Teddy in Space: Children Co-creating a Classical Music Experience

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

HOW-THE-LION-CHAPTER04-FIRST-PAGECHAPTER 4. This text was originally published on pages 42–47 in the book ‘How the Lion Learned to Moonwalk’, which summarizes the Designing Classical Music Experiences project.

Download the book here.

FULL REPORT | Teddy in Space

The case description below is a shortened version of the report ‘Teddy in Space: Playful Experiments With a Symphony Orchestra’s Children Concert’.

Authors: Marie Ehrndal and Erling Björgvinsson, Malmö University.

Preview or download the report (3.5 MB).

Teddy in Space: Children Co-creating a Classical Music Experience

The doors open and in an instant, hundreds of children crowd the foyer. Sitting still for almost an hour, which the children attending the Teddy in Space concert have just done, has taken its toll. The children want to move and be activated. The foyer has been prepared with interactive installations where the children can use their excess energy, but there is also a table where they can put on headphones and play with the music they have just heard. Through these activities, the concert hall’s foyer becomes a platform for social interaction between visitors, but also between the visitor and Malmö Symphony Orchestra.

Extending an experience in time and space
The objective of the Teddy in Space experiment was to explore how you can extend a family concert in both time and space. Central questions were: How can classical music be made more accessible to children? And how can children be involved in co-creation before, during, and after the concert?

Over a period of several months, a number of concepts and prototypes were developed. One prototype was a music-composing application for smartphones and tablets, the Teddy in Space app, in which children could play with original music composed specifically for the Teddy in Space concert. The app could be tested in the concert hall’s foyer prior to the concert, as could two interactive installations made by students. The app was available for download, which made it possible to bring the composing activity, and the overall music experience, home after the concert.

Designing engaging user experiences and enabling co-creativity requires many diverse skills. That is why the app was developed by a multi-talented team with skills in music composition, sound design, programming, interaction design, and graphic design.

Audience engagement activities
The most central audience-engagement activities for Teddy in Space were:

– user tests of the app where a group of children could test and give feedback on how the app should work

– the Teddy in Space app that encourages musical exploration and basic composition, where you can turn sounds on and off, as well as add and play with your own sounds (figure 1)

– workshops and user tests of two interactive installations, where groups of children tried out different concepts to inform the students of what concepts to technically implement

– Teddy’s Magic Hoops, where children triggered music by throwing their teddy bears through colorful rings hanging from the ceiling (figure 2)

– Teddy’s Space Program, where children could trigger and affect the behaviour of lights and sounds by interacting with tangible objects such as large buttons and wheels (figure 3)


Making music through children-centred activities
The Teddy concert was extended in space through the designed activities in the concert hall’s foyer. These activities ranged from physically active to very calm, and it is clear that this was a successful combination since most children found an activity they enjoyed.

The activities in the foyer were designed so that the children could engage in a different form of listening and recomposing parts of the performed music. One of the interviewees described how her youngest child had a hard time focusing on the concert, but how the space theme and the music became more relevant when it was appropriated to conventions and modes of interaction the child was used to. For example, through interacting with the Teddy in Space app and throwing a teddy through Teddy’s Magic Hoops.


“My older grandchildren loved the concert, and everyone appreciated the concept as a whole. It was great that they could use their teddy bears and I think that the activities in the foyer really spoke to them. They were ecstatic to the point where they did not want to go home.”

The primary tool for extending the concert in time was the Teddy in Space app, which could be played in the foyer both before and after the concert. It could, of course, also be brought home by downloading it to your personal smartphone or tablet, which further extended the experience in time.

In the app, children could engage in co-creating classical music by turning sounds on and off, by playing sounds backwards and by ‘throwing them away’, and by recording their own sounds, which when played were integrated into the composition. The children sometimes played alone, and sometimes took turns playing with siblings, friends, or parents.

The recording of sounds proved to be the most popular feature of the app. Some children made faces and gestures while recording, which suggests that they were trying to dramatize their play, and perhaps connect to the experience they had just had in the concert hall where they had first heard the music.

Evaluations show that the app was used at home several days after the concert, but it was reported that children who had been introduced to it at the concert had an easier time to understand what it was about. Through the evaluation, many parents and grandparents also gave feedback on both the app and the content and form of the concert, such as choice of music and duration. Given the opportunity, the members of any audience have many insights to share.

Parent about the Teddy in Space app:

“My four-year-old is really into it! He records all three satellites and then plays them back simultaneously. Sometimes we record one voice each, and he connects it to space by singing the Star Wars theme, ‘daaa-daa-da-da…”.

Extending the concert and the overall experience in space—from the stage into the foyer—proved to be a great platform for social interaction, and thus for deepened audience engagement. The foyer was a much appreciated contact point for the visitors to meet and have a dialogue about the concert. It became evident that the audience appreciated being able to express their opinions about the concert, previous concerts, as well as talk about their relationship to Malmö Symphony Orchestra. For example, one grandmother said proudly that she had been bringing her grandchildren regularly for about ten years.

A need for greater musician involvement
The most obvious take-away from these experiments is the need for both temporary and more permanent meeting platforms to support and facilitate dialogue between the audience and Malmö Symphony Orchestra. These platforms may be digital, but they need to be combined with face-to-face meetings, such as those experienced in the foyer after the Teddy in Space concert. These offline social platforms are crucial to establish mutual trust and are the basis of long-term engagement.

The Teddy in Space app had several design flaws, which would need to be addressed if trying to promote the app to a wider audience. For example, it wasn’t clear that you had to touch and manipulate the ‘Sun’ in order to progress forward, and the explorative and compositional possibilities were quite limited. Further, the app didn’t have so-called multi-touch (that is, when you can do two things or more simultaneously on a screen), which made the app hard to play with in a more collaborative way.

The visual aesthetic in the concert hall and the foyer were not harmonized, as the many partners had too little communication in between them.

Last, the production team agreed that musicians should have been involved to a greater extent, both in the production of the foyer installations but also by simply being in the foyer to talk to and play with children and parents.

Malmö Symphony Orchestra, researchers and students at Malmö University, students at the Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts, School of Design, composer Nicklas Schmidt, programmer Rikard Lundstedt, and super-users Sam, Esmeralda, Klara, Minna, Hedda, Ebba, Nils, and their parents.

Learn more
Read the full Teddy in Space report
– Download the app from App Store (iOS) or Google Play (Android)
”Nalle i rymden” – en musikupplevelse bortom tid och rum
Nalle i rymden: testraketen är iväg
Nalle i rymden – Policy för integritetsskydd
Student project: making the Nalle concert format more co-creative
Nalle-projektet presenteras på seminariet Scenkonstens digitalisering

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