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Listen to this amazing '3D'-sound theater piece over headphones

Binaural recordings produce pseudo-3D surround effects over headphones. Check out Simon McBurney's performance piece "The Encounter" and "see" what you hear.

Straight out of London, Simon McBurney's performance piece "The Encounter" is now playing at the Barbican Theatre, but for a limited time you can stream "The Encounter" on YouTube. McBurney shares the stage with a special binaural microphone "head," and the sound of his voice and his recordings transports us into the humid depths of the Amazon jungle. Binaural recordings are closer to the way human ears pick up sound than recordings made with conventional microphone techniques. In fact, the word "binaural" literally means "using both ears."


Simon McBurney and the binaural microphone "head"

Robbie Jack

The Barbican website describes Simon McBurney's piece this way:

"In 1969, National Geographic photographer Loren McIntyre became hopelessly lost in a remote part of the Brazilian rainforest while searching for the Mayoruna people. His encounter was to test his perception of the world, bringing the limits of human consciousness into startling focus. Threading scenes of his own life with details of McIntyre's journey, McBurney incorporates objects and sound effects into this solo performance to evoke a rainforest landscape. Transmitted direct to the audience through provided headphones, the show's ground-breaking sound design plugs into the power of the imagination, questioning our perceptions of time, communication and our own consciousness."

The YouTube video of "The Encounter" will only be available until March 8, so check it out today, and remember that to hear the sound at its best you must listen with headphones. With open-back headphones the spatial aspects of the recording will be clearer than they will with closed-back, or in-ear headphones. Even so, the sound will be amazing with any decent headphones. I used my Grado RS-1's, and the sound was good, and even better when I closed my eyes and just listened.

Check out "The Encounter" and share your impressions in the comments section below.