Southbank Centre‘s Web We Want festival kicks off at the end of next week to mark the World Wide Web’s 25th birthday. Eight months of events and installations will explore the power of the web in giving people a voice while asking how we can guarantee a free and open web for years to come. To coincide with the festival, and celebrate 25 years of the internet, we look at six of the best classical music initiatives inspired or facilitated by Tim Berners-Lee’s ingenious invention.
1. The YouTube Symphony Orchestra
2009 witnessed the birth of the YouTube Symphony Orchestra, where more than 90 musicians were selected from over 30 countries to form the world’s first online collaborative orchestra. Auditioned and selected via YouTube videos, the musicians came together to perform at New York’s Carnegie Hall under the direction of conductor and YTSO artistic director Michael Tilson Thomas. In 2011, a second YouTube Symphony Orchestra emerged, increasing in size to 101 musicians, and including soloists who were specially chosen for their improvisation talents. They performed in a week long musical celebration that ended with a grand finale at the Sydney Opera House.
2. The Berlin Philharmonic’s Digital Concert Hall
Since its was ‘opened’ in 2008, the Berlin Philharmonic’s Digital Concert Hall has grown into an internet phenomenon. Currently the only musical institution to release their programmes into the public’s hands via the web, the Berlin Philharmonic offers numerous benefits to the members of their online concert hall, including documentaries, interviews and cinema-streamed concerts as well as recordings and videos on the accompanying app. With the web-based concerts, the Philharmonic is attempting to appeal to wider audiences who have the ability to choose what they want to watch and when, and who can enjoy live performances in the comfort of their own homes.
3. The live streaming of opera
The opera community is also making good use of the Internet. Like the Berlin Phil, they are reaching wider audiences by allowing people to watch productions live from their homes. As well as being convenient, it is something that may help opera overcome its elitist reputation. Franz Welser-Möst, former conductor for the Vienna State Opera, is a strong promoter of live streaming, having once said: ‘I want people to be able to watch opera in their pyjamas.’ Companies such as the English National Opera and Glyndebourne also stream live to cinemas so that viewers still have the benefit of an audience atmosphere but within a venue that is more familiar than a concert hall or theatre.
4. Eric Whitacre’s Virtual Choir
When young singer Britlin Losee recorded a version of Eric Whitacre’s Sleep and uploaded it to YouTube, it inspired the American composer and conductor to create a virtual choir of singers from around the globe, a project that today involves almost 6,000 people. The Virtual Choir combines videos of individual singers, each who record and submit an excerpt via the internet, with a video of Whitacre conducting and accompanying animations. When it started in 2009, the Virtual Choir consisted of 185 voices from 12 different countries. Today, in its fourth version, the choir has grown to 5,905 voices (including 8 soloists) from 101 countries.
5. Australian Voices: Toy Story 3 = Awesome! (The Facebook Song)
Although the internet has affected many music ensembles and communities since it began, there aren’t that many works written specifically about it. But one we couldn’t resist including is Australian Voices’ Toy Story 3 = Awesome (The Facebook Song). Founded by conductor Gordon Hamilton in 1993, Australian Voices was founded as an a capella ensemble and they have become known for their musical diversity. Toy Story 3 = Awesome (The Facebook Song), inspired by the all-too-familiar features of the social media site, became a hit for the choir in 2011 and is on their self-titled album.
6. Touchpress’s classical music apps
The innovative approach taken by app-producer Touchpress in its classical music apps has revolutionised the way people can explore composers, their music and the ensembles it’s written for. The apps make the full symphony orchestra available at the tap of a screen and explore some of classical music’s greatest masterpieces, including Beethoven’s Symphony No. 9 and Vivaldi’s Four Seasons. Alongside a history of the music and commentary by leading experts, the apps feature Touchpress’s BeatMap, which visualises orchestral performances of the pieces and demonstrate how the musicians work together on stage.