If you wander around London Wall at the moment and peer through your smartphone’s scrying eye, you might see hidden beasts coming out to play.
This is “Harmony”, an augmented reality event that uses smartphones to superimpose fantastical creatures into the landscape, along with specially commissioned music for each of them.
There’s four to look out for — a griffin hanging around inside the ruined church, a seahorse hovering over by the office block’s water feature, and a hummingbird darting between digital flowers in Salters’ Gardens. Probably the best is up on the pedway, where you follow a caterpillar along the highwalk and watch it transform into a butterfly before vanishing.
Each one is intrinsically connected to the specific site and the nature of the environment they’re set in, with each music piece featuring a solo acoustic instrumental part – flute, trombone, viola and clarinet.
To find the beasts, you need the Harmony app (Apple – Android), and then look for the markers in the ground to trigger the augmented reality. You might need to try a few times a step to one side or the other to get it started, but once live, you can wander around seeing the beasts through your screen — and yes you can walk right under the Griffin’s bum if you want.
Plug in your headphones and then music for each of the four is played as you wander around. The music also helps drown out the noise of the road and adds an otherworldly effect to what you’re looking at, so even this headphone-phobic correspondent found they were quite effective.
Slightly irritatingly, they’ve broken the left/right side swipe to go back, so you have to use the back arrow, and it took a bit of help to figure out how to turn the app off. That aside, it’s a fun bit of enjoyment in the area and I quite liked the blocky old-school style of the graphics as that encourages you to fill in the details from your own imagination, so each of us will imagine a very different experience.
The digital beasts are the result of a collaboration between the Guildhall School of Music and Drama, Culture Mile, the London Symphony Orchestra, and Brookfield Properties.
To find them, head to London Wall, and to the ruins of St Alphage Church, and there look for the signs with instructions of how to summon the beasts.
The Harmony event is a prelude to PLAY, an outdoor music festival hosted by Brookfield Properties, due to take place in 2022 in the ruins of St Alphage at London Wall Place.