Booty Call

Now this looks like serious fun. “PLAY.orchestra” is an outreach project by the Philharmonia Orchestra over in the UK. They’ve set up an outdoor courtyard with 58 boxes like this one:

trumpet box
Each box represents an instrument, and the boxes are laid out like an orchestra. Sit on the box, and it starts playing that instrument’s individual part in a piece. Bring a mob, and you can hear the whole band. The boxes loop two new pieces a week: something from the standard rep, and a commissioned piece from a young composer. (This week’s premiere is Flux by Fung Lam.)

I don’t know what kind of response it’s getting, but the orchestra is certainly giving it a go. There’s weekly “guided tours” of the virtual orchestra, to which you can add your own real instruments—all the commissioned pieces have extra parts suitable for amateurs. And there’s technical types there to show you how to record the resultant sounds as a cellphone ringtone.

This is so brilliantly goofy that I’m currently researching what kind of burnt offerings I need to make to get it across the Atlantic. Can you imagine setting loose a gaggle of kids on these things? You could fill up Boston Common with them and do Mahler 8. You could stuff the technology into seat cushions and make everyone at Fenway park it for the national anthem. This is perfect for people who are supposedly too put off, intimidated, whatever, to go into a concert hall. It’s out in the open and effortless—all you need is your butt. I wonder how “Song to the Moon” would sound.

2 comments

  1. I think the novelty might wear off during the first month. And the neighbors might not be very impressed. Still, I think it’s very cool. You might need to learn how to orchestrate who sits where and when….

  2. Yeah, this is happening at South Bank, which is, as far as I can tell, pretty isolated from residential areas. On the other hand, living in Boston does tend to give one a kind of “if they neighbors are annoyed, well, then, they must <>deserve<> to be annoyed” attitude towards these kinds of things…. Thinking about the choreography, I wonder if you could come up with a <>completely different<> yet still coherent piece by having people sit in pre-determined places at pre-determined times. Kind of like a do-it-yourself Foss “Baroque Variations.”

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