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Musicity Singapore

The UK-originated Musicity is in Singapore to add a new dimension to the local urban experience. Yvonne Xu asks Arup Theatre Consultant Philip Heselton about the possibility of the auditorium city.

Musicity Singapore


May 30th, 2012

After giving London and Tokyo their respective musical soundtracks, Musicity, the project that curates music for architecture and city life has come to give the Singaporean urbanscape its accompaniment. Organised by the British Council, Musicity was founded by DJ Nick Luscombe with creative strategist Simon Jordan as a global initiative to merge what is the most intangible of the arts – music, with what is arguably its biggest – architecture, to redefine the 21st-century urban experience.

7 local musicians have been asked to compose original music in response to iconic landmarks in Singapore. Their site-specific tracks will be made available for listening and downloading to the public at each location – each one designed to make urban warriors on the go slow down, pause, and take in their city on a new level.


Cosa Nostra will be creating an original musical piece inspired by the Singapore Art Museum

Despite it being a musical and architectural project, Musicity is really less about performance than it is about conversation. On top of engaging through music in public spaces, Musicity also serves as a platform for collaborations between artists of different disciplines and backgrounds and for creative discussion. The Musicity Forum, for one, was held last week at the ArtScience Museum for a panel of composers, musicians, architects and planners to discuss soundscaping and the magic that happens when place, music and art merge. We have Arup’s Theatre Consultant Philip Heselton‘s views on the topic:


The ArtScience Museum will be interpreted by London-based Jon Hopkins and Singaporean Jason Tan (Octover)

How can Musicity add value to the Singaporean experience of music and public spaces?

A place like Singapore is very fast moving. We spend a lot of time down in the black holes – the shopping malls and the MRT. We’re not aware of the spaces around us until we come out into the bright light and actually remove the music we choose to play down the black holes, through earphones and so on, and get confronted with the architecture.


Gardens by the Bay – the starting point for the collaboration between British singer-songwriter Mara Carlyle and Singapore sound artist Darren Ng (Sonicbrat)

As a theatre consultant, where do you see sound and space, or music and architecture, intersecting?

With music we have a choice of what we buy and what we listen to and can make that choice according to our moods and needs. With architecture we are subjected to buildings and environments over which we often have no control or choice. We are able to enjoy our own choice of music whilst on the move, thanks to technology, and therefore tend to become hermits in our own world and begin to ignore the environment and architecture around us. In addition, both genres have the ability to transport us through emotions from tranquility and solemnity to almost frenetic rebellion and irritation; both can empower us to look beyond our immediate environment.


School Of The Arts will serve as Singapore DMC Champion DJ Koflow’s inspiration board

What can urban planners learn from theatre designers?

I think that poor urban planning and architecture has contributed significantly to the demise of social values and welfare; unfortunately greed and cost-cutting has also played a role, and such cause and effect scenarios can be attributed all around the world. Theatre design is about designing spaces to suit the genre of productions that will be performed and to provide a whole experience throughout the building for both audience and staff alike. This approach affects not only the working areas or auditorium, but should be extended to all associated areas and to consider crowd behaviour and movement. This is an observation we pick up from theatre design that can be shared with urban planning.


Muon will bring a new sonic dimension to The Esplanade

People are visually oriented. Can the urban street be less of a theatre and more of an auditorium?

All too often streets have become disjointed and lack character, so they immediately lose their attraction. The urban street should not be a collection of little retail boxes that are bland and awkwardly laid out, but should be a cohesive arrangement of spaces and supporting services that invite and attract. Making an audience feel comfortable is about circulation and [giving them] the ability to move around to where they want to be; this is so often overlooked in the urban street planning.


Singapore band I am David Sparkle will give The Asian Civilisation Museum an instrumental post rock band treatment

City dwellers are accustomed to played music that are piped through speakers in commercial settings, or that are coming from street performers and baskers. Are there other types of soundscapes city planners or designers can introduce to make for a richer and more immersive urban experience?

Personally I find a lot of the music piped through in retail zones and lifts, or even as “Please hold …” music on telephones quite obnoxious, repetitive and inconsiderate, so I am quite amused when someone comes up with an idea to break that mould and introduce a soundscape theme. Recently I read of someone who had composed music around the sounds a bridge makes throughout the day, and although I have not heard what was produced, I find the idea innovative. Many different soundscapes have been created around the world and are well received and they can be humorous, tranquil or provocative. The trick is to get people to spend a moment to slow down to actually understand what they are seeing and listening to; this of course comes back to successful urban planning and thoughtful creation of the auditorium street…

For more information on Muscity, visit

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