Is Somnium a DVD-A? Will it play on my existing DVD player?
Somnium has been authored in the DVD-Video format, not the newer DVD-Audio format. This means it will play on any existing home-theatre DVD player. It should even play on most computer DVD drives, as long as the system software supports playback of commercial DVDs.
Does Somnium have any video content?
Not much. The video graphics simply repeat the printed liner notes and cover art, and they provide a navigation control that lets you jump to two other start points within the music. The picture goes blank when the music is playing. You can play the disk just fine with your television turned off.
DVDs have regional codes. Will Somnium play in Europe or Japan?
Yes. We set the DVD so that all regions are included in the format. The audio should play on any DVD player in any region in the world. The only possible incompatibility might relate to the video scan rate in different countries. I don’t yet know if all DVD players will translate the video navigation page properly into PAL or JSRC scan rates. Hopefully someone in Europe or Japan will tell me this soon after its release. But since there is no unique content on the video pages (everything appears in the booklet) any video scan-rate problems should only affect your ability to jump to the two other start points on the disk. The audio should work fine everywhere.
My DVD player’s fast-forward and rewind buttons don’t work with Somnium. Why not?
We ran into some limitations with the DVD-V format, which forced us to make some compromises. For navigation, the DVD-V specification requires a frame of video with each frame of audio, which basically cuts in half the maximum audio file duration. The authoring house gave me two choices: either compress the audio or omit the navigation. Since the compression hurt the sound of the music, I decided to sacrifice the ability to fast-forward and rewind through the disk. No skimming – sorry.
I don’t own a DVD player. Will Somnium ever come out as a multi-CD set?
I don’t think we will release Somnium as a CD set. It would require six CDs to hold the audio content, and the manufacturing and packaging costs would become prohibitive. A CD release would also defeat the whole idea of a continuous piece of music. The sound of a CD changer shifting every 74 minutes can really disrupt the flow.
Is this a live recording of a Sleep Concert?
No. Somnium is a studio creation. I wanted to build a new experience from the ground up. However, for many years I have been collecting sound elements to use during sleep concerts, and I did weave many of these older elements into the new recording. If you have experienced one of my live or radio sleep concerts, you might recognize a few of these sounds.
Is Somnium a surround (5.1) recording?
No, Somnium is in stereo. Although DVD is a great format for surround, and Somnium is a perfect candidate for surround treatment, two limitations prevented this from becoming a surround recording. First, I could not have squeezed 7 hours of 5 channel audio on a disk. As it is, we had trouble fitting 7 hours in stereo. This long duration is a critical factor for the Somnium experience. Second, DVD-video format can only decode 5.1 surround when it is encoded as Dolby Digital (AC3). Some of the music on Somnium lost its open sound with AC3 compression, so we chose to use straight uncompressed stereo files for most of the duration. However, you can use the built-in surround effects on most home theatre amplifiers to synthesize a surround environment with successful results. In my listening tests, I found that the Yamaha surround system sounded great (ironically) with its “disco” surround effect preset. Feel free to experiment with your own system. Listen for a natural and even placement of sound in all channels, such that you hear the effect of a large outdoor environment. On the other hand, I did not like the synthesized “Dolby Surround” settings when applied to Somnium, as they tended to make the audio sound lumpy and compressed. Your mileage may vary, of course!
I don’t have a DVD player in my bedroom. How should I listen to Somnium?
You can listen to Somnium any time of day or night, so if you can’t figure out a convenient way to play it while you sleep, feel free to enjoy it during the day. On the other hand, if you want to play it while you sleep, you can experiment with some alternatives. You can always camp out in the room where you have your home theatre system. You will get the best sound this way. If you prefer to sleep in your bedroom, you can route a headphone extension cable from your DVD player into your bedroom, and try sleeping with a light set of open-ear headphones. The little “ear buds” work best for this, although they do have a tendency to fall out of your ears when you turn over. Headphones work best for people who can sleep comfortably on their backs without turning much. You can also try using small powered speakers near your pillow, plugged into the headphone extension cable. External computer speakers should work, although they won’t reproduce the low frequencies very well.