Childish Gambino X Microsoft Talk 'PHAROS' VR Partnership at Microsoft Lounge

Last night Donald Glover a.k.a. Childish Gambino along with his creative team at Wolf + Rothstein and Microsoft held an intimate panel discussion on their collaboration as well as provided further insight on the unique PHAROS VR experience which will be available in early 2017 alongside the vinyl release of the Childish Gambino’s new album, “Awaken My Love.”

Chad Taylor, one half of Wolf + Rothstein (along with Famuel Rothstein), discussed how Glover had presented this idea to him initially with his PHAROS desert concert experience, which he said yes to but realized soon after the magnitude of work involved to make Glover’s idea a reality. Their partnership with Microsoft was a match made in virtual heaven, since Chad laid out the groundwork to find a flat open desert location to create the virtual dome that Microsoft would then implement for the all-encompassing virtual concert reality experience back in September for concert guests. The goal: to create a “shared human experience.” 

Photo © Nils Erik 

Photo © Nils Erik 

During the panel discussion, Glover mentioned his distaste for music festivals these days where the amount of cell phones in the air during a live artist’s performance “ruins” the experience for so many in the crowd. Thanks to Microsoft, Glover and his team were able to create a live concert experience, fully immersive, and bring it to his fans who weren’t able to attend in-person. 

In regards to the PHAROS desert concert series in Joshua Tree (with almost 12,000 people attending collectively; Glover performed five times), guests were not allowed to record any footage with their phones and were each given personal Yondr cellphone lock bags that would be unlocked only after the performance. (Same with guests who attended the panel last night in Venice.) 

Fred Warren, Creative Director at Microsoft, mentioned last night that the most rewarding moment throughout the entire collaborative process was “slowly seeing the gentle rocking of people enjoying the [concert] experience” while not having their phones on them. (The most challenging, he mentioned, was “would people allow their phones to not be used or taken from them while in the desert,” which answered itself.)

Amy Sorakas at Microsoft, in charge of Strategic Brand Partnerships, also played a huge role and stated during the panel that it was a perfect fit to join forces with Glover and to gain the concertgoers’ trust, above all, during the Pharos experience that would then ultimately help create a creative, communal experience for fans not present. Using their robust suite of produce and experiential design skills to the table, including the Azure and Kinect at the core, Microsoft’s involvement in creating PHAROS was a true testament to the power of collaboration. 

At the end of the discussion, Glover was asked what inspired him overall to create such a powerful (and distinctly new-sounding) funk album like “Awaken, My Love” which sets itself apart from his rap releases. Donald replied, “Now more than ever it’s easier to make things than it has ever been.” He iterated how he was able to made a moodboard for his vision of the album (and PHAROS) quickly using images from Tumblr. Throughout the process, he asked himself, “How does this world make me feel?” and was also influenced by things his creative team would send him – including African dance masquerade videos online. Not shockingly, the busy artist, actor, and writer would write for Atlanta during the day and bring in his band to create music at night at their home studio while on location.

Photo © Nils Erik  

Photo © Nils Erik  

Photo © Nils Erik  / Guests trying out the 'PHAROS' VR Experience at Microsoft Lounge.

Photo © Nils Erik  / Guests trying out the 'PHAROS' VR Experience at Microsoft Lounge.

This event last night at Microsoft Lounge with Childish Gambino is Microsoft’s latest in an artist series featured on Music X Technology, an initiative to highlight forward-thinking artists using Microsoft technology to transform the way music is created and experienced with. 

 

Text by Diane Abapo

For more information, visit microsoft.com/musicxtech


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Diane Abapo Founder and Editor-in-Chief at SUSPEND Magazine.