The Hand-Held 'Concert Companion' Gets Introduced to British Orchestral Musicians
Saturday, February 12, 2005
By Emma Pinch
Musicians in Birmingham are to trial a new hand-held gadget aimed at opening up classical concerts to the masses.
The gizmo features a miniature screen which will flash up information about the piece being played, such as a biography of the composer and what the music is describing. It is aimed at attracting new and younger audiences in an increasingly visual world, according to the Association of British Orchestras, and follows in the footsteps of audio guides at museums and art galleries.
The device [which is called the 'Concert Companion'] is being unveiled at the 20th Association of British Orchestras national conference at Symphony Hall [in Birmingham], officially opened by Arts Minister and Yardley MP Estelle Morris yesterday [11 February].
The Palm Pilot-sized device, which uses a wireless network, is already used in the US but has not yet been experienced in the UK.
'We already have audio information about visual experiences in museums and art galleries,' said ABO projects manager, Adam Powell. 'This is the opposite ó visual information about what you are hearing.'
If they are employed, the devices will be hired at reception of the concert and show extra camera angles for example.
'It may show what the composer was thinking,' said Mr. Powell. 'For example, during a Debussy recital: 'This piece represents early morning; this phrase relates to a young deer waking up'.'
He said the gadget would be demonstrated and discussed by all parts of the orchestra affected, and if the consensus was that it was worth trying, they should start discussions to see whether it would be welcome in British orchestras. Already in educational performances, new approaches to presentation are regularly used, such as members of the orchestra dressing informally, plus projected information.
'There will be some people who will say it's intrusive having a screen next to them,' said Mr. Powell. 'But already at the opera you will find a screen with English subtitles on it, so it's much less obtrusive than that. There will always be the need for pure concert experience, but there is room for other things to be introduced, and not just confined to school and the family.'
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