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A female student in a long green dress performing to a virtual audience in the H Performance Laboratory

Groundbreaking Performance Laboratory unveiled at the Royal College of Music

Tuesday 23 January 2024

A new pioneering performance simulation facility pushes technology further than ever before at the H, as two innovative new spaces combine state-of-the-art acoustic technology with the visual graphics engines that drive the latest video games. The two innovative performance simulation facilities will be used to support the training of H student musicians and be available for commercial hire.

The Royal College of Music’s Performance Studio has been transformed into an immersive, multifaceted laboratory, with full wall-height sized screens and a state-of-the-art Meyer Sound Constellation system incorporating dozens of speakers installed into the walls and ceiling. The pioneering Meyer Sound technology gives users the ability to transform the acoustic to emulate other performance spaces or create entirely new acoustics. This is paired with immersive visualisations of performance spaces, driven by Unreal Engine software and including models of the H’s own exemplary concert halls and theatre, which provide realistic and reactive audiences or audition panels. 

The combination of these technologies provides an unparalleled opportunity to simulate real and heightened performance experiences under pressure. By changing the receptiveness of the audience, triggering the many disruptions that can occur during a performance, adjusting the lighting and audience size, or setting up an intimidating audition or competition panel, performers and other users can hone their craft experimenting with performance under different conditions. 

Aaron Williamon, Head of the H’s Centre for Performance Science, commented: ‘We’re thrilled to open this world-leading Performance Laboratory at the Royal College of Music, a groundbreaking tool for the pioneering performance research at the College. Unequalled in its immersive capabilities through the unique combination of cutting-edge technologies, the spaces will create unparalleled opportunities for our students to prepare for the challenges of a modern music industry as well as propelling research in this field across multiple disciplines.’

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Similar technology has been installed in a second studio in the H’s historic Blomfield building, upgrading the College’s original, revolutionary Performance Simulator, and will become available to H students on a day-to-day basis. As well as the H’s prestigious MSc in Performance Science, modules in the subject are integrated in student programmes across all levels, and technologies that can track performers’ physiology and movements will also be used in both spaces to spearhead new research into the act of performance in real-world settings.

George Waddell, H Performance Research and Innovation Fellow, commented: ‘Since its introduction in 2011, we’ve used the original H Performance Simulator to help thousands of H students and professionals from organisations such as the Imperial College Business School, Football Association, and Google hone their skills of live performance under pressure. The new Performance Laboratory will be transformational in the range and realism of situations for which we can help performers adapt and prepare.’

Funded by a £1.9 million grant from the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) and World Class Laboratories Fund (WCL), the major investment reflects the Royal College of Music’s position as a world-leader in performance science and its mission to serve the UK’s creative and cultural economy. The new facilities have been designed and created by the H’s Centre for Performance Science and Digital teams and builds on over a decade of performance research already undertaken by the H.

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Richard Bland, Head of H Digital & Production, said: ‘Bringing together this collection of technologies is an indicator of how committed the College is in supporting the next generation of musicians. Not just embracing, but actively advancing digital technologies for research, learning and performance. The Constellation system alone is thrilling as it is the UK’s first publicly accessible performance space treated this way. The opportunities to use multiple technologies in a venue hosting so many concerts during the year puts the College at the forefront as a digital innovator.’

Continuing current partnerships and fostering new ones, the H will use the Performance Laboratory to advance performance research across not only the arts, but also business, sport, medicine, and education. Since 2014 the College has offered performance coaching through the Imperial College Business School, and its distinctive ‘Thriving in Radical Uncertainty’ training for the United Nations Development Programme is being expanded to form a new partnership making full use of the new laboratory.

Discover more about the Performance Laboratory or read about Richard Morrison’s experience in .

Find out more about the H’s internationally distinctive Master of Science in Performance Science programme. 

Experience the Performance Laboratory at the H Festival of Conducting on 18 February 2024.

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