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Q&A with artist Henry Chu ahead of the launch of his project with Hong Kong Philharmonic Orchestra

Image: The Metaverse Symphony, image courtesy of Henry Chu

The Hong Kong Philharmonic Orchestra (HK Phil) is thrilled to present the first-ever symphonic work to be performed both in a concert hall and the metaverse. Featuring groundbreaking music composed by Hollywood film composer Elliot Leung and an immersive art experience created by award-winning Hong Kong-based digital artist Henry Chu, “Chow Sang Sang Jewellery Proudly Sponsors: Metaverse Symphony” will be held on 5 & 6 May 2023 at the Hong Kong Cultural Centre Concert Hall with three performances, followed by a virtual debut in The Sandbox metaverse. The world premiere of The Metaverse Symphony, which serves as the inaugural programme of the HK Phil’s Arts Tech programme, will be conducted by Gerard Salonga.

With the support of Ora-Ora, Henry Chu will create an epoch-making, immersive experience using generative art and transmedia at the Hong Kong Cultural Centre Concert Hall, with an aim to explore the intersections of symphonic music, digital fine art, and technology. Live data and pre-recorded footage will be delivered to real-time software custom-made by the artist to generate visuals that are unique in every concert.

We sat down with artist Henry Chu to speak with him about this groundbreaking collaboration, his practice, and the importance of music in his work.

Image: Artist Henry Chu, image courtesy of Henry Chu

Hi Henry, firstly thank you for your time. Digital Art Fair has worked closely with you over the past couple of years. It is great to see your involvement with such a prestigious organisation like the Hong Kong Philharmonic Orchestra.

DAF: Your work has always been interested in the intersection of data, sound and aesthetics, is there a reason or an origin story as to why these 3 aspects are key in your work?

Henry: I learned to play the piano at a young age, but I don't have a natural talent for it. However, I've always wanted to become a better musician. I began to imagine what would happen if sound wasn't the only output. That's when I started using technology to create a more immersive experience through sound and visuals. I've discovered that I enjoy the unexpected results that occur when I allow the computer to determine certain parameters or when I use data as input. Live data is a fragment of the real world, and I'm interested in exploring something that is tangible. Even when working in a virtual environment, I seek to create something that is real.

DAF: Blockchain Piano debuted at Digital Art Fair in 2021, could you tell us some differences in working on one aspect of an instrument (the piano) versus having a whole orchestra at your disposal?

Henry: In Blockchain piano, the data drives the music, and the performance of the piano becomes an investment when crypto is purchased in real-time. What if the decision to buy a cryptocurrency was based on an artistic reason? That is the question I want to explore.

For my collaboration with HK Phil, I'm creating four new works, one for each symphony movement, inspired by how technology is affecting our lives. I've chosen to create real-time generated art because it will react to the music better and is easier for me to work with. In film production, the picture comes first, followed by the music, which completes the story. In this case, the music is composed first, and I create the visuals to deliver an audio-visual experience that responds to the music.

Image: The Metaverse Symphony in Sandbox, image courtesy of Artifact Labs, Lululand World, The Sandbox.

DAF: Elliot Leung has been making waves globally as a composer, would you like to share how it has been working with him?

Henry: Elliot is an incredibly talented composer, and his work is dynamic and amazing. While we work in different mediums, I believe our work can be appreciated separately. We spent most of our time creating our own works, but we've had discussions and shared similar opinions about the metaverse and the role of technology in our near future. It wouldn't be difficult to find a way to connect my work to his. I enjoy the collaborative process and look forward to the opportunity to work together again soon.

DAF: What can viewers expect to see at the Metaverse Symphony?

Henry: My aim is to generate a picture for each music movement. I imagine 10,000 invisible hands, painting strokes and colors on the screen. The strokes and colors are inspired by the music and create a unique visual experience that amplifies the excitement of symphonic music.

To register and purchase tickets to The Metaverse Symphony, please click the link below:

More information available here:…

Henry Chu Bio:

Henry Chu is a Hong Kong–based new media artist. He graduated from the Electrical and Electronic Engineering programme at the University of Auckland, and he founded digital design studio pill & pillow in 2004. Henry's digital creations received more than 200 local and international awards including recognition at the Cannes Lions, Webbys, and One Show. Henry always works with data, music and body movements. His iPad music app "Squiggle" was exhibited at the Museum of Modern Art, New York in 2011. In 2020 Henry created a karaoke generator "Canto Cocktail" for the M+ Museum commission. In 2021 he presented "Blockchain Piano" in the Digital Art Fair Asia, which converts crypto price into music in real-time, and allows visitors to buy crypto through playing a song. In 2022, he received multiple commissions, which includes “Wind Piano” - Audemars Piguet 50 Years of Royal Oak exhibition, “I’m waiting to blossom” - HSBC Open to Art, “Portrait Play” - Hong Kong Museum of Art, “Quadtree series” - Bank of China HK and “SURIV” - HKU Faculty of Medicine. His video work “Flower World” was sold at a Sotheby’s auction on 1 Nov 2022. He has been a speaker at Business of Design Week, TEDxKowloon, and TEDxTaipei.

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