The Philharmonia uses technology to connect with a growing audience beyond the concert hall, creating new artistic experiences that allow you to step inside the Orchestra.

Conductor Esa-Pekka Salonen and Philharmonia Orchestra on stage during a VR performance

Virtual reality

The Orchestra began working in VR in 2014, and we have created three experiences in 360 video – The Virtual Orchestra, Beethoven’s Fifth and Mahler’s Third. These have been showcased internationally, reaching more than 30,000 visitors at events including the Rio Olympics, SXSW 2018 and Southbank Centre. In the last year alone, our VR experiences toured to Bergen, Katowice, Chicago, Helsinki, Paris and Tokyo.

Our first two VR experiences have been released publicly. The Virtual Orchestra Playstation app received widespread critical praise, and Beethoven’s Fifth won a Raindance Film Festival award for Best VR Music Experience.

To outside observers it may look comical, but from under the headset it is thrilling.

The Independent

Violinists’ bows are so close you flinch.

Evening Standard

An extraordinary glimpse inside the sights and sounds of a symphony orchestra.

The Guardian

Still from The Virtual Orchestra
Beethoven's Fifth cover
Poster for Mahler 3, Live from London

VR Sound Stage

Take a seat inside our Sound Stage, put on a VR headset, and experience Beethoven and Mahler’s music in ground-shaking detail. You will find yourself right at the heart of the Orchestra, sitting in the string section in front of conductor Esa-Pekka Salonen.

The Orchestra has developed a cutting-edge technique for showcasing its VR experiences on multiple headsets simultaneously. Listening to the audio through an 18-speaker ambisonic array recreates the effect of sitting inside the Orchestra in astonishing detail, enveloping users in sound as they experience a performance together.


Introducing the VR Sound Stage

Universe of Sound

The Philharmonia’s largest installation, Universe of Sound, transforms a performance of Holst’s The Planets into a ten-room exhibition than can fill an entire building or gallery space. The piece was captured with 37 video cameras and 40+ multi-track audio.

Visitors can walk through each different section of the Orchestra at their own pace, and set their own route. They can choose to walk continually throughout the exhibition, or stay seated in one section for as long as they wish. The exhibition is interactive, allowing visitors to conduct the Orchestra, following the hand movements of conductor Esa-Pekka Salonen, and play along with our percusisonists.

Universe of Sound, and its predecessor exhibition, RE-RITE, based on Stravinsky’s The Rite of Spring, have toured internationally and been experienced by over 300,000 people. More than 50% of visitors stay for the whole 45-minute piece.


Walking through Universe of Sound

Research & development

The Philharmonia Orchestra has secured funding for a major new government research and development grant, the Demonstrator fund from the Audience of the Future programme.

The Orchestra worked with partners, led by the Royal Shakespeare Company (RSC), to create a consortium with some of the world’s top technology companies, alongside some of the UK’s leading arts organisations and universities, including the Philharmonia’s Principal Partner, De Montfort University.

The goal of the two-year project is to work with immersive technologies such as virtual reality (VR), augmented reality (AR) and mixed reality (MR) to re-imagine what a live performance can be. The consortium will explore the possibilities of presenting multiple real-time performances across multiple stages to the same audience. In essence, the audience will no longer be bound by their location.

The Philharmonia Orchestra is providing the musical element of the performance, and contributing to the development of the immersive technologies used in the project. The Orchestra’s R&D focuses on cutting-edge techniques: located audio for musical performance within VR and MR; location-based audio experiences; and composing and performing for new media such as AI and real-time games engines.

The project is funded within the Audience of the Future programme by UK Research and Innovation through the Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund, underwritten by Innovate UK, Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy, and UK Research and Innovation. The funding awarded to the consortium totals £3.99m.

The consortium comprises:
Arts organisations: Royal Shakespeare Company (lead partner); Philharmonia Orchestra; Punchdrunk; Manchester International Festival; Marshmallow Laser Feast.
Technology partners: Magic Leap; Intel; Epic Games
Research partners: De Montfort University; I2 Media Research Limited (part of Goldsmiths College); NESTA; PHI Centre; University of Portsmouth; The Space

A scene from the RSC's production, The Tempest

The Tempest, created by the Royal Shakespeare Company