Boston Symphony gives out iPads at Friday concerts

Boston Symphony gives out iPads at Friday concerts


norman lebrecht

January 11, 2016

In a bid to attract younger audiences, the orch will supply some concertgoers with iPads, giving access to a range of information, entertainment and different video angles on the orchestra.

Good idea.

nelsons boston


press release:

On Friday, January 15, the Boston Symphony Orchestra launches “Casual Fridays,” a new audience initiative designed to make concerts more affordable and accessible for the next generation of attendees. “Casual Friday” performances will be offered on three Friday-evenings during the 2015-16 season, January 15, February 12, and March 18, with significantly reduced ticket prices ranging from $25 to $45. In addition, for the first time ever at Symphony Hall, the BSO is doing a pilot project to experiment with iPad content as a way to enhance the concert experience, providing 110 devices to be used by patrons seated in a designated section at the rear of the orchestra floor. “Casual Fridays” also introduce audiences to the people behind the music through informal conversations; on January 15, BSO bass trombonist James Markey will speak to the audience from the Symphony Hall stage. (Speakers for the February 12 and March 18 programs will be announced at a later date.) This new concert series also encourages concert-goers to wear their favorite casual attire to Symphony Hall, and to mingle and share their experiences at a pre-concert reception and a post-concert gathering in Higginson Hall, where live music, snacks, and a cash bar will be offered.

[iPad (photo by Barco Borggreve)]Designed to enhance the listening experience, the BSO-provided iPads will feature digital content exclusive and relevant to that evening’s performance, including video interviews with the featured soloists; video podcasts focused on biographical information about the composers; scores of the pieces being performed; and videos explaining the evening’s musical works, including (for the January 15 program) an analysis of the music being performed, a harp demonstration, and a synopsis of thePetrushka story. Patrons seated in this designated area will also have the chance to get a close-up look at the conductor from the orchestra’s point of view through special video screens that will be set up on both sides of the hall. The BSO was the first orchestra to provide extensive digital content to patrons for use during concerts through orchestra-provided tablets with the launch of its Lawncast program at Tanglewood in Summer 2014.


  • May says:

    Remember the good old days when people actually went to a concert to listen to the music? It would have been a better idea to dump the stupid gadgets and implement measures to help increase the listener’s attention span.

    • Adam Stern says:

      It saddens me greatly whenever a decision is made which says, in effect, “I am/We are caving in to the erroneous notion that Bach, Mozart, Beethoven et al. suddenly have less to say to, or less ability to capture the interest and attention of, the present generation.” The “Haffner” and the “Eroica” are as beautiful and brilliant than they ever were. Let’s encourage everyone to LISTEN to them, and not be distracted by visuals and toys.

    • JB says:

      Ah yes, the “good old days”…but don’t go too far back…

      “Noise levels astonished diarists from abroad, nobility arrived with servants who cooked whole meals, talked, played [at cards], and relieved themselves in the antechambers that stood in back of each lavish box. ”
      – Martha Feldman “Magic Mirrors and the Seria Stage” p174 (about 18th century opera seria performances)

    • Ron van der Sterren says:

      Talking about the good old days: remember when you could still get a drink during the concert and express your joy in a way you thought was okay? If we really want to go back in time, I want to propose that period. But since we’re all old enough to know Back to the Future was a nice movie but not reality, lets talk about the present time and the near future.

      iPads are not killing the music experience, nor are people bringing the score to the venue. It is the people who think they have the exclusive right to define the way we should experience a concert. They are holding all of us as a hostage, repressing every form of progression in the classical music live experience. In the meantime all possible new visitors (who like Beethoven as much as you do) keep a safe distance, watching how it all implodes.

      I hope the scene is getting liberated from these kidnappers soon, giving room for experiment – good and bad, with or without iPads, Google Glasses and smartwatches – so it evolves into something that is ready for the future. Because wether you like it or not, the future is coming guys, always.

      • Till E. says:

        …what an outburst of smelly hot air.

