Soundscapes - an immersive audio-visual installation that invites audiences on a sensory journey through the Yorkshire Dales - premieres in Skipton on 14 March, 2024.
Created by the immersive media artist Michaela French and composer Ben Crick, Soundscapes will showcase the diverse scenery of the Yorkshire Dales.
Projected inside a purpose-built hemispherical dome, Soundscapes combines 360° videography of the Yorkshire Dales with a symphonic soundtrack, inspired by the landscape. The unique project sees audiences sit, or lie, under the cinematic dome to undertake an extraordinary experience of sight, sound, and space, with the original orchestral composition performed by Skipton Camerata, North Yorkshire's only professional orchestra.
The installation is the brainchild of one of Yorkshire’s leading composers and conductor of Skipton Camerata, Ben Crick.
Ben Crick said: “My hobby has always been caving, climbing, and walking. What I wanted was to take people on a musical journey to these places they might not otherwise see. So, I’ve created a musical portrayal of what it feels like to be there.”
Up to 14 visitors at a time can occupy the dome to experience the ‘cave’ like immersive installation.
Ben said: “We hope to lift audiences, and transport them via the beauty of nature and the power of music. The high harmonics of violins will sound like the breeze, and violins and violas reflect the dance of the water; there is drama in what it makes you feel and that’s the intention.”
Immersive media artist Michaela French has a PhD in Information Experience Design from the Royal College of Art, London. Michaela is co-founder of the Fulldome Creative Network and serves on various advisory boards around immersive media spaces; she’s collaborated with festivals and events around the world including in Australia, Mexico, and Amsterdam.
Michaela French said: “It really starts with this extraordinary landscape, and our relationship with it, both of which are under pressure – us, and our natural world. I’ve lived in Yorkshire for just two years, so for me, it’s like wonderland, new and different, so I hope to bring a fresh pair of eyes to Ben’s viewpoint.”
A dynamic team of creatives from across the north has collaborated to design the installation. The team was spearheaded by experts from Northumbria University's architecture department, including Peter Dixon, who led on the exhibition interpretation and production, and Shaun Young and Steve Roberts, as architectural leads. The bespoke joinery and specialist fit-out company, Hadley, also played a crucial role in constructing the Dome.
Additional structural engineering support came from Anton Sawicki from the engineer consultancy, Buro Happold. Graphic design was created by Field Design, and Heather Ditch provided the written interpretation.
The idea evolved from a project Ben Crick initiated combining his music with footage of the Yorkshire Dales in virtual reality headsets, which received hugely positive responses.
Katie Peacock, who runs the volunteer group Exclusively Inclusive that trialled the headsets, said: “It’s not easy for a lot of people to get into the countryside but this unique approach removes those physical barriers. I saw people responding to places they hadn’t seen in decades, and people who might struggle with anxiety, begin to relax. It genuinely transported people.”
Classical music and nature are proven to boost wellbeing. Numerous studies show classical music can reduce stress, lower blood pressure, and even boost immunity and memory function. Research around the BBC’s Planet Earth series found that even watching nature on our screens is shown to substantially decrease anxiety.
Ben Crick has held a BBC Music Fellowship and worked with orchestras throughout the world conducting the likes of Lesley Garrett, Sir Willard White, and Raphael Wallfisch, and is also the co-founder and conductor of the Yorkshire Symphony Orchestra. Ben has written soundtracks for games, adverts, animation, and film. He teaches at the University of Huddersfield and Leeds Conservatoire, and sits on the Bradford Cultural Voice Forum.
Ben added: “The Yorkshire Dales has inspired artists throughout the centuries. We know audiences are going to be left in awe, experiencing this immersive, emotional, and inspiring journey.”
The story behind the music-and-nature installation, the design and construction of the dome, and the health and wellbeing reasons that motivated the project will be told in the enclosing exhibition at Skipton Town Hall.
Soundscapes is at Skipton Town Hall from 14 March – 1 June 2024. Entry to the gallery is free. Find more information and gallery opening times by visiting www.skiptontownhall.co.uk