The Harmonium Project

[2015] The University has partnered with the Edinburgh International Festival to open the August festivals in spectacular style.

Academics from the School of Informatics have been involved in one of the most ambitious arts initiatives of 2015. The Harmonium Project;  a huge sound and light event, launched the start of the Edinburgh International Festivals on Friday 7 August, taking place outside the Usher Hall. 

The project celebrated 50 years of the Edinburgh International Choir and showcased exciting aspects of the University’s work in design informatics.

What is the Project?

Academics from The Centre for Design Informatics worked closely with the chorus to generate and capture data that was used to programme the opening concert's dramatic light show.

Data from the behavioural patterns of singers who perform in the Edinburgh International Festival each year have been transformed over the last few months into spectacular digital animations, which were beamed on to the front of the Usher Hall for the event’s opening night.

The movement of their eyes, their pulse rates, their reading of a score and the way their faces change is being analysed using cutting-edge technology for the project.

Columns of light were shot into the sky during the free outdoor event and were visible for miles outside the city centre.

Academics from the School of Informatics worked with production company 59 Productions:

The whole process that is happening at the moment is called cognitive data capture, but using totally different methods. The idea is that we build up various pictures of what it is to be a singer and use different bits of the techniques that have been used to then visualise something which can be shown on the outside of the Usher Hall. Part of all this is that we didn’t want to show the chorus literally on the outside of the venue – it would have been too obvious to film them inside and project their performance on to the outside.

Richard Slaney
Creative Director, 59 Productions
Harmonium 2 Image


What we will be producing for Richard is sections of the data synchronised with the music. His job is to turn them into something more digestible and accessible to people, so they’re not just staring at a bunch of graphs.”

Dr Robin Hill
School of Informatics