Red {an orchestra} - Second Life

An orchestra performs live in the virtual world

The background:

In Second Life, an online digital “community” created in 2003 by Linden Labs, a user creates a cartoon-like character that s/he controls with the mouse and keyboard. These representations, called avatars, interact through various activities such as taking classes at universities, listening to lectures, trading goods and services for money, and even attending classical music concerts. Second Life uses a currency that can be traded for U.S. dollars, and although the exchange rate floats, it usually stays at about 270 “Linden Dollars” for one U.S. dollar. It is difficult to track the number of consistent users in Second Life (as opposed to one-time sign-ups), but on a recent Tuesday morning, for example, close to 42,000 users were currently online, and over 1.1 million U.S. dollars had been spent in the previous 24 hours as a result of various transactions.

Several orchestras and artists have entered this online community including the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic, the Sinfonia of Leeds, Red {an orchestra}, and pianist Lang Lang. The Mellon Foundation chose Red for one of the grants it awards to orchestras for exploring new ways of connecting their communities. Red was selected for using Second Life to accomplish these goals. Additionally, the orchestra wanted to bring classical music to new audiences (especially between 20 and 40 years old), to de-mystify the art form, to make it successful, and to bring people to concerts in a real concert hall.

How it worked:

The orchestra decided to use three locations for performance inside Second Life, and built three identical re-creations of their hall on the virtual landscape.  Rather than creating avatars for each member of the orchestra, this time-consuming process was avoided by placing a large screen on the stage of the virtual hall so that a live feed from the actual concert could be streamed onto the screen in the virtual hall. Red spent over $100,000 (including in-kind donations) on the technical side of production.  Twelve cameras were positioned throughout the hall, some handheld, some strung overhead, and some in stationary locations. Sound design used mics that were different from those needed for regular recording; this facilitated the streaming and condensing of sound quality for projection over the internet.  Additionally, audio and visual engineers were needed for real-time editing throughout the performance. 


The musicians themselves were excited to be a part of the process; their enthusiasm was matched by that of the audience.  One gentleman was pleasantly surprised as his five-year-old son watched for the duration of the concert (in this household, the internet connection had been connected to the TV).  There happened to be a significant snowstorm the weekend of the concert, so many ticket holders decided to stay home and watch the performance online while still maintaining the community feel of a of the concert hall – albeit a virtual one.  During the concert, an audience member in the virtual concert hall asked a question to the moderator. “What’s that sound I’m hearing?” The moderator responded, “Oh, that’s a toy piano.” Whereupon the camera crew was informed to focus on the instrument, giving the questioner an immediate answer along with visual corroboration.  Such an experience could never take place in the traditional setting of the concert hall. But in the virtual world, informality leads to comfort and education. Red would love to continue the practice, but needs sponsors to underwrite costs that would otherwise be prohbitive.

For additional info contact:

Laura Kuennen-Poper, Artistic Manager, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.