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Music Island Concerts that were “not possible in real life”

One of the most compellingly important uses of Second Life has been for the execution of art that is not possible in real life. I have recently been introduced to a wonderful blog by SL resident Bettina Tizzy, who has made it a mission to celebrate all the art that is not possible in real life. And sources on the web that define SL, such as Wikipedia, ABC news, and numerous university virtual orientation presentations all cite the ability to create that which is not possible in real life as one of the truly intriguing features of virtual worlds such as Second Life.

Before Kate Miranda’s first rez day in February 2006, I had been hearing about the potential for unique content-creation through participation in Howard Rheingold’s “Brainstorms” community. Rheingold, the inventor of the term “SmartMobs” in his 1980’s book of the same name has long been ahead of the curve. Last year he was awarded a MacArthur Foundation award for his educational work in Second Life. Howard was the first person for whom LindenLabs created an avatar with his own name and appearance for a 2006 interview in Second Life. His enthusiasm for the creative and educational potential of Second Life, first drew me to explore virtual reality and to see for myself what could be accomplished that which was impossible or elusive in real life.

At Music Island, which customarily presents a mixture of classical music, early music and new music, we have occasionally presented multimedia events that could not have happened in quite the same way outside of the virtual world.

Notable among these events was a series of collaborations between Second Life sculptor Gwen Carillon and Composer/Pianist Enniv Zarf (Paul Kwo). The three concerts were increasingly challenging to both artists. In the first concert, June 28, 2008, Enniv improvised on pre-composed themes inspired by a series of works by the artist. The finale of the concert involved the audience who were invited to have their avatars enter and become part of the concluding sculpture. The interactive work “Re-birth” won a “best in Second Life” award later in the same year. Enniv later released a CD of the concert recorded on that day.

In October 2008, the duo upped the ante in their collaboration entitled “Drawing Down”, named after one of the works in the sculpture series, but also was a fitting description of their process. Enniv had not seen any of the works before beginning his improvisational music. Sculptor Gwen Carillon installed the sculptures floating above the island out of sight lines and drew down one at a time as seemed appropriate to her as part of the stream of collaborative creation.

In the final concert of the tryptych, Gwen Carillon live-sculpted a work inspired by Enniv’s music. This was a first time for the sculptor to sculpt in live-time before an audience.

One of the most amazing “not possible in real life” concerts was a collaboration between composer, Paul Kwo and particle artist, Kala Pixie. The audience was elevated more than 700 meters into the air on revolving seats on a slowly turning platform. A grand piano appeared to circle them like a small planet. Meanwhile the particle artist live scripted the behaviour of particles in response to the music. A steady stream of computer coding scrolled up the page as the particle artist wrote and tweaked code to colour and change the nature of the virtual light show.

Truly amazing to experience music from deep within a responsive fireworks show.


  • Bettina Tizzy
    Posted April 23, 2009 at 6:25 am

    Huh? This is some kind of April Fool’s joke, right?

  • Kate Miranda
    Posted April 23, 2009 at 12:23 pm

    No, I assure you this is not an April Fool’s Day joke. The Music Island concert series has hosted a number of multi-media concerts that truly would not have been possible in real life.

    I have detailed in earlier posts on this blog the great audience development and professional development pluses of Second Life serious music making.

    But I truly believe that the most compelling artistic argument for making art in virtual reality is when we use the space for art that either could not ever be created anywhere else, or would be so cost prohibitive to do anywhere else that it is out of the reach of most artists.

    I just visited your blog and see that you are very interested in this artistic mission in SL! Great.

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