Music Walk: new music in public places

Award Information

AHRC ref: AH/E005969/1
Discipline: Music
Funding opportunity: Fellowship
Areas of Impact: Creative Industries; Culture and heritage; Digital technologies; Knowledge exchange; Policy influence
Lead RO: University of Sussex
Region: South East

Digital technologies are changing the way we experience the world around us and how we engage with creative and cultural experiences. A research project, in collaboration with BBC Proms and Transport for London, has explored the potential of new media technologies to create new music experiences for audiences in public places.

Project lead Tim Hopkins held an AHRC Fellowship between 2007 and 2012 at the University of Sussex, through which he undertook a series of projects to explore the potential for new media technologies in music theatre.  As a result of this work, Hopkins was approached by BBC Proms to produce Music Walk. The Music Walk initiative commissioned 10 new compositions from a range of contemporary composers, inspired by 10 different locations around the Royal Albert Hall. The pieces were then made available online for public participants to experience in the locations that inspired them, during a 1.5 hour performance attracting 600 live participants.

Through advance sign up to the free performance, participants were orchestrated into mobile clusters traversing timed routes. Groups were provided with instructions, playlists and performative tasks to heighten their artistic experiences at the various locations. Beyond the performance itself, 5961 additional visitors accessed the experience over a two month period through the project website with 2664 listeners and 903 full playlist downloads.

Richard Whitelaw, Head of Programmes at new music promoter Sound and Music, received “outstandingly positive accounts [of audience experiences], characterised by a sensation of engagement that can be hard for contemporary music to achieve”.

As well as the cultural and artistic enrichment through music and place that this experience gave to the participants, the project has had further influence on the BBC, Transport for London and Sound and Music.

Steve Bowbrick, Interactive Editor for BBC Radio 3, confirms that the project has presented the BBC with a significant new model for projecting new music to a broad audience. It is now influencing the future thinking of BBC Radio 3 regarding the use of mobile media. “As a project which reached out to the public in what was for us a significant new format - using online to link place, new music and audience in a focused way - it had a significant impact not only on participating audiences, but on our continuing debates around how we reach and stimulate audiences in the future”.

Transport for London saw the project as an innovative way to extend its activities in incentivising walking as a mode of travel, in enriching the experiences of London’s urban environment as well as supporting cultural content across the city in the future.

Sound and Music has continued its work with Hopkins, commissioning further research to extend the principles of Music Walk throughout London and into an exportable model for other cities. This work is contributing to efforts to bring new art music to a wider audience and to enrich public space.

For more information on the project visit: timhopkinsworks.com/bbc-proms-music-walk-2012/

Gateway to Research Project Links: Some uses of new technology in lyric theatre, in relation to intermedial mise en scene in theatrical staging, and the remediation of operatic media, Jun 07 - Dec 12