Beethoven Digital Symphonies Concert – Oct. 4, 2009

The Fauxharmonic Orchestra presented its second concert in the series of all nine Beethoven symphonies.

October 4, 2009, 3:00 pm
Brandeis University
Slosberg Music Center
415 South Street, Waltham, MA


BEETHOVEN • Symphony No. 2 in D, op. 36
FAURÉ • Nocturne, op. 57
WEBERN • Symphony, op. 21
SPINDLER • Animated Watercolor – premiere
GENTRY • A Piece for Several Instruments (or a futile attempt to explain the magical powers of nothingness) – premiere
VARÈSE • Ionisation
UEMATSU • Liberi Fatali, from Final Fantasy 8

The Fauxharmonic Orchestra will present classics of orchestral music with music from the video game Final Fantasy 8, as well as two new student works.  The program will include Beethoven’s Symphony No. 2 in D and music by Jeremy Spindler and Christian Gentry, both Ph.D. candidates in composition at Brandeis University.  The performance of Beethoven’s 2nd Symphony is part of a year-long series presenting all nine Beethoven symphonies — a worldwide musical first.  Also on the program are “Ionisation” by Varese, “Symphony” by Webern, and Glinka’s “Ruslan and Lyudmila Overture.”

Mr. Smith takes the digital orchestra out of the studio and into the concert hall to perform Beethoven’s Complete Symphonies.Performing these cornerstones of the symphonic repertoire in concert lets the audience judge whether a digital orchestra can be as expressive and moving as a traditional acoustic orchestra.

“There is no question that the music I’m playing is a masterpiece.  It’s by Beethoven, after all,” Smith says.  “So, what’s left to the audience to decide is whether my performance is any good.  If our first concert is any indication of what’s to come, people are going to be stunned.”

Technology is Not Enough – Musicianship is Key

Smith's modded Wiimote
Smith’s modded Wiimote

Smith has taken the Nintendo Wii far beyond off-the-shelf video gaming.  By integrating game controllers into a computerized system with over three million orchestral sounds at the ready, he has created his own musical instrument – the Fauxharmonic Orchestra – with the flexibility and power to play nearly any orchestral music expressively and with the real-time responsiveness to acoustics and timing that great music demands.

But Smith is neither an inventor nor a programmer.  He simply uses store-bought components, coupled with extensive musical training to produce a digital orchestra instrument many recognize as amazing.   “Could just anyone do this? I don’t think so. Anyone can walk into a store and buy a Steinway, but that doesn’t mean they’re going to play it like Horowitz.  Musical ability is more important than technical ability,” explains Smith.

Even so, the quality of the tools is important.  That’s why Smith is using Bang & Olufsen’s acclaimed BeoLab 5 speaker system and the best orchestral sample library (collection of orchestral sounds) ever created, the Vienna Symphonic Library.

“Wii controllers are cheap toys to the rest of the world, but to me they are the highly reliable, mass produced ‘bow’ for my string sections.  And the fact that they cost so little is just a nice bonus,” says Smith.

Coolest invention of 2003 - Time
Coolest invention of 2003 – Time

“The really important technology for this concert is the loudspeakers.  The system that converts the digital information into sound in a real acoustic space has to be able to handle the demands of the music.  It has to be as good a musical instrument as the acoustic instruments whose sounds I’ll be playing.  That’s why I’m thrilled to be using Bang & Olufsen’s BeoLab 5 speakers.  You don’t hear the speakers when you listen to these, you just hear the music.”

Bang & Olufsen, one of the world’s leading manufacturers of high-end audio and video equipment, has generously agreed to supply Paul Henry Smith and the Fauxharmonic Orchestra with their BeoLab 5 loudspeaker system. Picked by Time Magazine as one of 2003’s coolest inventions, the BeoLab 5 system will be the “instruments” of the Fauxharmonic Orchestra.  The BeoLab 5’s adaptive Bass Control system, coupled with Acoustic Lens Technology, ensures optimum sound experience regardless of the position of the loudspeaker.

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