THE ART OF MUSIC IN THE DIGITAL AGE: A SERIES OF WORLD-FIRST DESIGNS BY BEATIE WOLFE
This display explores what design for music can mean in the digital age – from a musical jacket woven with Wolfe's music to the world’s first "anti-stream" from the quietest room on Earth.
“Musical Weirdo and Visionary” (VICE) Beatie Wolfe presents a series of album innovations that explore how technology can be used to recapture a sense of storytelling, ceremony and tangibility for music in the digital age. Bridging the physical and digital and reimagining the vinyl experience in retro-future ways, these designs range from a theatre in the palm of your hand, an album as a deck of cards and wearable record “jacket”, an ‘anti-stream’ from the world’s quietest room and a Space beam from the Big Bang Horn.
Wolfe’s latest design is the Raw Space Chamber, which will allow visitors to enter an anechoic chamber and immerse themselves in a ceremonial listening experience, while live AR animations bring the album’s artwork and lyrics to life in real- time. Come hear the sound of silence, a blast from the past, and the music launched into deepest space.
Part of London Design Festival at the V&A
Beatie Wolfe's Exhibited Designs
8IGHT, 2012 – The Vinyl for the Digital Generation
For her debut album Wolfe wanted to put a record (the format she loved) onto a phone (a device now integral to people's listening) and so in collaboration with Design I/O pioneered the 3D Interactive Album App. This app opened up like a record with the liner notes, lyrics, artwork and music. But to give this experience a twist, the Palm Top Theatre was introduced to the release. By slotting your phone into the Palm Top Theatre, it was transformed into a miniature theatre in the palm of your hand and you could watch 8ight's 3D interactive visuals, filmed by Weavers Productions, come to life in a way that recaptured the magic of opening up a record and exploring its artwork
Montagu Square, 2015 – The Musical Jacket
The Montagu Square Musical Jacket is a reimagining of the record jacket and a truly tailored album release for the 21st century. Wolfe recorded her second album Montagu Square in the former home of Hendrix, McCartney, Ringo, Lennon & Yoko Ono, and in the room where Hendrix wrote ‘The Wind Cries Mary’ and McCartney penned ‘Eleanor Rigby’. This live recording was then translated (complete with its ambient sound, resonance of the room and audience applause) into a woven fabric by textiles artist BeatWoven and cut by tailor Mr Fish – who dressed Hendrix, Jagger and Bowie – into the first Musical Jacket of its kind. The Jacket has also been NFC-enabled, allowing people to hear the music of Montagu Square by tapping their phone onto the fabric
Montagu Square, 2015 – The Intelligent Album Deck
The Montagu Square Intelligent Album Deck marked a new intersection between technology and music. The album deck comes as a pack of beautifully printed MOO cards, encased in a box reminiscent of a tape cassette, with each card corresponding to a track from the Montagu Square album and featuring the song’s artwork, lyrics and an embedded NFC chip. Listeners can simply tap the song cards to their phone to instantly play the track and access its content – liner notes, lyrics, artwork, music videos etc – which is being updated all the time, giving the album deck the feeling of a “living” or dynamic vinyl
Raw Space, 2017 - The “Anti-Stream”
Raw Space was released as the world’s first live 360° AR experience, produced in collaboration with Nokia Bell Labs and Design I/O. Combining live 360° stereoscopic video of Wolfe’s physical record stream from the quietest room on earth, with real-time AR animations, the effect was a Fantasia-like live streamed album, which ran continuously for a week with artwork that evolved every time the record spun
“With 'Raw Space', I wanted to create the anti-stream for our current streaming generation and really celebrate the world of the album – its artwork, arc, narrative, music – in a ceremonial and absorbing way that makes the listener feel like they’ve been transported into the world of the album, just like I did opening up a record as a kid.”
Wolfe follows in the footsteps of Andy Warhol, John Cage and Robert Rauschenberg as a collaborator of Nokia Bell Labs’ E.A.T. programme
Raw Space, 2017/18 – The Raw Space Beam
Following its launch from the quietest room in the world, Raw Space was beamed into space via the historic Holmdel Horn Antenna, which was used to prove the validity of the Big Bang theory. Nobel Prize winning scientist Dr Robert Wilson (who discovered Cosmic Background Radiation) made the first update to this Historic National Landmark in 50 years to make sure the music of Raw Space got past the earth's atmosphere and into outer space. The Raw Space Beam was not the studio version of the album, but the raw anechoic version (no reverb, EQ or audio enhancements) recorded in the Nokia Bell Labs Anti-echo Chamber – Wolfe’s idea being that for the first time, raw anechoic sound would enter raw space as a true reflection of our humanity at a time of increased airbrushing, auto-tuning and AI
Raw Space, 2018 – The Raw Space Chamber
The Raw Space Chamber tells the story of Raw Space – the world’s first live 360° AR stream – in its new portable incarnation. Inside this gilded chamber, installed by Getov and Steely and wrapped in NASA-grade Mylar linking to Wolfe’s Raw Space Beam and Project Echo, visitors can immerse themselves in a truly magical and ceremonial listening experience, while AR animations bring the album’s artwork and lyrics to life in real-time via a vintage coin-operated binoculars viewport and spinning vinyl
Produced in collaboration with Nokia Bell Labs
Raw Space, 2018 - Album Deck with ArtCenter+
The Raw Space Album Deck is an update of Wolfe’s intelligent album deck of cards format, originally conceived for Montagu Square as a type of digital cassette tape. Produced in collaboration with ArtCenter College of Design (Pasadena, US) and its Acting Chair of Graphic Design Sean Adams, each of the Raw Space song cards have been designed by a leading international artist to reflect their interpretation of Wolfe’s music and her Raw Space Beam. Listeners can simply tap the song cards to their phone to instantly play the track and access its content – liner notes, lyrics, artwork, music videos etc – which is being updated all the time, giving the Album Deck the feeling of a “living” or dynamic vinyl
Raw Space, 2018 - The Universal Light Stream
The gallery is illuminated by The Raw Space Universal Light Stream which charts Wolfe's recent Space Beam from the Big Bang horn and personal history with NASA's JPL, whose lead engineer is advising Wolfe on this display.
Plumen is proudly shedding light on this pioneering work
The Art of Music in the Digital Age at the V&A is a London Design Festival highlight
Victoria and Albert Museum, Prince Consort Gallery, Room 110 - Level 1
Exhibition runs September Saturday 15th until Sunday 23rd
10h till 18h (Fri 22h)