Katy Wright

Deputy Editor, Classical Music

Philharmonia marks 40th anniversary of Voyager 1 launch with VR release

5:08, 5th September 2017

The Philharmonia Orchestra is to release its second piece of Virtual Reality content to celebrate the 40th anniversary of the launch of the Voyager 1 and 2 spacecraft, and the Golden Records that each carried.

Shot by Google’s VR team and conceived in partnership with NASA, Beethoven’s Fifth will feature Esa-Pekka Salonen conducting the orchestra in the first movement of Beethoven’s fifth symphony – which was recorded by Klemperer and included on the ‘Golden Record’ mounted to Voyager 1.

The eight-minute film, which will be released on the Philharmonia’s YouTube channel on 25 September, will cut together footage of the performance, shot at London’s Henry Wood Hall, with scenes from interstellar space, imagining the spacecraft’s current location.

The idea that there is a “golden record” that was an attempt to sample the best things humankind has achieved is inspiring,’ Salonen said. ‘What’s exciting about this project is that we’re celebrating something much bigger than the music: we are part of a chain of intergalactic communication. Virtual Reality, which enhances the orchestral music experience, is the perfect vehicle to mark the Voyager 1 anniversary.’

‘I can’t think of a more inspirational project than NASA’s Golden Record to draw from for the Orchestra’s second foray into VR,’ said Luke Ritchie, head of digital innovation and partnerships at the Philharmonia. ‘And on the 40th anniversary of the Orchestra’s music being launched into deep space, this seems a fitting response from the modern-day Philharmonia.’

Beethoven’s Fifth will be the Philharmonia’s second major VR release. The first film, The Virtual Orchestra, was premiered in an installation at Southbank Centre in September 2016 and is now available on PlayStation VR.

A new, longer-format version of this original presentation, which features Salonen conducting Sibelius’s fifth symphony, will return to the Southbank Centre on ten PlayStation VR headsets between 28 September and 1 October.

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