Montreux Jazz Festival 2008 Wrap-up
Video Interviews with Engineers at the Festival
An Interview about the Evolution in System Design and Support
From the Meyer Sound office deep within Montreux's Music and Convention Centre, Luke Jenks, the company's director of European Technical Support, found a little time to reflect on the Montreux Jazz Festival he is so intimately familiar with. This year marks the 22nd anniversary of Meyer Sound's involvement with the festival, providing sound reinforcement systems large and small for the various stages near the shores of Lake Geneva.
What has changed substantially since Jenks first came with Meyer Sound to Montreux in 2002 is the depth of support the company is now required to provide. "There was a time when a substantial team would fly over from the States and run the festival from start to finish," says Jenks. "Now most of the work, including design, is handled by an exceptional local team led by our distributor Niveau 2 (Mediasystems SA) and we are only required to provide design assistance, tuning and support."
The audio equipment for this year's festival was supplied by Swiss-based Skynight and LPS, coordinated by Niveau 2. The systems were designed by Martin Reich of TonstudiosZ Audioconsulting and the audio requirements were handled by sound coordinator, Pierre-André Aebischer and Eddy Broquet; while Audio Services Pascal Menghini provided technical support.
According to Jenks, the trend for the system design for the six venues with Meyer Sound systems was "more flexibility, but not necessarily more boxes." The differences in design each year have been small, but always consistent with the event's key artistic themes of making the musicians comfortable, and of ensuring that the recording and documentation of the festival are as important as the performances themselves.
When asked about key configuration differences between this year and 2007, Jenks says: "This has been the year of the sub! The festival organizers wanted the 700-HP subwoofers in the Auditorium Stravinski to disappear from audience view, while at the same time retain their coverage of the VIP balcony, which is to the right of the stage as you look from the back of the hall.
"So with Niveau 2, we created a cardioid array of 12 loudspeakers under the stage: a center line of six boxes of which four fire to the front and two to the rear, and identical left-right arrays of three per side, with two firing front and one rear. Depending on the artist, FOH engineers have been able to switch out certain boxes. And that's important because when you're designing a system for everything from Joan Baez to N.E.R.D., you need to make engineers feel they're not getting a one-size-fits-all solution."
From system design and setup to teardown, the two-week festival is a great undertaking for all involved. Although the role that Meyer Sound Tech Support plays at Montreux has changed in the past two decades, the presence of the company's signature customer service has not weakened; in fact, Jenks and crew came stronger—and also more resourceful. "The festival is a multi-cultural, multi-lingual environment. Our Technical Support department now speaks seven languages, so we can come here and speak to anyone, which is a real advantage. To me, that change is as important as any evolution in system design."