Communications Director and Creative Director, #ConcertLab
If a decade ago you’d have told me the summer of 2018 would be spent finding out all there is to know about heavy-duty projectors, trusses and sharkstooth gauze, my reaction would have been total bemusement. Then probably laughter.
And yet, though I’m still no expert, I can now tell you about winching mechanisms, thread densities, lumen figures, codecs and a whole lot more besides. I’m a lot of fun in the pub.
So, the obvious question: why?
Later this month, we’re planning our most technically ambitious #ConcertLab yet. We’ve long aspired to see how projection might interact with the narratives inherent within classical music, and in fact looked into the possibility this time last year. #ConcertLab is all about probing new boundaries of classical music, and part of that learning curve in 2017 was discovering the technical complexity - and sheer cost - of a projection project.
Fast forward 12 months and we’re now in the midst of a vast undertaking.
At the centre of it all is Ravel’s Mother Goose, a piece that grabbed our attention because of its richness of storytelling. Based on fairy tales, the assumption was that having stories as a starting point would be helpful - and it has been, sort of. It’s just that the complexity of Sleeping Beauty, Beauty and the Beast, Little Thumb and other such tales belies their childhood innocence; just beneath the surface lay dark and fascinating undercurrents.
It was never our intention to create a Disney-like accompaniment, but rather to explore how thought-provoking visuals might unlock some of the music’s meaning without overshadowing it. A session with Southbank Sinfonia’s musicians unearthed not just their interpretations of the music, but also how they as artists saw projections and orchestras interacting. A collaborative vision began to emerge.
Two themes that kept arising were memory and time. Ravel was eager to see the world again through childhood eyes, and in one sense the fairy tales transport us back to a time of greater innocence. Yet for all the beauty, so abundant in Ravel’s rich orchestration, there are complex emotions at play. Is it possible for an adult, now aware of all that is to come, ever to see childhood in the same way as we first lived it? How does the passing of time affect our ability to remember it accurately, if at all?
Development sketches and planning as the visuals begin to take shape
When one begins to think about the moral conundrums in Charles Perrault’s original fairy tales, only more questions arise. Stories that are three centuries old inevitably need refreshing to maintain their relevance to modern society (just stop for a second and ask yourself why Sleeping Beauty can only be rescued by a Prince who kisses her without permission…), but at their core remain questions that haunt us all: What is life, and how are we living it? Would our childhood selves be happy to know of what we’ve become - and the journeys we’ve taken to get there?
These are huge topics, but all there within the music along with infinite others. Our hope is that vast, ethereal, floating projections might help provoke thought, and in turn unlock just one new way of experiencing Mother Goose.
A visualisation gives a hint at how the performance (might) end up looking
Yet despite months of planning and designing, we won’t really know how the experiment unfolds until the night of the performance. All the elements will combine then for the first time; ideas newly tested. That’s part of the pioneering thrill of #ConcertLab, and we’d love for you to be a part of it. Book your free tickets now, then engage your senses on 27 September and let us know how it felt.
RUSH HOUR #13: ATMOSPHERE
Thursday 27 September 9.00pm
St John's Waterloo
COPLAND Quiet City
DANI HOWARD Silver Falls
RAVEL Mother Goose