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Ain’t tech grand

E-mail and digital audio and web browsing and internet-purchasing have all piled on top of the Music World. There they sit, occasionally seeping down into the body of the thing, but never quite fully-integrating. Granted, these currencies are, for the most part, now hard-wired into a musician’s music-making-thinking, but really only up to a point. Conductors may buy their performance materials via a website, say, but never think to e-mail the composer with performance details … Players may play a piece they love, but never search out other works by the same composer online. These are obviously self-interested examples, but I’m betting they apply to anyone, in any field, who searches to connect with others. So, for all the untapped power of the internets, for me at least, a little creative thinking toward harnessing the tools goes a long way.

Robert Ambrose, Director of Bands at Georgia State University, has just raised the bar, and with seemingly little perspiration. The sequence of events I describe below is so simple, so obvious, and yet it’s the first time I’ve ever run into a conductor comfortable enough with the computer on his desk to make the attempt.

Bob has been rehearsing AVENUE X with his ensemble for performance this Friday, so earlier last week he recorded a run-through. Then he ripped an mp3 of the rehearsal, and e-mailed it to me. I listened while following score, wrote out a list of comments, and e-mailed him back. He printed the comments out for the players, rehearsed (I assume), recorded another run-though, and e-mailed again with the new audio.

(By the way, 150% difference … they sound really terrific. It’s going to be a hot performance.)

Honestly, I’m 900 miles away, and I feel like I’ve been to a rehearsal, only without all the usual groping of federalized aviation security. Why hasn’t this happened for every performance I couldn’t (for whatever reason) attend? Obviously, it’s ideal to actually be there, there is certainly nothing like the rush of working with an ensemble on your own music, but when you’re not there… Wow, does this work well.

Now, I’m self-involved, certainly, but never so much as to not grasp that many conductors would rather just leave me the heck out of it. Better Half has often vigorously expressed this thinking in the (I think analogous) opinion that despite her love for them and the work, at the first rehearsal of a new play, the playwright should just “Go. Away.” (her words). So what I read as a But-What-About-ME situation should probably be interpreted more as an expression of artistic freedom. In other words: let them do what they do—you did your job, now let them do theirs.

Now I can save my opinions on the matter for argumentative-yet-fun discussions with Better Half, or I can say out loud and publicly that really, honestly, unlike Bartleby, I’d prefer to be involved, please. Composing is a solitary, and believe it or not, often silent venture … contact with humans is cherished among my people. Trust me. So lasso those internets, fire up the browsers, and click on that “Contact” link. We’re just sitting here, wondering why you haven’t yet.

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