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Composed: 2022

Orchestration: 3 flutes (2nd=piccolo & alto flute, 3rd=piccolo), 2 oboes, 3 clarinets (2nd=E-flat clarinet), 2 bassoons, contrabassoon, 4 horns, 3 trumpets, 3 trombones, tuba, timpani, percussion (glockenspiel, crotales, wood blocks, castanets, djembe, bass drum, tam-tam, finger cymbals, marimba, snare drum, suspended cymbal, vibraphone, triangle, hi-hat, field drum, crash cymbals, tom-toms, tambourine, floor tom, police whistle, large broom, rute, congas), harp, piano, celesta, laptop, and strings

First Los Angeles Philharmonic performance: First LA Phil performances

About this Piece

Philharmonia Fantastique: The Making of the Orchestra is a 25-minute concerto for orchestra and animated film that flies through the instruments of the orchestra to explore the age-old connection of creativity and technology. Philharmonia Fantastique is a collaboration between composer and DJ Mason Bates, Oscar-winning director and sound designer Gary Rydstrom, and animation director Jim Capobianco.

Orchestras have undergone an astonishing evolution that has made this innovative work possible. This historic medium started to integrate electronic sounds in the last two decades, and high-definition video has become increasingly common with the success of “films in concert.” All these elements come together in this multimedia symphony during a time of renewed interest in bringing classical music to audiences digitally.

Inspired to create something new for the emerging medium of “films live in concert,” Bates and Rydstrom approached Capobianco about creating a vibrant and wordless exploration of the orchestra. The creative meetings took place at Skywalker Ranch in Marin County, California.

The work features a unique hybrid of animation and live-action filming. Guided by Capobianco, the animation team created a hand-drawn, 2D style reminiscent of 1950s French films. To look inside the instruments, the team used high-definition special-effects cameras, including probe lenses, to peer inside a violin, a flute, and brass valves. The film also features sound design built from the key clicks of woodwinds, taps on the bodies of string instruments, and vintage analog synthesizers.

Guided by a magical Sprite, we see violin strings vibrate, brass valves slice the air, and drumheads resonate. Imaginatively blending traditional and modern animation styles, the film is a kinetic and cutting-edge guide to the orchestra. By the end, the orchestra overcomes its differences to demonstrate “unity from diversity” in a spectacular finale.

Premiered in the 2021/22 season, the work was commissioned by the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, Dallas Symphony Orchestra, National Symphony Orchestra, Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra, San Francisco Symphony, and the American Youth Symphony.

Philharmonia Fantastique is available on Apple Music and Apple TV, and the Grammy-winning soundtrack is available on Sony Classical.