Picture the scene: you are in your front room listening to the Proms. The string section begins to play from your radio. Seconds later the brass starts playing from your laptop on the sofa across the room, joined by booming drums from your phone in your pocket.
This could be the future of music and drama from the BBC as Radio 3 unveiled its new immersive sound technology called Audio Orchestrator.
First piloted tomorrow with a new radio series, Decameron Nights, the technology allows for parts of a play or music to be spread over multiple devices such as your phone, wallet, tablet or TV anywhere in the house.
The series debuting on Radio 3 is written by theatre company 1927, after its stage show of raw folk tales was cancelled due to coronavirus.
The re-imagined production for radio sees the new technology in full flow with sounds such as pianos, rivers and cawing crows able to be played from any device anywhere in home, creating your own lockdown theatre.
Radio 3 controller Alan Davey told the Telegraph: “We’ve been experimenting with sound for many years even when we were in the early days with stereo and FM.
“Playing around with sound is really important with us, so this new audio orchestration that we’re experimenting with takes that a stage further where you can have lots of different sound sources that will really bring the play to life in a really discombobulating way – you can have things coming out of cushions.
“Most recently what we’ve been doing a lot of is binaural sound. A lot of the Proms that you can hear at the moment are available in that, so when you listen through headphones it’s like it’s three dimensional like you’re in the Albert Hall.”
When asked if we could see the Proms presented in a similar way in the future, Mr Davey said: “Yeah. You could do it for music, you could do it for string quartets, you could position the instruments how you want. Doing it like that might be quite complicated with one hundred different sound sources but theory is there.
“We’ll evaluate it and see how people get on with it, it is easy to use and I think the possibilities are endless – it really gives a different and added dimension to how we tell stories dramatically.”
Available to listen using the new technology after its broadcast at 10:45 this evening, the writers of the production said that it helps bring the story to life in a way they would have done with their theatre shows.
“It is a bit more playful, you can be more creative with it so it’s not like this ‘mega-tech’ experience, it’s quite mischievous and that’s what appealed to us,” director and performer Suzanne Andrade told the Telegraph.
“If you have a cat purring in the story you can have that cat purring from one particular phone.
“This is a funny piece as its constantly evolving and adapting. It came from a theatre show which is made up of folk tales, all pre-industrial passed down by word of mouth.
“We know them to be sanitised and cleaned up but we’ve kept them as we’d imagined them in their original forms from the imaginations of ordinary men and women.”
“It’s a bit of an experiment and we took sound effects, music, characters, voices and just played around with them being on different devices with the audience in the centre of the story.
“The stories themselves are quite uncanny and what appealed to us is that it’s also uncanny having all your phones and devices telling you a little creepy bedtime story.
“It’s quite subtle but it really places you somewhere. If you add in a few birds – we do like a crow – it’s a giddy little thrill.”