The distributed symphony

The blogosphere is bubbling with discussion of the YouTube Symphony Orchestra project, announced earlier this week, which offers opportunity for on-line video auditions, inclusion in a media mash-up of a new work by Tan Dun, and the prospect of performing the work live in Carnegie Hall in April 2009 under the baton of Michael Tilson Thomas (here’s the New York Times story, and here’s the announcement in the Washington Post).

It’s a wonderful inversion of the traditional orchestral approach, in which the preparation and creation of performances are hidden from public view until they’re fully cooked (the musicians even enter the hall through a different door than the audience). And the team assembled for the project seems to have dived in with vigor, posting master classes, interviews, and other resources for the budding enthusiast to put their best audition forward.

Greg Sandow offers an analysis of why this idea seems to be working (it’s evolved as a ”cool experiment” rather than a strategic effort to lure people to live symphonic performances). And it remains to be seen if this idea is scalable to other such initiatives, or adaptable to the interests and capacities of professional symphony organizations. But it will be fun to watch.

Now, I just have to find my ocarina and charge up my camcorder.