The Hubble Cantata





Astrophysicist and Advisor MARIO LIVIO

Virtual Reality Producer JESS ENGEL, developed in association with VIRTUALIZE


3D Sound Design ARUP

Creative Technologist TODD BRYANT


Featuring 1B1, NOVUS NY, The Washington Chorus, and Brooklyn Youth Chorus


Commissioned by VISIONINTOART

The Hubble Cantata is the first ever live event fusing a major musical performance with Virtual Reality. This project pushes the boundaries of art and science by combining a cutting-edge Virtual Reality film with the world premiere of a musical cantata as a part of BRIC Celebrate Brooklyn! Festival in New York City. This performance delves into the living relationship between music, film, and science. This event will mark a major milestone in the history of science and the performing arts as Virtual Reality becomes an instrument alongside a 20-piece instrumental ensemble and a live choir of 100.

The immersive Virtual Reality experience is an exploration through the Orion Nebula guided by the Hubble Telescope. With individual Virtual Reality cardboard headsets the concert audience will float through space and time. Collaborating alongside Arup, the global leaders in acoustic sound design, an immersive soundscape will augment this cutting-edge performance by enveloping the audience in a 360 degree world without the use of headphones. The work is a collaboration between composer Paola Prestini, librettist Royce Vavrek, filmmaker Eliza McNitt, and the famed astrophysicist, Mario Livio formerly of the Space Telescope Science Institute.

The Hubble Cantata celebrates the Hubble Telescope’s 26th anniversary. The August 6th concert is a co-production between VisionIntoArt/National Sawdust, Beth Morrison Projects, and Arup, with generous contributions from BRIC Celebrate Brooklyn! Festival, and developed in association with Virtualize. The Virtual Reality experience features visual effects by the award winning artists of The Endless Collective (Gravity, Interstellar, Neil deGrasse Tyson’s Cosmos). It is expected to attract an audience of 4,000-6,000 New Yorkers. The Cantata and Virtual Reality film will tour across the country and internationally, playing at opera houses, outdoor performance halls, and museums including the newly opened National Sawdust venue in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. The film component will be showcased at film festivals and the music will be released through VIA Records.

This poetic re-imagining is inspired and guided by Mario Livio’s uniquely sensitive and intellectual writings. Mario’s voice will be woven into the Cantata as recorded interludes over the music, and Mario will appear live for certain engagements. The final duet reflects the powerful realization that we remain central to the cosmos, in the sense that it was us, humans, who discovered step by step all of its grandeur. We play a significant role in the expansion of outer space because we discovered its existence. Human consciousness and intelligence has expanded beyond Earth as we realize that we are not only a part of the universe, but that it is also within us. By incorporating Mario Livio’s poignant themes with music, visual art, film, and advanced technology, The Hubble Cantata is a breakthrough performance that promises to be one of the most exciting forays into the interdisciplinary dance of science and art, to date. This is a medium defining moment as The Hubble Cantata pushes boundaries on a collective VR viewing experience.

Original commission by Bay Chamber Concerts for A New Frontier 2013. The Hubble Cantata is commissioned by National Sawdust with support from  Bill & Jill Steinberg, Time Warner Inc. in collaboration with 150, an award from the National Endowment for the Arts, public funds from the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs in Partnership with the City Council, and by the New York State Council on the Arts with the support of Governor Andrew Cuomo and the New York State Legislature. The Hubble Cantata received its World Premiere at BRIC’S Celebrate Brooklyn! Festival in August 2016.  

PRESS — August 19, 2016

“…a multidimensional paean to the ‘eye in the sky…”

The New Yorker — August 13, 2016

“It astounded me, this feeling of floating above Earth, and tears began to emerge from my cardboard goggles.”

Hyperallergic — August 10, 2016

“…a thundering opus…”

VAN Magazine — August 10, 2016

“…Prestini’s music [is] vividly shimmering and raging with the emotional temperatures of characters as suggested in Vavrek’s libretto, and generally conjuring up an authentically cosmic atmosphere with its trembling strings, ethereal wind lines, and luminous glockenspiel.”

Feast of Music — August 8, 2016

“The performance itself was full of magic and wonder. Space, of course, is silent: there is no audible music of the spheres. But, Prestini has written some astonishing musical passages that capture a sense of what it might be like to be set adrift in a universe without the limitations of space or time.”

The Guardian — August 8, 2016

“…the event also demonstrated that classical musicians aren’t content with sitting on the sidelines as more pop and rock artists get involved with VR videos.”


Performance photos by Jill Steinberg

The Hubble Cantata received its World Premiere on August 6 at the Prospect Park Bandshell, as part of the BRIC Celebrate Brooklyn! Festival.

“…The Hubble Cantata is a work that knows no parallel, pushing boundaries of technology and presentation that push our city’s relationship with multi-disciplinary performance further into uncharted territory.”

“Hubble pushes its classical cosmic themes ever more upward than any orchestral work these ears have ear in a long time, upward and toward the stars.” – Observer

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Release Date: March 20, 2019