First person: young composer Nicola Perikhanyan on a new immersive reality experience at the London Wall
There is something truly moving about standing in the center of the Roman ruins of the London Wall and looking at the city that has developed around it. Think about our past, present and future simultaneously. Over 2000 years have passed since the Romans created our city, and although a lot has changed, there is still so much consistency in the way our society exists, both in beauty and in flaws.
As a civilization, how far have things really changed?
London is a city of contrasts, it is a city that we never tire of because it is constantly evolving and each layer of its history contributes to its character. It is impossible to draw a line between ancient, post-war and contemporary civilizations because they coexist. HARMONY is the latest statement in the history of London Wall Place, the largest collection of public gardens developed in the City of London from the Barbican Estate.
HARMONY at London Wall Place is an immersive music and augmented reality experience co-commissioned by real estate developer Brookfield Properties and the Culture Mile cultural district. The project saw students at the Guildhall School of Music & Drama – who are based a five-minute walk from the site in the City of London – develop venue-inspired compositions under the mentorship of musicians from the London Symphony Orchestra. These short pieces were then performed by the LSO and accompanied by augmented reality artwork delivered by Guildhall Live Events, under the creative direction of Dan Shorten, an award-winning director and designer. The finished and immersive works are accessible to visitors to London Wall Place via their devices.I was fortunate enough to be part of this cohort of young musicians and worked with Andy Harper, clarinetist at the London Symphony Orchestra on my new commission, for St. Alphage’s Ruins (where the Griffin AR visual is “based”) .
I wanted the music to celebrate the City of London awakening as we start to return to normal life after the pandemic (or has at the time of writing). I was inspired by the vertical composition of the buildings and the evolution of the landscape over time. The music consisted of 113 layers of recordings and manipulations, which continuously evolve, becoming more electronic towards the end of the piece.
I feel very privileged to have worked with Andy on this project, and not just musically; I loved hearing the stories of his life as a musician. With Andy’s help, I was able to discover the range of possibilities that can be considered when writing for the clarinet. The making of the piece was very organic and collaborative and I built it from the bottom up, like the tall buildings surrounding the ruins. I approached writing in an open-minded manner, letting myself be guided by and relying on the material captured in each session. I love working with instrumentalists and exploring the limitless possibilities of manipulating acoustic sounds and combining these textures with the sound of the raw instrument.