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Friday 12 March 2021

UCLan musicians pioneer new approach to Covid-safe live music

Live performance will take place in the Harris Museum and Art Gallery on 21 March

Music fans are set for a taste of live music with a difference thanks to a ground-breaking performance being created by a team of University of Central Lancashire (UCLan) academics.

On 21 March, Preston’s Harris Museum and Art Gallery will host a Covid-safe site-specific live music performance but the event will use specialist technology so those watching at home will feel like they are there.

A specially commissioned piece of work, conceived in direct response to coronavirus, will be performed by musicians spaced across four floors and around a central column of the famous building in Preston City Centre.

Balconi, 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.

Event producer Dr Les Gillon, UCLan’s Associate Director of the Creative Practices Research Academy, explained: “Remote audiences will inhabit a choice of three immersive first-person perspectives via three ‘avatars’ led by Dr Jon Aveyard, who has used and developed techniques around binaural recording for the past 20 years. The ‘avatars’ are artists carrying cameras and wearing binaural microphones and they will take the audience on a journey through the space capturing the event unfolding within the visual and acoustic perspectives afforded by different areas of the building.

“It was inspired by television images of the pandemic as citizens of Naples and Tuscany came together to sing and play 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 ‘avatars’ are artists carrying cameras and wearing binaural microphones and they will take the audience on a journey through the space capturing the event unfolding within the visual and acoustic perspectives afforded by different areas of the building"

Dr Les Gillon, UCLan’s Associate Director of the Creative Practices Research Academy

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, which takes place between 1.30pm and 2.30pm, 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 said: “While representing the sense of loss and dislocation experienced by many during the Covid-19 outbreak, this performance will ultimately offer hope in the persistence of human interaction even under the most adverse conditions.”

For more information on how to watch visit the X-Periments In Sound website or follow along on Facebook.

12 March 2021