"Come and bathe in high-tech sound, feast on unearthly visuals, and let the experience take you on the ultimate trip," Murdoc Niccals of Gorillaz said, preparing me for my visit. Walking through the front doors I could already feel the bass bumping. Not knowing what to expect, I quickly realized that sensory overload was imminent. I had arrived at the Gorillaz Spirit House, an installation in Brooklyn that brought music to life using Sonos technology, specifically their new PLAYBASE speaker.
What sounds like just a neat listening party for Gorillaz fans like myself soon became a demonstration of the power of technology in bringing art to life.
In walking into the first room in the Spirit House, a multimedia walkthrough experience of sorts, I felt as if I was stepping into the Gorillaz living room or into one of the band’s music videos. A TV masqueraded as a fishtank in front of the couch, the fridge opened up to reveal a cake that you’d swear you could smell, and one huge slice of pizza stuck to the wall, threatening to slide down. The atmosphere was, at the same time, hyper-realistic and cartoonish. And, perhaps it was how overwhelming the experience was, but I couldn’t place where the bass-heavy tunes that filled the room to the brim were coming from. The PLAYBASE, as part of the 5.1 speaker system, a plain yet futuristic box, sat just beneath the “fish tank,” but seemed to be playing from right behind me.
Walking through a curtain-lined corridor I found myself in the next room, the centerpiece of the experience. It was, quite simply, a living room. Since, as it was explained to me, Sonos products like the PLAYBASE are designed for at-home listening, it made a lot of sense to put the “audience” so-to-speak in a living room. I sat on a couch, and in front of me I saw only the simple PLAYBASE sitting up against a plain white wall. But, as I slowly noticed the projectors overhead, I knew that this would be more than just audio. Using projection-mapping technology alongside the speaker, the entire room quickly became engulfed in gorgeous visuals.
According to Jed Lewis, the Senior Director of Global Brand Activations at Sonos, "As you progress into that projection-mapping room, you start to see where the sound and visuals start to come together." The experience felt both like watching a music video and taking a trip to the astral plane — it was awesome.
Whether it was the ability of the PLAYBASE to really wrap a listener in sound or the stunning visuals, one thing was crystal clear by the end of the day: technological progress will allow us to explore creatively in new and inventive ways. Jed Lewis said of Sonos and this partnership, "So much science is behind just letting the art be the art."
The blending of art and science is nothing new, not by a long shot. However, as technologies like AI (artificial intelligence), AR (augmented reality), VR (virtual reality), projection mapping, and advanced audio tech continue to advance, the ways in which we can express ourselves artistically will also continue to expand and develop.