UK orchestras in headlong rush for electronic notes

UK orchestras in headlong rush for electronic notes


norman lebrecht

August 17, 2018

In an unacknowledged followup to Slippedisc’s story of a French orchestra abandoning printed notes, the Times has a page three story today of British bands racing to replace paper with tablets.

Key points:

In Leeds tonight the Yorkshire Young Sinfonia will go “100 per cent digital” with sheet music ditched from its musicians’ stands in favour of iPads and Bluetooth foot pedals deployed to turn the pages.

The Royal Philharmonic Orchestra is to allow audience members sitting anywhere in the auditorium to use smartphones and tablets to receive real-time information on, for example, the oboe solo that has your neck hairs tingling. It said it expected about 10 per cent of its audiences to use the Encue app, adding that concerns about light disruption had been alleviated during trials.



  • Hautboy Primo says:

    FFS If it ain’t broke don’t fix it.

  • Derek says:

    I imagine those around the RPO audience getting update alerts!

    Beep Beep Beep Beeeep! Beep Beep Beep Beeeep!

  • Ben G. says:

    The listener’s ears will soon become useless and will have to be told when and what to listen for. Players will never have to use their hands to turn pages anymore. And who wants to go to a concert anymore, when you can sit back at home home and watch a live or replay perfomance on your computer without lifting your butt?

    We can all agree that machines have finally dominated over man.

    • Bruce says:

      I’m still leery of technology that isn’t 100% proven over time (at least when it comes to things that matter), but not needing to turn pages by hand would be nice.

  • jsd says:

    Real time information about the oboe solo??? Besides listening to the oboe solo in real time?!

    Maybe it’ll be like sports commentary….

  • Hanna Nahan says:

    “In an unacknowledged followup…” Dear God you are shamelessly laughable… Is there anything Slipped Disc can’t take credit for?

  • Vaquero357 says:

    So the concert hall’s wi-fi goes down, all the iPads go black, and the performance grinds to a halt?

    Then a live concert really will be JUST like streaming music over the Internet!

    • Jim says:

      The scores are saved on the iPads, so no wifi necessary (in fact it’s best if it’s off anyway, or at least notifications are turned off).

      • Vaquero357 says:

        Ha! Yeah, don’t want e-mail & IM notifications dinging during the concert.

        Not an iPad user myself (CHROMEBOOK RULES!!!) so I wasn’t sure how much is stored in the unit and how much is was grabbing down from the Cloud.

        First time I saw an iPad used in lieu of sheet music was Andrew Litton playing the piano in a performance of Elgar’s Piano Quintet at Orchestra Hall in Minneapolis two years ago. He was relying on it pretty heavily, so I was slightly worried about what would happen if he lost his connection. Guess I didn’t have to worry!

  • Thomasina says:

    RPO invited Mr.Douglas Kennedy?


    The King’s Singers have used iPads for a long time, on stage and off.

  • monsoon says:

    While using technology to provide the audience with more in depth analysis is intended to democratize musical knowledge, it just reinforces the myth that you have to be educated to enjoy the music — if you lack the education, you will get nothing out of it.

    Here’s an idea: Just completely do away with the notes. Does anyone really get anything out of knowing that a certain passage in the 3rd movement is in D major?

  • Michael says:

    For now, this is a bad idea. I’ve seen these malfunction in performance on more than one occasion. It’s not if, but when.

  • SVM says:

    Re “concerns about light disruption had been alleviated during trials”:

    How? According to whom? I find that very hard to believe. And it is not just the amount of light; it is the abrupt changes in light (no matter how small the source) that irritate the peripheral vision, not to mention the associated audience member’s fidgeting with his/her hands. And “real-time information”… why not just listen (rather than merely hear) to the sound, unencumbered by incitements to self-consciously think about the composer’s source of inspiration or whatever in real time? Or, if you must follow a score, use a paper copy, and do so quietly and discreetly.

  • Saxon Broken says:

    Well, another reason not to bother going to RPO concerts. I don’t really care whether the musicians use paper or not, but I really can’t stand the audience playing with their phones during concerts.