EUYO Premiere: A Visit to The Tower of Babel

The European Union Youth Orchestra proudly presents the premiere of a short film conceived during the global pandemic lockdown in June 2020. This ground-breaking digital project unites the visual and performing arts with a digital recording of György Ligeti’s Atmosphères as inspiration for a narrative journey through the spaces and art of Vienna’s Kunsthistorisches Museum.



 The camera lens slowly comes into focus at the foot of the vast staircase hall that announces one of the world’s great art spaces, the Kunsthistorisches Museum Wien. Tracking slowly up past sculptures and paintings from the last half millennium of European history, the camera seems to be on a mission. But where? And guided by whom?

As the camera moves forward, a trio of Pieter Bruegel the Elder’s sixteenth century paintings come into view, culminating with one of his most fantastic canvases: The Tower of Babel. This picture and its myth is the pivotal centre of this short film, even as the camera wanders off through the Museum’s rooms to settle eventually on the disconcerting and disorientating images of photographer Helmut Wimmer’s exhibition The Last Day.

The hand on the camera in this quasi post-apocalyptic scenario is the Hungarian composer György Ligeti, and the sounds are his iconic large-scale orchestra piece from 1961, Atmosphères. Its complete lack of conventional melody and metre, and focus instead on dense haunting ‘micropolyphonic’ sound textures, make it the perfect candidate for pairing sound with image. With these sounds, nature bursts inside the museum halls with a shattering reminder of the feebleness of human planning. Instead – and as with the pandemic - it is nature, in this case represented by the music of Ligeti and the art of Bruegel and Wimmer - that seems, finally, to be in charge.  



The sound recording was made by EUYO Chief Conductor Vasily Petrenko and the EUYO’s tutors and team supervising the online rehearsing, recording and editing of 88 EUYO musicians individually from their own homes, a process involving more than 100 people in 30 countries. The digital team, led by Andrew McCoy with Ulf Breuer, put the individual tracks together remotely. EUYO Secretary General Marshall Marcus conceived and directed the visuals of the film, working with Nikolas Lappas of Clipfabrik.