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Science Museum Shows Us Inside An Orchestra With The Universe Of Sound

The London Science Museum is one of those places where people only tend to visit in two periods of their lives: first when they are at school and learning for the first time about the wonders of the universe, electricity, and various scientific inventions for the engine to clocks; and then again when they are a parent. But every time you visit you can’t help be filled with enthusiasm about science and notice how we take so much for granted from mobile phones to the internet, or more relevant to here at AudioMelody – the science of sound and music – and it makes us wish we went more often

For a while now the Science Museum have been putting on “Lates”, where adults can grab a beer or glass of wine and enjoy the exhibitions for themselves – and currently the focus is of the interplay between science and music. There are various exhibits demonstrating this interplay, such as the role of samplers and how modern musicians can manipulate sound like never before – but the main attraction for me was the current Universe of Sound exhibition with the Philharmonia Orchestra (video above).

The Universe of Sound takes you from the position of audience member into the roles of the various musicians in the orchestra with 360 degree film projection and multi-channel audio. You feel right at the centre of the action – right there with each of the 132 piece orchestra – and with Philharmonia musicians in each stage of the exhibition, it is great to learn of their experiences first hand.

Where technology and sound really comes together in the exhibition are, however, the conducting booths. The grand scale of the orchestra is demonstrated beautifully with the orchestra’s rendition of Gustav Holt’s The Planets – and it is difficult to appreciate quite how important the conductor’s role is in keeping everything working so smooothely in unison. There’s a fascinating explanation of conducting by Principal Conductor and Artistic Advisor of the Philhormonia Esa-Pekka Salonen where he describes the importance of staying reserved in style, as difficult as that is whilst the music crescendos around you. And then you are able to test out your own ability to conduct in the booths with motion sensor cameras watching your hand movements to keep time and shape.

Just like many things in life we take so much for granted these days, it is amazing to see the skill and passion of these musicians brought to life through technology, and the Science Museum exhibition is wonderfully engaging and entertaining as much as it is informative.

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