Sennheiser Art Basel Report

Art Basel HK: Shifting Boundaries with New Sound

Audio Meets Art

To shape the future of audio – this is our mission, this is what drives us to develop and deliver innovative audio solutions to you. Regardless of whether audio is your profession, your passion or your hobby. Regardless of whether you love to listen to great music or record and mix breathtaking film sound for a living. We strive to help you enjoy and create unsurpassed audio experiences that push the boundaries of what exists today.

To shape the future of audio is not just our ambition – it is also an invitation to all you audio lovers and audio experts: Share your vision of audio with us, get involved in our creators’ programs, take part, and claim your role in working with us to develop the audio solutions of the future.

Visitors to Art Basel Hong Kong this year got treated to more than just art for the eyes – it was also a feast for the ears. Sennheiser provided its visitors with a peek at the future of the audio world.

  • Author: Simon E. Fuchs
  • Photos: Sennheiser
  • Video: SLA Studios
  • Editing / Post Production SLA Studios

In Hong Kong, Sennheiser is presenting a future that will be shaped by AMBEO®-3D audio and by the unprecedented sound quality of the type delivered by HE 1 headphones. In all of Asia, there is no better place than Art Basel in Hong Kong to introduce this vision of the future. According to the International New York Times, Art Basel is “Asia’s most important art fair.” This year, the quality of the artworks displayed at the booths of 239 galleries represented at the fair is said to be better than ever before.

The skyscrapers of Hong Kong rise into the evening sky behind the Sennheiser booth at Art Basel. Out the window, one can look across the water to the glittering skyline of the Kowloon district. One of the buildings stands out: Numbers from nine to one, like on a digital clock, fall one after the other down the side of the 490-meter (1,600 foot) tall International Commerce Centre. It is an installation by the Japanese artist Tatsuo Miyajima, and perhaps the most remarkable work at Art Basel Hong Kong.

The entire city is ticking to the rhythm of art. The innovative works by international and Chinese artists are the pinnacle of modern art and hint at how this world will look in the next several years. Sennheiser allows visitors to listen to what the sound of the future will be like.

Audio Meets Art

To shape the future of audio – this is our mission, this is what drives us to develop and deliver innovative audio solutions to you. Regardless of whether audio is your profession, your passion or your hobby. Regardless of whether you love to listen to great music or record and mix breathtaking film sound for a living. We strive to help you enjoy and create unsurpassed audio experiences that push the boundaries of what exists today.

To shape the future of audio is not just our ambition – it is also an invitation to all you audio lovers and audio experts: Share your vision of audio with us, get involved in our creators’ programs, take part, and claim your role in working with us to develop the audio solutions of the future.

A walk from one work of art to the next at Art Basel reveals immense variety and an exacting attention to detail. A picture that at first glance looks to be completely white hangs on a white wall surrounded by visitors. It is a slightly surreal scene, reminiscent of the play "Art" by Yasmina Reza. Two women approach the painting and only when they are right next to it do they notice the light gray writing crisscrossing the artwork: “We want it very much.” The artist Idris Khan has managed to use pertinent details to draw people in despite the crowds at Art Basel.

Audio Meets Art

To shape the future of audio – this is our mission, this is what drives us to develop and deliver innovative audio solutions to you. Regardless of whether audio is your profession, your passion or your hobby. Regardless of whether you love to listen to great music or record and mix breathtaking film sound for a living. We strive to help you enjoy and create unsurpassed audio experiences that push the boundaries of what exists today.

To shape the future of audio is not just our ambition – it is also an invitation to all you audio lovers and audio experts: Share your vision of audio with us, get involved in our creators’ programs, take part, and claim your role in working with us to develop the audio solutions of the future.

