“Into the Light” – Tribeca Immersive 2019

Into the Light (World Premiere) – USA
Project creators: Jessica Brillhart, Igal Nassima
Key collaborator: Yo-Yo Ma
Plot: “Ascend Spring Studios and move through the movements of Johann Sebastian Bach’s “Unaccompanied Cello Suite No. 2 in D Minor,” performed by the legendary Yo-Yo Ma.”
Duration: 25 minutes


With the majority of experiences at the 2019 Tribeca Immersive – Virtual Arcade using VR, I was surprised when no headset was offered to me before Into the Light. Instead, I was handed noise-canceling headphones and an iPhone with the Traverse app installed on it. Although this experience co-created by Jessica Brillhart and Igal Nassima has a visual component, it is mostly an auditory journey through J.S. Bach’s “Unaccompanied Cello Suite No. 2 in D Minor” performed by cellist Yo-Yo Ma that takes the viewer/listener through multiple levels of Spring Studios, the Festival hub.

A small group of five participants, accompanied by a guide, embarks on an exploration of the soundscape, which starts from the dimmed space of the Virtual Arcade itself, winds through the monumental iron-cast staircases and ends with a breathtaking view of the Tribeca neighborhood from the rooftop. At each location we are supposed to scan a marker, either held by our guide or mounted on the wall, to start a new musical chapter.


By holding the phone vertically, we can enjoy the dynamic augmented reality art by Sougwen Chung, woven into the actual physical space. By holding the phone horizontally, we can see a dot representing Ma in each location. Moving towards or away from the musician allows us to experience sound as phenomena, occupying a certain space, a concept so simple and yet so fresh. As I move closer to the epicenter, the music gets louder…until finally something quite phenomenal happens. Once I line up with the cello, I can clearly hear the sound as if I am inside the instrument, enveloped by its wooden walls. But if I make a half step sideways, I suddenly hear somebody else’s heartbeat and it becomes evident that I am inside of Ma’s head!


Offering a radical new way to experience music, Into the Light allows the listener to interact with it by regulating the special relationship with its source. Although the cellist isn’t physically there, the spatial recording provides a strong sense of his presence. Combined with abstract AR artwork, the experience opens new and exciting ways to experience the familiar. Even the movements of our group members contribute to the performance. Cued by the flow of the music and visuals, as well as graceful motions of our guide, we glide through space as if we are dancers, regardless of everybody’s choreographic background. What a beautiful way to collectively listen to music! My only regrets are the short length of each part and the necessary pauses between them to scan the next marker. This somewhat removes the listener from the immersion and will hopefully be addressed as Brillhart’s spatial audio design technology develops.

Photos: Into The Light, Tribeca Immersive 2019, Tribeca Film Festival
all photos by Asya Danilova / Meniscus Magazine