HAYDN SPACE OPERA

Haydn Space Opera - avatar selfie in The Apocalypse
Avatar-selfie as ‘Sheba’ in The Apocalypse room

A performance inside a notebook, fragments of score, the sounds of the rehearsal studio, coffee on loop. Welcome to HAYDN SPACE OPERA, a piece which uses composition and performance creation as its materials. Taking place in browser-based online virtual reality, your exploration of the spaces of the piece creates your own unique mix of sounds including scraps of conversation, experiments and performances by Bastard Assignments. What will you find inside the composer’s notebook?

HAYDN SPACE OPERA is offline indefinitely due to Mozilla’s closure of the Hubs platform. View walkthrough videos of some of the rooms on YouTube. A new walkthrough video of the complete work will available soon.

Details

HAYDN SPACE OPERA comprises six virtual reality rooms:

  • The Corridor
  • The Warm-Up Room
  • Phyllida Barlow Playground
  • The Blank Page
  • The Café
  • The Apocalypse

Everything in the piece has some connection to the work’s creation, whether documentation of its development in workshops, playtests and experimental versions, the graphic scores used, or metaphorical connections, representing the development phase of composition (‘The Corridor’) or echoing the way I work in my notebooks (‘The Blank Page’).

Updates

As Mozilla Hubs, the platform HAYDN SPACE OPERA is built on is perpetually changing and improving, every now and then things break or go awry in unexpected ways. I try to keep an eye on it, but if you’re in there and find something wrong, please do let me know so I can fix it up. You can compare with the walkthrough videos if you’re not sure something’s intentional.

For information about the development of the piece, visit my notebook – these updates here are just announcements of notable fixes and changes.

31 May 2024: As of today, HAYDN SPACE OPERA is no longer online due to Mozilla’s closure of the Mozilla Hubs platform. I am working on a way to bring it back in some form, but for now, you can view walkthrough videos of some of the rooms on YouTube.

7 August 2023: There’s an ongoing problem with objects that I’m aware of. I lodged a ticket with the Hubs developers back in May 2023, and they’ve verified it’s a problem but are still working on fixing it. For the moment, it would be best to visit The Blank Page last! If you visit it before then, you’re likely to have giant ducks and other objects follow you when you leave that room. If this happens, try Shift-Refreshing the page, which should prompt you to log in again and hopefully will clear out the objects. This seems to be a bug that’s been introduced with a change to the environment that only relates to spaces where you can add your own objects within Hubs. As such, it doesn’t happen with the other rooms because that ability has been switched off everywhere else.

22 May 2022: Reinstated background sound in the Warmup Room, which was lost due to an apparent change in availability of files hosted on Dropbox. I’ve moved this to the CDN so it shouldn’t vanish again. The audio object for this sound was visible in Hubs in spite of being set to “not visible”. Reported this bug and implemented a hack to obscure it in the meantime. Similar changes made to Phyllida Barlow Playground and The Apocalypse, along with some adjustments made to volume of background sounds which seem to have altered to be much, much quieter than when first set up. Similarly adjusted sound levels in The Café.

Performance history

Premiered 10-23 May 2021 for Bath Spa University’s SparkFest digital festival. Part of Electric Medway’s Showcase programme, 21-30 August 2021. Relaunched with a new room, ‘The Corridor’, 2 May 2024.

part of Electric Medway, 21-30 August 2021

Acknowledgements

Concept, programming and artwork: Caitlin Rowley
Performances by Bastard Assignments – Caitlin Rowley, Timothy Cape, Edward Henderson and Josh Spear

Huge thanks to my colleagues in Bastard Assignments, whose performances and conversation make up the bulk of this work, and whose assistance as I reimagined this piece as a purely online experience has been invaluable. Thanks, too, to my supervisors, James Saunders and Robert Luzar, and the other members of Open Scores Lab at Bath Spa University, who provided very helpful testing feedback and suggestions. And giant ducks all over the Warm-Up Room.

Thanks, too, to the places represented here: Centre 151 in Haggerston, London where we recorded most of the audio material and The Premises Studios in Hackney, London where the rest of it was captured; Replay Espresso café in Turramurra, Sydney where several of the notebook pages used here were created and the coffee videos were filmed; the Illy Café near South Kensington tube station in London was the venue for the writing video; and of course the homes of Bastard Assignments members where additional material was recorded during the COVID-19 pandemic.