Interactive music

Interactive music

The House of Music in Vienna is a big draw with music lovers of all ages and tastes, offering a unique multimedia world where you can see, feel and hear all kinds of music. An impressed Aruna chandaraju reports.

In the 20 minutes I spent in the music room with animated interactive technology, I saw an Austrian mother, trying –– unsuccessfully –– to persuade her two children to leave the terminals they were at and move on to the next room, and then home.

Finally, she gave up and came and stood beside me, with a resigned expression on her face, saying: “It happens every time we visit. These kids find it so fascinating.”
She could have added the youth, the middle-aged and the old too. The renowned House of Music in Vienna is a big draw with music lovers of all ages and tastes. Vienna itself is a city famed for the way it loves and nurtures music. And House of Music offers a unique multimedia world where you can see, feel and hear all kinds of music –– from classical to pop to fusion, and those of nature.

You can even create your own landscapes of sound and conduct an orchestra too! Here the art of music meets high-end technology to create a very unusual, contemporary, interactive museum. Zubin Mehta aptly called it a ‘Disneyland of Sound’.

It is located in the historical palace of Arch Duke Charles, one of the most popular members of Austria’s famous royals, the Hapsburg dynasty. After getting your ticket, you enter to encounter the ‘Dancing Vases’ –– large art objects which are at once beautiful and funky.

The first floor houses the archives of the world famous Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra. Actually, the entire museum is dedicated to the renowned orchestra.The Grand Room illustrates the history of the orchestra through different composers. The Mirror Room, Art Gallery and Projection Room complete this section.

The Sonosphere is on the second floor. The first room you encounter here is Sensory Rush, where you get to hear what the embryo hears. This prenatal listening room recreates the unusual and intriguing sounds that all of us hear in the womb!
Then follows the Perception Lab with a Light Wall on one side where you can experience auditory phenomena. There are six terminals for an interactive experience. Here, you can actually recreate acoustic urban scenes by the energy of your own voice! And in Dimensional Perception, you can go on virtual walks through different spaces like churches, concert halls, pyramids, mountains, etc. Virtual tones, Shephard Scale, and Playing with Time are other intriguing topics.

All ears

We had to tear ourselves away to enter the next room where Phylogenesis offers a sensory experience which tells you about the evolution of hearing. And there is the Instrumentarium –– with a giant drum which you can strike, a huge overhead xylophone and an enormous monochord. Understandably, there were many kids having fun in this room.

The next room can get a bit technical. The Sea of Voices makes you discover the very wide spectrum of tones which the human voice can generate.

I almost ran out of breath reading the sentence which described the working of the next room, Polyphonium –– “It is an acoustic accelerator of particles, a complex system of mutually influential factors which follows its own compositional regularities in the form of an animated creative organism.” And I realised that as with my own classical-music-theory books which I had to pore over as a child, the technical description of many aspects of music might sound impossibly complex but their practical experience is quite simple. It is like watching a serious cartoon show, an acoustic projection with images.

The Evolution Machine gives one the opportunity to experiment with sounds and aural structures to create one’s one acoustic world –– which means you create your own CD!

The History Section is dedicated to the great composers and tells you about each one’s music development, giving you a historical perspective and lots of personal information too. Mozart, Beethoven, Haydn, Strauss, Schubert and Mahler, they are all there. The Exodus is the only sombre room in the museum. It evokes memories of the tragedies of the Nazi period and its impact on the music world.

A big thrill for the hardcore music lover is The Virtual Conductor where you can conduct the Vienna Philharmonic. Here, you can pick up the conductor’s baton, select a piece of music and see the musicians obey you! You have got to be musically educated for a successful attempt –– if you can maintain the rhythm you will be rewarded with a document and applause. Or else, well, a thumbs down.

The way music and the cyberworld meet to create an educative and entertaining experience for visitors makes the House of Music amazing and admirable.

At the exit, I purchased a miniature musical instrument look-alike, choosing from among small and big objects. However, the most prized picks are the CD of music which a person would have created, and the document proving that the person has conducted the Vienna Philharmonic!

The acoustic walkabout had been immensely interesting. My only regret –– the museum was closing and my trip was ending; so I could not linger here for another few hours, or even days, as I wanted!

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