In the last blog I dealt in general with the question why an institution in the cultural sector should present itself online and get in contact with its audience. The focus was on examples of orchestras and concert halls. In today’s post I would like to shift the focus from more to an internal digitalization. During my research, I noticed some interesting examples of how digitization affects not only the artists but also the visitors.
Tablet vs. Paper
A simple and already quite common digital development is the replacement of music scores with a Tablet. The score pages are then changed by tapping a foot pedal. This saves the conductor and musicians the need for lighting, which is done by the display. Moreover, digital copies are cheaper than lending paper copies for all the musicians via an library. Forgetting to charge the devices would be fatal and a sheet of music might survive a fall from the music stand better than the digital alternative. Nevertheless, the digital orchestra scores have been used by the Brusel Orchestra 2012 for example and the Zürich Kammerorchester is currently in the process of changing to a digital system.
Fitness Tracker for Musicians
A mobile device can also be useful when practicing the music pieces. On YouTube you may have seen advertisements for apps which will help you to learn the piano within weeks, just with the help of one simple app. However, this can also be taken to a professional level. In a report of the BR Klassik the developer Vladimir Viro explains his Idea of an digital fitness tracker for pianists. The App has in the meantime already been launched as the “Olympiana Pro Piano” and can be downloaded in the App Store. When playing the piano, the app will record and analyse the playing of the musician. The progress of training can be tracked and compared to other pianists. Such applications increase in my opinion the pressure in na already highly competitive business. I wonder if the App is also able to evaluate the emotion the musician conveys with his play besides the technique or the volume and fully determine if he played better or worse.
Little Helper Wolfgang
Another digital helper can be found on the other side of the music hall. As well as the musicians, the audience can benefit from an “App” when enjoying the performance live. The “Wolfgang App” is an interesting example of how digitalization can be an adaption to a live performance rather than replace it. When listening to a concert the App explains in short phrases what is happening on stage right now and gives additional information. The screen is kept in black in order not to disturb others in the audience and the App promotes its quietness compared to a paper program. The shortness of the information should prevent the reader form starring at the screen and not enjoying the concert fully. “Wolfgang” is excellent for people how are afraid or uninterested to go to a concert as the fear to “not understand what is going on on stage” However, with operas and operettes the singing is usually translated for the audience to understand. Additionally, with having the phone always on and in eyesight, some may be tempted to quickly check an message or mail when it shows on the screen. When the concert is the opportunity for us to relax and enjoy the moment, do we really want to have that overflow of additional information or is not understanding also sometimes okay?
DIGI Ensemble Berlin
The next step of digitalizing the concert would now be to use the digital tools to even produce the music. The DIGI Ensemble Berlin are doing exactly that, since 2010. All the instruments are played on tablets and the applications for the devices were mainly produced by the ensemble themselves. Given softwares by the market were not compatible with others and playing digital didn’t mean less quality for the professional musicians. On their webpage they show clips of their performances, but I really struggle with taking the music as “professional” and I question if this music asks for the same talent and skills as playing “real” instruments. Tipping on a screen rather than bringing a piece of wood with the right amount of air and pressure to produce a sound are two completely different acts of music. I don’t want to use the word level as the technical side of this “digi instruments” is for sure highly complex and to perform as a group still requires much training. As I said, in my first blog this digital performance may not ask to be compared to a “real” version of a concert but is something on its own. I personally doubt that I will visit such a performance in the near future.