Arts + Culture

UCLA Herb Alpert School of Music presents West Coast premiere of ‘Synaesthesia Playground’

The interactive, multimedia show redefines the classical concert experience

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Synaesthesia Playground
Dave Sweeney

With its combination of music, visuals, biometrics and interactivity “Synaesthesia Playground” is a performance for almost all the senses.

“Synaesthesia Playground,” an immersive, interactive classical concert event as dependent on its audience as on its performers and technologists, will have its West Coast premiere March 2 in UCLA’s Schoenberg Hall. Audience participants will become de facto musical instruments, by using their own smartphones to gamify the music, and interact with the pianist on stage, as well as with one another.

Conceived by Jocelyn Ho, assistant professor of performance studies at the UCLA Herb Alpert School of Music and a Young Steinway Artist, the production brings together an internationally renowned team of musicians, computer scientists, visual artists and fashion designers. The artistic collaboration, which also features six newly commissioned multimedia works for piano, results in a mesmerizing, one-of-a-kind experience.

“Synaesthesia Playground is a testament to the interdisciplinary outlook I bring to the school,” Ho said. “By using these interactive technologies, the piece blurs the boundaries between performance, musicology, theory and composition, refreshing our creative processes and bringing the classical music concert into the 21st century.”

Said Neal Stulberg, professor of orchestral studies and music department chair: “Jocelyn’s debut recital at UCLA is a signature event in the life of our performance studies area in the school of music. ‘Unique’ is an overworked adjective, but this performance will be truly so — a concert experience unlike any other, engaging the listener in new and provocative ways.”

The visual effects of Synaesthesia Playground, designed by visual artist Nobuho Nagasawa and fashion designers Bopha Hul and Troy Arnold, include bio-responsive optical fibers that have been built into the performer’s attire. This interactive, wearable technology pulsates and changes color in tandem with the performer’s heartbeat, breathing and movements.

In stark contrast to the visuals created by the wearable tech, multimedia artist Takafumi Ide and composer and multimedia artist Celeste Oram, create video projections onto the body of the piano, reimagining the instrument as a living organism with a “skin.” The design elements of their composition highlight the contrast between the external nature of the sound of the piano, and the visceral, biodynamic responses relayed by the performer playing it.

Along with Ho, Synaesthesia Playground’s collaborators hail from lauded institutions around the world and include: composers Daniel Weymouth, Sidney Boquiren, Andrew Batt-Rawden and Anne Sophie Andersen; composer and multimedia artist Oram, visual artists Nagasawa and Ide; fashion designers Hul and Arnold; software engineers Drew and Al Petersen, Pierre Depaz and Ben Hinchley, and computer scientist Roy Shilkrot.

A short post-concert talk with Ho and Nina Eidsheim, UCLA professor of musicology and the author of “Sensing Sound: Singing and Listening as Vibrational Practice” (Duke University Press), immediately follows.

Tickets for the March 2, 7:30 p.m. performance at Schoenberg Hall cost $15 for general admission and $10 for UCLA faculty, staff and students with valid UCLA ID. Tickets may be purchased at the door or by calling the UCLA Central Ticket Office at 310-825-2101 or online. A reception will follow the performance and post-concert talk. 

Synaesthesia Playground’s official partners are HUL ARNOLD SpectrumNYC and it is proudly sponsored by the office of the vice president for research at Stony Brook University.

This performance is presented as part of the school's chambermusic@ucla program. It is made possible by the David and Irmgard Dobrow Fund. Classical music was a passion of the Dobrows, who established a generous endowment at The UCLA Herb Alpert School of Music to make programs like this possible. We are proud to celebrate this program as part of the 2016-17 Dobrow Series. 

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