Q Up Arts Founder and Composer Douglas Morton Relies on Brand for Immersive Aquarium Exhibit
A journey into the depths of the ocean is out of grasp for most, but Q Up Arts Founder and Composer Douglas Morton has helped bring the sounds of the Earth’s waters to shore for a new immersive aquarium experience that takes visitors through galleries filled with deep sea animals, original music and ocean video footage. To craft compositions that transport and inspire listeners, Morton needed microphones that could keep his recordings as authentic and natural as possible and selected DPA Microphones’ 2011C Compact Twin Diaphragm Cardioid Microphones.
“I choose mics based on what type of instrument or sound I’m going for,” explains Morton. “What’s great about the 2011s is the amount of detail that they pick up without coloring the sound. It’s like capturing a hi-res photo, you get all the little details and trails of sound. I used a couple of tongue drums for the score. I was just barely hitting those drums, but with the 2011s you can hear the full attack of the mallet. I even played them with my hands a little bit and you can hear right when my fingers hit the drums. The mics captured all the delicate nuances of the instrument.”
Visitors can hear Morton’s compositions throughout the exhibit, transitioning seamlessly between songs and rooms. “As people travel through each gallery, it’s as if they’re on a journey descending down through the water to the ocean floor,” he continues. “One room, designed to place guests in the middle of the ocean rather than the surface or floor, features a wall of 4K monitors displaying bright bioluminescent sea creatures. Wanting to take advantage of this massive visual aspect, we decided to add a Dolby Atmos mix within the room. Speakers to the front, overhead, sides and rear of the guests combine with psychedelic imagery to create an out-of-body immersive underwater experience.”
When Morton began writing the score, he “tried to imagine what the water felt like and what we wanted people to feel as they traveled through the exhibit. A huge part of the compositional journey was just choosing sounds. It’s different than scoring a movie or TV show, we don’t want the music to be too stylized. If a guest is listening to the music instead of looking at the visuals, then I’m not doing my job. I ended up creating a beautiful, deep, dark, sonic landscape. The 2011s work well for this kind of recording because they’re so transparent and clear. They capture the delicate attack and sustain of the instruments.”
Besides traditional instruments, Morton was also able to utilize the sounds of real aquatic animals for his compositions. Underwater recordings of Monterey Canyon featured animals like blue whales, sperm whales and dolphins, but also natural phenomenon, like underwater landslides. Morton added samples of the blue whales to his composition for an expansive, ominous portion of the gallery that replicates the sea floor and the life cycle of a whale.
As President and Founder of sampling and music production company, Q Up Arts, Morton has utilized DPA’s mics for a variety of projects through the years. “I’ve tried different microphones before,” adds Morton, “but I always come back to DPA. They’re my go-to mics. Ultra-transparent, super clear, and a small sonic footprint so they’re not going to color the sound. If I’m recording, what I’m hearing in the room is what the DPAs are going to sound like. That’s one of the biggest benefits of DPA mics, they’re so beautifully transparent. I’m a huge fan; they’re the number one microphones in my collection.”