The first-ever live concert of a Beethoven Symphony with Vienna Instruments
On Wednesday, May 20, 2009, Paul Henry Smith conducted the first-ever live concert of a Beethoven Symphony using a digital orchestra, performed by Vienna Symphonic Library’s Vienna Instruments at Holy Name Church in Boston.
This was the first concert in a series that will present all nine Beethoven symphonies. The Fauxharmonic Orchestra, founded by conductor and composer Paul Henry Smith, sets out to convince audiences that a live performance of a digital orchestra can be as expressive and moving as a traditional acoustic orchestra. In an earlier experiment in 2008, the New York Times called the Fauxharmonic Orchestra “genuinely impressive.” In another article on Smith’s efforts, the Wall Street Journal identified Vienna Symphonic Library’s founder Herb Tucmandl as “one of the people most responsible for recent strides in computerized music.”
The live digital orchestral music is realized by incorporating real-time performance control into a preliminary version that Smith prepares during hundreds of hours prior to the performance. Accompanying viola and mezzo-soprano soloists, the Fauxharmonic Orchestra makes the most of its technology using wireless Nintendo Wii video-game controllers to change tempo, loudness, balance, timbre, and brightness – the elements a musician typically controls during a live performance.
Paul Henry Smith notes that “A digital orchestra gives composers a way to get their music heard in live concert settings when acoustic orchestras simply cannot afford to do so. Furthermore, expanding opportunities for composers and soloists is one of the great benefits of using digital orchestra technology. With current financial pressures, orchestras are cutting the performance of new music. By contrast, it costs far less for the Fauxharmonic Orchestra to prepare a new work for full orchestra and to perform it many times and in many places. This technology is best understood as expanding the rainbow of expression, rather than undermining the art of orchestral music.”
For programming the works and performing them live, Paul Henry Smith uses the following equipment:
- 1 Mac Pro with two 3 GHz Dual-Core Intel Xeon processors, 8 GB RAM, with Apple Logic Pro and Vienna Instruments (strings, brass, percussion)
- 1 iMac, using Vienna Ensemble PRO as a host for the woodwind Vienna Instruments
- Nintendo Wii Balance Board and Wii Remote wireless controller
- OSCulator to translate the gestures made with the Wii controllers into MIDI and application control data
- Bang & Olufsen’s BeoLab 5 speakers