Connection, Technology, Fun04 November 2019 by Marc Taddei
I seem to always write about the importance of connecting with audiences, but as i write this post in sunny California, after having just performed two marvellous concerts with the Vallejo Symphony Orchestra, the topic is again in the forefront of my mind. In the case of the VSO, there is an inescapable feeling that the connections that are being formed with our audience, and the support they show in return, is being mirrored in the renaissance of downtown Vallejo. I love the intimate and clear acoustics of the Empress Theatre, and am gratified by the feeling of community and fun that is clearly conveyed by the players and the public.
Speaking of fun (and building connections), Orchestra Wellington has been using technologies to further increase our ability to make connections, and reach out to ever more diverse audiences.
The final concert of our 2017 was a major contributor to this strategy, as during the concert we recorded Beethoven’s Third symphony for the first vinyl release in NZ for over a generation (and CD, too), as well as recording a 360 degree virtual reality video of the Sacrificial Dance from The Rite of Spring.
We are indeed fortunate that along with audio recorded by our friends at RNZ Concert, the 360° filming, editing and interactions were done by Wellington VR/AR specialists, MIXT.
The resultant video puts the viewer at the centre of a symphony orchestra experience, and brings all the emotion of a multi-sensory challenge.
“The finished product immerses you into the world of the symphony conductor, standing on the podium to lead a 90 piece orchestra as they perform the powerful Rite of Spring by Igor Stravinsky in front of a full 2000 person live audience,” says Orchestra Wellington’s Marketing Manager and project co-ordinator Marek Peszynski.
Orchestra Wellington was an award winner in 2016 with its New Zealand made 360° video, based on the final movement of Beethoven’s Symphony No.9. With MIXT’s help, Peszynski believes it’s gone one better with the world’s first virtual orchestra video with a full live audience.
The experience really does feel quite real, and even to the extent that when you turn around, you can see the audience. The only disconcerting thing about the experience, is that when you look down, you will not see your own feet!
Recently, Orchestra Wellington and I recorded the first movement fro Beethoven’s 5th Symphony, to form the base for the next step in virtual reality. While the Rite of Spring was fun, and it gives the listener and viewer the perspective of a conductor, we really wanted to turn the experience into a kind of game, allowing the viewer to actually be able to conduct the orchestra themselves, controlling tempos, entrances and cutoffs!
The orchestra had a lot of fun recording the video and audio for this, as we also had to record mistakes, and various responses from the ecstatic to the rather less so! We even got our 2000+ size audience at a recent subscription concert to politely applaud, give a standing ovation, and then (most fun!) give the most extreme “booing” I have ever experienced in a concert hall!
The game is only weeks away from release, and I can’t wait to share it with you! It is (like all things we do) fun, urbane, and designed to share our love of music, building lasting connections.