Haydn Festspiele Eisenstadt 2011

At the opening of the Haydn Festspiele 2011, the Ars Electronica Futurelab provided the visualizations for Antonín Dvořák’s “From a New World” and for Joseph Haydn’s Symphony No. 94 “Surprise”. For the development of the visualization of the two symphonies the musical message was decisive: On the one hand, Dvorak’s piece is almost a pictorial narrative, on the other hand the famous Haydn symphony, which is based upon the minimalistic C-major key, is abstract and almost cubistic. The visionized version of the Resurrection Symphony staged a three-dimensional virtual world of visual imagery that was coordinated to the tonal imagery being produced in the concert hall.


The Haydn Festspiele 2011 opened with a visualization by Ars Electronica Futurelab.


Antonin Dvorak: Symphonie Nr.9 „Aus der Neuen Welt“

In the first part, the narrative work of Dvorak was realized with pictures, and the themes were reinforced from an interpretative perspective movement by movement in the visualization.

The beginning tells the story about the New World, America at the time, which was shown through new, impressive original photos. The sadness of the second movement is caused by losing a partner – earth. It is a loss caused by human beings which leads us further to the third movement, which is full of expectations and urgency – the earth is left behind and the exploration of the unknown is initiated. Pictures which showed us the way through the cosmos and the impossibility of conquering it due to our physical and metaphysical limits, let us finally get to an apparently heroic ending, a conquest with a doubt.


The final rehearsal for the opening of the Haydn Festspiele 2011. Credit: Ars Electronica Futurelab


In this part of the evening, hi-res pictures from the National Library of Congress, NASA and the ESA were used, which – set and animated by the Ars Electronica Futurelab – follow the symphony’s framework and told the story in harmony with the music. Bernd Pröscholdproduced the fast motion pictures of the second movement, which reflect earth’s beauty and grace. However, humans leave it, driven by conquest and yearning.

Joseph Haydn: Symphonie 94 „Surprise“

The second part showed an abstract, stereoscopic visualization based upon a cube. The cube was chosen as the basic form, because it contained a minimal, basic structure in the three-dimensional space but also an almost infinite number of variation possibilities – paralleling the G-Major key in music. While Haydn formed a kaleidoscopic wealth of thematic transformations, as described by Ludwig Finscher, the cube served as the basis for the visualization for a similar variety of structures and particles which conveyed the contents of the symphony on the screen.



In the first movement, the visual impression was manifested by following the score through soft movements which built up during the piece’s second movement and developed variants which were triggered by the “Surprise”, the beat of a kettledrum. The third movement, which was inspired by traditional folk music, inspired cube animations to perform dance-like torsions. The custom-made software, a particle engine took up the music’s structure and integrated it in the particles’ movements. This engine also enabled the pictures to break through the screen surface through a stereoscopic effect, and the concert audience found themselves in a new kind of listening experience, which found a brilliant finale in the fourth movement with the kaleidoscopic wealth mentioned above – almost a fireworks of particles.

Research & Development:

Florian Berger, Horst Hörtner, Andreas Jalsovec, Michael Mayr, Claus Zweythurm