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BEAST (Birmingham ElectroAcoustic Sound Theatre) is the concert sound system of the University of Birmingham’s Electroacoustic Music Studios.
Founded in 1982 by Jonty Harrison, since 2014 BEAST has been under the direction of Scott Wilson, along with Annie Mahtani and James Carpenter as technical director. Over the decades since its launch BEAST has become established as one of the leading systems for the presentation of electronic music in the world, and as an ongoing catalyst for creation and innovation in the field. BEAST is particularly recognised for its key role in championing the development of acousmatic music – music composed especially for loudspeakers – and live ‘diffusion’, a practice aimed at creating immersive sonic experiences in concert. While continuing to advance creative work in these areas, BEAST is also a platform for a wide variety of sound-based art in various styles and genres, including live electronic music, pieces combining instruments and electronic sound, soundscape composition/phonology, and sound installations.
BEAST has performed extensively in the UK and other parts of Europe, including at London’s South Bank Centre, the Edinburgh and Huddersfield Festivals, the Henry Wood Hall in Glasgow, MultiMediale II in Karlsruhe, The Royal Dutch Conservatory in The Hague, The Acousmatic Experience in Amsterdam, the Aspekte Festival in Salzburg, the Inventionen Festival in Berlin, the Echt-Zeit Festival in Basel, Aix en Musique in Aix en Provence, and the Sound Around Festival in Copenhagen. Closer to home BEAST’s activities have included regular contributions in The Series at the CBSO Centre as part of our collaboration with the Birmingham Contemporary Music Group. In 2012 BEAST began holding concerts in its new home, the bespoke designed Elgar Concert Hall at the Bramall Music Building, arguably one of the best venues of its size for the presentation of electronic music in UK and elsewhere.
One of the largest systems of its type in the world, BEAST can mount setups of as many as 100 loudspeakers distributed around the concert space. This approach goes far beyond the capabilities of commodity and cinema ‘surround sound’ systems, allowing artists to create vivid and unique sound worlds, which immerse the listener in a new and engaging sonic experience.