A spatialized work for hundreds of musicians that will have its world premiere in a Virtual Reality environment.
The North Carolina State University Department of Music, with additional support from the Raleigh Civic Symphony Association and the Concert Singers of Cary, has commissioned acclaimed composer Lisa Bielawa to create Brickyard Broadcast, a spatialized work for hundreds of musicians that will have its world premiere in a Virtual Reality (VR) environment designed by the digital media teams at the NC State University Libraries, in two events on November 12, 2020 at 6pm ET and November 13, 2020 at 2pm ET. The Brickyard Broadcast VR environment will remain online, accessible to the public for free. Details about the November premiere events will be announced in early October.
Brickyard Broadcast uses technology and interactivity to reinterpret the North Carolina State University Brickyard, the university’s beloved and iconic gathering area outside of D.H. Hill Jr. Library, as a virtual space in which the musical performance will unfold. Hundreds of audio recordings will be integrated, created over the course of the fall 2020 semester by individual student and community musicians playing and singing in isolation under the guidance of Lisa Bielawa; Dr. Peter Askim, Director of Orchestral Studies, NC State Department of Music; and Dr. Nathan Leaf, Director of Choral Activities, NC State Department of Music. Musicians from NC State University choirs, NC State’s Raleigh Civic orchestras, and the Concert Singers of Cary will be participating. Jason Evans Groth, Digital Media Librarian; Colin Keenan, University Libraries Specialist; and Kyle Langdon, University Library Specialist and Audio Engineer, will lead the creation of the VR environment and the online premiere performances.
Brickyard Broadcast represents an energizing and participatory artistic process designed to help address the challenges faced by orchestras and choirs during this prolonged period of social distancing. Rather than staging a synchronous performance via remote platforms, Brickyard Broadcast allows musicians to create sonic-visual avatars of themselves that can come together virtually in a playful, interactive common space which mirrors their own campus common space, opening up the gathering to anyone in the world who wishes to join them there.
The piece will be a 20-minute work that viewers can experience either from start to finish in a curated sound experience or in a self-guided modular way. Nine separate musical groups will animate the various areas of the virtual Brickyard, creating an immersive sound experience for anyone who visits the site, accessible either with VR interface or, in a 3-D stereo version, via any personal web device.
While Brickyard Broadcast will be developed expressly for VR premiere, because it will have been designed expressly for the landscape of the Brickyard at NC State, it has the potential to be mounted as a physical performance with groups performing at varying distances from each other on the Brickyard itself. In either case, whether online or in person, every audience member’s experience will be completely unique, depending on how they choose to move among the sounds they hear.
Organic to this sound experience will be the texts that the choirs are singing – fragments taken from the writings of various thinkers from a broad historical range who mused on the phenomenon of people gathering in common space, and the indomitability of song: Gertrude Stein („A refusal to sing is one thing, to go on with a song is not wrong.“); H.G. Wells („It takes a multitude to make such a stillness“); Wallace Stegner („There it was, there it is, the place where during the best time of our lives friendship had its home and happiness its headquarters“); plus Anne Bradstreet, Phyllis Wheatley, Frank Lloyd Wright, Charles Ives, and Walt Whitman.