My “Orchestra scoreboards” post — or rather my reprinting of Michael Oneil Lam’s blog post — evoked a lot of comments. Some very supportive. Some people loved the idea of putting data/info about a piece being played on a screen in the concert hall.
The Houston Symphony and Pacific Symphony (and maybe others?) have offered something I think is akin to the scoreboard concept….both orchestras have held “tweet-certs” — concerts with tweets that served, in effect, as real-time program notes.
There was also a project called the Concert Companion, some years ago — it offered a handheld device (a Pocket PC — remember them?), on which real-time program notes would appear, synced to the music. I was involved for a while, writing the texts. Proved very expensive, and the writing and synchronization aren’t easy at all, if you want to have notes popping up frequently throughout the piece. (If there’s any demand for it, I’ll be happy to explain why.)
But now for the people who didn’t like the suggestion:
…this idea strikes me as both desperate and ugly. I would question whether providing scoreboard readouts for listeners who “lose Track” (myself almost always)will help anything. Indeed,I fear a predictable effect would be that many audience members would use the scoreboard as a way to count down the time remaining until they are freed from the confines of the music hall….Scoreboards would lessen, I think, the sense that anything unscripted might occur, or that something interesting might develop in parts of a piece that are not normally highlighted by reviewers. More gadgetry might also, to borrow from Cage, “ruin the silence” for listeners like myself who prefer fewer bells and whistles in art and in life.This threatens to turn concerts into exercises in didactic suffocation….A big part of what makes music important is the personal meaning that someone derives when engaging with a performance, and a scoreboard highlighting those parts in the piece that the ‘experts’ deem significant seems to do more to destroy that personal engagement than anything else (many program notes do this already, but you don’t have to read them…). Could you imagine any rock concert (other than some painfully self-conscious hipster performance art) with a scoreboard that announces “here’s the bridge, note the expressive colors in the guitar harmonies”? This doesn’t do more to make concerts ‘alive’ or ‘hip’ but simply reduces them even further into commercial seminars on shallow connoisseurship.
Not a bad idea but many (if not most) audience members would hate the distraction (there’s no way you could display so much info in ‘an unobtrusive manner’).
I sympathize with the fears expressed in the first two excerpts. But please — look at the larger thing happening here. Mike Lam goes to orchestra concerts, and has every reason to be sympathetic, because his wife plays in them. And he can’t follow what’s going on. So he makes this suggestion, as something that might help him.
But how do can anyone know that? Have we surveyed the larger audience? Have we surveyed the young audience? Have we surveyed people from the potential new audience? I’m concerned that too much discussion of the future of classical music is speculation. “Oh, no, if we do X, then Y and Z will happen, and that would be terrible!” When in fact nobody knows, because X hasn’t been done.
(I’m guilty of that, I’m sure, on the other side. “If we’d only do X, then things would be wonderful!”)
So please — let’s try to hold off condemning new ideas that aren’t aimed at us. This one was aimed at new listeners, maybe younger ones. Some really loved it. Maybe — speaking here to other people who, like me, have gone to classical concerts maybe all our lives, and loved them — something we’d never think of, and think we wouldn’t like, is exactly what will bring the concert hall alive for those we wish would come.
And not in a cheap, commercial, or anti-musical way, either. Though the last commenter does have a point. Reaction to past innovations seems to show that some people in the existing audience don’t like new concert formats. So maybe, as classical music changes, orchestras and other institutions will have to provide both new-style concerts and old-style ones. Which won’t be easy, though it might be necessary.