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The All Around Us Project

Black and white became colour, photos became film, mono became stereo. What’s next? …meet “Michel”

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PNME Unveils Phase One of “The All Around Us Project”

Posted on September 16, 2018 by Pittsburgh New Music Ensemble

In July 2018, PNME unveiled a beta project to complete Phase One of our “The All Around Us Project”. The audience wore high-fidelity headphones for the first time, and PNME performed an already existing work using binaural technology. Our 2015 commission entitled “The Gray Cat and the Flounder” was not originally conceived with binaural technology in mind, but the creators decided to add the special microphones to an existing favorably received project and were very interested in the feedback. All musicians on stage had the entire work memorized and moved around “Michel” the microphone in experimental ways. Feedback from audience and press alike energized us to continue on to Phase Two – our full blown commission with composer Steven Bryant.  The co-creators learned innumerable factors that are helping them move forward with more clarity as they continue discussions for the Bryant commission.   


Pittsburgh Press thoughts: 

“I felt as though I were sitting right next to the performers — this was a startlingly visceral, colorful listening experience… The performers can arrange and blend their sound to enter your consciousness from any direction, opening a new world of expressive possibility. And you heard it first in Pittsburgh, PA.”               -Jeremy Reynolds, Post Gazette 2018


Audience comments were powerful: 

“The best show of any kind I have ever experienced, and I don’t use those words lightly.”     -J. C. Detroit, MI “Friday “Friday was one of those rare privileges in life. It was more than I could have ever anticipated.”  – C. C. Pittsburgh, PA 

“The piece, and the performance: remarkable; memorable; moving; life-affirming. You created Art. It was surreal.” -R. S. Pittsburgh, PA

“It gave us all pause and every reason to celebrate life, love, art, the spoken (and unspoken) word, music — and the magic possible when they all come together so perfectly.” -C. C. Pittsburgh, PA

“Subtle, sophisticated, humorous, sad, seamless. I wonder how many understand the complexity of this accomplishment…a very moving evening of theater. “ -A. F. Pittsburgh, PA


Our 2018 run of the production using binaural technology enjoyed a SOLD OUT RUN and there are many looking forward to the unveiling our first  true binaural commission. The visceral intimacy we achieved with “Gray Cat” is something we will continue to deeply explore as we continue to create with Steven Bryant. It is an exciting time! 


When we attend the theatre or see a film, our perspective, sense of direction, and focus has a powerful effect on us. An actor whispering to himself in the distance seems very different than one sitting in a seat next to an audience member whispering those same words into her ear. In film, a medium shot of a woman crying in a crowded bus station and a closeup in which her eyes fill the frame and begin to well up with water to the point that we long for the pooled drops to roll down her cheeks…. are profoundly different — each having its place in artistic expression. Every character in a play remaining in the same seat the entire time without motion? Every film shot from the exact same distance and perspective? …Almost unimaginable.

Yet, in concert performance this has long been the norm — the naturally spherical art of music has been squeezed into a two dimensional plane. In recordings, we made the leap from mono to stereo and opened left and right, but we need to go further – and we need to do it live!

The technology is here to make this possible with an innovative approach we’ve discovered using a combination of binaural microphones and ambisonic VR panning, but it takes a willingness to break convention, the right team of creators and ensemble, and an audience that’s up for anything – including a pair of headphones!

Designed to reinvent the live concert-music experience, PNME is collaborating with composer Steven Bryant to develop the first what will be a series of new and immersive works in this new form. We seek support  for the commission of an original work using 360° binaural microphones to broadcast the performance to our live headphone-wearing audience. The All Around Us Project places each audience member in the center of the action and uses the location and proximity of the sounds not as effects, but as fundamental tools of expression and musical storytelling.

Phase Two of our All Around Us Project:

  • Collaboration, development, and creation of a new work
  • World premiere in Pittsburgh at City Theatre on July 20 and 21, 2019
  • Recording/Filming
  • Interactive discussions /workshops with our community

While our eyes can only focus in one direction and on one distance a time, we hear with astonishing clarity in almost limitless directions and distances simultaneously.  Sounds establish our sense of place and make us feel safe or vulnerable. We can thus feel like witnesses to an event… or participants in it. Shouldn’t location therefore be as centra in music as the notes and rhythms? An A-natural quarter note on the cello. Forte. Sure…. but from where? Composer Steven Bryant has been exploring these ideas in his own work,  but has not yet had the right combination of creative team, technology, and ensemble to take it to its fullest expression – until now.

This watershed moment marks the beginning of the next chapter in PNME’s long – 302  world premiere history supporting emerging American composers.

Project Media

Binaural Demo -> Corigliano’s “Blowin’ in the Wind” from Mr. Tambourine Man
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This short demonstration is followed by an excerpt of Corigliano’s “Mr. Tambourine Man”. To achieve these results, musicians frequently moved to different positions (or were in motion while playing) around a binaural microphone and around each other. The heightened sense of immersion, presence, and vulnerability has an astonishingly tactile, personal, and emotional affect. The next step… is creation.


Pittsburgh New Music Ensemble
Kevin Noe, Director/Conductor
July 11, 2017

“Double Happiness” by Christopher Cerrone
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Showing a transcendent and intimate side of the ensemble’s incredible musicians, we offer Christopher Cerrone’s “Double Happiness”. We take great care to involve all the senses in a performance, including lighting and sound design, and if appropriate, dance, puppetry, and even commissioned artwork inspired by the music – shown here with artwork by Pittsburgh artist Michael Lotenero.

Pittsburgh New Music Ensemble
Ian Rosenbaum, percussion
Daniel Pesca, piano

July 28, 2017 – City Theatre, Pittsburgh

Movement 5 from Steven Bryant’s “Concerto for Wind Ensemble”
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Using musicians onstage and around in the audience, Steven Bryant envelops the audience. Inspired in part by works of his teacher John Corigliano’s “Clarinet Concerto”and “Circus Maximus”, Bryant takes us further into a world where the location of the sound is tantamount to its expression. This recording was captured using traditional microphones and thinking, so it doesn’t accurately capture the immersive sound experienced live. But WE WILL!

University of Texas Wind Ensemble
Jerry Junkin, conducting

Start and End Dates



Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

1 update
Last update on September 16, 2018

Project Created By

Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
The Pittsburgh New Music Ensemble (PNME) presents compelling and memorable performances of contemporary music by: giving world-class performances, commissioning and premiering new works by living artists, disseminating and promoting new works beyond their premieres through recording and touring, constantly reexamining and exploring the way in which new music is presented, playing a leading role in…

In Collaboration With

Co-Creator, Co-Writer
Toronto, CANADA


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