Words by Rafe Arnott
Then I heard last week about the Oda performance platform and found myself adding-in obsessing over what Nick Dangerfield’s behavioural experiment with steel, wood, glass, cotton, cable and wifi means.
Oda artists control every detail of the performances you hear. They craft their sound on the same speakers you listen through. They can activate your speakers with the press of a button.
Dangerfield’s simple idea is about fidelity. He wants to offer a high-quality experience-driven sustainable platform alternative to the typical YouTube live stream. Modelled – in a sense – after radio plays of bygone years (think The Adventures of Sam Spade in the ‘30s) where bringing live performances into one’s home centered around making time to sit down and experience them as they’re happening. Only, to ensure an end-to-end experience as each artist intended it – unlike so many other live stream options – playback hardware was developed by Oda to facilitate a listening space as engaging in its ability as the live performance, all without breaking the bank.
The Oda model consists of a series of live performances commissioned around a seasonal schedule (three months/12 weeks) priced at $79 USD where the company says “… each season we present a series of truly singular live performances. We engage experimentalists, storytellers, and audio pioneers to create works that unfold over time. Oda’s unique format even allows us to engage legendary artists unable to perform outside of their homes.” The artist lineup includes luminaries such as Arca, Madlib, Terry Riley, Jessica Pratt, Bradford Cox, Beatrice Dillon, and Sarah Davachi and the Microphones to name but a very few.
The hardware Dangerfield and his team designed to accompany this software focuses on specially-designed and artisanally-built loudspeakers connected to a wifi/Bluetooth receiver dubbed the ‘Lighthouse’ which is currently priced at $299 USD. The Oda website touts construction details about how the “… speakers are built using techniques drawn from traditional crafts like bookbinding, light aircraft construction, and, of course, luthiery. They’re made of wood, glass, cotton, and steel: materials that are humble and human, not technological. Simply put: They're built like instruments, so they make instruments sound beautiful.”
Imagine a cultural pulpit for the home without a screen to fiend over - it’s strictly a listening scenario: you come to the altar of stereo imaging because this isn’t about the technology (almost a lack of it), it’s about bringing an artist and an audience together in a most organic manner - the tech takes a back door to the performance.
On their website the company says of the relationship between performer and audience - “Oda artists control every detail of the performances you hear. They craft their sound on the same speakers you listen through. They can activate your speakers with the press of a button. They can play to you in your home, not on a phone or in a browser. It's like two cans and a string. As it should be.” Oda also points out their system contains no microphones to record users.
This resonates with me as an audiophile and the “straight wire with gain” mantra of purest amplification. Availability, according to Oda’s Laura Searles-Mohale, isn’t going to be limited to specific geographic limitations for the live streams right now. “We are only shipping in the United States at the moment, but we will be expanding soon. We are working hard to bring this to Canada as soon as possible. Oda will begin shipping to the United Kingdom this coming spring, and will expand from there.”
The way we listen and experience a performance leaves indelible imprints upon our senses which translates our every waking moment. To me, this is about a more lasting impact, about slowing down and properly processing artistic performance that can’t be rewound or paused because they are live and – here’s an interesting twist in the whole product model – they won’t be archived. Direct transmissions. The artist turns on the mic and does what they want and knows that every listener will be hearing the same thing because the hardware is predetermined. It’s a simple chain: microphone, the artist and 1,000 miles away you and your Oda speakers.
For more information and ordering details go HERE.