It is 6pm in Victoria Harbour and visitors from here and abroad are massing along the waterfront of Tsim Sha Tsui. Slowly, as the skies darken towards night, the buildings across Hong Kong Island are lighting up, transforming the cityscape once more into an illuminated gem of the Chinese coast. But, as the crowd already knows, something even more dazzling is approaching as the evening draws onward. They are waiting for the Symphony of Lights, an awesome display of modern music and colored lights that uses the entire Hong Kong skyline as a multimedia stage.
The Symphony of Lights was commissioned by The Hong Kong Tourism Board to capitalize on the city’s majestic harbour view that reflects the vibrancy of the former British colony. Every night at 8pm, some 33 buildings from both Hong Kong Island side and Kowloon side participate in a choreographed display with 5 different themes, each celebrating Hong Kong’s cultural and economic energy. The Guinness Book of World Records has named The Symphony of Lights as the â€œWorldâ€™s Largest Light and Sound Showâ€, an artistic achievement that creates an impression that some renegade computer hacker with a sense of grandeur has taken control of the airwaves and power grid to turn the metropolis into his personal playground.
By 8pm, the stands are full and the chatter of the crowd mix in with the flashes of the cameras, creating a microcosm of the anticipated light show. The Hong Kong cityscape is at full illumination, a blend of building names, billboards, and lighted windows rising above the glow of the streetlights. Suddenly the built-in speakers of the promenade briefly crackle before melodious fanfare erupts. The crowd goes silent as the announcer gives an introduction to the show and mentions the participating buildings in English. The music, a harmonious composition of traditional Chinese tunes and electronic beats especially developed for the event, grows louder, and the buildings start pulsing in rhythm. The triangular frames of the Bank of China Tower form lightning bolts that shoot up into the sky, while lasers and searchlights dance across the buildings.
The narration accompanying the show respects the international makeup of the audience, broadcasting in English on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays, Putonghua on Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays, and Cantonese of Sundays. It is also broadcasted on several radio stations at the same time, FM 103.4 MHz for the English version, FM 106.8 MHz in Cantonese, and FM 107.9 MHz in Putonghua, and available on mobile phones by dialing a specific number.
The whole spectacle takes 14 minutes to complete, and ends with the announcer issuing a quick farewell. The entranced crowd slowly moves away from the show, going on their way to visit the shops, dine along the harbor, or see other parts of the city. Meanwhile, though the music has faded and the lights have died down, the buildings of Hong Kong remain glowing until dawn, a testament to a city that finds time to beautifully express its culture in the midst of industry and commerce.