Lords Of Lightning - Electroacoustics at Valley Fest 2023

When it comes to event noise management, as an acoustic consultant you get the opportunity to work with a huge range of large sound systems arrangements and designs, each of which have their pros and cons when it comes to noise management. The ability to create such a range of sound systems comes primarily down to the advancements of electro-acoustic technologies. HOWEVER,  the phrase electroacoustics doesn’t always relate to the sound system…

In August, Acoustic Consultants Ltd had the pleasure of undertaking noise management for Valley Fest 2023 at Chew Valley Lake. Now, when you arrive on site and see on the programme a slot for ‘The Lords Of Lightning, I can’t speak for other consultants but two things went through my head. The first –  ‘now that sounds interesting’ followed closely by ‘as long as its lightning and not thunder, I’m sure noise-wise we should be fine’.

The Lords Of Lightning took to the stage at around 21:40 on Friday evening and as you might expect, the act fully lived up to its name. With a chainmail encased performer on a platform shooting arcs of audio synced sonic electricity out into the air above the crowd, this was not one to be missed.

Given that the white-hot electricity shooting through the air produces a number of high energy sonic frequencies in a clearly audible periodic pattern and is accompanied by sound system audio this act definitely falls within the remit of music noise and therefore noise management. A summary of the frequency spectrum throughout the performance is presented against a typical spectrum for popular music genres. The low frequency energy in the 125Hz and 250Hz octave bands is above what would be determined as an ‘average’ level, while the energy between 500Hz and 8 kHz is significantly below what would be considered typical.

The measured data indicates that the vast majority of the energy produced by the electricity arcs is in the 125Hz and 250Hz octave bands. This is particularly problematic seeing as energy in the 125Hz and 250Hz octave bands are likely to propagate much further than higher frequencies.

With the increased low-frequency content, it begs the question, how would one control noise stemming from this act at an event?

There is always the ability to adjust the accompanying audio where needed but, without the ability to adjust the frequency content or the overall level of the sounds emitted by electricity arcs which are the dominant source of noise, there doesn’t appear to be a feasible way of mitigating the audio.

While it happens to be that the offsite music noise levels were successfully managed across the entire weekend of the event with only a single complaint, as well as successfully managed for The Lords Of Lightning, for other events where noise-sensitive residences are closer or the offsite noise limits may be lower, this may not be so easy achieved.

Acts such as this bring to the forefront that noise management is a constantly adapting discipline, within which consultants should always be aiming to come up with new and inventive ways of mitigating unwanted event noise, as you never quite know what you might be faced with when you arrive on site.

For those interested in the Lords Of Lightning, the following video provides a sample of the performance.