Nothing brings the work of composer Anna Meredith to life in a moving 360-degree experience. BBC is using virtual reality to immerse an audience in classical music. This shows that there’s more to the Proms (an annual eight-week music event centered around London’s Royal Albert Hall) than an orchestra on a stage.
The new VR experience is part of Five Telegrams – a joint venture between composer Anna Meredith and artists 59 Productions. This explores methods of communication used during World War One including telegrams, propaganda, and letters from the trenches. The result is a virtual concert in two parts: an immersive recording of Meredith’s composition performed by the BBC Orchestra on the first night of the Proms, and a short, deeply moving the first-person experience focused on just one movement – a piece called Field Postcards.
Letters from the Front:
Field postcards are a hugely popular way for soldiers on the front line to communicate with their families back in the UK. Nothing to be Written shifts between two worlds – the trenches and hospital wards. The cards were sent. The cozy hallways have arrived. All emails were censored. These cards were simple multiple choice forms.
Soldiers could tell their loved ones whether they were well, had been admitted to a hospital, or had received a recent letter. They were forbidden from adding any extra detail. “You as the viewer are the person receiving the postcard, but I didn’t want to be specific about you being in any one story,” Lysander Ashton, director of 59 Productions, told.
All the cards 59 Productions gathered say ‘I am quite well’ – words that echo throughout Meredith’s choral score. An audience member came to the event in Edinburgh tweeted the team with the postcards from her great-uncle, said ‘I’ve been wounded’. The soldier somehow managed to get a scrap of text. The censors saying ‘Please warn Vera’. There was also another postcard dated four years later, showing that he had survived.
Ashton says that experiencing with others is still important. “I think you come out and then you want to talk to people about it,” he said. “The last VR piece we did was called “My Name is Peter Stillman’. We did in the foyer at HOME in Manchester. It was so good having it. People could talk about it. “It’s quite a short, sharp trip. It takes a little processing afterward to come down. It isn’t a multi-user experience. I think there’s something useful in doing the same thing at the same time. A large part of the shared experience of going to the cinema or theater is talking about it. It is necessarily interacting with each other during the performance.
There are different ways of experiencing orchestral music. Opening up the idea of what a Prom concert can be. Lysander Ashton says that installing VR works in public spaces is essential for reaching a wide audience. “My Name is Peter Stillman” was only up for a few weeks. Almost 5,000 people experienced it. “That’s definitely whether the Proms coming at,” he said.
Creating for Oculus Go:
59 Productions choose Oculus Go as the platform for Nothing to be Written, and the lightweight, comfortable headsets work well. “I think the Oculus Go is really interesting,” Ashton said. Until I did this piece, it was six-degrees-of-freedom headsets. But the quality of the optics and the whole package made me think that it makes a lot of sense. Because you can get the audience out there. I think there’s a fear with all of the Google Cardboard stuff that the quality of the experience is so poor that people go ‘Oh, I’ve tried VR, it’s no good.’
The amount of stuff in the store has been made for these things is so small. The amount of content specifically designed for these headsets goes up. It’s expensive and time-consuming to make things like this. I think that the studios and the headset manufacturers need to fund more content creation. “That’s why we need the manufacturers and the studios to step in. The tools are improving. Unity and Unreal interfaces to work from within VR are really helpful. I think that the studios and the headset manufacturers need to fund more content creation.”
Virtual reality Prom
The VR Prom will be held at Beit Venues Imperial College Union on August 21, with sessions running from 7 pm. “There’s going to be a series of events,” said Ashton. “This is just the first one. The details or the others are yet to be confirmed. We have a number of events planned, particularly around November for the Armistice.” Nothing to be Written will also be released for audiences at home to experience on Oculus Go headsets at home. Wikipedia Uses Artificial Intelligence