Balconi was 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 2021. It exploited the architecture of The Harris Museum, spacing musicians across four floors around a central column of space. The event, which was supported by the Arts Council England and Preston City Council, made use of the technology first-person cameras and binaural microphones, in order to closely replicate the experience of being in the event space itself.
Balconi short feature
Remote audiences inhabited a choice of three immersive first-person perspectives via three (what we called) ‘avatars’ led by Jon Aveyard. The avatars were 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.
The piece was filmed from multiple perspectives and recorded with binaural microphones that constantly moved throughout the performance. The immersive quality experience delivered via screens and headphones enabled audiences to feel that they were journeying through the acoustic and architectural environment within which the performance was staged. The specially commissioned music was created by the musical director Simon Partridge with his band, Cold Bath Street.\
Balconi was inspired by early 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 performance was created for a socially distanced environment but it was intended to overcome those limitations and create an event in which musicians could still deliver a live music performance and express new forms of communal bonding. While representing the sense of loss and dislocation experienced by many during the Covid outbreak, this performance ultimately offered hope in the persistence of human interaction even under the most adverse conditions.