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Friday, April 17, 2009

The YouTube Generation

Historians have a penchant for classifying generations. It’s a neat and tidy way to sum up a particular age group and distinguish it, one from the other.

After the turn of the 20th Century, we began with “The Lost Generation,” so-called because many of the best and brightest born gave their lives in the futility of World War I.

Then came “The Greatest Generation,” the term coined by veteran reporter Tom Brokaw who chronicled the age group that faced not only the Great Depression but also genocide and the international power struggles that ushered in the nuclear age.

Passing through time we have seen the birth of “the Boomers," “Generation X” and then “Y” (also known as the “Millennials”) all neatly packaged with their unique socio-economic and historical characteristics.

On Wednesday, April 15, I had the extreme good fortune to witness the birth of “The YouTube Generation.”

It was global musical history in the making. All thanks to the efforts of a collaboration between YouTube and Google, conductor Michael Tilson Thomas, composer Tan Dun, pianist Lang Lang and a host of world-class orchestras including the London, San Francisco, Berlin and New York Philharmonic to name a few.

At 7 p.m., the YouTube Symphony Orchestra, comprised of
ninety-six musicians, from 30 countries, playing 26 different instruments mounted the Perelman Stage in Stern Auditorium at storied Carnegie Hall in New York.

In December, 2008, ninety-one musicians, from 30 countries, playing 26 different instruments auditioned entirely on-line through YouTube with their downloaded videos and were brought together as an astounding compilation of virtuosity that rehearsed face-to-face for a mere 24 hours before presenting a three-hour electrifying performance of classical music from Renaissance to 21st Century.

The performance was inclusive of demographics and musical periods, and did more for the progression of classical music in three hours than all the conservatory training has offered the marketplace in the last 300 years. No offense to music schools here, as I myself attended one, but preparing classical musicians to go forward and reach out to new generations of classical listeners has been minimalist at best. Some of the better music schools are beginning to wake up to that fact.

It was difficult to choose a favorite piece from the evening’s eclectic repertoire, but Tan Dun’s “Eroica” Symphony, as well as the beat-box rhythms of the Mason Bates recently composed piece, “Warehouse Medicine from B-Sides” were riveting. I believe that they will be part of the classical repertoire for years to come just as surely as the breathtaking Brahms “Allegro giocoso from Symphony No. 4 in E minor, Op. 98” and Tchaikovsky’s “Finale from Symphony No. 4”, which were also on the menu.

The entire evening, brought the world together from the use of technology and the import of musicians who have a passion for music making. Not only was a new generation born but also a rebirth for classical music.

The packed-house audience was not comprised of the staid and stuffy music aficionados one so often encounters at classical concerts but was all-inclusive of multi generations and ethnicities, and the music fit like a glove.

As the entire audience rose to their feet to give two, several minute standing ovations, I remembered what our daughter Samantha said in a news interview after having won a YouTube Symphony seat from a talent pool of 3,000-plus auditioned entrants, “If I didn’t think playing music had an impact on people, I wouldn’t be doing it.”

Welcome to The YouTube Generation – the generation that brought music to a global community.


Jo said...

Omigosh, that is so amazing. And the sound quality and the visual quality of the videos was wonderful too. The world is changing so quickly, and I love it! The YouTube generation.

BarryGillogly said...

Having been one of the fortunates myself, I can't agree with you more! From what I've read, most critics got it... there were a few like the NY Times and the London Guardian that still can't find a life or step outside their own egos... but to paraphrase Budda... when you speak from your own anger, you will attempt to spread that anger.

Paula Slade said...

I totally agree Jo - it is amazing! Thirty years ago I couldn't imagine technology having this type impact on the arts.

Paula Slade said...

Barry - So true!