Visit to the Metaverse Symphony in Hong Kong
The Hong Kong Cultural Center is very real in every way and very rooted in the physical world. When I attended the Metaverse Symphony on May 5th – in person! – There were no virtual reality (VR) headsets for audiences to put on at the entrance, no augmented reality (AR) app for smartphones to download, and no online version of the symphony.
You may already be familiar with one of the many versions of the “Metaverse”. There may not be a single definition, but it generally suggests a virtual reality where users interact in a computer-generated world. Cryptocurrency advocates say the Metaverse is expanding through NFTs, VR, and Minecraft-like games, while Mark Zuckerburg’s Meta (short for Metaverse) focuses on creating VR workplaces and games.
The Metaverse Symphony was none of that.
The event took place in a physical hall that was two-thirds full. The evening began with a completely independent (though quite beautiful) piece about the war entitled Through the fog. Then conductor Gerard Solanga appeared on stage to explain what the Metaverse Symphony was and how it would work: A digital artist, Henry Chu, sat on the sidelines and made visual effects to match the music on a large screen behind the orchestra . How… meta?
Needless to say, the first sentence is titled the digital age, left a lot to be desired. Think visuals reminiscent of Starfox 64 but without the fun gameplay or dialogues. The boxes and lines that moved and broke apart seemed fundamentally unrelated to the supposed metaphor: phones vibrate and people frantically switch apps on their phones.
Set two was titled fiber optics. Here’s something really happening meta: A cell phone in the audience was playing a song at full speed and its owner didn’t know how to stop the noise for a good 45 seconds. That said fiber optics had much better music than The digital ageproviding a strong background for a more comprehensible image: walls of black and white lines that continually break apart and collide in a rainbow of colors as the piece reaches a crescendo.
The third movement of the Metaverse Symphony was named The Internet of Things, which, to be honest, is a title that only brought back memories of the failed cryptocurrency IOTA (named after the smallest letter of the Greek alphabet). The movement focused on sounds outside the scope of traditional music (someone remembers). Stomp!?), including car horns, disheveled newspapers and binders. In that moment I realized that I was much more fascinated by the musicians playing than by the big screen full of lines and boxes.
The last sentence, The Metaverse, showed kinetic art strongly reminiscent of the WinAmp or iTunes visualizers of yesteryear: colored oils that were dripped into water and moved. As I peeked into the audience, I counted 15 people sleeping soundly – including my fiancee.
All in all, it’s hard to go wrong when spending an evening listening to a symphony orchestra play newly composed pieces – I’m just a little disappointed that the “Metaverse” aspect didn’t live up to expectations.
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