TEDxToronto, Canada’s largest TEDx event, held its 11th annual conference on October 26th 2019. The venue, Evergreen Brick Works, was 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 exhibited 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 could 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, which made him the perfect match to support this collaboration.
Heine describes Rise as a sense of coming together, seeing the best in one another, leveraging our strengths and growing as one. Particularly as 2019 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 told us, is that it does just that: 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.
Videography Credit: Patrick Leung
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 industrial-grade concert lighting, 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 was installed in Evergreen Brick Works’ Koerner Gardens, an airy heritage building with islands of foliage. To truly evoke the sensation of connectivity, the experience was carefully designed to be carried out in layers. Heine mentioned that in the age of the experience economy, the loud, grandiose and spectacular moments are the ones to receive an acknowledgement. But part of rising together is appreciating the value that exists in every moment. For this reason, The Orpheum’s lights were dispersed across several of the gardens. This way, attendees could appreciate the ambient light and sound of the instrument even from a distance, growing their curiosity to uncover its source.
Photography Credit: Patrick Leung
“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.”
It was an absolute pleasure to be a part of TEDxToronto’s mission to share ideas, join people together and inspire change. To learn more about how A&S creates unique digital experiences, get in touch with us.