Philharmonia Orchestra's Virtual Playing

Have you ever wondered what it's like to be a part of an orchestra but fear that your lack of musical skills prevent you from finding out?

Devised by Finnish composer and conductor Esa-Pekka Salonen, the Philharmonia Orchestra has created a new audio-visual installation in the shape of Universe of Sound: The Planets. The installation is about to open in London’s Science Museum and the experience is designed to bring audiences closer than ever to the heart of the Orchestra. It is the follow-up to the Re: Rite virtual digital project that was unveiled in 2010. Speaking to Classic FM's Lucy Coward, the Philharmonia Orchestra's Managing Director, David Whelton explained...

“It’s very much about broadening the reach of the music that we play – the big symphonic repertoire - but actually to do that through contemporary technology. It’s a matter of choosing extraordinary pieces. The first one was Stravinsky’s Rite of Spring and then it was decided that the next piece that would really reveal all to the public would be Holst’s The Planets, hence The Universe of Sound.”

The idea behind this innovative project is to take an orchestra and setting it up into different virtual sections to give people an idea of what it’s like to be part of an orchestra in full flight.

Whelton continues, “When you come into the installation you go from room to room and in each room you can sit within the section of the orchestra that’s playing. That’s projected onto the screen in high definition and with a really superb sound reproduction.

“It’s rather like being a member of the first violins or a member of the cello section and in other places you can sit and actually play along and some of our musicians will be there to help you. In other areas of the exhibition you can actually conduct the orchestra and this is a great deal of fun.”

Moreover, by allowing people to move from one section of the orchestra to the next they’ll not only hear things in a completely new way, they’ll also be hearing things for the first time.

“The surprising thing is that however well you know these pieces I was hearing parts that I’d never heard before,” enthuses Whelton.

There’s no doubting that fans can further appreciate the process of playing music with other people, a fact that Whelton is understandably proud of.

“It’s extraordinary and something you’ll never forget,” he smiles.

Listen to the full interview with David Whelton below

Listen to the full interview here