        Just listen to the music. And respect music.

        The world is full of shit and the level is rising. No wonder, when everything is valued by the number of flies that are attracted by it.

  • Mathieu says:

    well, having the score available during the concert is nice, especially if the piece is new or not often performed. I would like it.

    • Till E. says:

      If you were sitting next to me I would ask you to stop polluting your environment with your ADS and destroying my concert experience in the process.

      Do you when you have sex also read simultaneously the book of Kamasutra?

      • Mathieu says:

        Wow! Why so aggressive? I usually do not bring scores to concerts, because the stuff performed is generally core repertoire I am familiar with. (The same goes with sex, I would think. I dunno, ask my wife). But when a complex new piece is performed, having the score would help me have a better grasp on it. (I usually study them before the concert, but those are really expensive scores…).
        And remember that there are no pageturning sounds on IPads !

        BTW, how am I polluting your “concert experience” (sic)? Aren’t you listening with your eyes closed and a very inspired-looking facial expression, since the only thing that counts is the Music and not the theatrics on stage?

        The other gadgets on the IPad i do not care for obviously. And I agree with you on those. The only interesting feature on those BSO Ipads is the score.

        • Till E. says:

          Who is aggressive? The one who is acting as if he is alone in the hall or the one who wants to listen, without flashes from bright screens in his proximity.

  • Robert says:

    Next, a Jumbotron over the stage.

  • David Crowe says:

    I participated in the first Lawncast two summers ago at Tanglewood and found the whole thing to be quite superfluous and even distracting from the actual performance which was going on just a few yards away. The one thing I would have liked, scores of the works being played, has now been added, so perhaps worth another try.

    • Mathieu says:

      Beware David! Scores are useless gadgets! And they are polluting Till’s “concert experience”! How dare you?

  • Itsjtime says:

    A Jumbotron at “special” concerts would let people see what is going on. Perhaps it may even let an audience feel more connected to the people playing the music. I enjoy videos of concerts for that reason. A screen would in no way detract from the sound of the music. Whatever it takes to get people in the door so they can discover that the music is so fantastic.

    Could you dopes imagine walking into the Musikverien and saying “this place is so bawdy and all of this gold! It detracts from the performances”

    • Adam Stern says:

      “Bawdy”? (“Gaudy”, perhaps?)

    • Till E. says:

      “Whatever it takes to get people in the door so they can discover that the music is so fantastic.”

      Unfortunately that doesn’t work at all. Classical music requires a certain amount of education. You know, not edshukaishn, education. It’s an outdated concept, but the listener must grow toward the music, to fully enjoy it.

      The people you attract, only because of gadgets, do not get it. it would be a waste of everything.

      • ReallyIpads says:

        Really, let’s thunk before we comment. Boston, United States – how many teenagers in U.S. don’t have an ipad these days? Attract them with spmething they already own…really… and those teenagers that do not own an ipad, probably are more concerned with other things in their lives, than to go to a concert

      • Mathieu says:

        Oh yes, people who can read a Boulez score have no education. I forgot.

        • Till E. says:

          It doesn’t matter if you can read three Boulez scores simultaneously and recite all Shakespeare dramas backwards simultaneously.
          The aspect of bothering your neighbors aside. But isn’t it a terrible waste of the occasion, to spend it reading along in the score?
          I have vast experience with this with many people.
          At the end of the day it is, exceptions apply, always a lack of the individual to allow hearing over watching. It’s quite compulsive often. You are free to do as you wish, as long as you don’t bother others, but you are missing out on the offered sonic treasure, if occupying your brain with score reading. Awaiting your smartass reply, justifying the compulsion with a faux-free will initiative.

          • Mathieu says:

            I can’t see how reading the score could be distracting the listener from the music. If anything, it helps me listen better, at least in works where I would otherwise get completely lost. It’s not like I’m reading the newspaper, for chrissakes. The stuff on the score is related to the stuff I hear, I would think! I had many a great “concert experience” when I was a pageturner (in my longtime gone youth), because you have to really focus on the music, both in reading and in listening.