Details are also important to Sennheiser. “Every detail has a special meaning; that applies to the art world and to us," Daniel Sennheiser says, as he explains to journalists at the booth why his company is present at Art Basel. This, he says, is only one of the company's connections to the art world. Sennheiser has worked with many artists in the past, including Pedro Reyes, Nik Nowak, Nigel Stanford and others. An additional link is currently being established: the Future Audio Artist Program. A jury including Sennheiser CEO Daniel Sennheiser will choose three sound artists per year and support them in their creative endeavors with Sennheiser products. Jury member Prof. Dr. h.c. Walter Smerling has come to Hong Kong to present the program. The unique aspect of the program for him is that it brings together culture, business and artists, allowing for the creation of innovative and excellent projects. Sennheiser’s own success is based on a passion for excellence, Daniel Sennheiser explains later. The company, he says, isn't just a technology firm – it also produces emotions.

These emotions can be observed in almost all the Art Basel visitors who step into the Sennheiser booth. Art enthusiasts Zila and Leon Lewkowicz, a married couple from Vienna, are among them. From outside, the two see an elegant booth enveloped in white waves. They walk through the door and find themselves in a darkened room outfitted with four chairs, blue lighting elements, acoustic foam panels on the wall, a screen, a control device and a sideboard. The most important elements in the booth are not immediately apparent.

Nine speakers are hidden behind the foam panels on the walls, designed to transport visitors into another dimension. By way of the AMBEO®-3D sound system, the booth provides for an immersive audio experience. The booth's sound system plays a live version of the song “Tiny Human” by British star Imogen Heap in 3D quality. After just a few seconds, you’re not sitting in Hong Kong anymore, but in the audience at London's Central Hall Westminster where the artist recorded the song in summer 2015. The sound is crystal clear and distributed throughout the room.

A Sennheiser mixing console can also transform stereo audio into 3D sound. The procedure is demonstrated with the next songs played in the booth, by Coldplay and Marvin Gaye. Zila Lewkowicz keeps turning her head, trying to figure out why the clear sound of the hi-hat sounds like it’s coming from behind her right shoulder. Leon Lewkowicz’s right foot is tapping. “You can feel the sound with your body,” Zila Lewkowicz says after her listening experience in the booth. “It’s insanely good, it’s like being at a concert,” her husband responds.

Carl Wong: “This type of listening will significantly influence my work as a music producer in the future.”

A few hours later, the music producer Carl Wong is sitting in one of the booth's chairs. Sennheiser invited him for a private listening session and he is among the first people in Asia to test the new HE 1 headphones. Afterwards, he doesn't want to give them back. His conclusion: “This type of listening will significantly influence my work as a music producer in the future.”

The innovative products from Sennheiser help sound artists like Carl Wong explore new boundaries. The future of audio also inspired a project by the artist duo Miro, from Hong Kong. The collective was founded by Michael Leung and Rony Chan. The two of them are decorating part of the outside of the booth during Art Basel with a work of art made up over 400 individual Sennheiser sound components.

Sound That Is As Natural As Possible

They’ve interpreted the concept “Shape the Future of Audio” in their own way. Their inspiration was the question as to what the best possible audio quality truly means. Their answer: sound that is as natural as possible. "As though you were standing right in front of an orchestra or in a concert hall," explains Rony Chan. Artist Michael Leung shows on his mobile phone what the artwork will look like when it's finished: An Asian inspired landscape with abstract mountains and flowers. They spent two days tinkering with the Sennheiser components in their studio. By the time it's finished, they will have spent 10 hours working on the final version of the artwork at the Sennheiser booth. The piece, combining technology and nature, steadily grows across the wall.

In the Future, an Increasing Number of People Will Be Able To Listen To Music in Perfect Sound Quality

The portraits made by star-photographer Tom Lemke are also works of art in their own right. Next to the booth, he photographs artists, musicians and normal Art Basel visitors. How do you see the future of music? The answers are as varied as the people in front of Lemke's lens: visions of the future where headphones convey emotion as well as music; music compositions without notes, guided only by feelings; music that is more directly connected to motion. New York artist Bradley Theodore imagines a future in which an increasing number of people can listen to music in perfect sound quality.

It is exactly this path that Sennheiser has now embarked upon.