I put this video up today for my students of my Introduction to Conducting class (I'm sure it's been around the internet circles for a while, but it was the first time I saw it). I showed it to them mainly for a bit comic relief, and that was really all. However, after we watched the video, we found ourselves having a very interesting discussion about it.
First the video – Honda's robot ASIMO conducting the Detroit Symphony Orchestra:
Some of our observations: ASIMO does have a reasonably smooth legato gesture, more than we expected anyway, it displays clear preparatory gestures and releases, and even gives the ensemble a good amount of eye contact (not much soul in the eyes mind you). The left hand independence was also quite commendable.
The things ASIMO did not do well was provide any passion in the conducting, cannot adjust to what it, ummm, "she" is hearing, and didn't manage the ritardano very well at all.
It was also unanimous that, although the experiment was quite fun, our conducting profession is not in jeopardy of being replaced by machines any time soon.
This graphic demonstration of Bach’s “Crab Canon” from the Musical Offering has been making the rounds in my various social networks recenty. A great visual demonstration is offered here, and will make an appearance in my music appreciation course this fall!
If you haven’t seen it before – I hope you enjoy it!
Here’s an interesting video for your Thursday morning. Perhaps put your coffee and muffin down if medical videos make you at all squeamish.
A view of the tongue working, as through the eyes of the MRI, of an opera soprano, and a beatbox emcee.
The video was featured at the Sounds and Visions Session, of the International Society for Magnetic Resonance in Medicine (ISMRM) Scientific Sessions, May 2006, Seattle.
Even more fascinating to me, is the different uses of the soft palate between the two subjects.
Watch as McFerrin teaches an unsuspecting audience how to sing a pentatonic scale:
I was listening to an absolutely excellent interview with Veronica Lee of the UK’s Guardian on the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) radio show “Q”, with host Jian Ghomeshi. (The podcast for this interview is available here – search for the 2010-02-09 episode “Julie Powell” – Veronica Lee was the first interview on the program – so it’s easy to find – unfortunately, there is no direct link to this interview yet). The accompanying article in the Guardian is found here. Although, I highly recommend listening to the podcast for a fuller discussion of the subject.
The interview, which I admit has no great significance to choral music, had me thinking about the often pain staking process we go through as choral conductors to make our choirs sing with specific dialects of English or Latin. (I once was taught to sing Poulenc with French Latin. I was unconvinced at the start of the rehearsal process – and even more unconvinced after the project was over). Now it seems common practice for us to use different versions of Austrian Latin for Haydn and Mozart – with differences of opinion of which is the correct way to do this.
Our desire to sing American spirituals with “southern” accents (up here in Canada anyway) often have tragic results. Is it important that we modify our dialect depending on the origin and era of the music? Are you offended when you hear Shakespeare read with an American accent, or “Deep River” sung with a rolled “R”?
After the much anticipated announcement of the release of the Apple tablet, the “iPad“, yesterday – it got me thinking – will this finally be the step that makes digital music stands a reality? Perhaps with the price tag starting at $499 per iPad, maybe not just yet. However, I can’t help but to think of the future application as it applies to our industry.
The most obvious use will be the practical application. A musician could scan in their scores, carry the iPad to their gig, set it on a music stand and just go – no need for stand lights, no losing music, quick clicking through repeat sings, da capos, digitally mark up scores the way you like, with as many colors as you like, and delete old markings with ease. Turn pages with the touch of a finger, or even by a foot pedal if your fingers are in use. These programs already do exist (see this youtube video), but the hardware is bulky, requires cables, and you need to find a way strap your laptop sideways on the stand, or own the old generation bulky tablets that have not succeeded. Not to mention, the cost!
The iPad is smaller, thinner, and lighter. The iPad boasts a 10 hour battery life (that’s four union services) plus wireless and bluetooth networking. The screen is slighter smaller than letter sized paper, 1 inch thick, and 1 1/2 pounds (perhaps a bit heavy to hold for a long time in a black folder) and full of all the toys that many of us know and love in our iPod Touch’s or iPhones – including an intuitive operating system based on simple icons and touches. It also has the capacity of 64 gigabytes of flash storage. That’s a lot of scores – my rough calculation – nearly 15,000 pages of music at high quality resolution (10 mega pixels) – perhaps up to ten times that at a lower resolution. One could conceivably hold the entire printed works of Bach with room to spare.
If the iPad takes off, as Apple anticipates it will, and why wouldn’t they – they designed it after all, I feel the real potential is in the field of music publication. Many iPod users are already quick to depart with $0.99 to buy a track of music they desire, I know I’m guilty. Wouldn’t it be grand if major publishers like Carus and Barenreiter offered a similar service to download their scores into your iPad for small “paperless” fees? Downloading music is nothing new – we have CPDL, Handlo and Sheet Music Plus to name a few, However they are often unreliable, and full of errors. If Apple can get big name music publishers on board, the way we read music (and I mean that in a literal sense) could change. I feel it is inevitable.
When will this happen?
“Choir, please load up the Haydn, click to Rehearsal C and touch in these markings … or, better yet – import MY markings”