            Of course, all this presuposes that music, unlike sex, can be an intellectual experience, that you can find some kind of intellectual pleasure in it.

            Of course there are those who use the score only to spot errors and mistakes, but frankly do you really need the score to spot a falsie in Beetheven 6?

          • Till E. says:

            Whatever floats your boat. Just respect those who hear. For your score reading the live concert is not a necessity. For the listening to live music, it is.

          • Mathieu says:

            Boy, you really are immune to rational argument, aren’t you? You’ve got to make it personal. (So be it. Maybe you just can’t read music and resent those who can, I dunno). The worse part is I agree with you about all the other gadgets available on BSO’s IPads. Those are unnecessary during the concert, and could only prove useful during the intermission.

            But please, could we do without the sacred, transcendant, unique, religious, I’m-having-a-sonic-orgasm conception of the “concert experience”? Oh, and its “necessity”! Its necessity! I do not understand its necessity! Please!… BTW, funny that the words you use better fit new age pop concerts than classical concerts: “concert experience”, “live music”, etc.

            (FWIW, I do not even own an IPad and I usually do not bring scores to concerts. But I guess I am an uneducated fascist anyway, just because I think that sometimes providing the score — on whatever medium — would be a nice thing for concert organizers to do.)

          • Till E. says:

            Feeling better now?
            You have to get to know the concept of human interaction and freedom. It’s a strange concept to people these days, I know.
            You can read as many scores wherever you want. I do it daily.
            Your freedom stops, where it infringes on the freedom of others.
            A person operating and manipulating an iPad next to me is forcing himself into the perception of my environment far above the acceptable level.
            It’s a matter of courtesy and politeness, simple as that.

          • Mathieu says:

            But of course! If, during a concert or elsewhere, something I do bothers my neighbor, I stop doing it at once! I still think you are wrong to assume that EVERYBODY is, or rather OUGHT TO BE, as a matter of moral duty, annoyed or bothered by people who read scores next to them. But if one day you’re seated next me at a concert, and if you kindly ask me not to read the score I’ve brought because you fear it is going to distract you from the music, or otherwise bother you in any way, I will obviously not use the score. There is such a thing as human communication you know. But wait, you only know insults, I forgot.

    • Jaybuyer says:


  • Dave T says:

    An experiment or pilot I have always wanted to see tried would be the use of the surcap screen during orchestral concerts as a “road map” for the score. Just as the program notes often say things like, “… and then the horns enter, announcing the recapitulation…”, I would like that screen to say “Recapitulation” (or such) at the appropriate moment. For involved tone poems the screen would flash “16: The Sun Gradually Becomes Obscured” just as the page is turned.

    The next version of rolling commentary could be cues such as “Chromatic Submediant” or “6/8 time”.

    That would certainly “enhance the concert experience” for me.

  • Milka says:

    It’s much like dressing up the corpse and claiming “it’s alive “.
    The stupids now want to “see” what is basically an aural experience .

  • Till E. says:


    The iPads only DECREASE the value and attention toward music.
    You are hitting that gas pedal really hard on the way down in the downward spiral in Boston.

    Make up your mind, do you want to stick to that music or not. If the answer is YES, then DO IT RIGHT.

    Not like someone who wants to keep his Studebaker 1910 convertible old-timer, but is putting NASCAR Car tires on it to “cater to younger audiences”

    How more retarded can you get?

    Here is what should be done:

    Fucking smartphones hand over in the foyer, in locked boxes. No smartphones allowed.
    At the hour the lights are dimmed.
    Then a few minutes of silence for all to come down from their mental storms and relax.
    Then the music begins, light is still minimum, only enough on the stands for the sheet music and score of conductor.

