Will you play better from an electronic screen?

These musicians in Rouen are all fired up.

So are plenty of pianists. So is this the future for orchestras?

Some day, maybe, audiences will be able to follow the score on their own screens, improving their music reading as they listen.


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  • Of course NOT. Nobody reads better from a screen than from a well printed piece of paper. The digital versions on screens mean a collective amnesia, both short term and long term, regarding individual notes in scores.
    Over centuries a printed (or written) score on paper meant it was a base for individual annotations, bowing, fingerings, all kind of interpretation marks, rehearsal notes etc.
    All that gets much more difficult and clumsy to do in screen based scores.

    Nothing like looking at a Tristan score from over 100 years ago with the annotations by various great artists. Not anymore if it comes to this.

    There is also an advantage in having electronic scores on screens. But it is purely economical, not musical.

    • One of the points he is making is that working on a screen during rehearsels is clumsy and unnatural, i.e. paper parts are just more practical and closer to the reality of the situation because of being physical.

      • When I first started using a tablet for performance, everyone around me was using stands, stand lights, pencils, and sheet music. Now, no one uses anything but a tablet. And page turning doesn’t involve any upper body movement – foot pedals take care of that nuisance, too.

    • Ummm, really?

      Conductor to Violins: “Make that an up bow on 1 for the quarter note and then use one bow for the rest of the bar. Also please change the dynamic to piano instead of forte on one, and then crescendo over two bars.”
      Now what’s happening with all the tablet using musicians, do they scratch with pencils on their screens ūüôā

      I know there are ways to do this on screens, but we are not there for many years to make it even REMOTELY as efficient and readable as one handedly (must be doable with one hand only!) annotating the paper score with a pencil. Been there, tried that…

      Let’s keep it real folks, please.

  • The Borromeo Quartet has been using this method for years, and also has scanned original annotated scores from the archives (such as Bach partitas).

  • This merely seems one step on the way to entirely electronic concerts, i.e. people no longer going to a concert hall to hear music but sit at home at their computer and listen to an electronically-produced score, without any involvement of live musicians at all. It should be rejected and seen for what it is: dissolving human cultural achievement into technological abstraction, disembodying one of the greatest human capacities. Music is both abstract and concrete, emotional and intellectual, mental and physical, a product of the whole human being as it is, not as some disturbed people would like it to be.

    • Thank God we’re already at the day when people no longer have to go to a concert hall to hear music. No more having to put up with childish temperaments, the snobbish attitude, the hatred of their audiences and inflicting maximum cost for minimal value.

      • A comment from someone, either going only once to a concert and had bad luck, or having no idea where classical concerts are about.

        Or, as my PA whispers just now, living in London.

        Nothing can compete with the thrill of a live (good) concert.

  • A lot of Luddites, but I suppose that is to be expected with new innovations. I look forward to the day when I no longer have to have my music interrupted by musicians turning pages.

  • Lincoln Center’s Chamber Music Society co-director Wu Han has used an iPad exclusively for some years now, whether for piano duets or for lager chamber ensembles. Other artists performing with CMS also use tablets. I’ve also seen Yuja Wang use it @ Verbier.

  • Luddite here. I’ve tried it and don’t like it. You’re looking at a score on page 150 and want to compare to a similar passage on page 80. With a printed score it’s easy. Not so with the iPad – you have to scroll back 70 pages – takes too long. Bookmarks help, granted. Annotating on paper is easy – it looks grainy on iPad. And worst of all, the iPad tires the eyes. Paper doesn’t glow. Maybe something like the Amazon reader with a surface that looks like paper, has a matte finish, and is easy on the eyes. But then there’s the constant worry about battery life. And then there’s image size – orchestral parts are printed on large paper – larger than a tablet screen and it sure makes it easier to read than the smaller “print” on a tablet. No thanks.

    • All perfectly practical and sensible considerations….. and these things are influencing performance as well: the more sterile and abstract the playing context, an eery feeling of abstraction will slip-in, even if unconsciously. One could compare it with reading a book on the screen or physically on the printed page of a physical book. It is, by all means, a different experience which cannot fail to influence how we process the information. The trend towards increasing abstraction and technology cannot just go on forever. Look at composers: many contemporary composers work on wide-screen computers, directly into the score, so: writing with the mouse really. They check-up their music electronically as well with midi system. And the result often sounds very glib and technological, also when played by ensembles or orchestras with live players. There is nothing against technology – the printed book is technology as well, as is the pencil and printed music paper – but it should be used intelligently with understanding of context and situation, and of human psychology.

    • What program are you using? Scrolling back 70 pages is easy with thumbnails – and much quicker than flipping pages, actually. And I do need reading glasses now (age and genetics, unfortunately), but there are many programs / apps that enable page cropping or other methods of enlarging notation. Heck, if I want to zoom in and investigate something closely i can do that, too.
      I’ll agree on one thing, though: when conducting, I still prefer to use a printed score. Everything else? Make mine digital, please, or I can scan it myself.

  • I’m amused at the “authority” of some of these comments about what playing from a screen does or doesn’t affect, coming from non-musicians ….has anyone stopped to think in a well prepared performance, a great percentage of what one hears is completely internalized? A performance where a performer’s “head is in the score” will have many more problems than merely the difference between reading from a printed page or some other medium.

    Personally, I love the IPad Pro for learning a (piano) score for chamber works. Hands-free page turning is a valuable thing indeed.

  • I think it was the pianist (and later conductor) Charles Hall√© who had had a machine constructed to turn the pages, something with a complicated tweezers system served by the foot, and it was said that many of the audience members came to his recitals in the first place to see the pages being turned by magical, invisible hands.

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