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The New Orchestra: Symphonic Innovation Around the World

The world’s biggest concert, what Venezuela has that everyone needs, and why YouTube is the unsuspected shortcut to Carnegie Hall.

Today, we’re doing something different. Instead of the usual indie up-and-comer, we’re going back to the idea that the best of innovation comes from taking tradition and flipping it on its head. In music, it doesn’t get more traditional than orchestras. So, today, we’re looking at three groundbreaking ways of orchestrating orchestras.

HAMBURG PHILHARMONIC

Last Monday, the Hamburg Philahrmonic put on a grand show — in fact, it was the world’s biggest music performance.

Instead of their usual venue, the 100 musicians took to the city, dispensing across 50 locations, replicating the layout of a concert hall stage on a much larger scale.

Overlooking this grand stage from the top of St. Michaelis Church, Hamburg’s highest point, the conductor worked her magic.

The musicians themselves were connected with each other via live video feed, with flatscreens propped right next to their sheet music — a wonderful metaphor for the classical-two-point-ohness of the stunt.

Watch the teaser video to really grasp the brilliance of this endeavor and the scale of the performance. Genius.

via GOOD

GUSTAVO DUDAMEL AT TED

Gustavo Dudamel is known as one of the most exciting and animated conductors of our time. He is also one of the youngest.

At last month’s TED, he led a truly jaw-dropping performance that elicited a standing ovation like no other — he conducted The Teresa Carreño Youth Orchestra, composed of the best high school musicians from Venezuela’s life-changing music program, El Sistema, of which Dudamel himself is a product.

The performance is nothing short of awe-inspiring. But, more importantly, it’s a testament to the need — the urgency — of preserving and advancing music education, of harnessing youth talent, of fostering the culture and the cult of musical genius.

GOOGLE COLLABORATIVE ORCHESTRA

We firmly believe collaboration is the future of every aspect of culture. And Google is taking the lead on the music front. Last week, they announced the winners of the world’s first online collaborative orchestra.

YouTube Symphony OrchestraThe contest called for professional and amateur musicians to “audition” for the 90 spots on the YouTube Symphony Orchestra. Entries came from over 30 countries on six continents, with musicians playing some 26 different instruments. The 90 international winners, who will travel to New York to perform at Carnegie Hall, were selected by the YouTube community and a panel of performers from the world’s most renowned orchestras.

You can see all the winning audition videos on the YouTube Symphony Orchestra Channel. They are, needless to say, phenomenal.

The orchestra will participate in a collaborative summit for classical music in New York next month, wrapping up with their Carnegie Hall concert — which, by the way, will be conducted by none other than San Francisco Symphony Music Director Michael Tilson Thomas, also founder of New World Symphony  and Principal Guest Conductor of the London Symphony Orchestra.

Here’s to making collaboration the new classic.

BP

Transform: The Journey to Creative Contentment

Why the only thing that matters is that it shouldn’t matter.

As creators, we all have moments of doubt. Sometimes momentary, sometimes situational, sometimes existential. But the “trick” about creative self-doubt seems to be in doing away with the pressures of measuring up, the perceived comparative value of our work, the destructive cravings for critical acclaim, and focusing on the creative truth of each moment, that “in-the-zoneness” that makes us truly happy.

transform1Which is why we love Zack Arias’ short film Transform — an exploration of a photographer’s journey to creative contentment, past the trials and tribulations of doubt and the tortured obsessions over the work’s merit. And although Zack himself is a photographer, we think the grander message of the film will strike a chord with any creator.

So watch Transform, and don’t let the intentional satire of the first 93 seconds mislead you — it’s after this that the film’s true richness really begins.

Transform seems to echo the wisdom of our favorite TED talk — Elizabeth Gilbert on creative genius — and the idea that these pressures, be they external or internal, to measure up, to outdo, to be celebrated kill the very spring of creativity.

So with this sentiment, have an inspired weekend. And if you don’t, that’s okay.

