Saturday, August 05, 2006

haus der musik

Today I explored an intriguing museum/exhibit/space in Vienna. It is called Haus der Musik. It has over five floors of various sound installations and exhibits ranging from a floor dedicated to the Wiener Philharmoniker, a floor dedicated to composers connected with Vienna; Mozart, Beethoven, Schubert, Brahms, Mahler, Schoenberg, Webern and so forth. Tod Machover of MIT also has a section dedicated to his Brain Opera. But by far the best part for me, since I am a conductor, was a virtual conducting program which is interactive. Der Virtuelle Dirigient, allows anyone to hold a sensor equipped baton and conduct the Vienna Philharmonic. You have a choice of four compositions to conduct from; Mozart's Little Night Music, Strauss' Blue danube Waltz, Die Fledermaus overture, and a Strauss March. They have filmed the actual Vienna Philharmonic playing these four pieces from an aerial view (quasi viewpoint of the conductor). There are some hilarious reactions if the conductor is not able to keep a steady beat. Once someone fails to keep a reasonably constant beat, someone from the orchestra stands up and protests quite vehemently. The entire orchestra than berates the conductor. If you conduct to the end of a piece without someone complaining about your unsteady tempo, than a invisible audience applaudes wildly. The program allows for quite a bit of flexibility in tempo. The program even allows for dynamic contrast. If you conduct large beats the orchestra will play loudly and if you conduct smaller beats they will play softly. Very well designed. Although I must say it is far more amusing for people watching if someone fails and a violist or a horn player in the orchestra starts to complain vigorously. There are several variations. It is not always the violist who complains.

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