Virtual reality classical concert creates new experiences for fans

When a world-renowned orchestra performs at Princeton University, the music department’s vacant practice rooms usually are not where the action happens. But during the U.S. premiere of Future Presence, the sold-out immersive virtual reality installation, those empty rooms became center stage.

For four days, audience members were invited to experience performances by the Mahler Chamber Orchestra by strapping on virtual reality headsets and headphones.

In small groups, and with the assistance of volunteers, listeners wandered around on a virtual stage as dozens of digitally rendered musicians played legendary classical works.

The installation is the latest in the university’s Performances Up Close series.

Audio Engineer Henrik Oppermann adjusts VR headset for reporter Grant Hill. (Maiken Scott/WHYY)

“[The series] originally was formed to kind of break down a lot of the traditional barriers that people feel about going to concerts,” director of Princeton University Concerts Marna Seltzer said.

“We tend to do it in our concert hall in a very intimate setting with about 200 people with the musicians very close to the audience. This is a totally different way of thinking about ‘up close.’”

  • January 23, 2024
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