Behind the mad scenes of Mad Hatters

In May, our future forward creative unit, Department of New Realities (DPTNR), used futuristic lighting and VR stage visuals to bring to life the music of trombonist, Jörgen van Rijen, and pianist, Daria van den Bercken

Behind ‘Mad Hatters’, a W+K DPTNR production

In May, our future forward creative unit, Department of New Realities (DPTNR), used futuristic lighting and VR stage visuals to bring to life the music of trombonist, Jörgen van Rijen, and pianist, Daria van den Bercken at ‘Mad Hatters’ – a classical concert at Amsterdam’s Muziekgebouw. DPTNR Creative Director, Geoffrey Lillemon, takes us behind the scenes of the event and how they created the show’s star – ‘Mister Queasy’, an ancient marionette turned interactive virtual reality puppet.

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by Geoffrey Lillemon

The KAM Concerten (Amsterdam’s Chamber of Music Foundation) is a program dedicated to making dramatic steps in how classical music can be experienced. Coen Closters, one of our tech art friends at Naivi, has previously worked with the organization and created beautiful audio reactive lasers for an earlier concert. When the theme for May’s concert was revealed as ‘Mad Hatters,’ Coen connected KAM Concerten with us, as the theme was a perfect synergy with DPTNR’s aesthetic.

The concert presented an opportunity for us to think about how classical music can be enhanced with technology, while incorporating the strength of human performance as a way to create an entirely new experience.  We were inspired having met with the show’s lead performer, classical trombonist Jörgen van Rijen, and specifically his musical collaboration with composer and heavy metal vocalist, Florian Magnus Maier – which is in itself, a new way to merge the edginess of heavy metal with a classical music palette.

We wanted to create the feeling of a character that had presence on stage.  In theater and classical concerts you are there to observe and take in what you hear and see, so when you add story and character to the visuals it becomes an apparition, which can conjure up a range of emotions from fear, laughter, and wonder, all driven by the heartbeat of the music.

Stage performance was a very important component to the ambition of the project so we created Mister Queasy – a projected marionette manoeuvred via two HTC VIVE controllers. Directed live by rogue-musician-gone-puppeteer, Kim-José Bode, Mister Queasy appeared during Jörgen van Rijen and Magnus Maier’s piece, ‘Slipstream for trombone solo and loop station’.

Standing at over 9-meters tall, the virtual reality marionette took stage visuals to radical new heights, as he flopped around the stage in a modern fairytale dance. Controlled in both real life by Kim-José Bode and through the virtual reality interface, Mister Queasy delivered a new kind of mixed reality theatre experience.

For the rest of the performance, we created bespoke visuals from Mister Queasy’s world to accompany each song, which were projected on stage and accompanied by futuristic lighting