Taking Music to New Audiences with the Philharmonia Orchestra

Sunday 15 February 2015
Philharmonia Orchestra, image courtesy of Benjamin Ealovega.

Philharmonia Orchestra, image courtesy of Benjamin Ealovega.

The Philharmonia Orchestra and Falmouth's Academy for Innovation & Research (AIR) have combined forces, helping to bring the Orchestra's latest digital touring experience to the South West.

A consortium project funded by Arts Council England, iOrchestra harnessed the Philharmonia's expertise in digital technologies to ignite interest in classical music among new audiences.

The Philharmonia Orchestra's Managing Director, David Whelton, remarked, "We are quite simply blown away by the warmth of the reception this project has received ...It has been thrilling and often genuinely moving to see the effect that this immersive, accessible way of offering an insight into the world of an orchestra and into the visceral, exciting experience of orchestral music has had on the audiences we've welcomed to iOrchestra over the last 13 weeks."

The Philharmonia's digital team was joined by Falmouth specialists, led by Associate Professor of Digital Craft Dr Justin Marshall. Together they helped realise MusicLab – the specially commissioned mobile education installation. Justin commented, "MusicLab was designed to bring interactive digital music activities directly to local communities. Having worked with the Philharmonia to help convert instruments to this new medium, it was great to see local residents, schools and community groups all get involved."

The Falmouth team included Andy Smith, digital technologist assistant and Concept Shed's designer & engineer, Sam Lanyon. During the research and development phase carried out at Falmouth's Makernow FabLab, the team came up with several world-first solutions. Adding sensors to orchestral instruments from the cello to timpani, they created digital MIDI devices capable of interfacing with MusicLab's on board computers. Justin adds, "The goal was always to make the instruments look and feel as real as possible."

He continues, "At Falmouth we place great emphasis on pushing creative boundaries through the convergence of traditional practices with digital technologies, so it's a fitting collaboration to work with the Philharmonia, who share this ethos."

iOrchestra saw over 45,000 people enjoy a musical feast of live concerts, large-scale and pop-up installations between April and July. The two-year education programme has a South West regional focus and doubled its audience participation target for this, the first year.

For more information about Falmouth residencies and collaborations visit: falmouth.ac.uk/air