The Art Gallery of New South Wales partnered with experiential design consultancy Art Processors, to produce an immersive audio experience for the exhibition Japan Supernatural. Japan Supernatural explores the role of ghosts, spirits and demons in Japanese art, and features over 180 wildly imaginative works by Japanese artists, past and present, including contemporary superstar Takashi Murakami. The audio experience plays a key role in visitor engagement and was designed to be a ‘cinematic experience for the ears’ to both guide visitors through the exhibition and immerse them in the world of the supernatural.
The audio experience features an original musical score with haunting melodies, festive revelry, driving percussion and a ghostly lullaby that supports narration delivered by exhibition curator Melanie Eastburn and Japanese history and folklore experts Hiroko Yoda and Matt Alt.
The score was created in collaboration with Japanese vocalist and virtuoso master of the Japanese shamisen, Noriko Tadano, and Toshi Sakamoto of renowned Japanese Taiko drumming ensemble Wadaiko Rindo. Melbourne-based Natural Progression Studios provided additional composition and arrangement. The team of Japanese and Australian musicians composed the eight tracks specifically to respond to the themes of the artworks contained in each of the eight exhibition rooms. The score combines traditional Japanese vocals and instruments with ambient sound.
The team also worked very closely with the curatorial team, identifying in an early content workshop what curator Melanie Eastburn was hoping for the audio experience; her ideas and the tone of the exhibition. During recording, this allowed them to come back to the curatorial intent, and work out what we wanted to say through the music.
Since the exhibition opened, visitors have listened to the audio experience more than 55,000 times. 1,295 of these were on the show’s opening weekend. On average, visitors spend 62 minutes listening to the audio experience as they enjoy the exhibition. It is available in English and Japanese and is able to deliver content seamlessly as visitors progress through the exhibition, thanks to location-aware technology.
The audio experience was designed as an ‘eyes up’ visitor experience – there is no need to press buttons as it plays automatically when it senses where the visitor is. Guests can also listen to the app again after they leave, thanks to the ‘off-site’ mode.
While the majority of our visitors (99%) choose to take advantage the Gallery’s suite of in-house devices, the Japan Supernatural is also available to download on the visitors own devices through the App Store or as an online playlist.
Some of the audience feedback collected by the Gallery’s visitor services staff:
‘The exhibition was exquisite and I thought that the music during the audio guide tour made it even more fantastic.’
‘I just wanted to say how outstanding I thought Japanese Supernatural was….. the added soundscape keeps you immersed the whole time.’
‘JAPAN SUPERNATURAL Amazing!! Loved it! Bit weird, very nice, wonderful, fabulous, great audio guide, music, freaky, interesting.’
‘First time I have ever actually enjoyed an audio guide in an art gallery’
‘Fanciful. Stirs the imagination. Entranced. Another world, totally immersive. Wonderful stories + music‘
‘Very spooky and beautiful. Audio music great. Very immersive. Surreal experience. Overwhelming. So much fun.’
Recording the narration simultaneously in studios in Sydney, Melbourne and Tokyo
Toshi Sakamoto of renowned Japanese Taiko drumming ensemble Wadaiko Rindo
Japanese vocalist and virtuoso master of the Japanese shamisen, Noriko Tadano
Becky Sui Zhen and Corin Ileto from Natural Progression Studios with performers Noriko Tadano and Toshi Sakamoto