Richard Wagner 3.0

Joint research project

HMTM Hannover     IKT LU Hannover

Immersive sound environments and their potential for creating musical experience and cultural participation

Can modern digital and virtual sound technology achieve the ideal of completely immersing the listener in orchestral sound? Richard Wagner pioneered this concept back in 1873 and put it into practice at Bayreuth’s famous Festspielhaus in 1876.

Research questions

  1. In terms of sound reproduction, how can auditoriums be designed so that they give a natural, three-dimensional impression?
  2. What are the differences in psychological correlates when listening to music in stereo, surround sound and 3D audio sound?
  3. Can an individual experience of immersive sound be predicted by the room’s acoustic parameters?
Bildnis Richard Wagners mit Samtbarett im Viertelprofil, entstanden um 1910
Portrait of Richard Wagner wearing a silk cap in quarter profile, painted around 1910.

Immersive sound as the ultimate listening experience

"My desire that the orchestra should be invisible instantly provided the famous architect with inspiration (...) on how to define the empty space that arose (...) from this: we called it the ‘mystical abyss’, because it had to separate reality from ideality, (...) while out of the ‘mystical abyss’ sounds spectral music, like vapours rising from the holy womb of Gaia beneath the Pythia’s tripod, transporting it to the ardent state of clairvoyance, (...)."

Translated from the German in: Wagner, R. (1873/2004). Das Bühnenfestspielhaus zu Bayreuth. In S. Friedrich (Hg.), Richard Wagner: Werke, Schriften und Briefe [CD-ROM] (Digitale Bibliothek, Bd. 107, S. 337ff.). Berlin: Directmedia.

Vision statement

Immersive audio techniques are becoming increasingly important in musical practice, but there is a lack of empirical evidence to back up the assumption that they result in a more intense musical experience. This interdisciplinary project aims to provide an empirical basis for understanding the various aspects involved. Overall, it would allow an innovative approach to creating a qualitatively new, shared listening experience using multi-channel loudspeaker systems, irrespective of the architecture of the auditorium and without the need for headphones.


The qualitative experience of a musical performance is closely intertwined with the acoustics of the concert hall. With the construction of the Bayreuth Festspielhaus (1872–1875), Richard Wagner created an auditorium with outstanding acoustics with a view to immersing the audience and the orchestra in sound. This was the birth of the idea that an immersive sound experience is the highest form of musical experience.

If his idea of total immersion in sound could be described as Immersion 1.0, then today’s methods of transmitting music could be called stereo or 5.1 surround sound, and modern playback technology like Dolby Atmos, Auro-3D and AMBEO can be considered to be immersive 3D audio formats that succeed it as versions 2.0 and 3.0.

Principal investigators
Prof. Dr. Reinhard Kopiez
Hochschule für Musik, Theater und Medien Hannover
Hannover Music Lab
Neues Haus 1
30175 Hannover
Prof. Dr. Jürgen Peissig
Leibniz Universität Hannover
Institut für Kommunikationstechnik
Appelstraße 9A
30167 Hannover

Project funding

This interdisciplinary research project is supported by "Niedersächsisches Vorab", a joint programme run by the Volkswagen Foundation in conjunction with the Lower Saxony Ministry for Science and Culture (funding reference: ZN3497, funding period: 2020-2022).

VolkswagenStiftung     MWK Niedersachsen