Imagine yourself in a symphony orchestra, approaching the cellos or string instruments virtually so as to learn about the sounds that make up an orchestra. That is what the residents of Quebec City and tourists experienced for a month in the “Symphonic Gardens.”
Initially, this initiative was motivated by a desire to introduce classical music to youths as a means of growing the concert-going public for Orchestre symphonique de Québec (OSQ). As is the case for many symphony orchestras around the world, the OSQ is attracting fewer concert-goers. The experience was launched on September 20, 2014 at Parc de l’Amérique-Française, east of the Grand Théâtre de Québec and ended on November 2, 2014.
After downloading the iPhone or iPad application from the App Store, visitors went to the park with their headphones. As in a traditional orchestra, the conductor stands before the virtual orchestra.
By following the pathway in the park, visitors get closer to the string or brass or percussion instruments and can isolate this or that instrument in order to immerse themselves in its distinctive sounds. Visitors may choose to stand at the podium like the conductor and experience the piece of music in its fullness. In all, visitors have access to 30 points of view for each piece of music.
The members of the OSQ chose the three pieces of music featured in this experience: two pieces by Bizet, including Carmen Suite No. 1, Prelude and Aragonaise and Farandole from L’Arlésienne, and Rossini’s William Tell Overture.
“We needed to use pieces that were relatively short but that showcased the strength of the OSQ, namely, technique and rhythm,” explains Jonathan Belisle, a partner at Saga, the production company that developed the project.
To create the Symphonic Gardens, the team recorded each instrument separately, then the orchestra as a whole, for all three pieces. When visitors approach a given zone, they hear a given instrument more clearly as if they were really strolling through the orchestra.
“We didn’t want people to have to look at their devices as they strolled around,” adds Jonathan Bélisle, “so we created signs to show them the way. Those who tried the experience said they found it very comforting. Our goal was to get people interested once again in going to classical music concerts.”
The application, created in collaboration with agency Version 10, presented by TFO, with support from Ville de Québec and Commission de la Capitale nationale, was downloaded 5,000 times during the campaign.
Following this strolling and immersive experience, Saga has developed a platform to replicate this type of soundscape in other settings.
This is a new and active way of listening to classical music.