Tuesday, October 06, 2009

Paul Henry Smith and the Fauxharmonic Orchestra

When do you pay for an orchestra and when do deploy a digital one? Paul Henry Smith fronts the Fauxharmonic Orchestra which is comprised of two computers. Through a Nintento Wii controller Smith can with his conductor’s baton, call on a full orchestra and choir. Smith is a classically trained composer and conductor who studied at Oberlin College and Brandeis under Leonard Bernstein and since 2003 has been performing classical works and new compositions using the Fauxharmonic Orchestra. Smith sees a digital orchestra as offering more opportunities for composers to create new works and far from a dying art he also sees it as opening up classical based music to a wider audience.

The digital orchestra has four basic components. There are the sound libraries comprising some 500 gigabytes plus of data and storing each individual note on each instrument and every possible variation in how it can be played. There is the application software that manages the access to that libraries and individual files. There is the interactive control that like all Wii applications senses what the conductor or composer wants and responds accordingly. It may change the speed according to the waving of the arms, or detect the direction of instruction as if there were a real orchestra and raise the volume of that section accordingly. As with any composition the notes are captured and preprogrammed what changes is the accent, instruments, style, speed etc. Finally there are speakers and their ability to spread the sound evenly and create the illusion of an orchestra.

Smith likens the use of a digital orchestra to that of digital design used by architects and engineers in not only reproducing the music but also in helping composing and experimentation. He does not see it as a dumbing down of music playing, but a freeing of musical minds to go further. Already digital orchestras have become common within the film industry, shows such Cirque du Soleil use them and it is clear that others with follow Smith’s pioneer work.

Listen to Paul Henry Smith and his Fauxharmonic Orchestra at www.fauxharmonic.com.

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