Paying Attention as a Writer


Could the future of classical music be found on YouTube?  An article in last week’s Time by Vivien Schweitzer described the recent development of musicians auditioning by video on YouTube for the YouTube Symphony Orchestra.  Musicians submitted videos of themselves performing standard repertory to be evaluated first by members of the London Symphony and Berlin and New York Philharmonics who selected 200 finalists.  The finalists’ videos were posted on YouTube where users could view them and vote on the musicians they liked best.  Then conductor Michael Tilson Thomas reviewed those and chose who will play in the YouTube Symphony Orchestra.  It’s an internet American Idol for the symphony orchestra. 

As a way to bring classical music to the masses, this couldn’t be better.  Is it the future of auditioning orchestra musicians?  It could save on travel expenses, I guess.  But there’s one glaring thing about it that would probably prevent it from being used in a formal audition process: the player can be seen and identified.  Right now, musicians audition behind a screen — they can be heard but not seen.  The screen keeps the audition judges blind to the musician’s age, sex, color, etc.  All that’s important is the way the musician plays. 

But I started thinking about the future of classical music in a much different way because of the YouTube Symphony Orchestra.  What if orchestras, as a routine matter, recorded every concert on digital video to be “rented” or sold online?  What if orchestras, as a routine matter, performed online on a regular basis?  The concert hall could remain a viable performing venue for people who preferred the concert experience live (and it’s really special, I prefer it) while others could see the concert online from anyplace in the world.  My first thought is, how would the musicians and conductor be paid? 

Which brings up a concern I’ve had, and continue to have, about those of us who create something that is unique to us, and the internet.  I know that a lot of content on the internet is free, but I also think there should be “premium sites” where one has to pay for the content produced by people who are making their living from the resulting product (music, books, art, photography, journalism, etc.).  So, an orchestra’s website that also produces video of the orchestra performing could have a free section (clips and other info) and a pay-to-see-and-listen section.  Musicians make their living through performing or composing.  It’s a job, folks, and they need to make money to live just like the rest of us.

But you know, wouldn’t it be WONDERFUL if food were free?  Or clothing, houses, cars, anything one wants?  Just go take it.  But what about the people who provided those things?  I have thought long and often about how different a world we’d have without money and the need to earn it.  But I wonder if humans are ready for a world without money, without money as the purpose in life, as the reward, as the incentive for working or creating.  This is something I touch on in the Perceval novels for Evan Quinn’s future world — some countries have joined together to develop a transition process for eliminating money.

For me, I always seem to end up at Perceval and Evan Quinn.  Evan would not be impressed with the YouTube phenomenon.  He’s not really an internet type of guy.  He prefers the real world, real people (not avatars), real experience (vs. virtual).  For me as a writer, however, I pay attention and think about what I see in terms of the future and how I’ve imagined it, how it needs to evolve….

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