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Louvre Abu Dhabi And Theatre du Chatelet Present The World Premiere Of Singing Trees By Acclaimed Digital Artists Umbrellium
(12 February 2020)
The immersive installation uses innovative technology to encourage environmental awareness and appreciation


Louvre Abu Dhabi and Théâtre du Châtelet, with the support of Bloomberg Philanthropies, are pleased to announce the world premiere of Singing Trees, a new interactive installation created by award-winning digital artists from London, Umbrellium, in collaboration with Paris’ Institute for Research and Coordination in Acoustics/Music (IRCAM) and independent producer, Katherine Jewkes. After its premiere at Louvre Abu Dhabi, Singing Trees will be presented in cities around the world including in the garden of Paris’ Palais Royal from 10 to 20 September 2020, followed by presentations in London, New York and Paris again for the Olympics in 2024.

Launching in Abu Dhabi on 25 February 2020, Singing Trees illuminates the pressing need for environmental awareness in the age of climate change. Combining innovative technology, music and an interactive visitor experience, the installation offers a unique opportunity to engage with, and appreciate, nature. Activating the outdoor landscape of Louvre Abu Dhabi, Umbrellium will give a voice to the palm trees around the museum’s entrance using non-invasive, electronic belts attached to each tree. These belts – designed with the support of sound engineers from the Institute for Research and Coordination in Acoustics/Music (IRCAM) – will enable the trees to sing together as a choir that will change in response to the audiences’ interaction with the work. As visitors move closer to the trees, the choir becomes louder and more in-synch. Visitors are then invited to hug the tree to maximise the volume of the choir.

The trees will sing a combination of songs in English, Arabic and French. In each country that exhibits the installation, new songs will be commissioned for the trees to sing. The featured musical pieces for Singing Trees at Louvre Abu Dhabi include Ayyala, a traditional Arabic song that reflects the artistic heritage of the UAE; “Greensleeves”, a traditional English folk song from the late 16th century and the French Medieval choir song “L’Amour de Moy.”

Manuel Rabaté, Director of Louvre Abu Dhabi commented, “Singing Trees speaks to Louvre Abu Dhabi’s mission to provide an educational and innovative space where visitors can engage in dialogues around the issues that affect us all. Timed to coincide with UAE Innovation Month, the piece explores how technological advances can bring us closer to nature and heighten our understanding of the environment. We are grateful to our partners Théâtre du Châtelet and Bloomberg Philanthropies who made this project possible and look forward to seeing Singing Trees travel the world.”

Ruth Mackenzie, CBE, Artistic Director of Théâtre du Châtelet said, “With climate change now a part of our everyday lives, this installation physically manifests, with pioneering technology, the urgent need to listen to what nature is telling us and respond with care. Umbrellium have used non-invasive digital technology to give trees a voice and invite the public to listen and interact with them. Built in the city that created the Paris Accord on Climate Change, the Théâtre du Châtelet is an activist theatre. We are proud to be representing the City of Paris and working with Umbrelllium, IRCAM and our partners Louvre Abu Dhabi and Bloomberg Philanthropies to raise awareness around the vital issues impacting our planet.”

“Bloomberg Philanthropies believes in the transformative power of public art and its ability to inspire and engage communities,” said Jemma Read, Global Head of Corporate Philanthropy, Bloomberg L.P. “We hope this collaboration with Louvre Abu Dhabi and Théâtre du Châtelet will inspire residents in Abu Dhabi and across the United Arab Emirates to take bolder action to address the climate change.”

Based in London, the group has almost two decades of experience designing and building urban technology products and services for cities across the globe to engage communities and boost innovation. The key members of Umbrellium are Usman Haque, Creative Director; Andrew Caleya Chetty, Chief Strategy Officer; Ling Tan, Senior Designer and Coder and Nitipak Samsen, Senior Creative Technologist.

For Singing Trees, Umbrellium collaborated with IRCAM, one of the world’s largest public research centres dedicated to musical expression and scientific research. Members from IRCAM Amplify, a branch of IRCAM, supported on the project, including Manuel Poletti, Sound Creations and Sound Design; Julien Chirol, Musical Arrangements and Production and Martin Antiphon, Sound Engineering.

Sustainability and care for the environment are built into the technology behind Singing Trees. The trees are powered by rechargeable, renewable batteries, which will be charged using power drawn from the grid. IRCAM and Umbrellium have specifically designed the belts attached to the trees to use energy-efficient equipment that can easily be recycled and reused for other projects after Singing Trees has concluded. Wherever possible, the artists will work with local companies and suppliers to lower travel impact and support the local economy in each country that the installation will be exhibited in.

In addition to Singing Trees in February, a full family weekend will plunge visitors in the medieval times, with activations in the Park, under the Dome, film screenings, parades of knights, workshops and much more. Participation is free and the activities will take place between 28 and 29 February from 3 – 6 pm.

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