Saturday, October 25, 2014

Atlanta Symphony update / WiFi and Music

One of the places I can call "home" is Atlanta. Due to that, I'm personally chagrined to write here that the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra remains locked out. There has reportedly been some progress made in the health care negotiations, but unfortunately, several other areas of negotiation are at an impasse.


In happier news, an eclectic collection of instrumentalists recently used the WiFi in several NY subway stops to perform together. This feels like the spirit of Eric Whitacre's virtual choirs to me, but instead of many performances being carefully edited together in a production studio long after each individual performance occurred, this performance occurred simultaneously for all performers and for those audience members lucky enough to be strolling by at the right moment.

As a collaborative pianist, I admit to a bit of professional discomfort with technology. The ideal performance setting for Art Song is dogmatically taken to include the following characteristics: acoustic piano (grand absolutely required, Steinway label optional but preferred), live well-dressed pianist (muted colors or black only), no means of amplification for any musician, live well-dressed vocalist, acoustically-live hall and appreciatively passive audience (also preferably well-dressed).  A departure from any of these items is viewed as suspect or impolite at best, and as an unacceptable bastardization of the hallowed composers' original intents at worst.  The use of recording technology to disseminate performances seems to be barely accepted, and even in that, is regarded as unquestioningly inferior to the original live performance. 

Dogma gives structure, but structure in this context can also prevent natural evolution. I would wager that the violinist and cellist shown here have likely practiced a fair amount of Bach in the course of their training.  And yet, here they are in performance with a theremin player and vocal beat-boxer, and there continue to be no reports of any long-dead composer spinning in his or her grave. The self-appointed guardians of the American high-art tradition will likely look down their noses at this endeavor, but as for me?  I love this idea, both in terms of the specifics of what they did, and in terms of the general idea of embracing technology as musicians. 

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