We've long been able to read books online. More recently, the internet has also become a favored distribution system for movies, and certainly we've all heard more than enough about the effects of downloading and streaming on the music industry. No new technology can quite substitute, yet, for a visit to the museum, but as we've often posted about here, many of the museums themselves have gone ahead and made their paintings, sculptures, and other artifacts viewable in great detail online. At this point, will the experience of any art form at all remain unavailable to us on the internet?
Not long ago, I would have named any of the performing arts, but the brains at the Google Cultural Institute have now got around to those most living of all forms as well. The New York Times' Michael Cooper writes of our newfound ability, through a series of 360-degree videos, to "stand, virtually, on the stage of the Palais Garnier, among the dancers of the Paris Opera Ballet," " journey to Stratford-upon-Avon, where you can try to keep up with a frenetic Alex Hassell of the Royal Shakespeare Company as Henry V, exhorting his troops to go 'once more unto the breach,'" or "go onstage at Carnegie Hall, where the video places you smack in the middle of the Philadelphia Orchestra as it plays a rousing 'In the Hall of the Mountain King.'"
These come as part of a virtual exhibition involving "an innovative assemblage of performing arts groups" that went live earlier this month at the Google Cultural Institute's site. The organizations, now more than 60 in total, include not just the Paris Opera, the Royal Shakespeare Company, and Carnegie Hall, but the Berlin Philharmonic, the Vienna State Opera, the American Ballet Theater, the American Museum of Magic, the Brooklyn Academy of Music, the Country Music Hall of Fame, the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, the Metropolitan Opera, and the Rome Opera. You can find the performances neatly divided into categories: Music, Opera, Theatre, Dance, and Performance Art.
Google's blog describes some of the technology behind all this, including the 360-degree performance recordings, the "indoor Street View imagery" of the grand venues where many of the performances happen, and the "ultra-high resolution Gigapixel" images available for your scrutiny. When you play the video above of the Philadelphia Orchestra, you can click and drag to view the performance from every possible angle from your vantage right there in the midst of the musicians. I can't imagine what the Google Cultural Institute will come up with next, but surely it won't be long before we can see things from the Black Swan's point of view.
You can start exploring the 360s performances here.
Based in Seoul, Colin Marshall writes and broadcasts on cities and culture. He’s at work on a book about Los Angeles, A Los Angeles Primer, the video series The City in Cinema, and the crowdfunded journalism project Where Is the City of the Future? Follow him on Twitter at @colinmarshall or on Facebook.