    Finally music can be enjoyed and appreciated. Duh. Music, now you understand, the music, right, of course, yeah, m-u-s-i-c, sure, haha, lol

    Instead of wasting money on iPads, feeding that shit corporate monster of Apple, the biggest fascists of our time, these cash cow breeders with the genius idea to fake a hipster corporate image with a Neo-Ghandi Steve Jobs figure as CEO, but you should hire their marketing firm.

    Tell them to come up with a marketing concept how to sell above as the best thing since Jesus walked on water and Steve Jobs walked in on an Apple convention.

    NO iPADs. Got it?

    MUSIC! Did ou copy? M – U – S – I – C
    Rings a bell?
    OK, get going, it’s about music, don’t forget.
    I know nobody told you before.

    Call me in ten minutes and tell me if you remember what it was about.
    What, you already don’t remember?
    Starts with an M…

    Still no clue?

    OK, well… maybe we should name it iMusic. Contemporary brains apparently only memorize things that start with an i…

  • Till E. says:

    “a close-up look at the conductor from the orchestra’s point of view through special video screens that will be set up on both sides of the hall.”


    Why? What makes you believe, this matters or even enhances your experience? When you go to a great restaurant, do you want to sit in the kitchen next to the chef and watch how he fries your schnitzel, cleans his hands, then grabs a bunch of onions, chops them and then fries them too? Then you closely watch that pan, how the fat fries the onion and the schnitzel, oh my god, so exciting, awesome.

    No you don’t want that? But why do you want to watch the conductor cooking your ear food? Why?
    Do you even know why you want to be in that concert? Do you actually like music? You don’t? OK, I thought so.
    So you come to watch a single man on the podium, half King, half magician, ok in Andris case also half shamanic dancer, and idolize him, how he only by magic and witchcraft controls all these people. What power, what control over all these people. Makes sense.
    Are you an investment banker? You are a lawyer, ok, understand.

    • Adam Stern says:

      Amen, Herr (Frau? Fräulein?) Eulenspiegel.

      “It should never be forgotten that an orchestra conductor’s movements are never performed for the benefit of the listening or, unfortunately, onlooking public, but only for the singers or instrumentalists, and relate to what was agreed and understood by all at the rehearsals.”
      — Antal Doráti

    • Max Grimm says:

      In the words of violinist Julia Fischer:

      Die Leute müssen zur Musik kommen, nicht die Musik zu den Leuten. Man darf keine faulen Kompromisse machen, um die Gunst eines ignoranten Publikums zu gewinnen. Ein Potpurri mit den bekanntesten Vivaldi-Ohrwürmern, unterlegt mit Bass und Schlagzeug – scheusslich. Aus etwas Komplexem kann man nicht etwas Simples machen. Man muss die Leute erziehen. Ich glaube es gibt keinen anderen Weg. Und ich stehe zu meinem Anspruch. Es ist nicht meine Aufgabe, die Leute bloss zu amüsieren.

      People must come to the music, the music mustn’t come to the people. You must not make any false compromises in order to win the favour of an ignorant audience. A potpourri of the most catchy Vivaldi tunes, backed by bass and drums – awful. One cannot render something complex into something simple. You have to educate people. I believe there is no other way. And I stand by my claim. It is not my task to merely amuse people.

      • Peter says:

        Well said, Julia Fischer!
        There is a coalition of united corporate interest and tyrannic ambitions of the masses: no education toward enlightened, critical thinking and knowledgeable citizens, for obvious reasons. They dictate the Zeitgeist.
        It’s probably hopeless. We will see over the next two decades a wave of capitulations of institutionalized cultural achievements of the age of enlightenment, classical music included. It’s back to the dark ages amigos. They want to sell shit to the masses. They need dumb, insecure, not able to think for themselves, unable to develop “common sense” even in small groups like families, totally self occupied “iPeople”, consumers. Boston is cheering us on the way, iPads anyone?
        Welcome to the Matrix.

  • RW2013 says:

    Anything not to have to look at Nelson’s infantile pantomime, but not this!

    Till E. took the words right out of my mouth. Thanks for saving me the time!

