Watching television on the internet is about so much more than simply viewing different programmes: the medium allows for ever-increasing levels of interactivity. Even so, online video site YouTube’s attempt to form a full symphony orchestra via the submissions of its users has been remarkably ambitious. But more than 3,000 videos have been received since the competition was announced last year, coming from countries from Azerbaijan to Venezuela. Now 200 finalists have been selected, and the site is in the final days of voting for the winners. Five of those finalists are from Britain and all their video submissions are available to view on the YouTube.com/symphony channel.
To vote, users simply need to visit the site and click the thumbs up or thumbs down next to each clip – the winners will be announced on 2 March, and will be invited to perform at New York’s Carnegie Hall in a “collaborative summit for classical music” in April.
Skeptical as I may be of this whole project, I figured that, given some of my remarks about competition winners, I owed it to myself to put myself in the judges' shoes for a change, since, at the end of the day, their votes are about as binary as those cast by YouTube viewers. This was, by no means, a pleasant matter, particularly since I could not figure out how to get down to those five finalists from Britain and therefore had to wade through a fair amount of material. I now appreciate the extent to which judges listen for the slightest defect as an opportunity to vote for rejection. I do not like it, but I understand it. As I once suggested to my brother, who plays English horn in the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra, the sad truth is that the supply of performing musicians painfully exceeds the demand; so we need all the filters we can get, however harsh they may be. Still, I am sure that there are those who are Internet-savvy enough to game this system. We have no idea who will make the final cut and even less idea of whether or not they will actually come together to make an orchestra of even satisfactory quality. From the other point of view, listening to all of these performers on You Tube was a damned sight better than watching stupid pet tricks (although one of the competitors should be accepted simply for succeeding in combining the two genres)!