TEDxToronto, Canada’s largest TEDx event, is holding its 11th annual conference on October 26th. The venue, Evergreen Brick Works, is being transformed by installations and activities to bring the 2019 theme, Rise, beyond the stage and into every facet of the TEDxToronto experience. As a part of this transformation, Art & Science is exhibiting The Orpheum – a touch-powered musical instrument and art installation we built to light up Mississauga’s Celebration Square.
We spoke with Heine Nielsen, TEDxToronto’s first Director of Delegate Experience and former Head of Event at Denmark’s largest TEDx-event, TEDxAarhus, about how The Orpheum lends itself to an immersive environment where attendees can engage with the theme and, most importantly, with each other. Heine’s own background also includes a Master of Arts in Musicology, specializing in sound branding, making him the perfect match to back this collaboration.
Heine describes Rise as a sense of coming together, seeing the best in one another, leveraging our strengths and growing as one. 2019, however, has surfaced a whirlwind of forces, such as growing political movements, social awareness, digital connectedness and climate emergency:
These forces cause us to pause and ask: do these things allow us all to rise? In order for something to rise, does something else always need to fall? And does this signal trouble, below the surface? As Toronto rises, could we be setting ourselves up for a fall?
In order to rise, we must realize that we are all connected to each other. That in order for one to rise, we must all rise. This year, TEDxToronto explores these forces, and asks: in our interconnected world, what does it take for us to rise, together?
The mission, then, was to create an experience that could extend past the stage and give attendees a sensation of belongingness, connectivity and empowerment throughout the conference. The allure of The Orpheum, Heine tells us, is that it does just this: it controls an environment that washes over passersby and joins them in a collective experience, yet also in different individual experiences depending on one’s first encounter with the output of the Orpheum.
The instrument, which is physically machined from 60 sheets of plywood, weighs 400kg and stands at shoulder height, invites a player to activate its effects by touching the screen. 2000 watts of audio power are broadcasted as hands move across the interface in a combination of strings, piano, harp and organ – all strategically blended into a beautiful symphony. The Orpheum also controls its surroundings through a network of DMX lights, making the environment seem to rise and fall along with the music. The result is a visual choreography of light and sound that brings a space to life, simple enough to be controlled by a child but engaging enough to be enjoyed by master musicians alike.
The Orpheum will be installed in Evergreen Brick Works’ Koerner Gardens, an airy heritage building with islands of foliage. However, to truly evoke the sensation of connectivity, the experience has been carefully designed to be carried out in layers. Heine spoke about our tendency to think of only the “noisiest” moments as experiences. In the age of the experience economy, the loud, grandiose and spectacular moments are the ones to receive an acknowledgement. But part of the notion of rising together is appreciating the value that exists in every moment. For this reason, The Orpheum’s lights are dispersed across several of the gardens. This way, attendees can appreciate the ambient light and sound of the instrument even from a distance, growing their curiosity to uncover its source.
You’ll also find other on-site and off-site activations dedicated to nudging attendees to form closer relationships with one another. A connection lounge equips attendees with deep questions to fuel meaningful conversation, and a morning meditation session will literally have attendees rising together.
“It’s about building an internal curiosity, finding other ways of viewing the world, being inspired by different cultures and different perspectives. Only then, can we create a common understanding, a joint experience, and RISE together.”
We’re looking forward to being a part of TEDxToronto’s mission to share ideas, join people together and inspire change.
TEDxToronto is taking place on October 26th 2019 at Evergreen Brick Works. Hosted by Kardinal Offishal and featuring 12 incredible speakers, we have no doubt it’ll be a good time. Interested in attending? Use our code AnSTEDxTO10 to receive 10% off your ticket purchase here.