On 29 September, just before the semester begins, a new concert format will be celebrating its début in the Wiener Konzerthaus’s Berio Hall. This evening will see an interactive, trans-genre concert experience featuring classical music and electronic soundscapes connect the analogue world with the digital realm for the very first time.

With Let’s Play, the mdw and the Wiener Konzerthaus have dared to take on an experiment, and we’re very happy that they’ve done so.

Hannah Baumann, Godot Komplex

Godot Komplex © Thi Thuy Nhi Tran

In the field of Musikvermittlung, which revolves around strategies of audience and community engagement, it had long been the case that digital concert formats were non-existent as a topic. But now, with Let’s play: Connection Loading, the concert collective Godot Komplex is introducing an innovative concept that enables dimensions beyond the frontal performer-audience paradigm to be experienced while uniting analogue and digital elements.
The catalyst for this concept was Let’s Get Digital, a 2021 competition for hybrid concert formats initiated by Axel Petri-Preis of the mdw’s Department of Music Education Research, Music Didactics and Elementary Music Education (IMP): “The idea came to me during the pandemic when the question arose as to how artists could remain connected with their audiences during the numerous lockdowns. It seemed like digitisation had already advanced a great deal farther in many other areas of life than it had in the world of classical concerts—and thus also in Musikvermittlung. So we were interested in finding out just what added value and/or possibilities might lie in the digital realm and just how analogue and digital elements might be combined.”
The competition’s call for entries was designed as a measure to support young musicians and as a way of motivating them to work on new formats. The cash prize of € 5,000 was meant to not only reward the entrants’ own work but also enable them to call on experts for support. The concert collective Godot Komplex, who ultimately prevailed in this competition, appreciates this initiative quite a bit. “In our line of work, this call for entries has so far been something entirely unique. We’re happy that the mdw has dared to take on this experiment, and the resulting opportunity means a lot to us.”

Ella Estrella © Thi Thuy Nhi Tran

The competition succeeded in bringing Wiener Konzerthaus on board as a cooperating partner—which was a great thing for the winners, since the Konzerthaus agreed to augment the prize by a non-cash component: performance of the winning concept as part of a Wiener Konzerthaus concert series. “The visibility that a major concert venue can provide can, we think, be very important for a young ensemble. What’s more, they benefit from the support that such an institution’s organisational and technical departments can contribute to their project’s realisation,” explains Axel Petri-Preis. For the Wiener Konzerthaus, Let’s play represents an opportunity to do justice to its declared goals of supporting up-and-coming young musicians and both developing and realising up-to-date participative formats. “We’re very happy indeed to have added a unique and innovative format to our programming with the collective Godot Komplex and their production Let’s play: Connection Loading. The integration of digital components into a performative sound concept makes possible an entirely new dimension of participative musical experience for young adults”, says a pleased Mira Possert, responsible for education in the Konzerthaus’s Concert Planning & Administration Department.
The central theme of this evening is connection: how can analogue space penetrate the digital realm, and how can the strong points of the digital be translated for the analogue? The upcoming performance will revolve around three classical works on three stages set up in the Wiener Konzerthaus’s Berio Hall. “We’ve applied our overarching theme—that of connections—to the music, as well, with accordingly chosen pieces. Like Pieskārieni (Touches) by Pēteris Vasks”, says Godot Komplex’s Johannes Worms in description of the musical concept. “The audiences moves from stage to stage. And with relatively short blocks of about ten to twenty minutes each plus interactive elements, our goal is to have our audiences spellbound again and again.”

Hand cameras wielded by the audience in the hall create a concert experience for gather.town’s digital audience as well as on location and also make it possible to take up differing perspectives. © Lea Röwer

The digital audience will simultaneously inhabit gather.town, an online video conferencing platform that allows users to build virtual spaces with a gaming-style look to them; in this case, those present there will experience a digital version of the Berio Hall. In gather.town, the digital participants will also be able to build their own avatars and move them between the various spaces as their representatives at the concert. A moderator will be on hand to provide the digital audience with orientation and information on what the evening will contain. “We’re looking to make it possible for the digital audience to take part in the concert in more ways than just by watching the live stream; we also want to have the digital space become a quasi-palpable, all-over experience,” says Hannah Baumann of Godot Komplex about the fundamental idea behind Let’s play.

We’d like to render this new format less scary and prove that it all works in a sensuous, intuitive, and playful way.

Johannes Worms, Godot Komplex

At the same time, the intent is to also use interactive elements—the digital realm’s strong points—to help create a richer analogue concert experience. “In gather.town, we can use mini-games to help the stage set-up breaks go by faster. And we’d like to transfer these kinds of interactions to the analogue concert hall, such as by using audio-generative visuals—meaning the generation of music in the concert hall by way of greenscreen keys”, says Godot Komplex’s Franziska Hiller in description of how the two worlds are to be melded. A further connection will arise thanks to the employment of hand cameras, which the audience will be using on-site to create a concert experience for the digital audience. In addition to being streamed digitally in gather.town, these live videos will also be projected on screens at the Konzerthaus. “The hand cameras mean that for the first time, it’ll be possible to get really close to the artists and also take up differing perspectives”, says the multimedia artist and musician Ella Estrella, who developed this new format in collaboration with Godot Komplex, with no small delight.
“It was initially hard to imagine how these two audiences would be able to simultaneously take part in a concert experience and how we might manage to generate excitement for both”, recalls Johannes Worms. “But the point is to deal with precisely these aspects and render them less scary, to prove that it all works in a sensuous, intuitive, and playful way. And in doing so, we also want to encourage other event organisers and festivals to try out new formats and concert narratives.”

Participation is possible both on location and online. Tickets

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