Open Orchestra

What would happen if you were to take a classical composition, pull it apart it into its elemental pieces, and reassemble those, using a deceptively simple fractal algorithm from 1915 and a group of musicians willing to go along with almost anything?

Open Orchestra Play pulls its audience into a traditional orchestral pieces and lets them experience the familiar in a unexpected new ways.

The goal is simple: crack open classical music and make it accessible and fun for all audiences, regardless of age, location, or skill level. 

But, how we get there is more complex…

[OO] Play is the result of a co-production between the Copenhagen Philharmonic Orchestra, Danish creative studio Makropol, and Helios Design Labs. The [OO] Play you see today, started over four years ago, is built on thousands of lines of code, and several radically different iterations. 

In its current form, [OO] Play draws direct inspiration from ‘In C’, a seminal 1964 minimalist piece of music by the American composer Terry Riley, in which a series of short melodic fragments are played in a loop around a central beat. 

[OO] Play gives the impression of moving through a live orchestra, with layers of sound fading in and out, transitioning from sonic denseness to periods of contemplative calm, from a glorious brass section to a man whistling in a hallway.

At any point the audience is  invited to become part of the orchestra by choosing an available spot and recording themselves through a web-browser.  New members can follow the sheet music provided, but are encouraged to improvise.

It is these variations, that in the deeper layers take the music into entirely new directions, creating a living musical composition that evolves over time from the original classic to something unexpected and entirely new.

[OO] Play is one part of the larger Open Orchestra experience:  [OO] Room is a physical installation where children and grown-ups can create soundscapes and music by interacting with custom-built instruments inside a repurposed shipping container.

[OO] Live is an experimental concert series that takes the musicians of the CopenhagenPhil out of the concert hall to perform in unconventional spaces. The audience can walk freely amongst the orchestra, exploring the different melodies and instrumentations of classical music in a way few have been able to before.

For visual designers like ourselves, it was both a pleasure and a challenge to work on [OO] Play. We were faced with some fundamental questions about visualizing music: What does sound look like? How does sound move? How can we move through sound? And how can we be a part of sound?

We hope in turn that [OO] Play offers a pleasure and a challenge for you, the audience.