The Houston Symphony opens its Bank of America Summer Sounds Series at Jones Hall with an innovative event offering audiences a new multi-sensory way to experience classical music. Virtual Reality in Concert: Music Illustrated, the first full length orchestra concert of its kind, is a cutting-edge program on June 14, in which Austin-based artist and dancer Topher Sipes wields Google’s Tilt Brush technology to create life-size 3D images via virtual reality in real time onstage. He’s choreographed to such iconic works of classical music as Stravinsky’s Firebird, Saint-Saëns Danse Macabre, and Debussy’s Clair de Lune, led by conductor Ming Luke and performed by the Houston Symphony in this unique concert experience.
“When I first saw Fantasia in the movie theater as a child,” says Houston Symphony Director of Popular Programming and Virtual Reality in Concert creator Lesley Sabol, “I became obsessed with the concept of pairing visual art with music. For years, I’ve been trying to recreate the magic onstage, in real time. From the minute I discovered the Tilt Brush, I knew I wanted to use this technology in performance with the orchestra. It is truly magical. After several years of research and planning, I found the perfect collaborator in Topher.”
Sipes explains: “During the concert, I am onstage creating expressive artwork in real time using the Tilt Brush. I love to dance to music, particularly instrumental music. I treat the virtual canvas like a dance floor upon which to express 3D artifacts of my hands’ movements. I approach visual art tools as ‘visual instruments’ where my ear’s sensitivity to rhythm and melody is integral to the creative process.”
The music for this family-friendly event comprises works that are well-known and tell a story. Select pieces on the program−such as Stravinsky’s Firebird, Saint-Saëns’ Dance Macabre, and Debussy’s Claire de Lune−then are visually interpreted onstage by Sipes wielding the Tilt Brush. At each performance, Sipes creates unique artwork, allowing audience members to go home with virtual souvenirs of the experience. Before each performance, audience members are invited to try out the Tilt Brush for themselves in a special area of the lobby.
For more about Virtual Reality in Concert: Music Illustrated as well as a Tilt Brush demonstration, go to https://www.houstonsymphony.org/virtual-reality-concert-music-illustrated/.