25 June 2012 by Jason Goodyer
Well, help may be on the way in the form of the Universe of Sound installation at Kensington's Science Museum, where Philharmonia, one of the UK's top orchestras, are inviting members of the public to join them in an interactive HD performance of Holst's Planets Suite.
The concept was devised by the orchestra's principal conductor and artistic advisor Esa-Pekka Salonen and follows on from the hugely successful RE-RITE, a similar project which opened in London in 2009 and has since toured Leicester, Lisbon, Dortmund, Tianjin and Izmire.
Universe of Sound is constructed from a performance of the Philharmonia Orchestra shot on an array of 37 cameras over the course of a single day on 24 January 2012. The resulting footage has been spread out amongst a series of ten different rooms allowing visitors to wander through the differing sections of the orchestra, from the brass to the woodwind to the percussion and so on. Throughout are giant screens showing close ups of the various musicians, and a planetarium-style dome projection giving a complete panoramic view of the full 132-piece orchestra at the end.
Wandering through the installation is a surprisingly intimate experience that at times feels vaguely voyeuristic. The visitor is brought face-to-face with the musicians and invited to watch them as their minds wonder when not playing before bursting into life at the appropriate moments. Splitting the orchestra down into its component elements in such a way leads visitors to the exhibition to become more aware of the constituent components of the symphony orchestra and also of how finely balanced it all is.
Stationed throughout are live instruments, including marimbas, drums and a gong with a deeply satisfying clang, which museumgoers are able to pick up and play alongside the orchestra. Those who do actually know their minim from their mixolydian, or those who just fancy dusting off their old violin and having a screech, are invited to take along their own instruments, station themselves in front of the provided sheet music and get involved.
But those with less musical ability or experience need not feel left out as they can still try their hand at conducting, or at least virtual conducting. Though this, as anyone who tries it will soon find, is still something of a challenge. The installation's conductor simulator features a three-screen display showing the full orchestra as well as visual instructions, and uses Microsoft's Kinect technology to track the movements of the virtual conductor's hands. Standing in front of a 132-piece orchestra is an intimidating experience even in the virtual world and the act of conducting, even virtually, is far more difficult than it looks. Adding to the pressure are the raucous coughs that start emanating from the virtual audience should your baton skills not prove up to scratch.
Universe of Sound is running at the Science Museum until 8 July 2012, admission is free. Visit www.sciencemuseum.org.uk for more information.
Posted By: Jason Goodyer @ 25 June 2012 04:07 PM General
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