Paul Oomen, born 1983 in Amsterdam, is a composer and entrepreneur. Based on extensive experience from an early age in theatre as an actor and director, and as a musician skilled in percussion, piano and singing, he specialised himself initially as a composer of music for theatre and opera. Oomen holds a B/A and M/A with Honours in Music Composition from the Conservatory of Amsterdam and Universität der Künste Berlin. His work always balanced on the threshold between theatre, electronic music and technology, before he turned to work exclusively on the investigation of space, sound and perception with 4DSOUND.
Paul Oomen is Founder of 4DSOUND, and was its Creative Director from the start of the project in 2007 until 2014. He was at the heart of realizing the spatial sound performances by artists such as Peter van Hoesen, Max Cooper, Biosphere, Pantha du Prince, Martin Stimming, Murcof, Senking, Frank Bretschneider, Robert Lippok, Vladislav Delay, Marco Donnarumma, Michelle Lewis-King, Kazuya Nagaya and Robert Jan Liethoff among many others. Oomen currently lives and works in Budapest, Hungary, where he is Head of Development at the Spatial Sound Institute.
'I got very much into Tesla’s ideas of movement and energy, and I tried to formulate certain rules of movement and energy as I understood them from his ideas and inventions, and what that would mean if you would start to think about sound and making music. Like, if we start to think about physical movement in space as a parameter in music, what kind of variables do we get?'
- Paul Oomen in Resident Advisor
The year 2012 saw the premiere of his 5-hour opera Nikola based on the life and work of inventor Nikola Tesla, which was the first-ever composition and live performance in 4DSOUND. In this opera we experience being inside Nikola Tesla's head, - lost in a world of sounds, voices and information. Vocals emerge from within the audience, immersed in techno sound designs set for the 4DSOUND system, creating an immersive environment that transcends the border between the club and theatrical space. Sounds and voices appear anywhere, moving around, above, beneath and in between the audience. The audience is not only listening to a performance, but is active participant in a transforming spatial narrative of sound.
In 2013, Oomen created a series of spatial re-arrangements of compositions by Tchaikovsky, Rachmaninov and Shostakovich for the Blown Away festival with the Rotterdam Philharmonic Orchestra. The aim was to create an experience that would engage listeners with the orchestra in various new ways – by extending the live experience of classical compositions with a spatial listening dimension, creating musical encounters between the orchestra and electronic musicians, and processing the sound palette of the orchestra into generative spatial sound sculptures. As a part of this, Oomen and Salvador Breed created the installation work ‘Pathetique’ which uses the rich sound world from Tchaikovsky’s 6th Symphony and transforms it into an organically evolving sound landscape.
Recently Oomen has been working on new spatial interpretations in 4DSOUND of early electronic music works by Edgar Varese and Iannis Xenakis, for premiere at 4DSOUND: Points on the Curve at ZKM in Karlsruhe. Xenakis’ Concret PH and Varese’s Poeme Electronique were originally written for the Philips Pavilion at the Brussels World’s Fair in 1958, and can be considered the first endeavour of such scale in the field of sonic architecture and spatialization of electronic music. Rooted in the work of the GRM Studio by Pierre Schaeffer and the Musique Concrete, Xenakis’s composition Orient-Occident from 1960 explores the notion of sound objects and their physical characteristics in an almost encyclopedic manner, with the aim to contribute to a Solfege de l’objet sonore.
Oomen asks himself and the audience the question what the acoustical experience of these works must have been like, then and there. Given the current state of the art in spatial sound technology, more than fifty years after the original conception of these works, what can the realization of these spatial conceptions sound like in the here and now? His reinterpretation of these historic works in 4DSOUND are evocative of dematerialized architectures from a time and space by now gone, not limited anymore by the constraints of a physical reality. Back then, but even more so as these works are performed once more today, the elementary exploration of gestural movements and dimensional qualities of sound is questioned to be part of a semantic construct - or can it even be? - the way spatial distinction of sound is at the very formation of language and narrative.
Image: Nienke Berghuis