Research and Projects

  • Project,Story,Custom

    Make Music People Can See

    Make Music People Can See

    Design students use technology to reinvent the role of orchestral garments.

    Closed eyes traditionally make way for open ears. Orchestral musicians drape themselves in black to enhance and grant priority to their sound — appealing to one sense at a time. But at The New School, where tradition is traditionally disrupted, angular notes stack like polygons, and dismantled high hats splash wild blue lightning.


    In 2012, students from The New School’s Parsons School of Design and Mannes School of Music collaborated with Marin Alsop, music director of the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra, at the intersections of performance and design, sight and sound, to explode the senses. In the course Fashionable Technologies, Parsons students constructed innovative sustainable, wearable technologies that both transcended material performance constraints and visually illuminated the original music compositions of their Mannes classmates — a prototype meant to topple the black dress symphony paradigm. Brightly colored geometrical formations projected onto dresses and danced to the music played by the performer wearing them. A syncopated piano march shot red crystals across the pianist’s all-white cape. With every drummer’s downbeat, green spheres and triangles met onscreen for a tiny fox-trot.

    Two schools teamed with community partners for innovative artistic outcomes that explored the future of orchestral garments and allowed participants to hear colors and see sounds. The New School, with its rich interdisciplinary tradition, is a force of ideas, inquiry, and innovation. Be a Force of New.