Barenboim gives backing to eScores

Barenboim gives backing to eScores


norman lebrecht

February 15, 2020

Press release:

The Project “First step to the SmartTheatre: The Introduction of eScores” will launch at an Easter Concert with the Children’s Orchestra of Staatskapelle. At Easter 2021, under the baton of Daniel Barenboim in the great hall of the Staatsoper, the young talents will perform from iPads and introduce eScores and the orchestra functionality of Enote to Staatsoper Unter den Linden. Together, the Staatsoper Unter den Linden and Enote will improve and perfect the musician’s experience so that their digitization efforts can, for the first time in history, make the Smart Theatre possible.  


  • Mustafa Kandan says:

    It sounds good, even if I did not understand a word of it. Too many transformations within one life time.

  • SVM says:

    No doubt, these young players will soon be suffering from myopia. Even if we overlook the various practical disadvantages of playing from a tablet (as opposed to a good paper score with sensible page-turns), we cannot overlook the damage caused by all the blue light and all the squinting to read the miniscule rastral sizes as displayed on these tablets (the dimensions of an iPad are far too small).

    • Jack says:

      I guess all those major ensembles and pianists that have come to our town for our Friends of Chamber Music series should take heed.

    • Bruce says:

      A colleague who sits next to me uses a tablet sometimes. His is quite large, almost as large as a standard black orchestra folder. He can vary the size of the music as he wants to, so for instance he can enlarge it when he wants to write something (with a special stylus) and then shrink it back to normal again, or view it a little larger than standard if he finds it small. It has a foot pedal for page turns and can also scroll like when you read PDFs, so page turns don’t become an issue if you make the notes bigger. It works pretty well — I have never seen him have a problem with it. I don’t think he uses eNote or any of those services: he either scans the music at home or gets it from IMSLP, and reads it in PDF format.

      One unexpected advantage: last week he got to rehearsal and found he had not put all his music back into his folder after practicing that day. He used his tablet to go to IMSLP and download a part, which ended up being cleaner and easier to read than the ancient, tan-colored, bescribbled parts that the orchestra owns. Very convenient.

      I haven’t cared enough about it to get one of my own, but I can see the attraction.

      • Sasha Valeri Millwood says:

        Several issues with these alleged advantages.

        “His is quite large, almost as large as a standard black orchestra folder”

        Maybe, but the instance cited in this article mentions iPads, which are far smaller. I imagine that these large tablets would be more expensive, and relatively few orchestras would want to pay the premium, especially in the case of festival orchestras (because they convene for only a couple of weeks per annum, and thus amortise the cost over a relatively small quantity of performances) or orchestras who rely on freelancers (because a broken/damaged tablet would be more expensive to remedy than a damaged paper part, and asking freelancers for a big “security deposit” is a sure way to discourage them from wanting to work for you).

        “he can enlarge it when he wants to write something”

        Unacceptable to have to zoom-in just to mark a part — during a rehearsal, speed is of the essence

        “(with a special stylus)”

        What happens if it breaks or becomes depracated with the next system upgrade. A good 2B mechanical pencil never goes out of date (although the leads need to be refilled periodically, of course), and is far cheaper to replace than a “special stylus”.

        “and then shrink it back to normal again”

        In other words, he does not know exactly how big his annotation will look at the time of making it. So, until he gone back to “normal” zoom, he will not be sure whether he got the marking right.

        “It has a foot pedal for page turns”

        This is a serious problem for pianists, organists, and harpists. As for other instruments, it would probably result in an increased RSI risk, because, unlike pianoforte, organ, or harp pedals, there is very little resistance in an e-pedal, so you cannot rest your foot on it without pressing it accidentally. A tense ankle can really wreck a player’s overall posture (why else do guitarists have those special foot-rests and double-bassists often bring their own stools?)

        “I have never seen him have a problem with it”

        Maybe not yet… but when a problem arises (e.g.: battery dead; display goes on sleep or locked mode; tablet dropped from a height), it will probably be *fatal* to the performance (conversely, most paper-related malfunctions are eminently salvageable).

        “can also scroll like when you read PDFs”

        This results in a far weaker sense of geography on the page, so one can get lost very easily, especially if the touch-screen scrolling is over- or under-sensitive. A paper part with sensible page-turns is definitely preferable. Also, scrolling is far slower than codex navigation if jumping back/forward several pages in rehearsal. Finally, scrolling parts would make it almost impossible for back-desk string players to copy bowings efficiently (which are liable to change mid-rehearsal without any warning) from the desks in front.

        “He used his tablet to go to IMSLP and download a part”

        Was it the same edition as the rest of the orchestra? Supposing there had been a non-trivial discrepancy (e.g.: repeats; cuts; designation of solos; errata)…

        “easier to read than the ancient, tan-colored, bescribbled parts that the orchestra owns.”

        Deciphering “bescribbled parts” may be a burden, but the annotations may be of critical importance in communicating the orchestra’s agreed approach to bowings, repeats, DC/DS/codas, corrected errors, cuts, dynamics, divisi, solos, and matters of interpretation.

        “I can see the attraction”

        So do I, but the disadvantages are too numerous and the risks unacceptable. Ultimately, I see a bigger attraction in paper parts that have been typeset/engraved to a high standard [declaration of interest: I undertake such typesetting work myself, and take great care over things like page-turns]. The best bit about paper parts is that I can customise them extensively, with features such as marginalia (e.g.: adding the first few notes of the next page at the bottom-right of the previous one), fold-out flaps (or even an entire fold-out page — I once rewrote an excerpt of a very inefficiently typeset part so that it occupied one page rather than the original four, by the simple expedient of removing the four solo staves that were of almost no cueing value to the /tutti/ player, and substituted my rewritten page for the original four pages by the simple expedient of a few paperclips).

        You can call me a dinosaur if you want, but I take the view that one should not embrace a technology solely by virtue of its relative novelty. Paper parts, done properly, are unsurpassed in their reliability. There are enough necessary vicissitudes in the artistic facets of performance, so let us not add unnecessary practical ones.

  • John Borstlap says:

    It is an entirely wrong idea. Time will tell.

  • Musician says:

    How infinitely sad. The theatre was never meant to be ‘smart’, it’s meant to make others smart, enchanted, inspired, to challenge etc etc. the theatre is one of the last resorts where one can actually focus for a couple of hours without the digital world or the squeaky message alert interrupting – even aero planes offer WiFi now and it’s a ‘paradise lost’… please leave the hall, the theatre etc for its intended purpose, otherwise AI gets smarter and we get dumber.

  • Dave T says:

    It’s going to take 15 months to implement this radical plan? Are they sure they won’t need more time, say 4 or 5 years? I guess rapid change is at the core of classical music.

  • John says:

    If I read the project correctly it seams that eScores are not pdf-based sheet music. This means, that the music is fully digital (like a word document vs. a picture) The music text size, layout and appearance can be adjusted by the users, the music can be transposed into another tonality and the page can turn automatically. These are just few things that are possible with eScores instead of pdf-sheet music. Smart theatres will basically be able to connect the live music in the pit with a digital eScore and therefore fully automize processes around the production, such as lighting, staging etc. this can only have beneficial and positive effects on opera houses’ artistic budgets therefore better for the artists and ultimately also beneficial to the public.