Mastering modern sound

Masters of Modern Art from the Hermitage

Visitor listening to audio guide at the Hermitage exhibition at the Art Gallery of NSW.

The Art Gallery of NSW needed a museum audio guide that complemented the magnitude of its ground-breaking Masters of Modern Art exhibition, which showcased 65 modern masterpieces from the State Hermitage Museum in St Petersburg, Russia.

Having partnered previously with the AGNSW to provide a scalable audio delivery platform and immersive gallery audio guide, this time we had a more linear brief: to deliver an immersive audio tour complete with musical soundscapes and interpretative stop-based narration relating to key themes within the exhibition.

Working together with the gallery’s curatorial and digital engagement teams, we created the Masters Audio Guide, a location-aware audio tour that blended expert storytelling with an original exhibition score. The guide allowed visitors to listen to narration or enjoy the music, with the soundtrack changing seamlessly from room to room, punctuating the exhibition’s different themes and styles.


Challenge

The Art Gallery of NSW wanted an immersive, compelling and linear audio experience that could elevate the stories behind the works while guiding visitors through the exhibition. The tour would be delivered via museum-owned mobile devices, but also needed to work as a standalone app that visitors could download via the Apple App Store.

Woman holding mobile device with Masters of Modern Hermitage app open
Screenshot of Masters of  Modern Hermitage app
Screenshot of Masters of  Modern Hermitage app
Screenshot of Masters of  Modern Hermitage app
Screenshot of Masters of  Modern Hermitage app

Approach

Curatorial workshops and consultations established the aesthetic and technical parameters for the exhibition, making for a smooth workflow within tight timeframes. 

Opportunities to score music for an exhibition featuring the biggest names in art don’t come along frequently. Fortunately for us, we’d done it before. Musicians Corin Ileto, Casey Hartnett, and our very own Becky Sui Zhen — a producer at Art Processors — who composed and produced the elegant exhibition score for the John Russell Audio Experience returned to the studio to create the soundtrack for the Masters Audio Guide. This time, their brief was to create a more atmospheric exhibition score. Curator Jackie Dunn added narrative. 

We achieved all of this in tandem with building the Masters Audio Guide app, an audio experience that was beautiful, intuitive, accessible, and location-aware.

 

Aesthetically, Art Processors’s products are beautiful; inherently complex, but their interface design is deceptively simple. We wanted to keep everything as simple as possible and as visual as possible. Also, having music — creating atmosphere and a more cinematic experience for our visitors — was something we really, really liked. It wasn’t just functional, like other off-the-shelf audio guides. It was a much more produced and fully realised audio experience.

– Brooke Carson-Ewart,
   Head of Digital Engagement, Art Gallery of NSW

How many people can say they’ve performed alongside the works of Picasso, Matisse, Monet and Kandinsky? The digital and physical realms collided for Sydney Festival 2019 when musicians Corin Ileto, Casey Hartnett, and our very own Becky Freeman performed their ambient multi-instrumental compositions for Masters of Modern Sound.

Learn More
A woman plays cello at the launch party of Masters of Modern Hermitage exhibitio

Solution

The Gallery wanted visual simplicity, beauty and technical ease. We delivered a multi-layered audio experience with captivating stop-based narrative, an original exhibition score and music paired to the artworks. The Master Audio Guide was intuitive and accessible, and visitors could access it on both museum-owned mobile devices or downloaded as a standalone app from the Apple App Store to their device.

Impact in numbers

  • 83 per cent Number of visitors who listened to all 12 audio tracks.
  • 62 minutes Average time visitors spent listening to the audio experience while wandering the exhibition.
  • 701 sessions Visitors who used the Masters Audio Guide on the exhibition’s busiest day.