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Sunday, May 9, 2021

Calendar > Arts and Culture

Deep Field debuts at Bethel Woods

A film that is out of this world

By Patricio Robayo - staff writer

Grammy award-winning composer and conductor Eric Whitacre (center) during a performance and showing of “Deep Field” with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra.
BETHEL — Starting this spring before the summer celebration of Woodstock 50th kicks off, Bethel Woods Center for the Arts is going to have billions and billions of stars descend upon the historic site.
In 1969, not only did the iconic festival happen but a few weeks before that, three men from the United States set foot on the Moon with the Apollo 11 mission and it has changed how we view the world ever since.
A new series of events, “Vibrations” will kick off on May 18—during a full moon lunar weekend that will include a special showing of “Deep Field: The Impossible Magnitude of our Universe” which brings together art and science in one film.
“We are thrilled to present Deep Field on our historic site as we celebrate two very special 50th anniversaries,” said Bethel Woods CEO Darlene Fedun. “Both Woodstock and the Moon Landing had a lasting impact on our country and are milestones in American history.”
The film brings together Grammy award-winning composer and conductor Eric Whitacre, producers Music Productions, scientists and visualizers from the Space Telescope Science Institute and multi award-winning artists 59 Productions.

“As a child, I looked up at the stars, endlessly fascinated, both with the naked eye and then my first telescope. That Bethel Woods encourages stargazing to encourage a sense of wonder and reflection is nothing short of perfect,” said Whitacre.
The film was inspired by the Hubble Space Telescope and its most significant discovery, the iconic Deep Field image.
The Deep Field image is a long exposure—taken over several days—of one portion of space taken by the telescope over 342 separate exposures.
“The human triumph that sits alongside the technological advancement is at the core of the music itself,” said Whitacre.
The music for the film features Virtual Choir which has brought together over 8,000 voices from 120 countries aged 4 to 87.
“I found the human voice provided an oasis of calm at the end of the work,” said Whitacre.
The choir is accompanied alongside the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra (RPO) and Eric Whitacre Singers.
“I always love to work with the RPO,” said Whitacre. “Their musicianship is first class, and they are such nice people too. I'm lucky enough to have had the chance to work with them on multiple occasions now - both live and in recordings - so I appreciate the relationship we've built over the years.”
Singers participating in the choir, would upload their videos from all over the world and then they are synchronized and combined into one performance to create the Virtual Choir that is featured in the film.
“I have been a fan of Eric Whitacre's virtual choir projects over the years,” said Fedun. “It was through those projects [Vitural Choir] that we—while planning activities for our Lunar Festival weekend —uncovered Deep Field. It seemed like the perfect fit. This will be the New York premiere of the film and is a first-of-its-kind collaboration.”
During this New York premiere of the film, Whitacre will be joined by NASA astronomer Michelle Thaller and astrophysicist Frank Summers from Space Science Telescope that discuss the film after its showing.
Back in 2014, Whitacre was commissioned to write Deep Field by BBC Proms and the Minnesota Orchestra.
According to Whitacre, Scott Vangen—who was born in Minnesota and worked for NASA at Kennedy Space Center—heard about the piece from someone who was singing in the chorus.
Vangen introduced Whiteacre to Dr. John Grunsfeld—who at the time was an Associate Administrator of NASA Science Mission Directorate.
“I was honored that this senior astrophysicist and astronaut of multiple missions—including 3 to Hubble—was so keen to work with us to create a film to complement and illuminate the music,” said Whitacre.
“John introduced us to the truly awesome scientists and astrophysicists at the Space Telescope Science Institute, and we spent several years working with them to create Deep Field: The Impossible Magnitude of our Universe,” added Whitacre.
According to Whitacre, the project took about four years to tell the story of Hubble from launch to the discovery of the Deep Field image.
“Initially, we were in discussions with NASA about how we could go about creating a film that was scientifically accurate but also faithful to the music and the inspiration behind it,” said Whitacre. “There have been a lot of meetings, and Skype calls with LA, Florida, Baltimore, and London to get this over the finish line.”
Whitacre said NASA not only worked with him but also guided and advised over the content that was available to him to make sure there is scientific accuracy.
“It was fascinating to sit alongside the scientists and filmmakers bringing the music to life in an image,” said Whitacre. “We had many storyboard meetings to ensure that everyone was approaching the creative from the same position.
They also made some new sequences with new imagery from space that has never been seen before,” said Whitacre.
“I have also been lucky enough to have made several trips to Kennedy Space Center to see some of their work first-hand—we premiered the Deep Field film there too,” added Whitacre.
This special event in Sullivan County is a unique event that will kick off the celebration season.
“I hope that they admire the exquisite work of the extraordinary teams at the Space Telescope Science Institute and all their partner organizations —including NASA of course,” said Whitacre.
Moreover, Whitacre praised how hard the sciences work with “determination and imagination” on collecting the data that was used in the film.
“The inspiration for the music and the film is very detailed, from the launch of Hubble in the 1990s onwards, but the film itself is more of an art/science film that draws on that inspiration - a meditation on our Universe and our place in it - the pale blue dot,” added Whitacre.
According to Fedun, with all events at Bethel Woods, they hope that people leave with a connection to the film and have a meaningful experience.
“A large focus of our 2019 programming, especially the “Vibrations” series is to provide guests and participants an opportunity to reflect on the world we want during a time that demands resilience and understanding. This event brings the legacy of the past into conversation with the movements of today while emphasizing the value of arts, science, and civic engagement,” said Fedun.
Lunar Weekend will celebrate the evolution, tenacity, and legacy of the human spirit in honor of Woodstock's 50th anniversary and other landmark 1969 movements according to Bethel Woods.
The weekend will be filled with films, hands-on activities, speakers and “out of this world fun.”

May 17: Stargazing Sleepover

May 18-19: Lunar Festival: Tour the Universe in an inflatable Planetarium, see if you have what it takes to be an astronaut, explore creative spaces where art and science meet.

May 18: Deep Field: The Impossible Magnitude of our Universe debut

May 18: Deep Field

June 5: Power of the Poster

July 25: PBS and American Experience present Woodstock: Three days that defined a generation.

August 31: Mind: Body: Earth

September 21: An Evening with Chris Thile

September 28: Framing History

October 2: Youth Leadership Day

October 19: Sixties @ 50, A retrospective.

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