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Archive for Friday, January 16, 2009

Net Worth: Global symphony collaboration mobilized by YouTube

January 16, 2009

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There’s an old joke — Henny Youngman-old — concerning a concert violinist on his first visit to New York City. He’s lost and late for a rehearsal, so he stops to ask a police officer, “How do I get to Carnegie Hall?”

The cop responds, “Practice, practice, practice.”

In this increasingly cyber-based culture, there’s now an even easier way to get to Carnegie Hall.

The forward-thinking billionaires at YouTube have put together a unique musical project that partners aspiring musicians with Grammy- and Oscar-winning composer Tan Dun (“Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon”). The so-named YouTube Symphony Orchestra will eventually take the stage at Carnegie Hall with conductor Michael Tilson Thomas at the podium.

Already, the YouTube recruitment video has been viewed 1.6 million times. On it, an ethnically diverse mix of good-looking young musicians entices viewers to create “the world’s first collaborative online orchestra.”

While the rules are a little vague in the one-and-a-half minute video (“record yourself playing and submit that video to YouTube”), further digging reveals that participants must furnish two performance videos. One can be any display on any instrument — Theremin players take note — the other an interpretation of Tan’s original work.

Orchestral experts (unspecified) will whittle down the field “American Idol”-style. Then YouTube users select the winners in March.

“The best and bravest of you will be invited to a performance at Carnegie Hall,” the video explains.

In April, winners then head to New York for a workshop with Thomas, who is music director for the San Francisco Symphony. On Tax Day, all that practice leads to a Carnegie debut of a piece whose working title is “Internet Symphony No. 1 — Eroica.” (Eroica is the Italian word for “heroic.”)

Act now, as submissions are open only until Jan. 28.

What’s interesting about the project is that it’s so proactive. YouTube is proving it isn’t just a repository for watching other people’s skateboarding bloopers and adorable pet videos, it’s also a virtual gathering place for artists.

The possibilities are boundless. Why not launch a YouTube feature film composed of hundreds of wannabe directors filming their own section of a script — which could be composed by hundreds of YouTube screenwriters? How about YouTube-conscripted artwork or dance projects or video game designs?

Perhaps I could even recruit dozens of aspiring writers to join me in concocting a future Net Worth column.

If that fails, I’m sure there are plenty of monkeys with typewriters available ... speaking of old jokes.

— Entertainment editor Jon Niccum explores facets of pop culture that have established a unique niche on the Internet in Net Worth. He can be reached at 832-7178.

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