Martyn Ware - The Future Of Music As Immersive Art And Entertainment
Creativity in music and the arts is what makes our lives worth living…
Over the past 13 years, my three-dimensional soundscaping practice Illustrious has created immersive sound experiences in large-scale urban environments, in galleries, museums, warehouses, theatres, opera houses, architectural interiors, domestic spaces – in fact pretty much anywhere you could imagine sound to exist in your physical world. We have also, of course, created composition for the digital world, and more traditional diffusion methods – TV, film, radio etc. – but today I’d like you to imagine the sonic world of the future…
Our experience with Illustrious has led us to believe that there are many exciting new possibilities for improving people’s sensory experiences, and not just from a traditional ‘event’ based point of view. We believe that as the world spends more and more time gazing through a tiny porthole into a virtual world (both at their workplace and increasingly at home), that there is a greater hunger for communal activity which creates not only diversion and amusement but imparts cultural significance to their lives.
Music has always been a powerful tool for this purpose, but we are now entering an age where processing power and the ubiquity of technology and in particular ‘apps’ is making us all more curious and more hungry for new experiences in the real world environment.
The 20th century was dominated by radio, film and television, and therefore, by default, a sense of reassuring linearity of narrative, evolving from our shared history of storytelling. The limitations of this are that the audience is largely told what to think, based on the ‘wise man/listener’ model – whereas our 21st century world is moving rapidly towards a less proscriptive model, when looser, less time-based narrative frameworks allow the observer to populate the ‘experience’ with their own very personal interpretation or meaning.
This is the nexus – the core philosophy which will drive ever more exciting, innovative and significant experiences for all of us in the future.
As an artist myself, I have always believed that one should never underestimate the intelligence of the audience and willingness to ‘go with it’ however daring – in other words to trust the people, not patronise them.
By way of example- last year during the Olympics, London was an amazing place – many, many new and exciting artistic public installations, financed and supported by a myriad of public, commercial and cultural organisations.
Illustrious were commissioned to create two amazing works – one was a 3D soundscape recreation of ‘golden moments’ from previous London Olympics, which took place on the approach to Wembley Stadium – but the most exciting was Tales from the Bridge – a 3D soundscape covering the entire 400 metre length of the Millennium Bridge – a composition of ambient, atmospheric drifting electronic music, overlaid with a beautiful, bespoke, Ted Hughes New Poetry Prize-nominated script by famous poet Mario Petrucci. Also featured was the astounding Water Night composition by Grammy winning composer Eric Whitacre – featuring 3,500 choristers spread out over the entire length of the bridge. The total effect was one of a kind of ‘magic realism’ – allowing the 4 million visitors who witnessed it over 8 weeks to become engaged in a non-proscriptive but meaningful meditation on the meaning of this part of London and the river itself – social history, poetry, geography, technological insights and sonic beauty stimulating many areas of the mind simultaneously. Simply put, people were mesmerised, and of the 40 or so installations commissioned during the Olympics by the GLA, Tales From The Bridge received by far the most publicity and praise.
Now this is interesting enough, but I lost count of the number of people who contacted us (and told us directly) that in their opinion, this (or something similar) should be installed permanently, as it significantly enhanced their experience of their visit, and that it would be befitting of a city embodying the best of many cultures from around the world to have such ambitions. In particular, it is obvious that many of the installations we, and others, create increase the enjoyment and multicultural, multi-demographical access to culture, entertainment and meaning.
It is very important that, as the lives of people in cities becomes more and more stressed and chaotic, that we actively seek to improve the experience of urban living, rather than just accept our fate.
Immersive public experiences, daringly and passionately curated, will make our lives more livable in a more enjoyable future.
Martyn Ware, Illustrious Company, July 2013
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