PHOTOGRAPHS ( FROM LEFT ) COURTESY OF LA CAIXA FOUNDATION ; COURTESY OF THE HOUSTON SYMPHONY
FACE THE MUSIC Symphony transports audiences to Barcelona ’ s Gran Teatre del Liceu
for a concert conducted by Gustavo Duhamel — the first stop on a musical odyssey .
So far , this digital approach seems to be working . Not only has Symphony received critical acclaim , “ 70 % of spectators say the experience has inspired them to listen to more classical music , and eight out of 10 say it has stimulated them to go to a live symphony concert ,” says Elisa Durán , deputy general manager of La Caixa Foundation . And she ’ s not surprised . “ Technology manages to situate the spectator in the midst of the orchestra and at the heart of the music .”
A bridge to the future for classical music Today , VR technology tests the imaginations of cultural institutions as they look to the future . With the opportunity to reinvent themselves on digital stages , opera companies and orchestras must also adapt to the effects of new technology on their audiences . For one thing , “ We all have shorter attention spans ,” explains Houston
Symphony director Lesley Sabol , who says anticipating cultural shifts like these is essential to staying relevant .
While the traditional classical music concert is still at the core of Houston Symphony ’ s programming , Sabol says , “ We ’ re always looking for new and innovative ways to showcase the talents of the orchestra and to also collaborate with other mediums .”
Music Illustrated : Virtual Reality in Concert
. As the symphony played Debussy ’ s Clair de Lune
and other favorites , Austin-based visual artist Topher Sipes
performed live choreography while holding a paintbrush in virtual space . As the movement of both his body and brushstrokes synched to the music , the effect was evocative of a magic wand . “ I was enamored with Disney ’ s Fantasia when I was a little girl ,” says Sabol , who commissioned the performance . “ I always thought it would be interesting to do that in real life .”
On virtual stages across the globe , productions like Symphony ; Current , Rising ; and Music Illustrated have already demonstrated the power of combining VR and classical music to create a new kind of performance . What ’ s more , the technology has enormous potential for bringing performing artists ’ work to the greater public — whether it ’ s by erasing barriers of transportation and cost , transforming the stage by engaging more of the senses , or making the viewer an active participant .
“ What ’ s really exciting to me about this is the combination of classical stagecraft with what ’ s possible now with the magic of technology ,” says Mees . “ It ’ s sort of a hybrid model between the future and the past , and that reach across time feels really exciting and fruitful .”
MOTION PICTURES Digital artworks created by artist Topher Sipes during a performance of the Houston
Symphony ’ s Music Illustrated : Virtual Reality in Concert .
HP / INNOVATION / SUMMER 2021 65