BP

Sign of The Times: Data Visualization Heaven

158 years of the cultural dialog, replayed and rewritten in visual language.

Newspapers have long been a paradise of visual information — from the early 20th century isotype language pioneered by Otto Neurath, to the elaborate vintage infographics we so love. So imagine our excitement when The New York Times announced Times Open last week, an open API initiative encouraging the development of applications around The Times‘ enormous vault of data.

If you swim in the shallow end of the geek pool, fear not: Here’s the Cliff’s Notes on API — it stands for application programing interface and is pretty much what shapes the behavior of one application as it interacts with others. For example, a WordPress plugin that displays your latest tweets on your blog uses the Twitter API to work the magic.

But what makes the NYT development particularly important is that the API opens up data from the paper’s entire 158-year archive — from the Civil War to the moon landing to the latest Radiohead album reviews — allowing developers and artists alike to do just about anything with it.

And they already are.

Vancouver-based generative software artist Jer Thorp has done a series of visualizations exploring the social conversation around certain terms as reflected in The Times over the last 27 years.

From the gossip on sex and scandal, to a face-off between the most iconic superheroes, to the increasing anxiety about global warming, the series is a visual documentary of our collective concern over issues big and small, the kind of mundane chatter and momentous movements that define a culture.

San Diego artist and developer Tim Schwartz is digging even deeper with visualizations of history that use The New York Times’ entire 158-year corpus of data. His interface plots terms over time, exploring how the cultural dialog has changed as our society evolves. It’s amazing to think some of our cultural givens were virtually nonexistent less than a century ago — like, for example, homosexuality, practically unspoken about publicly until the 70’s.

But perhaps most fascinating is how this changes and almost reverses the relationship between newspapers and data visualization — traditionally, infographics in publishing are visual representations of extraneous information that complements the newspaper’s depiction of the outside world, its message. This — the visualization of meta-data about the newspaper itself — is pretty much the opposite, an introspective analysis of the medium as it shapes the message.

If you find yourself intrigued by and drawn to this world of data visualization, do check out this excellent introduction to it, a wonderful find by our friends at BBH Labs.

via Nieman Journalism Lab

BP

The Secret Lives of Secret Places

What NYC rats have to do with Les Miserables, med school dropouts and photographic genius.

When Seoul-born artist Miru Kim moved to New York to attend college in 1999, she wasn’t officially an “artist” — she was a pre-med student interested in anatomy. But she grew increasingly fascinated by the city itself and began to look at it is a living organism, itching to dissect it and reveal its hidden layers. So she scrapped med school and decided to get an MFA instead.

In grad school, Kim became interested in the creatures that dwell on the fringes of society, in the hidden parts of the city. So she began photographing New York City rats. Eventually, she started going into the tunnels, discovering a whole new dimension to the city that most people don’t get to see. She connected with a subculture of like-minded urban explorers, adventurers and guerrilla historians, but somehow felt there was something missing from her photographs of these demolished underground spaces.

So she decided to create a fictional character that dwells in these places — the easiest way to do it was to model herself.

I decided against any clothing because I wanted the figure to be without any cultural implications or time-specific elements. I wanted a simple way to represent a living body inhabiting these decaying, derelict spaces.

This gave birth to a series titled Naked City Spleen, an allusion to Charles Baudelaire’s Paris SpleenNaked City is the nickname for New York, and spleen captures “the melancholy inertia that comes from being alienated in an urban environment.”

The project took Kim around the world in search of hidden places — from the catacombs of Paris to London’s River Tyburn to the 19th century homeless asylums of Berlin. Her work, however, is about more than just the mere documentation of decay.

I like doing more than just exploring these spaces and feel an obligation to animate and humanize [them] continually in order to preserve their memories in a creative way before they’re lost forever.

Kim eventually went on to shoot two films on 60mm black-and-white film — Blind Door and Blind Window — as she became more interested in capturing movement and texture.

Watch her inspired TED talk, for a deeper look at the artist’s process, her unique brand of inspiration, and the cultural resonance of her work.

BP

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