Harmonies and Conversations

2 February 2024

The String Quartet Biennale Amsterdam, celebrated as the world’s largest festival dedicated to string quartets, unfolded its rich tapestry of melodies and harmonies at the Muziekgebouw, Amsterdam.

This festival, a confluence of string quartets, composers, and artists from across the globe, is a platform for innovation, dialogue, and education through its concerts, talks, and masterclasses.

Among the festival’s diverse offerings, the Coffee Talks on Foyer Deck 1 stood out as a unique blend of casual yet insightful exchanges. Hosted by the insightful Katy Hamilton, these talks became a daily ritual, where performers shared their journeys, inspirations, and the intricacies of their art. As a sound engineer, my role was to ensure that these stories were heard crystal clear, fostering a connection between the speakers and the audience.

Utilizing wireless mics and our d&b 24C-E column loudspeaker, I aimed to create an auditory experience that was as seamless and engaging as the performances themselves. The choice of equipment was crucial; the clarity, directionality, and warmth of the sound had to complement the intimate nature of the conversations, allowing every nuance and emotion to be captured and conveyed.

I strive to enhance the experience of every attendee, ensuring that the essence of each talk was amplified, both literally and metaphorically. Working closely with Katy Hamilton, we navigated through the festival’s rich program, bringing to light the stories behind the strings, the personal journeys of the performers, and the creative processes behind their art. As I always bring a backpack full of optional equipment and especially audio cables, her last-minute request to play a SoundCloud fragment was easy to accomodate.

As a celebration of the string quartet as a dynamic and evolving art form, the String Quartet Biennale is a top-tier event with artists and attendees from all over the world. I was especially struck by the art of the indigenous art of Australia and the dr. Lou Bennett AM’s talk. Being part of this event, especially in facilitating the Coffee Talks, was a reminder of the power of sound—not just in music but in fostering meaningful conversations and connections.

As I reflect on this experience, I am reminded of the importance of listening, not just as a technical skill but as an art form. Whether through the strings of a quartet or the words of an artist, the ability to listen deeply and translate that into a sound that resonates with others is what makes my role as a sound engineer both challenging and profoundly rewarding.

tags: amsterdam muziekgebouw listening