Orchestral artistry with electronic twists

Youthful (and not so youthful) volunteers willing to have a go with the Hyperscore software and MIT music toys were not in short supply at the open session which preceded Sunday's Toy Symphony performance with the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra at the Royal Concert Hall in Glasgow.

The children who had worked on the project in their schools were on hand to dispense advice to the public alongside the team from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology Media Lab.

Project leader Tod Machover's own sophisticated music opened and closed the concert. The finale brought together all the elements of the project, with the participation of the Sacred Heart and Dalmarnock primary school pupils alongside American violin virtuoso Joshua Bell. Bell played the Hyperviolin, an advanced electronic violin and bow which operates on a much more musically sophisticated level than the MIT beatbugs and shapers.

Beatbugs were played by six pupils from Sacred Heart Primary and two professional musicians in Gil Weinberg's "Nerve", while shapers were employed by four pupils with the orchestra in Jean-Pascal Beintus's "Nature Suite".

From an educational point of view, the biggest impact was made by Hyperscore. The orchestral performance of a notated version of the three short works produced by the Barrowfield Primary pupils was accompanied by the Hyperscore graphics projected on a large screen behind the orchestra. It was fascinating to see and hear the computer-generated squiggles translated as accomplished, structured music.

Few school projects lead to a full orchestral performance and all the children appeared to enjoy the experience to the full.

Toy Symphony is a project which promises to have substantial - perhaps even revolutionary - consequences in the field of education. Machover's compositions and Bell's artistry also will ensure that its ramifications are felt in the wider field of orchestral composition and performance.

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