The Anatomy of the orchestra

Photography Paul Blakemore

Photography Paul Blakemore



I have never forgotten the first time I wandered into the middle of an orchestra, as they played. I was probably 8, it was a rehearsal, and the conductor invited me and my friend to see what it felt like, to walk amongst the musicians. It was an engulfing experience, all these disparate musical colours and timbres, bombarding me from all sides. A real insight into the inner workings of this beautiful great orchestral organism.

It was amazing… As I walked about it was most noticeable how everyone I passed smiled in the certain knowledge that we were all sharing something really unique
— Bristol 24/7

I have often thought of this; about how we might recreate that sense of engulfment, how we might design an orchestral environment where the audience member can literally climb inside it, making their own internal sonic mix as they move around within the group. In my early career I often played with the orchestra and audience in the round: we were halfway to this complete immersion. With The Anatomy of the Orchestra I have finally found a way of recreating that ground-zero childhood experience. Armed with an astonishing and enveloping piece of pulse music - Steve Reich’s The Four Sections - and a giant orchestra arranged like a sculptural installation, I can promise each and every visitor to our Anatomy a quite extraordinary sonic adventure.

Produced by The Paraorchestra and Friends, The Anatomy of the Orchestra was first presented by Bristol Music Trust as part of Bristol New Music Festival 2018 on Saturday 21st April 2018.

The Anatomy of the Orchestra, Colston Hall, April 2018. Unofficial footage courtesy of Ade Smith, audience member