How Google VR is providing audiences with a whole new look at classical music

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Classical music is set for a tech-friendly makeover after one of the nation’s top orchestras announced a new partnership with Google.

The Royal Philharmonic Orchestra (RPO) is teaming up with the technology giant to provide music fans an in-depth look into its work like never before.

The tie-up will allow users to get an insight into the RPO’s new season and the musicians behind it thanks to a new 360-degree virtual reality experience hosted by Google’s Arts & Culture website.

Google’s Jump camera has been used to capture a performance of Bartók’s Concerto, conducted by Venezuelan Rafael Payare and directed by John Williams, allowing viewers to experience it from a seat among the musicians.

To mark the partnership, the RPO has also designed an online exhibition giving an in-depth look at every instrument, as well interviews with the musicians themselves. 

(Image: © RPO)

In tune

"The new partnership really gave us an opportunity to look (at classical music) through the prism of modern digital technology,” James Williams, managing director of the RPO, told TechRadar Pro.

“As an orchestra, we must remain relevant to society - and we all know that we are in a digital age at the moment, and therefore we need to think really carefully about how we can position our product within that digital context, without losing the USP of what great orchestral music is.”

“The VR gives a user or audience member access that otherwise they would just never have the opportunity to have.”

The RPO has been in existence for more than 70 years, but Williams, who joined the organisation recently, is looking to further its technology work further and continue attracting new audiences.

The launch comes shortly after recent YouGov research reported that 65 percent of British adults said they enjoyed listening to orchestral music at some point during their typical week – and that classical music has overtaken rock and jazz as the genre people say they would most like to learn more about.

Williams says that the RPO has always had a reputation for innovation, and the partnership with Google is simply the next step along as it looks to exploit the latest digital technology to further its work.

“It’s an exciting toe in the water for us,” he says, “there’s a real sense of collaboration - we aren’t a technology company, so it’s a perfect marriage!”