NPR logo Watch Conductor Simon Rattle Turn Into A High-Tech Tangle Of Spaghetti

Music Makers

Watch Conductor Simon Rattle Turn Into A High-Tech Tangle Of Spaghetti

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Now here's a creative way to promote your upcoming symphony season and up your brand: Strap your conductor in a motion capture suit, switch on a dozen high-tech cameras, and get an artist to translate the data into kaleidoscopic shapes and colors.

Then sit back and watch as Simon Rattle, who takes over the storied London Symphony Orchestra (LSO) this fall, morphs into an oozing blob, a twisting tower of metallic rods and, rather deliciously, a tangle of angel hair pasta. (Well, that's what it looks like to me.)

The LSO teamed with techies from the University of Portsmouth and Vicon Motion Systems, who captured Rattle's movements while conducting, appropriately, Elgar's Enigma Variations. Digital artist Tobias Gremmler was then called in to convert the gestures into animated films.

Alex Counsell, Portsmouth's lead technician for the project, tells Wired that the art of conducting is to convey the score with natural gestures. "Using motion capture data," he says, "we're able to visualize Sir Simon Rattle's conducting movements in great detail and learn more about his interpretation of the piece."

The data has also helped create a new font for the LSO. Rattle's swooshing, custom-built baton slices through letters and numbers, resulting in a customized typeface.

The New York Times, in collaboration with New York University's Movement Lab, crafted something similar, although with a decidedly more educational bent. They strapped in New York Philharmonic music director Alan Gilbert, and tracked his motions while conducting, in order to better understand just what makes conducting work.

Things are clearly working out for the LSO. The orchestra's wildly popular new music director begins a five-year contract in September, the new concert hall project is back on track after being defunded late last year and, thanks to some fancy technology, there are these new, trippy animations.