In 1353 the Italian writer Giovanni Boccaccio creates the masterpiece The Decameron in response to the great bubonic plague of 1348 that had profound effects on the course of European history.
In The Decameron, ten storytellers shelter from the Black Death outside Florence, telling ten tales a night in their quarantine.
Boccaccio borrowed plots from existing ancient folk tales from all over the globe and this year 1927 have curated an anthology of ancient folk tales for modern times. These have been reimagined with a technological twist.
Here at BBC R&D, we have been exploring the exciting field of personalised and immersive listening experiences in addition to the emergent technology needed to support them. A particular area of focus has been spatial audio. Traditionally, audio productions are created for a fixed arrangement of loudspeakers—for example, “stereo” or “surround sound”. And it’s not unusual for them to be played back from a single speaker. But it's becoming more and more common for listeners to have access to different types of devices that are capable of reproducing sound, including Internet-connected devices like mobile phones, tablets, and laptops.
Listeners are now surrounded by ‘hidden speakers’, and these offer a wealth of spatial audio opportunities to explore. We do this by orchestrating the devices—synchronising them and dispersing the audio playout between them. Simply put, creators can determine when and where in space a sound should come from, enveloping listeners in sound. Audio Orchestrator is a production tool that allows content creators to explore this potential.
This technology is both dynamic and flexible and can respond on the fly to the number and types of devices connected to a session, leading to deeply personalised solo listening experiences or vast communal ones that bring audience members together with hundreds of devices in play.
1927 have reimagined Decameron Nights through this lens, taking the existing rich array of strange sounds, eerie effects and exquisitely haunting music to elevate the soundscape further by placing listeners and their connected devices at the very centre of the story.
Want to listen to the original? Head to Radio 3 to hear the broadcast version of Decameron Nights.
Audio Orchestrator is open to anyone and is available to try via BBC MakerBox.
A 1927 Production for BBC Culture in Quarantine with the support of Arts Council England and BBC Arts.