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Van der Aa in Beijing

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Still from Eight

This year’s Beijing Music Festival, which takes place throughout October, will feature Michel van der Aa as its artist in focus.

Central to this focus will be the virtual reality installation Eight, which will be installed for more than two weeks, between the 10th and 27th October. Created with the designer Theun Mosk and virtual reality company The Virtual Dutch Men, ‘Eight’ is a unique fusion of music, theatre VR and visual art, in which audience members wear VR headsets to walk through and manipulate an installation of physical and virtual objects. As they do so, they piece together the story of a woman whose memories are spread across the walls.

The music that plays throughout the installation has been written by Van der Aa and is performed by Kate Miller-Heidke (who also appeared in Sunken Garden and The Book of Sand) and the Nederlands Kamerkoor (who also sang for ‘The Book of Sand’).

Mischa Spel in NRC describes the experience of ‘Eight’ as “like entering an unprecedented dream world” and called it “an important and pioneering work”. The New York Times (Joshua Barone) described ‘Eight’ as “a breakthrough for virtual reality in classical music”, while Parool (Erik Voermans) called it an “innovative tour de force”. As Spel advises: “You have to experience “Eight” because this mix of music theatre and VR is unprecedented and offers a glimpse into the genre’s endless future possibilities.”

Beijing will also see the Chinese premiere of Van der Aa’s clarinet concerto Hysteresis on 25 October. This performance will feature the soloist Jaan Bossier with the Mahler Chamber Orchestra, conducted by Vicente Alberola. Van der Aa will also give a lecture on music and technology as part of the festival.

‘Eight’ is a co-commission of Holland Festival, Festival Aix-en-Provence, Beijing Music Festival, KunstFestSpiele Herrenhausen and the Helsinki Festival. In 2020 it will be performed at the KunstFestSpiele Herrenhausen in Hanover between 15 May and 12 June, and at the Helsinki Festival from 13 to 30 August. A full list of dates, tickets and more information can be found at eightvr.net.