How the Lion Learned to Moonwalk
And Other Stories on How to Design for Classical Music Experiences
TABLE OF CONTENTS | 1. Introduction | 2. Weaving Audience Engagement | 3. Creating Visual Design and Meaningful Audience Experiences | 4. Teddy in Space | 5. Shadow Play | 6. The World Online Orchestra | 7. Joystick | 8. A Concert with Striking Force | 9. Lots of Brass, Lots of Colors | 10. Opus Lux | 11. Epilogue
CHAPTER 9. This text was originally published on pages 78–83 in the book ‘How the Lion Learned to Moonwalk’, which summarizes the Designing Classical Music Experiences project.
Lots of Brass, Lots of Colors
Those entering the foyer ahead of the brass concert find several installations on the ground floor of the Copenhagen Opera House. Each installation explores the relationship between music and color, and there are musical instruments (trombones) available for people to play. On a large TV screen, streams of colored particles represent the musical sounds that are picked up by a microphone when playing the trombone. People are also invited to take their own ‘particle LED light’ into the concert hall and use them to accompany the music. When seated, the link becomes obvious: Music and colors become one during the concert.
Concept, Prototyping, Production & After the Concert
Researchers and students from the School of Design, joined by two students from Malmö University, delivered concepts and prototypes for the Musik2Go brass concert. They also took responsibility for the production of visuals connected to this concert. This brass concert, a specialized concert with the eldest of the Royal Danish Theatre’s ensembles, was planned ahead of our involvement through the Interreg project.
Arthur Maria Steijn and Jakob Ion Wille, artistic researchers at the School of Design, drew a chronological structure showing the connections between visual design, experiences and activities for the audience before, during and after the live concert (see figure 1).
For this concert Arthur and Jakob decided to work with color as related to music. There were two reasons for doing so. (1) Historically, colors and music have been linked in many ways. Many people, from philosophers to musicians and composers, have explored this connection. (2) Color is the first visual experience the brain registers; color is perceived slightly ahead of forms and shapes.
Several ways in which colors might relate to musical tones and music and how these could be presented were considered during the development phase of the concept for the brass concert. The researchers and students from the School of Design, joined by two students from Malmö University, worked on the manner in which color-music relations could be explored by the audience in the foyer in advance of the concert, and how these could be unfolded through, for example, large screen video projections during the live concert. Some discussions and ideas are depicted in figure 2.
In order to create a narrative as well as a sensory connection between the music produced by the brass instruments and the planned color-oriented video projections in the concert hall, the authors of this chapter developed the Airflow Narrative – the story of how airflow is produced. How it begins in the lungs, then flows through and is shaped by the mouth, and then ‘blown’ into the mouthpiece of an instrument where it circulates through tubes, controlled by mechanical frequency-regulators before finally generating musical tones.
The concept phase was followed by a laboratory for testing and prototyping in the classroom and our film- and photo studio at the design school.
Under a short prototyping phase the activities and visualizations for the time before (1), during (2) and after the live concert (3) were further defined:
(1) The period before the live concert would provide the attending audiences with an opportunity to gain insight into the history of the various systems of the connection between music and colors. At four stations, the music-color relations were represented – either in text, motion graphics, and/or interaction (see 1a–1d in figure 1). It should thus be possible to investigate these relations, as well as playing the instruments while being assisted by musicians.
(2) During the concert, the music-color relationships would be further displayed using video projections, interactive light and other interactions linked to aspects previously introduced and experienced in the foyer.
(3) The time period after the live concert would be dedicated to gathering feedback from the audience and technicians.
In order to portray color, we chose to use colored rounded, soft edged particle shapes throughout the event.
Researchers and students from the School of Design focused primarily on visualizations for the before and during periods, and on audience interactions for this during period. The students from Malmö University focused on audience and light interactions during the concert. Figure 3 shows drawings and stills from the prototyping.
Several ideas and principles tested here were used in the final production.
Before the live concert, as illustrated in figure 1, four stations (1a–1d) were established in the foyer of the opera. The audience could explore color-music relations in the foyer in advance of the concert (figure 4).
(1a) The Sound-Color Station was a billboard comprised of texts and images that informed the audience of some of the central theories regarding the relationship between music and color – for example, Aristotle’s ideas, Isaac Newton’s concepts, and Goethe’s thoughts on the subject.
(1b) At the Color to Music Station, the audience was invited to make sounds based on a historical color scheme. Here, one could use a so-called trackpad to control an on-screen color wheel that, in turn, generated brass-like sounds.
(1c) At the Music to Color Station, the audience – under guidance from musicians – could play musical instruments. The music played was then visualized interactively in the form of colored particles on a screen. The shape and direction of the particles was depending on the music’s frequency and volume.
(1d) The Color to Color Station gave an introduction to the LED light interaction, which was to be used to generate colored particles during the concert.
During the live concert, several color-particle related video projections – as well as interactive light lanterns – could be experienced (figure 5).
After the Concert
The time after the concert was to be used to gather feedback through interviews, and a questionnaire was to be sent to the audience. The questionnaire, including questions on how the activities in the foyer and the video projections during the concert were experienced, was unfortunately never distributed.
The musicians from the brass group were, for various reasons, not actively involved in the process. However, the students from Malmö University worked very well together with the students at the School of Design, as well as with the outreach department and the technicians at the Royal Danish Theatre. Future collaborations seem very likely.
Royal Danish Theatre, researchers and students at the Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts, School of Design, and students at Malmö University.
The production period for the School of Design and Malmö University was around three weeks. The only opportunity to test and tweak the visuals was during the dress rehearsal the day before the premiere, which was on May 11, 2014.
Text: Arthur Maria Steijn, lecturer, PhD fellow, and artist (MFA), and Jakob Ion Wille, lecturer, PhD fellow, and dramaturge (MA). Both are affiliated with the Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts, School of Design in Copenhagen, Denmark.