Beethoven Tweets

Beethoven Tweets

Jul 23, 2009

Ah, technology!  It seems that the National Symphony Orchestra’s conductor, Emil de Cou, has prepared real-time program notes to Beethoven’s Sixth that will be beamed via Twitter to people sitting on the lawn of Wolf Trap on July 30. According to an NSO press release, “The messages will begin during intermission and provide facts about Beethoven’s life and work. Once the concert begins, the tweets will be sent at specific points in the score, becoming streaming program notes that mark musical signposts depicting Beethoven’s symphonic tribute to a day in the country.”
I suspect that for some this represents an insidious incursion into the performance space.  Others will see this as a natural extension of how we leverage technology.  Personally, I don’t understand how taking your attention off the music could possibly add to the enjoyment of LISTENING TO MUSIC!  But I will admit that as ED of the Chicago Sinfonietta I am always looking for ways to use technology to more deeply engage our audience.  I don’t hate the idea of using Twitter – just this particular application of it.
The Chicago Sinfonietta staff and board have recently discussed how we can better use technology to enhance the knowledge and enjoyment of our audience, but as always, I turn to you, our informed readers for ideas and debate.  Please post a comment on whether these types of uses of technology are positive or negative for classical music organizations, and by all means, share examples that you think are exceptionally good uses of technology.  And yes, the irony of asking this question via is not lost on me.  Ah, technology!


program notes?

I totally agree: whenever you're not giving your undivided attention to a performance, you're going to miss way more than what you normally would! I guess because this particular concert was outside they wouldn't have printed program notes, so twitter was actually a great idea, but not during the performance.

Tweets at concerts

Hi Anon,
Thanks for your comment - always nice to hear from a musician!  I understand your point and my criticism was more about timing than the use of Twitter.  I want the audience LISTENING, not reading while the music is performed because I believe that you lose some of the emotional impact of the piece when you engage a different part of your brain.  Had they tweeted at intermission and then maybe at the conclusion, I would have applauded the use of technology in this case.  I feel the same way about your interesting suggestion about supertitles.
We want our audiences armed with as much context and knowledge as possible PRIOR to performances because we know from research that that significanlty enhnaces their enjoyment.  But I don't think we want more distractions when the music is performed. 
The other use of technology that I heard about recently was inviting audience members to text questions to the conductor during intermission and then having those answered before the beginning of the second half.  I loved that idea!

I like the idea of Twittered

I like the idea of Twittered program notes, at least in this context: an outdoor concert under the stars, where you're not as likely to be annoyed by your neighbor staring into an iPhone or Blackberry. Also, there's usually a good distance between the stage and the audience, so it's less likely to distract the performers.

However, in the concert hall, I agree that this would probably be disastrous. When I'm performing, I'm usually able to see most of the audience, so I've witnessed all sorts of behavior, from sleeping, to talking, to texting.

On the other hand, it'd be interesting to try having program notes appear as supertitles over the stage. If they're done well, and contribute to the performance, it could be very effective. At its most basic, it could be a good way of letting people know which movement of a symphony is currently playing, along with a translation (Allegro con fuoco = Fast with fire).

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