Some months ago, Ravensbourne was approached by the London Symphony Orchestra to create a promotional website for its St Luke’s venue, including videos explaining the use of the various rooms at the premises. I pitched the idea of a map-based interface using the plans of St Luke’s as the route to the videos for each room. But the LSO also owns a Balinese gamelan, a gong-based instrument which a group of people play in loop-like patterns. One of my students, who graduated in 2013, had created a working drum machine in HTML5, which used loops of drum beats. I suggested we could try to recreate something like this, but using gamelan notes, as a shareable experience for the St Luke’s premises that would have viral marketing potential. The LSO liked all these ideas, and we began the project.

We enlisted three students to work on the production – one Web developer (Zoe Bryant), one sound designer  and recordist (Martyna Staruszniak), and one filmmaker (Charles Heales). The project is a great example of transmedia production for commercial ends. The story may be for marketing purposes, but it tells the tale of St Luke’s and its many possible uses along four basic themes in a non-linear, participatory fashion that parallels creative, artistic narratives. Visitors are encouraged to explore the premises and its many facilities, but they can also find a specific use if they need to.

The map-based interface to the videos works well, looks both aesthetic and contemporary, and the videos are beautifully shot. However, the real tour de force is the gamelan section. This has two levels. The learning page introduces examples of the instruments and the sounds they make, with a description of each one. There’s also an example recording of the LSO’s gamelan in action. But you can also head to the Compose page and create a pattern with the simple sequencer, then listen to the results. There’s a sample composition by Andy Channing, the LSO’s resident gamelan expert, to give you an idea what kind of music to compose. It’s also possible to share the compositions you make via social media, which is the feature we hope will most get people visiting the site to share it with their friends, so that its reach spreads virally. Well, that’s the theory, anyway! Give the site a try and see what you think.

6 thoughts on “Virtual Gamelan for the London Symphony Orchestra

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