Isolated musicians create hypnotic ‘Sacrificial Dance’ with light-boxed Stravinsky

22 March 2021, 14:30 | Updated: 22 March 2021, 15:16

Isolated musicians create hypnotic ‘Sacrificial Dance’ with light-boxed Stravinsky
Isolated musicians create hypnotic ‘Sacrificial Dance’ with light-boxed Stravinsky. Picture: Ensemble Symphonique Neuchâtel/YouTube

By Maddy Shaw Roberts

Way to keep the music alive…

In a time when even the smallest groups of musicians are unable to physically gather, a group of 34 performers met virtually to perform the chilling ‘Sacrificial Dance’ from Stravinsky’s The Rite of Spring.

The musicians, all members of the Swiss Ensemble Symphonique Neuchâtel, perform the entire meal of jarring cross-rhythms while locked in individual lightboxes.

“Each musician recorded their part inside a purpose-built light box – alone with the music and the image of the conductor in front of them,” the ensemble explains on YouTube.

The resulting video, which combines musical performance and state-of-the-art light design, is a spellbinding piece of theatre that feels – while live performances are still scarce – just about as close to the ‘real thing’ as virtual music-making can get.

Have a watch…

Warning: video contains flashing images

Read more: This is what really happened at the Rite of Spring riot in 1913 >


All the performers, conductor included, were filmed and recorded separately.

“No individual performances were copied and pasted but, instead, musicians of the relevant orchestra sections returned to the light box sometimes as often as five times, in order to record up to five different instrumental lines,” the ensemble says.

“They did so in order to meet Stravinsky’s original requirements for the number of strings and wind instruments, as the composer had intended the piece for 91 musicians.”

Read more: A maniac has synced the Teletubbies with Stravinsky’s ‘Rite of Spring’ and I’m scared >

The unique video project is the brainchild of The Ensemble Symphonique Neuchâtel (ESN), their artistic director and conductor, Victorien Vanoosten, and Swiss visual artists agency Supermafia, who created the stunning design and sound-to-light technology.

A brilliant way to achieve a profound new take on a century-old work, and a striking 21st-century homage to Stravinsky. Bravo, all.