In 2009, the perfectionists of pomp at the Phiharmonia Orchestra launched Re-Rite, a “digital residency” allowing members of the public to sit inside sections of the sonic squad.
© Science Museum
To the sound of Stravinsky’s The Rite of Spring, mere musical mortals could even help leader Esa-Pekka Salonen conduct the troupe and, since launching at the South Bank, the venture has proved so successful that it’s off to China and Turkey between now and the end of the year, having already toured to Leicester, Lisbon and Dortmund.
Now, in a ten-room projection at the Science Museum allowing visitors to become a musician, conductor, arranger or composer in the fleet, the Universe of Sound will, in the words of the Orchestra’s Head of Digital, be “five times faster and ten times more exciting” than its pioneering predecessor.
“We learnt through Re-Rite that, far from being an elitist artform, there is a colossal public enthusiasm for experiencing classical music, and for stepping inside a real, live orchestra,” says Richard Slaney, calling the project “the perfect fusion of science and the arts.” “We can't wait to show people how thrilling a live orchestra really is."
The digital installation features 360-degree projections of the 105-piece orchestra, with connecting pods leading participants through this extraordinary virtual performance.
This time around the chosen piece is Gustav Holst’s The Planets, and you can use conductor simulators and move your hands in front of screens to control parts of the orchestra, before accessing a recording of your efforts online.
Each room will contain instruments and sheet music, but more accomplished classical connoisseurs will also be able to bring their own in. Musicians from the orchestra will also be in attendance each day.
“This project offers everyone, from the very young to the very old and the absolute novice to the experienced musician, the chance to step right into the heart of one of the world’s finest symphony orchestras,” says Salonen, who will be acting as principal again.
“Our world is by turns preposterously loud, pin-drop quiet, highly-charged, intense and frequently overwhelming.”
Anyone who’s experienced London on a hot summer’s day might feel they’re well prepared for such a prospect, which Science Museum Director Ian Blatchford – a “passionate lover of classical music” – says will “conquer all the boundaries between art, science, technology and medicine” in an “incredibly imaginative” way.
Devised for the Cultural Olympiad, it will tour to cities including Birmingham and Canterbury next year, although anyone unable to rouse their senses in person will have plenty of opportunities to take part in online versions offering bespoke camera angles, dynamics, commentary, listening guides and virtual tours.
- Universe of Sound opens at the Science Museum on May 23 2012. Visit www.universeofsound.co.uk for more.