About Visual Accompaniments

What makes 'visual accompaniments' different from video or slide shows? In a word, musicality. The term accompaniment is helpful because the visuals are performed live and reflect the moods, rhythms, and narratives in the score, beat by beat. The intent is to always enhance the music as written, so in the case of The Planets the visuals reflect Holst’s astrological influences rather than contemporary space exploration. 

A unique, no-compromises approach to performance timing means no click track is required and the conductor is freed to focus entirely on the orchestra. Behind the scenes an on-site video choreographer follows the conductor's direction much like a percussionist and uses state-of-the-art computer software to assemble hundreds of visual 'phrases' into a seamless accompaniment to the music. But the audience just sees a spectacular, perfectly timed video that magically responds to the conductor’s baton.

For The Planets, synchronized lighting effects are optionally available which makes for an even more immersive and engaging audience experience.

About Adrian Wyard

Adrian M Wyard is a Seattle-based visual artist, and former designer & program manager at Microsoft. He has over 20 years experience working in digital media, including computer graphics, photography & videography, as well as software design. Adrian also has a Masters degree in the history of science from Oxford University, and has been a longtime appreciator of classical music.

For larger projects numerous world-class collaborators play key roles, including animators, illustrators, photographers, programmers, and 3D artists.

For more information please see: www.facebook.com/adrian.wyard.art, photos.adrianwyard.com, and www.youtube.com/user/adrianwyard.

About 'The Planets Live'

'The Planets Live' is a visual accompaniment to The Planets by Gustav Holst. It features spectacular original animations and NASA media that are cued live to follow the conductor so no click-track is required. The visuals faithfully reflect the spirit of each movement as they evolve bar by bar, making them true accompaniments. This approach allows the imagery to add a new dimension to the experience while Holst’s music retains center stage.

The premiere sold-out performance of The Planets was held on October 25th 2014 with the Northwest Symphony Orchestra. The visuals were subsequently programmed by the South Dakota Symphony Orchestra for their 2015 Young People's Concert that reached more than 5000 school children, and was broadcast on PBS.  The visuals are regularly updated to include the latest imagery from NASA. Recent performances include the Tucson Symphony Orchestra, the Bath Philharmonia in the UK, the Colorado Music Festival, and The Florida Orchestra.

About THE VISUALS FOR 'Pictures at an Exhibition'

Mussorgsky's much loved composition is brought to life with fantastical original animations that are suitable for all ages. In keeping with the art theme, each movement has a very distinctive style. The visuals debuted with the Bath Philharmonia (UK) in June 2017. Special thanks are due to collaborators Ken PriebeAnna Czoski, and Bojana Dimitrovski.

Bookings include The Bath Philharmonia, The Ann Arbor Symphony Orchestra, and the South Dakota Symphony Orchestra.

Three movements are available to preview online: The GnomeThe Ballet of Unhatched Chicks, and The Market at Limoges.

About THE VISUALS FoR Dvořák’s Symphony No. 9 'From the New World'

Featuring glorious landscape imagery from all across America, these visuals premiered with the Tucson Symphony Orchestra in December 2017. 

Each visual accompaniment is unique and for this piece a light touch was needed so that Dvořák’s well-loved music remains the focal point of the experience. The visuals simply depict a journey across the country with each movement centered on a broad theme. For the first movement the theme is water, the second features the desert night sky, the third introduces animals and spring flowers, and the final movement tours majestic mountains through the seasons and concludes our journey across The New World.

This accompaniment includes work by remarkable landscape photographer, Tom Oord.

About THE VISUALS FOR 'The Four Seasons'

The visuals for Vivaldi's Four Seasons represent a departure from my other accompaniments as they feature live video of the principle violinist.

The goal of all my visual accompaniments is to reflect the dynamics in the music and as these are naturally present in the soloist's performance this can be achieved by simply magnifying them on the big screen. However, much more is possible. State-of-the art image processing technology allows us to endlessly enhance the camera view to fit the musical themes. These visuals showcase several possibilities, including:

  • Motion detection and enhancement (e.g. violin bowing, conducting)

  • Background replacement

  • Image embellishments (e.g. snow)

  • This project also includes audio-reactivity driven by four microphones placed in the orchestra

This technology will be used in future projects that feature soloists, and can also be used to showcase the 'performance' of the conductor on the big screen.

Special thanks are due to software developers Philip Kobernik, Howie Bailey, and photographer Dené Miles.

The visuals for 'Winter' will premiere with the Northwest Symphony Orchestra in October 2019 with the other seasons to follow.

About The Planets Live source material

While many of the visuals are original animations, everything shown has some basis in fact and has as its source data from telescopes, orbiting spacecraft, or rovers on the planets' surfaces. Source images, video, and computer modeling courtesy of NASAJPL-CaltechSwRIDLRESAJohns Hopkins University Applied Physics LaboratoryGoddard Space Flight CenterThe Space Telescope Science InstituteThe Advanced Visualization Laboratory at the NCSA (esp. Drs. B. Robertson & L. Hernquist), Carnegie Institution of WashingtonUSGSCalifornia Institute of TechnologyLunar & Planetary Institute (esp. Dr. P Schenk), Malin Space Science SystemsThe Lunar and Planetary Laboratory at the University of Arizona (esp. Dr. P Smith) and the Institute of Geological Sciences at The Free University of Berlin. Special thanks to Bard Canning for the enhanced Mars descent, Arthur Lepage for 3D modeling, and Andy Ermolli for deep space astrophotography. To view these sources with a live performance see theplanetsonline.com