Reach for the stars

Birmingham is gearing up for a very special musical experience.


Sky at night


Birmingham’s disused Municipal Bank opens its doors to the public later this week for the launch of a major digital music installation.

Universe of Sound: The Planets, a free and interactive experience presented by Town Hall & Symphony Hall Birmingham and the Philharmonia Orchestra, uses creative technologies to transport visitors into the heart of a symphony orchestra.  The digital installation allows visitors to play live and virtual instruments and learn about the roles of musicians and composers in ten separate rooms, before experiencing a planetarium-style full-dome 360 degree projection delivering the incomparable thrill of seeing and hearing 132 players performing Gustav Holst’s The Planets, conducted by Esa-Pekka Salonen.

Universe of Sound: The Planets opens on Saturday 25 May and runs until Sunday 16 June 2013 (11am – 6.30pm daily).

The final weekend of the digital installation will see a number of associated events taking place including a one-off screening of Stanley Kubrick’s cult science-fiction film 2001: A Space Odyssey accompanied by the original soundtrack performed live by the Philharmonia and Birmingham’s Ex Cathedra choir, conducted by Benjamin Wallfisch.

A free family day of activities, workshops and demonstrations, and a full live performance of The Planets, performed by the Philharmonia Orchestra and ladies of the City of Birmingham Choir conducted by Vladimir Ashkenazy will also take place, marking the end of the installation’s Birmingham residency.

Devised and created by the Philharmonia Orchestra Digital Department and Principal Conductor and Artistic Advisor Esa-Pekka Salonen, Universe of Sound: The Planets won a 2013 Royal Philharmonic Society Award for Audiences and Engagament last week (alongside city music organisations Birmingham Opera Company and Birmingham Contemporary Music Group). Over 67,000 people saw the installation at London’s Science Museum in 2012.

The Universe of Sound digital installation in Birmingham is sponsored by Birmingham City University with support from THSH partner Norland. The performance of 2001: A Space Odyssey is sponsored by Investec Wealth & Investment.

The creation of Universe of Sound was made possible thanks to generous support from Arts Council England, the Eranda Foundation, the Esmée Fairbairn Foundation, the Foundation for Sport and the Arts and the Paul Hamlyn Foundation. An interactive Blu-Ray and DVD release of the footage and audio has just been released on Signum Records to coincide with the installation.

Further information is available at