Cat Ellis

World of tech
  The BBC is using virtual reality to immerse an audience in classical music, and show that there’s more to the Proms (an annual eight-week music event centered around London’s Royal Albert Hall) than an orchestra on a stage.  The new VR experience is part of Five Telegrams – a joint venture between composer Anna Meredith and artists 59 Productions that explores methods of communication used during World War One including telegrams, propaganda, and letters from the trenches. The result is a virtual concert in two parts: an immersive recording of Meredith’s composition performed by the BBC Orchestra on the first night of the Proms, and a short, deeply moving first-person experience focused on just one movement – a piece called Field Postcards.  Field postcards were a hugely popular way for soldiers on the front line to communicate with their families back in the UK, and Nothing to be Written shifts between two worlds – the trenches and hospital wards from which the cards were sent, and the cosy hallways where they arrived.  All mail was censored, so these cards were simple multiple choice forms. Soldiers could tell their loved ones whether they were well, had been admitted to hospital, or had received a recent letter – but nothing else.

They were forbidden from adding any extra detail – if anything else was written, the car would be destroyed – but families could read a lot between the lines. “You as the viewer are the person receiving the postcard, but I didn’t want to be specific about you being in any one story,” Lysander Ashton, director of 59 Productions, told TechRadar.

You’re making your own story from all of the words that aren’t written on the postcard – everything that’s unsaid 59 Productions bought several of the cards on eBay as part of its early research. “They’re amazing objects,” said Ashton.

“When I first saw these, I thought they were kind of Orwellian – the idea that the only way you’re allowed to communicate with your loved ones is through these tick boxes – but we worked with a historian from the Imperial War Museum who showed us their collection and opened it up to us. “These were incredibly popular with the soldiers because they bypassed the censorship, and you could send this home in two days from the Front.

I’d never really thought how fast and efficient their service was, but of course it was the backbone infrastructure of the Empire. “So in in fact people loved sending these because even though you couldn’t actually say anything with them in terms of words, there was that sense of communication. Read more from…

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