Music staff at the University of Central Lancashire plan to create a ground-breaking performance at Preston’s Harris Museum and Art Gallery this month.
Balconi is a site-specific live music performance of a specially commissioned piece conceived in direct response to corona virus and performed in a COVID-safe environment on 21st March. It exploits the architecture of The Harris Museum, spacing musicians across four floors around a central column of space. The event, which is supported by the Arts Council England and Preston City Council, makes use of the technology of binaural microphones, which will closely replicate the experience of being in the event space itself.
The event producer Les Gillon explained, “Remote audiences will inhabit a choice of three immersive first-person perspectives via three (what we call) ‘avatars’ led by Jon Aveyard. The avatars are artists carrying cameras and wearing binaural microphones to take the audience on a journey through the space capturing the event unfolding within the visual and acoustic perspectives afforded by different regions of the building. Jon Aveyard has for 20 years used and developed techniques around binaural recording. He has recently released two albums by his Third City project which links acoustic instruments to digital devices to enable live sampling. His solo release Points of Audition (2020) was recorded over the last three years using binaural microphones to record ensemble music improvisations.
Balconi was inspired by TV images of the pandemic seen in the UK, citizens of Naples and Tuscany coming together singing and playing from their balconies and windows: those scenes are echoed in the architecture of the Harris. Balconi both represents that moment in time and demonstrates the challenges of lockdown for human communication and artistic interaction.
The piece will be filmed from multiple perspectives and recorded with binaural microphones that will constantly move throughout the performance to make the viewer feel as if they are in that space. The immersive quality experience delivered via screens and headphones will enable audiences to feel that they are journeying through the acoustic and architectural environment within which the performance occurs.
The specially commissioned music, ‘Self Isolating Clouds’ has been created by the musical director Simon Partridge who, with his Cold Bath Street Band, has collaborated with artists from France, Morocco and China as well as with internationally renowned musicians such as Carl Palmer and Damo Suzuki. The band has released three albums and performed at events across the North West including Preston Jazz & Improvisation Festival and Ribble Valley Jazz & Blues.
The performance has been created for a socially distanced environment in which musicians can still deliver a live music performance and express the new forms of communal bonding. Les Gillon said, “While representing the sense of loss and dislocation experienced by many during the Covid outbreak, this performance will ultimately offer hope in the persistence of human interaction even under the most adverse conditions.”