  • Adam Stern says:

    For May, Till E., RW2013 and others who might appreciate like-minded sentiments expressed at somewhat greater length:

    • Milka says:

      Mr. Stern shows himself not to understand his chosen field of endeavor , music delivers no “message” whatsoever… believe it does is a great error and every musician who
      believes he or she is bringing a “musical message ” is committing a great disservice to
      the art form .To play the music of Bach , Mozart , Beethoven as if they were messages
      from on high is ludicrous as is what the BSO is doing with the iPads.That the present conductor allows this stupidity speaks to what he is all about .

      • Adam Stern says:

        I dunno…Beethoven speaks eloquently of aiming for the heights here, to my way of thinking…

        “Music is a higher revelation than all wisdom and philosophy. Music is the electrical soil in which the spirit lives, thinks and invents.”

        • Peter says:

          I know what you want to say, but “message” is semantically the opposite direction of what Beethoven said.
          He speaks about a universe above wisdom and philosophy. The semantics of “message” imply a spoonful of juice squeezed out of an orange dropping down into a bucket.

        • Milka says:

          Because Beethoven spouts nonsense doesn’t mean we have to buy it , we are
          subject to more nonsense from Dorati etc . Mr. Stern leaves out that what
          happens on the concert stage today is a “lie” in itself never mind the messages from on high .
          Creating a world etc. etc. means absolutely nothing except that Mahler is trying to explain
          away his life as a musician .What Mozart , Beethoven , Schubert , Chopin heard in their
          minds ear is not by a long shot what is played out on todays’ concert stage all the
          mumbo jumbo on “high” art aside .The above composers amongst others wrote
          for a “live” audience- the so called” classical” music audience of to-day worships at the
          altar of the dead . The music corpse is decked up in contemporary dress and the attending mourners bemoan the sparse attendance of the faithful . Has any one noticed
          how funeral directors and conductors often are alike in attending to the dead.

          • Till E. says:

            So and you seek pleasure by hanging out on graveyards, urinating on the graves, is it that what floats your boat?

            Where you see death and decay I see musicians who work a life long for refining their art of expressing themselves in “high” and even higher art. And they give many people pleasure, inspiration and love.

      • Peter says:

        Peace! Don’t be so grumpy, old dog!
        The “musical message” idea is indeed an ambiguous matter. It nurtures the misconception of the 20th century, that music itself is somehow not enough, its only a carrier, carrying some “message”. Why is music not enough?
        Pure music is so rich, the more you focus on it, the more it enriches you.

        • Adam Stern says:

          Dear Peter, Very little argument here. I subscribe wholeheartedly to (to quote him again) Antal Doráti’s assertion that we (musicians) are not the interpreters; the audience members are the interpreters, and that is why we must endeavor to give them the most informed and responsible reading of the music so that everyone can arrive at her/his individual interpretation. That was, of course, Doráti the conductor speaking; as a composer (and quite a good one), Doráti said of his own compositions that they possess “a strong sense of drama, as it is there in everything that moves. Surely we, who live today, cannot – and should not – escape the drama of life which is in us, with us, around us.” The reconciliation between these points of view for musicians, as I see it, is to acknowledge that music does indeed have a message – whether one endorses its program (if any), sees it merely (!) as a glorious combination of tones, rhythms and colors as lovingly assembled by a master, or as anything in-between – and to use this subjective view as an impetus to discovering one’s own stance on it, but not to impose this subjective view on one’s colleagues and especially not on the audience; the interpreting is THEIR job. It would be impossible for me personally, when approaching something as vast and monumental as a Mahler symphony (whether as performer or partaker) to ignore Mahler’s own description of what he sought to achieve in composing it: “creating a world with all the technical means available”, but that’s MY business. If all of the above causes Milka and others to regard me as a faulty practitioner of my craft, I can live with that. As to the subject of this thread, the introduction and implementation of iPads exercises me because I believe it is an impediment to the formation of the music/executant/listener triumvirate that conductor Charles Munch envisioned. And this emblem of the 21st century is as noxious to me as the 20th century “misconception” you cited is to you. Respectfully, and with best regards, Adam

  • Alan Barnes says:

    More often than not, I bring my iPad to concerts. I don’t use it during the music, but I do appreciate having it handy while the audience and players are milling in to look up information pertaining to the performers and sometimes the works on the program.

