Brussels Philharmonic uses Samsung Galaxy Tablets for Performing

The Brussels Philharmonic performing on Samsung Galaxy 10.1 Tablets, using NeoScores software. Picture property of Samsung.

A big “Thank You” to Viola Jack for forwarding this press release from Samsung…

Samsung Press Release

The Brussels Philharmonic teamed up with Samsung and a small Belgium tech company called NeoScores to perform two pieces completely on Samsung tablets.  The two pieces were Ravel’s Bolero and Wagner’s Prelude to Tristan und Isolde.

I’m all for music moving to digital formats…and in the ftp site provide by Samsung, there’s a wonderful .mov file that shows the complexity of preparing music for an orchestra.  Someone has to pull the music, a section leader has to write in the master markings, a copyist copies those markings, scores are duplicated and taped, and the cycle continues.  A Belgian elected official mentioned that 25,000 Euros could be saved by the used of tablets.  Note: that video is now on YouTube:

If you happen to see a close-up of a score, they look pretty good in Widescreen, because NeoScores is utilizing many tools, including flexible MusicXML.  Therefore, a score can utilize the entire widescreen in portrait mode.  The orchestra is NOT using PDF files.  This is the future–but we remain years away from this being a solution for K-12 music, or even music in general (there is no way that the big publishers are going to want to let MusicXML files hit the general public without DRM [digital rights management]).

However, this is clearly a staged event.  The hall is empty, with a large scrim with projected video hanging in the concert hall.  The musicians are given sheet music over their tablets with the sole intent to throw them for a photo opportunity.  In the video, the Samsung representative talks about how great the pen is (the new Samsung tablets have a pen) so the conductor can write in the score.  In reality, the conductor isn’t even using music.  The performance happens at 4:30 in the afternoon, yet everyone is dressed in concert dress.  And most telling, there are civilians simply sitting on the stage.

And in the technical realm:

  • In one of the ftp videos, there is a shot of people placing tablets on each stand, particularly with a tablet labeled “Contrabass.”  A true solution would be for musicians to bring their own tablets.  Granted, NeoScores is in beta (it does not run on my Android 4.0 HP TouchPad or my iPad–I tried the sample score of Mozart’s Lacrymosa from the Requiem) and they may have had to pre-load scores on each tablet to make this work.
  • If NeoScores can display PDF or MusicXML and allow annotation–that’s a winning combination.  Right now you can get PDF with annotation or Music XML (or Finale, Sibelius/Scorch, or MuseScore) without annotation on the iPad–but no product brings annotation to both PDF and notation scores.
  • There were no clips that showed the speed of page turns, although I did see a clip where a musician had to turn pages twice because the page didn’t turn (this happens to all of us–usually user error!).
  • None of the musicians are using the Samsung pen in the videos, either.
  • Every musician is using a tablet–and you know at least one of them wasn’t happy about it.  But, then again, it was an extra paycheck, too.
  • Bluetooth foot pedals would have been a good addition for this exercise.
  • If you see some of the pictures, the “SAMSUNG” stamp on the front of the tablet (landscape mode) is a bit irritating in portrait mode.  I’m sure that Samsung had to do this because of the lawsuits from Apple (making it look different from the iPad), but I’m not a big fan of that branding.
  • Again, paper-based PDF files would not make the Samsung a good choice…in portrait, the display would be thinner than an iPad.

In conclusion…this is a big press release opportunity, and it is staged.  Who cares?  The Belgium Symphony was able to create beautiful music using tablets instead of paper–being the first full symphony to do so (soloists, small groups, and some chamber groups have been using iPads for years already).  So they broke a barrier–using Samsung Tablets–proving that technology is for the arts and music.  I might prefer a different device…but in the end, it doesn’t matter.  It’s an awesome way to bridge the gap between technology and music in the minds of the public.

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