LSM Newswire

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Baltimore Chamber Orch. vs Fauxharmonic Orch. | Live Vs. Digital







Live versus digital: Can audiences tell the difference? Can a performance created by computer-based sound technology deliver the kind of aesthetic experience that we can expect from a traditional orchestra? These are questions for our time.

On Sunday, November 2, 2008, at 4 p.m., the Baltimore Chamber Orchestra under the baton of Markand Thakar, and The Fauxharmonic Orchestra under the Wii-mote of Paul Henry Smith, will allow audiences to answer the questions for themselves. In the bold experiment of a side-by-side comparison, Mr. Smith's digital orchestra will perform composer Mathew Quayle's Gridley Paige Road first, followed by the live performance by the twenty-one strings of the Baltimore Chamber Orchestra. This performance will take the digital orchestra out of the studio and into the concert hall.

Bang & Olufsen, one of the world's leading manufacturers of high-end audio and video equipment, has generously agreed to supply Paul Henry Smith and the Fauxharmonic Orchestra with their BeoLab 5 loudspeaker system. Picked by Time Magazine as one of 2003's coolest inventions, the BeoLab 5 system will be the "instruments" of the Fauxharmonic Orchestra. The BeoLab 5's adaptive Bass Control system, coupled with Acoustic Lens Technology, ensures optimum sound experience regardless of the position of the loudspeaker.

Tickets for the November 2 event are available through Bargemusic. For reservations, call 718/624-2083 or 718/624-4061, or email: Tickets: $50; student: $25.

Markand Thakar, Music Director of the Baltimore Chamber Orchestra, commented, "The BCO is committed to providing audiences with moving musical experiences, in highly diverse repertory -- from Mozart to Leshnoff, from violins to pipas to computers. Technology is advancing with extraordinary speed, to the point that digitally produced sound can approximate acoustic sound to a startling degree. We don't expect to ever be replaced by a computer, but we find this musical experiment fascinating."

According to Paul Henry Smith, "The BeoLab 5 speakers were the missing element to this live performance. They are the instruments of the digital orchestra. The B & O technology lets me concentrate on performing the music knowing that the sound quality will be great all around the hall."

The Program:

Matthew Quayle: Gridley Paige Road

Performed sequentially by The Fauxharmonic Orchestra and the Baltimore Chamber Orchestra

Jonathan Leshnoff: Trombone Concerto (World Premiere)

Christopher Dudley, soloist

Mozart: Adagio and Fugue, K. 546

Bruckner: Adagio from the String Quintet in F major

Beethoven: Grosse Fuge (for string orchestra)

Tickets for the November 2 event are available through Bargemusic. For reservations, call 718/624-2083 or 718/624-4061, or email: Tickets: $50; student: $25.

What is a Digital Orchestra?

A digital orchestra, as explained by Paul Henry Smith, is the use of digital technology by musicians to approximate the sound of live orchestral performance. Simply put, digital orchestra music is produced on a computer. Like the production of any recorded music, the computer is involved in the mastering and mixing process. But unlike other recordings, the computer is also the instrument on which the music is played. Sound source material is housed on disks (or generated by the computer) and is organized by performance software. Sequencer software is then used to pull in the right sounds for the particular musical elements called for by the score (or by the musical keyboard or other instrument). Computing power is now great enough that the real-time selection of a single note from among hundreds of gigabytes of data is performed in milliseconds.

Conducting a Digital Orchestra

Live digital orchestral music is performed by incorporating real-time performance control into the mix. The conductor is on stage with a wireless controller, known as a Wii-mote, modified from the controller used with Nintendo's Wii gaming console, which acts as a baton. With that, the conductor can modify tempo, loudness, balance, timbre, brightness, and darkness -- many things that a conductor might alter in a given performance.

About Paul Henry Smith
Paul Henry Smith began his conducting studies with Gustav Meier and Leonard Bernstein at Tanglewood and continued with Sergiu Celibidache at the Curtis Institute and in Munich. He studied orchestration and composition with Richard Hoffmann, Lukas Foss, and Steven Scott Smalley. After stints as a conservatory professor and as an Internet entrepreneur he is now devoted to his work with digital instruments to widen the expressive possibilities of orchestral music performance.

In the 1980s, as a visiting researcher at MIT's Media Lab, Mr. Smith worked on early digital orchestra systems. Since then he has been pushing them to approach the facility, simplicity, quality, and responsiveness of acoustic instruments. Recently, these endeavors have begun to flower, due in part to recent advances in computer technology in general, as well as to a surge in the development of software specifically for orchestral music performance.

Mr. Smith is the founder of the Digital Orchestra League, a worldwide non-profit organization that brings together researchers, composers, and theorists, all working on digital orchestral music. He also oversees an annual international composition contest that promotes new orchestral music and encourages composers and performers to explore the artistic possibilities of digital instruments.

An amateur cellist, Mr. Smith lives in Brookline, Massachusetts, with his wife and two children.

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