Maestro: Students working with Copenhagen Phil

The design brief from Copenhagen Phil was to experiment with how the World Online Orchestra (WOO), an online remixing tool for classical music the orchestra is working on, could work as a collaborative physical installation. The central idea behind WOO is that online audience can explore, discover and rework a recording of Beethoven’s fifth symphony where every instrument is placed in a separate channel that can be turned on and off. The aim with WOO is to broaden their audience spectrum to include people who are not frequent concertgoers.

This post summarizes one of the concepts developed during ten weeks of collaborative work between masters students and the cultural institutions in the project Musikalsk Oplevelsesdesign. See an overview of all four concepts here.

Text written by Erling Björgvinsson.

Maestro, a concept developed by interaction design masters students Balazs Gobel, Björn Lind, Lu Jin and Maria Houlberg-Laursen, is a public interactive (physical computing) installation where people for a short period of time can together discover, play and reinterpret parts of Beethoven’s fifth symphony by regulating the volume of five sound pipes. Three blue pipes loop recordings of the separate sections of the orchestra – the brass section, the wood instrument section and the rhythm section – while two green pipes loop more contemporary sound recordings such a synched drum beat. The installation also invites for rhythmic interpretations, as people could jam with drumsticks on the pipes. Further developments of the installation could include pipes that would allow people to record and play back their own recording that are erased when new recordings are made. A different use of the installation would be to connect the sound to live rehearsals “leaking” out from the concert hall.

The concept is grounded in insights gained from design workshops, surveys of the field relating to peoples attitude to classical music, remix solutions and remix culture, and the building of a functioning prototype that resulted in these insights:

  • people that are infrequent consumers of classical music feel alienated from the classical music culture; from the the music as well as the code of conduct upheld by the subculture;
  • a momentary playful, collaborative, and embodied engagement with classical music was preferred over solely screen-based or online interaction;
  • a physical installation should be simple to understand and engage with;
  • the experience creates the music, i.e. it is not the music that creates the experience when you design co-creative music installations and events;
  • larger engagement is achieved if classical music is just one element amongst others, where classical sound-bites co-mingle with more popular musical expressions;
  • the physical reworking and re-mixing is more easily achieved when the sounds are short, which makes the source harder to identify.

The last two bullet points suggest a different, but highly fruitful, design direction to explore which the students sketched. Such a design direction would focus on creating a more co-creative approach where classical music meets popular music and user-generated beats, song fragments and concrete field recordings resulting in unique composition and concert based on the sounds uploaded by people and the Copenhagen Phil.