  • SVM says:

    This sounds incredibly distracting and expensive, and, even at the back of the hall, the *light* from all those devices would be detrimental to the capacity of the rest of us to concentrate on TMI. It is all very well talking of attracting new audiences, but this should not be at the expense of existing audiences and of the artistry of the performance. Quality is better than quantity.

    Also, the cumulative quantity of microwave radiation emitted by so many devices is likely to be a health risk.

    Very occasionally, I may follow a hard-copy score in performance (never on a screen: the lack of page-turning may marginally reduce noise — although turning pages quietly is not that hard — but the extra light is unacceptable); quite often, I may follow a libretto for music with words; however, I never read programme-notes during the music. In general, the best way to give extras or guidance to listening is to do it before or after TMI, not during. Overloading the senses with artistically superfluous add-ons would likely cause needless confusion and dilute the musical experience. Just trust audiences to listen to music, and trust performers to perform the music compellingly.

    As for attire, what is wrong with dressing up for a concert? It is supposed to be a special occasion…

    • Thomas says:

      “Quality is better than quantity.”

      That’s the Holy Grail… and the dilemma.

      Every business that caters to an exclusive “high end” market, has the experience that they can make MUCH more money with selling trivialized shit to the masses. MUCH more.
      The music industry/recording business is 95% only that.

      In classical music the people who sell are Andre Rieu and David Garrett. q.e.d.

      Everybody is chasing the crowd at the bottom of the barrel.

      More disposable income for the ambitious middle classes would be helpful. Not going to happen. The middle class finances the upper class AND the lower class. Game over soon.

  • Halldor says:

    Not all that long ago, certain types of geekier music lover regularly used to bring scores to concerts and follow them assiduously through the performance. (You still, very occasionally, see this). Don’t see a significant difference here.

  • cherrera says:

    1. Musicians use iPads instead of paper partitions, so why can’t audience members who study scores?
    2. With declining attendance, halls can reserve a section just for musicologists studying scores (paper or iPad or iPhone or papyrus).
    3. The concert experience has always been visual, if not, why would the musicians be in tuxedos up on stage, they could very well play behind an opaque scrim on the same level as the (listening) audience. (Anyone who has sat in the first row facing a 60 year-old violinist’s manspread right in your line of sight would surely appreciate that.)

    • Peter says:

      “1. Musicians use iPads instead of paper partitions, so why can’t audience members who study scores?”

      Why? Pilots fly airplanes. Should passengers fly airplanes too?
      Chefs cook meals. Should restaurant customers cook meals too?

      “3. The concert experience has always been visual…”

      The concert experience has always been ALSO visual. Visuals are supporting the aural experience of music. Best case. Or distracting from it. As the subject of this thread illustrates. The foundation is and always will be the aural experience, visuals being secondary.
      If you don’t believe me, then experiment with having one of the two senses exclusively. How far does the “visuals only” experience support your concert experience? It’s a farce, correct? q.e.d.

  • William Safford says:

    I like the idea of using an iPad to follow the score. The score page turning could even be synched to the performance, so the viewer doesn’t have to attend to page turns (with an override, of course, to look ahead or behind in the score as desired).

    There could be a special seating section for iPad users, as described above. Or, there may be a technological way to address legitimate concerns about iPads infringing on the concertgoing experience of those seated nearby, just as the Metropolitan Opera did with the supertitle screens installed in the seats: perhaps a hood, or a screen cover?

    An iPad is a tool. This is a promising use for such a tool. I sometimes follow the score at performances. Ditto other musicians in the audience. This could be a more convenient and easier-to-see way to do so.