The London Design Festival installation – Music & Light – in the incredibly beautiful V&A Music Room, was the absolute highlight of my visit to this years London Design Festival.
The installation, curated by Clare Farrow in collaboration with Arup Architects, brings to life the words of composer Arvo Pärt through music, design, colour and light.
The usual buzz of voices was broken by the sound of moving classical music which greeted me as I arrived at the Music Room in the V&A. On entering I was struck by the beauty of the gilded motifs of baroque guitars and violins on the wall panelling and ceiling. It was as if I was being transported back to the 18th century.
Noticing some earphones on a comfortable leather bench, I sat down to learn more about this beautiful feast for the eyes and ears.
Inspiration for Music & Light Installation – Arvo Pärt
Instead of the lecture I was expecting, the voice in the speakers was that of the Estonian composer Arvo Pärt describing his music, which was playing in the room.
“I could compare my music to white light, which contains all colours. Only a prism can divide the colours and make them appear. This prism could be the spirit of the listener.”
Listening to his words and moving music, while taking in the beauty of the room, made me quite emotional. It was such a beautiful, unexpected and wonderful experience. One that made me forget about time and rushing around. I was happy to get lost in this moment.
While I was there, the curator of the exhibit Clare Farrow arrived with Designer Stephen Philips from Arup and the manager of Italian leather company Poltrona Frau to do a pop up talk about the exhibit.
Music Room History
Clare explained that this beautiful music salon was one of the earliest rooms to be dedicated to music in England.
The interior was deigned in 1756 by Italian architect Giovanni Battista Borra for the Duke and Duchess of Norfolk. The duchess was one of London’s leading hostesses and a lover of French and Italian style and after a huge reception held there in 1756, it became fashionable amongst the aristocrats to create music rooms.
Fast forward a few hundred years to 1938 and the Norfolk house was sold and set to be demolished – as were many grand houses during the 1920s and 1930s in London.
Luckily the V&A rescued the magnificent paneling and ceiling from demolition and reinstalled it in the V&A.
The idea of the installation is a meeting of music and design through light, colour, texture, form, space and a dialogue the between the past and the present inspired by the words of Arvo Pärt.
Interpretation by Arup Architects
The installation is Architects Arup’s response to these words, the music and the setting of the music room.
Designer Stephen Philips explained how the white light band on the floor also had a practical function holding the power cables. The screen representing the colours of the spectrum were manufactured in acrylic with a coloured edge to it.
Much like the music, it is up to the viewer to interpret the coloured screen. It could be interpreted, for instance, as strings of a musical instrument.
An important part of the installation is the listening bench. Designed for people to sit around the edge and take in the detail of the beautiful room. A cushion in the middle was designed so people could lie back and look at the ceiling.
Stephen mentioned that when designing the bench, he had subconsciously designed it in the shape of a violin and the colour of the leather chosen was similar to that of a cello. The bench complements the colours and finishes of the luxurious room. 30 panels of the best Italian leather were used, beautifully stitched together by Italian leather company Poltrona Frau.
The sound of the music, which created the moving atmosphere in the room, was made possible by Ned Crowe (Acoustic Design) using the latest in speaker technology.
I feel so incredibly lucky to have been at the right place at the right time to experience this installation the way I did. Of all the exhibits I went to at London Design Festival, this is one I will never forget.
Have a wonderful week,