Designing Music for Projection Mapping using an emotional arc: Telling the story musically first

By George Berlin
Director, George Berlin Studios

Projection Mapping is a visual storytelling medium with a global audience- events often feature artists from a dozen countries in spaces that host a mixture of international guests.
Music is a universal language- one that speaks to everyone, no matter who they are. A sweeping and beautiful orchestral phrase evokes the same level of emotions the world over. 
The grammar of music- building momentum, accelerating tension, chords that feel ‘complete’ when they land- are all story-telling devices. They’re designed to take us on an emotional journey together.
When we’re designing our epic projection mapping stories for public spaces, our goal is to connect that place with the people who’ll experience it there. Think about why you remember a particular place that’s a favorite of yours- why is it such a deep memory?
Usually, it’s about how you felt when you were there. That’s why we begin every experience by designing the musical story first- we plot out the emotional journey before we embark..
Where do we want to take them? Is it on a voyage of discovery, like an ancient explorer? We can show them things they’d never imagined, opening their minds to understanding and experiences they’d never expected.
Or do we want to fill them with pure wonder? We can start somewhere wide and mysterious and open and slowly fill in the details while adding new mysteries along the way.
A song is also called a “progression.” Just like any story, it needs to GO somewhere. If our soundscape begins sparse and spacious, we’ll follow each note as it grows and builds into something new. But where is it heading? Stories are about change and growth. 
Both of those are about OPPORTUNITY. Choice. Risk. Which way will it go? Music needs tension- every choice is tense! But it can’t be tense all the time. We need to go from a welcoming place that feels like it needs something MORE to a better place through a difficult choice. Isn’t that how all the exciting things we experience usually go?

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