Forum examines role played by technology in music
Leaders of China’s classical music community examined how technology and digital media are changing symphonies, orchestras and the field as a whole at the fourth China Orchestra Administration and Management Forum in Shenzhen — a metropolis in Guangdong province that’s considered as a sci-tech hub — over Nov 10-11.
Forum chairman Nie Bing, who’s also director of the Shenzhen Symphony Orchestra that was established in 1982 — three years after Shenzhen’s founding — says the change has been vast since the reform and opening-up.
“Most people didn’t even know how to speak Mandarin in the early years after Shenzhen became a city,” Nie says.
“But we saw that people appreciated music. So, it’s important for us to popularize (classical) music ... We’ve started to use new media and online media in recent years. We’ve experimented on WeChat to publicize our orchestra with good results.”
Ningbo Symphony Orchestra’s deputy director, Tong Ming, says the Chinese messaging app has improved publicity.
“We post on our public account every other day. The content centers on performances, including specific repertoires and musicians.”
He cites an article posted on the group’s account about Symphonie Fantastique, with the headline — “A love story about a fanboy pursuing his goddess” — about how French composer Hector Berlioz wrote the symphony out of his love for Irish actress Harriet Smithson.
China Philharmonic Orchestra director Li Nan criticizes the use of “clickbait”.
“I can understand marketing methods, but I wouldn’t recommend vulgarization and catering to audiences like this. There are some things we need to hold onto.”
But Ningbo Symphony Orchestra’s new media publicity has proven successful, considering the group is only three years old.
“It’s remarkable that nearly all their WeChat posts get over 5,000 views,” classical music recording engineer Liu Da says.
“The orchestras’ posts usually get about 3,000 views each in total, which is already quite a lot.”
Zurich Chamber Orchestra’s artistic and executive director, Michael Buhler, explained various ways in which his group has been using technology to enliven performances and promote classical music among the youth.
The orchestra strives to innovate to create immersive theater experiences, Buhler says.
It placed transparent projection screens in front of and behind the orchestra at one performance to create a holographic effect, so older audience members could enjoy the music and the youth would also like it.
The orchestra also once brought in an artist who painted during the concert to express the music’s movement with flowing colors. Audiences are allowed to take photos and film, and share these on streaming and social media platforms, which also expands the audience base.
“Teenagers are very mediadriven,” Buhler says.
“In one project, we gave them a piece of classical music and asked them to produce a video. And we played the five best videos in the concert. The videos move me to tears every time.”
China’s orchestras are also working to popularize classical music among the younger generation. This fulfills both their social responsibility to promote music literacy and their need to attract more concertgoers.
The Shenzhen Symphony Orchestra established three youth orchestras of different age groups in 2015.
“Youth orchestras can be conducive to art education for children and teenagers,” Nie says. “If the kids love classical music, their parents will take them to concerts and fall in love with the music, too. I believe the establishment of our youth orchestras has promoted classical music’s popularization.”
Michael Buhler, the artistic director of the Zurich Chamber Orchestra, talks about the utilization of technology in classical music concerts at the orchestra forum in Shenzhen.