Relearning to Listen With Hugo Zuccarelli

“What if I tell you that all the recorded and live music that you have heard through speakers your whole life was a lie?”

Well, you can’t be sure unless you experience it for yourself. This is how Hugo Zuccarelli challenges us at the start of his presentation in the “Teatro Ciego” (Blind Theatre) in Abasto, as he combines two interesting ideas to make a unique audio-sensory experience.

Roger Waters, David Gilmour and Hugo Zuccarelli in the 1970s (photo courtesy of Hugo Zuccarelli)

Hugo Zuccarelli is an Argentine inventor who dedicated his whole life to understanding the complex human hearing mechanism. During his studies in Milan, Italy, he postulated that human hearing analyses sound in a holographic manner. Taking that idea, he invented the HolophonicTM speakers, which provide the audio equivalent of 3D.

In the darkness the only thing that you can do is listen. After we seated, Zuccarelli’s voice appeared once again presenting “Pink Floyd -The Wall”. Then silence, footsteps, a discman player opening, the disc going in, starting to run, and then I was listening to ‘In the Flesh’ for what felt like the first time.

Hugo Zuccarelli and David Gilmour

His speakers have four interesting characteristics: one source (instead of a sub-woofer, mid-range and tweeter as with regular speakers), a very low level of distorsion, the ability to hear music at a very high volume without damaging your ears, and lastly, for its three-dimensionality and unique wavelength, which apparently means the old lady downstairs won’t be disturbed when you are listening to good quality music at 3am.

After this discovering, Zuccarelli flew in the 80’s to England where he started an outstanding career recording as sound engineer with the likes of Pink Floyd, (on ‘The Final Cut’ album), Lionel Richie, Stewie Wonder, and Michael Jackson. However, his invention didn’t turn so well at a commercial level; none of the companies would accept these speakers in the production chain. Why? Well, that’s what I keep asking after listening to the amazing sound they produce.

Fortunately, in Buenos Aires, you can experience the holophonics at the “Teatro Ciego” which is a theatre operated in total darkness. And I’m not talking about shadows that you can distinguish after a few minutes when your iris adjusts: this is even darker than closing your eyes.

Getting into a pitch black theatre space is part of the fun. We set up in lines of six, each with the hand on the shoulder of the person in front, and entered to room in total darkness. Nobody could see anything and I was not able to imagine the dimensions of the place. It was like being in an odd dream.

In the darkness the only thing that you can do is listen. After we seated, Zuccarelli’s voice appeared once again presenting “Pink Floyd -The Wall”. Then silence, footsteps, a discman player opening, the disc going in, starting to run, and then I was listening to ‘In the Flesh’ for what felt like the first time. Even several days later, it’s really hard for me to describe that experience in words. In the darkness, the music is somehow painted in the air, like sound holograms.

If you pay enough attention and you know the album you will hear things you have never listened to. Track after track I thought I knew, but something new appeared over and over again. The drums of Nick Mason, the voice and the choirs added by Roger Waters, and the guitars of David Gilmour with riffs I had no idea even existed.

When the second disc was finished I was so thrilled I wanted to hear it again, even though at this point it was around 1.30am (if you have to get up early in the morning you might want to reconsider this).

Zuccarelli returned and announced that the lights would returned slowly. Finally, I could see the room, which was completely different from what I imagined during the session. Zuccarelli appears in front of us and asks if we liked the performance. You can tell that he is a really passionate person and he tell us about the story of the Holophonic Speakers, of how he invented them back in the 80’s and why everyone should use them (he needs to sell his product and I’m totally behind that!).

The night ended an hour later: Zuccarelli demonstrated some ‘sound experiments’ in a strange and funny way and concluded with two more songs by Pink Floyd, including ‘Alan’s psychedelic breakfast’. This is a totally new experience for all senses at a really low cost; one that you will never forget.

Shows are presented on Thursdays at 11pm (what it’s more likely to start at 11:30) and Saturdays at 6pm. Tickets can be bought at the theatre (Zelaya 3006, close to the Abasto Shopping) or online at tuentrada.com.

This article was published at the Argentina Independent [link]

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