• Virtual Reality (VR) experience The Virtual Orchestra is released on Sony’s new PlayStationVR platform on Monday 8 May 2017
  • The experience is the first VR production from a symphony orchestra to be released natively on the PlayStation PSVR platform
  • The Virtual Orchestra presentation will return to Southbank Centre in September 2017 in an extended format, to be presented as part of the opening weekend of the Classical Season, and as part of Nordic Music Days

The Philharmonia Orchestra and Principal Conductor & Artistic Advisor Esa-Pekka Salonen announce the next stage of their project to develop virtual reality as a medium for orchestral music, with an app release on the PlayStationVR platform and a return to Southbank Centre with The Virtual Orchestra experience.

The Virtual Orchestra, created in a partnership between the Philharmonia Orchestra, Southbank Centre, London-based VR specialists Inition and music publishers Music Sales, will be the first app from a symphony orchestra to be released on the PlayStation PSVR platform. The Orchestra worked closely with INITION and Sony’s R&D teams to create this first VR film, one of the highest-quality full-360 3D stereoscopic video and spatial audio live-action VR films yet to be released.

The presentation, featuring the Philharmonia at Southbank Centre in full 3D audio and 3D video will be released as two apps on the PlayStationVR store: Preview (£0.99) and Premium (£2.99). The premium version is a 14-minute experience, and features a backstage documentary film followed by a full performance – conducted by Esa-Pekka Salonen – of the third movement of Sibelius’ Symphony No. 5, on-stage at the Southbank Centre’s Royal Festival Hall.

The Virtual Orchestra app is released in Europe, ahead of a wider international release. Sony’s PlayStation is emerging as a dominant player in the nascent VR market, with nearly one million PSVR headsets sold since its launch in October 2016.

Esa-Pekka Salonen, Principal Conductor & Artistic Advisor of the Philharmonia Orchestra, said: “The incredible power of virtual reality is that it is disappointing to leave it - to come back to reality. There is no doubt that for classical music virtual reality will be a very powerful, useful medium, and I am very excited to be taking part in this project.”

Helen Sprott, Managing Director of the Philharmonia Orchestra, said: “This special release cements the Philharmonia Orchestra’s status as a sector leader in the emerging market for Virtual Reality. We firmly believe in VR as a tool for both reaching new audiences and diversifying new revenue streams for the Orchestra. Many thanks go to our partners at Sony, Inition, Southbank Centre, Music Sales and, of course, Esa-Pekka Salonen, without whom this ambitious project would never have happened.”

Peter Collis, Head of 360/3D Film Production at INITION, said: “Philharmonia Orchestra and INITION were keen to explore the potential of VR as an insight into what it is like to be a conductor at the heart of the performance. We felt it vital to strive for stunning 360° imagery and crisp, clear positional sound so that the viewer has the full freedom to explore the detailed craft and workings of some of the world’s most talented musicians.”

The release follows a number of tech industry showcases throughout 2016, including a WIRED conference in London, Sound & City in Tokyo, the Rio Olympics, SXSW, CAL Berkeley, which followed the original launch of the Philharmonia and Esa-Pekka Salonen’s VR project, at The Virtual Orchestra project at Southbank Centre’s Royal Festival Hall in September and October 2016. The Guardian described the project as: “an extraordinary glimpse inside the sights and sounds of a symphony orchestra.”

The Virtual Orchestra will return to Southbank Centre from 28 September to 1 October 2017 with a presentation in the foyer of the Royal Festival Hall, and featuring the long-form VR experience that forms the premium version of the app release. Audiences will be able to experience the Philharmonia in virtual reality for free as part of both the opening of Southbank Centre’s classical season and the Nordic Music Days weekend, of which the Philharmonia, Esa-Pekka Salonen and violinist Pekka Kuusisto are part of the programme.

Future projects
The Philharmonia Orchestra and Esa-Pekka Salonen are committed to continuing to develop the potential for Virtual Reality as a medium for engaging new audiences with classical music.
In June 2017, as part of a project with a major technology partner, full details of which are to be announced, the Orchestra will release a second Virtual Reality experience, which will be premiered at Sheffield DocFest from 9 to 13 June 2017.
Philharmonia Digital Director Luke Ritchie said: “Orchestras have a long track record of technological innovation. From the Philharmonia’s early adoption and development of stereo and multitrack techniques in Abbey Road in the 1950s, through Herbert von Karajan’s pioneering use of video to capture live performances in the 1960s and 1970s, Esa-Pekka Salonen has continued that tradition with a decade of creative projects with the Philharmonia’s in-house Digital team.”


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