Thursday, December 11, 2008

Viral Orchestra

Perhaps you have heard of this:

That's right, google, the London Symphony Orchestra, and Tan Dun have teamed up to create a symphony orchestra through viral marketing. There are things I love and things that give me pause about this idea.

Things I love:
Most symphony orchestras are stuck in the 19th century. Occasionally they dip their toes in early 20th century music. Every great once and a while they plunge into 21st century music. But in both those cases, they tend to play the music that, though written in the past 100 years, sounds like it was written 200 years ago. For an organization traditionally mired in the past to embrace modern techniques is a marvelous step forward.

Engaging Tan Dun to write a piece was a masterstroke. Tan has credibility among classical musicians through his orchestral writing and the general public through his score for Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon. He is ideal to bring in a wide swath of musicians.

Michael Tilson Thomas is brilliant at bringing in young people and using technology to reach a wider audience. If anyone in the current classical music world can pull this stunt off, he can.

Things that give me pause:
I know that some viral marketing campaigns work, but for the most part viral videos and ideas spread without the obvious guiding hand of advertisers. Take a look at the requirements and look again at some of the people in the video. I'm not sure this will catch on with the population they hope to reach.

Many of the best players are technologically challenged. Trying to reach musicians through the internet is a bit daunting to me. also, they say they want to create a truly international symphony, but what is the reach of the internet and will musicians in nations outside the US, West Europe, and Japan have the capability to find out about this project and then record a video with good enough sound quality for the judges to accurate gauge their performance?

Still, even with that worrisome twitch behind my eye at the artificiality of the endeavor, it is exciting to see usually stale orchestral playing branch into new avenues. What do you think?

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