British high-end speaker maker Bowers & Wilkins and Italian high-end car maker Maserati have teamed up for a most interesting project. Dubbed Seven Notes, the idea is to record the sound of a Maserati engine at seven different RPMs and use the samples as notes in a musical composition. (According to Maserati, the engine makes seven distinct notes, hence the name of the project, but it seems to me that one could generate a continuous glissando of pitches by revving the engine at different speeds. On the other hand, perhaps there are seven speeds at which more identifiable pitches emerge from the engine noise.)
The project is spearheaded by Scottish trip-hop producer and musician Howie B, who has worked with such musical luminaries as Bjork, U2, and Robbie Robertson. He recorded the seven notes by bringing a Maserati into Abbey Road Studios in London. I wonder if the Beatles ever dreamed that a car would be used as a musical instrument in the studios they made famous?
To showcase the project, B&W and Maserati are mounting a world tour, including a stop in Los Angeles, where I got to hear the music—and the sound of a B&W sound system in Maserati's new Quattroporte automobile—at Milk Studio Hangar in Hollywood, CA. Before the formal presentation, an interactive area had markers for the seven notes on the floor; as guests stepped on each one, that note played from the PA speakers. Kids were especially captivated by this, as was I.
Andrea Soriani describes the Seven Notes project for the cameras.
As prelude to the performance, Andrea Soriani, Director of Brand Marketing for Maserati North America, said a few words about the project standing in front of a Quattroporte SQ4 with twin-turbo V6 engine and all-wheel drive. This model starts at a mere $105,000.
Howie B at the keyboard—computer keyboard, that is.
Howie B performed his Seven Notes music live from his Macintosh laptop—live in the sense that he was controlling pre-recorded sounds in real time. Aside from being too loud (I had my earplugs with me, but not my sound meter), the music was very trip-hoppy—ambient with an underlying groove that got the crowd moving.
I got my picture taken with Miss California on a smartphone. Love the tiara!
And what a crowd it was, full of beautiful people who, as one guest remarked to me, seemed to be professional partygoers. Among the glitterati were Miss California (wearing her tiara and sash) and celebrity chef Giada De Laurentiis, along with lots of svelte gals in slinky gowns and not-so-svelte guys in considerably less-elegant attire.
The B&W Nautilus and 800D were in the spotlight.
Scattered around the hangar-like space were various B&W products, including the Nautilus with its coiled low-frequency transmission line and straight waveguides for the higher-frequency drivers as well as the 800D with diamond tweeter.
A Maserati crankshaft makes a beautiful visual counterpoint to a B&W Zepplin iPod dock.
Other pieces of art included a Maserati crankshaft and B&W Zepplin iPod dock in their own pools of light.
The Quattroporte GTS sports a twin-turbo V8 engine and optional B&W sound system.
Although music was blaring from the house PA, I did get a demo of the B&W sound system available as an option in the Quattroporte, which has impressive noise isolation from the outside world. With seven tweeters and seven midrange drivers spread throughout the cockpit and one subwoofer in the rear deck, all driven by a total of 1280 watts, the system is designed to provide high-quality sound no matter where you sit. Three DSP modes let you select conventional stereo, an "audience" perspective that puts you in the tenth row of a virtual concert hall, or an "on stage" perspective that spreads the instruments all around you. B&W designed the drivers and electronics, while Harman International built the headend and undoubtedly had some input into the DSP, as indicated by the QuantumLogic logo, which is the name of Harman's 3D-audio surround-simulation technology.
How did it sound? Really good, despite the din outside the car. Boz Scaggs' "Thanks to You" had wonderfully deep bass, and listing to Fun's "Some Nights" in the on-stage DSP mode was a hoot. All in all, the sound was exceptionally clean and clear, though there was a bit of rattling in the door panels, which we were assured was because this was a pre-production sample that hadn't been fully damped.
It was a great event, and I thank B&W and Maserati for inviting me. For more on the Seven Notes project and its tour schedule, please visit www.sevennotes.com.