A world premiere, the hologram of a virtuoso recorded during his lifetime
ART AND TECHNOLOGY | artTech
By Olivier Grivat | source: www.swissinfo.ch | English translation
Thanks to a Swiss start-up, the 85-year-old French pianist Philippe Entremont has created his hologram that will allow him to be interpreted for all eternity: “I would have thought it wonderful to see how Beethoven and Chopin played today,” explains the virtuoso of 7,000 concerts and 350 recordings.
“It’s great, I’m always for the innovation and I’m not backward-looking at all…” When Philippe Entremont is caught outside in the early morning at his Parisian home, he goes to teach at the Schola Cantorum in Paris: “When I was asked to make this hologram, I didn’t hesitate for a minute. Especially since it was in Switzerland, in La Chaux-de-Fonds, in a mythical concert hall, where the best recordings in the world were made.
Known worldwide as far away as China and Japan, the virtuoso with 7,000 concerts and 350 recordings, born in Reims into a family of musicians, lived the era of 78 rpm, 33 rpm, then video, CD and MP3.
So why not the hologram? “Today, I would have thought it would have been wonderful to see how Beethoven or Chopin played. In La Chaux-de-Fonds, surrounded by a team of terrific professionals, I recorded for hours as if I was playing in public or in my living room, without realizing the time that passed by.
Sense of eternity
Time is indeed at the heart of the experiment attempted in mid-November by the Vaud start-up Cybel’Art in the watchmaking city of the Neuchâtel mountains. It is thanks to the entrepreneurial spirit of his boss, Pierluigi Christophe Orunesu, that the idea was born.
As a child, Pierluigi Christophe Orunesu grew up in Audrey Hepburn’s Villa La Paisible in Tolochenaz, Canton Vaud, where his parents of Sardinian origin worked for the British actress for 40 years: “One day, a friend asked me to make the hologram of the one who was a bit like my second mother. I then realized that it would be much easier with living beings,” told me this entrepreneur, who in 2008 also created the first European donkey milk industry.
There are already holograms of deceased artists, such as Maria Callas, Dalida or Amy Winehouse, but the experience has never been attempted with living artists: “Philippe Entremont, of whom I am an enthusiast, seemed to be the right person to start with. It is a wonderful challenge to capture his light as his holographic will with his intimate emotion.
The “last dinosaur”
For three days, a team of skilled professionals recorded the concert performer, who the New York Times called the “last dinosaur”. Half a dozen technicians focused their devices at the hands, at the sound, at the grand piano of the “Salle de Musique” of the Neuchâtel heights.
A special camera was placed above the pianist, allowing a resolution of “6 and 8K” with extraordinary pixelization. For the sound recording, four microphones of the latest technology used in football stadiums to capture the atmosphere: “The idea was to immortalize Philippe Entremont’s playing and fingering and, in a second step perhaps, to create applications that would allow students to learn to play with him,” Pierluigi Christophe Orunesu enthuses.
Passionate about new technologies, he created the ICOLOGRAM® project, a neologism composed of the two words icon and hologram. It will also be possible to play the virtuoso’s hologram in a concert hall or at home in front of the television or by using augmented reality glasses.
“Not afraid to become a ghost”
About fifty international artists could be added to the list inaugurated by the French virtuoso. His project has been integrated into the artTech platform, led by former EPFL President Patrick Aebischer, which has about 30 start-ups.
“The next problem will be the diffusion,” explains Pierluigi Christophe Orunesu. We will have to sign agreements with large companies such as Magic Leap. We are the first in the world to have bought the light or the ghost of a human being. During his lifetime, I will pay a percentage to the performer for the distribution of his work. Then we can continue to have him perform on stage on behalf of the company. In addition to copyright and interpretation rights, there is now a new form of protection called ICOLOGRAM®.
We also created a recording protocol with one of the best sound engineers in the world, Étienne Collard.
The next step will be the meeting on stage, in 2020, between the real virtuoso and his hologram in a large concert hall to be defined: “It’s going to be a global business,” says Philippe Entremont, who remains — with or without a hologram — one of the last pianists of his age still in activity: “I play every day except maybe two days a month! I’m not afraid to become a ghost. On the contrary, it’s exciting to play for posterity.”