from the site because there were no problems.
“This was all analysed by behavioural scientists who confirmed what we could see… The police said they could save a lot of money, and so did the hospitals… now it has become an internationally recognised case study…
“It put them in a meditative frame of mind, they were still having fun, it was subconscious, it put them in a good mood… You have to know what you are doing, if you didn’t know what you were doing it could make things worse, but we were all astonished with the results.”
For a flashback to the glam 80s, check the video below: Human League Don’t You Want Me Baby.