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Alt-J and the integration of contemporary music at heritage sites.

music is a higher revelation than all wisdom and philosophy” – Ludwig Van Beethoven

Somewhat overshadowed by the launch of U2’s ‘Songs of Innocence’ invasive marketing campaign. In early September 2014, alt-indie band Alt-J launched a mobile application on iOS and Android to stream their latest album ‘This Is All Yours’ before its official release. Using BLAST technology (a geolocation software tool), the app allowed the user to stream the album when in a particular location.

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UK Locations for Streaming

Sites across the globe were chosen by Alt-J, “that are perfect for experiencing the album for the first time” (AltJ Blog). These sites were characterised by their natural beauty or historic significance. More often than not, these sites encompassed traditional heritage criteria, some were even nationally listed Heritage sites.

Music is a powerful source. We form connections with it, associate it with our memories and it can even have the potential to modify our feelings and emotions. The ‘This Is All Yours’ App presents an alternative new era in heritage engagement, by adding a further dimension to the heritage ‘experience’. Whenever we watch historical movies or TV shows, shots of heritage locations are accompanied by a musical score. Is this ‘cinematic experience’ what the public are expecting from heritage sites? but more importantly are the public demanding it? Audio/Visual technology at Heritage sites is an already existent use of technology, however in this age of modernity using contemporary media at heritage sites seems like a unique way to connect with a contemporary audience.

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This Is All Yours App – ‘Stonehenge Location’

This new use of technology shows significant potential to increase visitor numbers and revenue at heritage ‘sites’. Most importantly this is a way to engage with an often isolated demographic, the youth of today. Through using this technology dedicated fans of the band would be encouraged to visit these sites, and in many instances this could be the first time that someone has a visited a heritage ‘site’ becoming somewhat of a marketing strategy to attract a wider audience.

As previously mentioned music is a powerful resource. Heritage locations both natural and historical tend to evoke a sense of emotion which music can alter and enhance. A band of atmospheric tone such as Alt-J has the potential to ‘enhance’ the natural beauty of these heritage locations. However it could be argued that this is de-contextualising the site, taking away its ‘true’ meaning by not engaging in traditionalist approaches. On the other hand heritage is a subjective experience, with the use of this application, the user can interact on a personally relatable level. Furthermore the app offers a way to engage with intangible heritage, at a location where no tangible elements need exist. Alternatively the potential of this app could allow for a degree of connection and association to to be had with a tangible location. In contemporary heritage sites the value of music is arguably a contributing factor in the associated value, being able to stream an associated song would promote the understanding of the social situation at the time.

To conclude, the French novelist and poet Victor Hugo once said  “music expresses that which cannot be put into words and that which cannot remain silent”. Contemporary music can help to engage with audiences through personal expressionism and more importantly it can help challenge a lot of the issues that heritage sites are experiencing, surrounding audience demographics and relevance in modern society.

– Dan

*First published November 2014*

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