Sunday, April 13, 2008

Guitar Hero? Bah! I'd Rather Conduct.

In a rudimentary way, it's already possible.

PHILADELPHIA (AP) -- Wave the baton too slowly and the orchestra arrayed on the screen plays the "William Tell Overture" at a crawl. Wave it too fast and the music gallops away.

But would-be Leonard Bernsteins who wave the remote control correctly as they try out "UBS Virtual Maestro" can experience a small part of what it's like to be a conductor.

"There's an educational component to it. But it's also a lot of fun. We think it's sort of like the orchestra version of 'Guitar Hero,' the video game," said Peter Dillon, who handles corporate sponsorships in the United States for Swiss banking giant UBS.

Two "UBS Virtual Maestro" exhibits have been appearing in concert-hall lobbies across the country since November as part of a project created by UBS, which often sponsors classical music events and organizations, to increase interest in classical music. Organizers hope to take the project to Europe in the summer.

For now, the game can be played only at concert halls on its tour itinerary. Nakra hasn't decided whether to pursue a commercial version. She said she doubted virtual conducting would ever be as popular as "Guitar Hero."

But Philadelphia Orchestra spokeswoman Katherine Blodgett said "UBS Virtual Maestro" seemed to be accomplishing its mission of sparking interest in classical music. During a weekend event for children, more than 100 lined up to try it out, she said.

"You can have someone in their 70s. You can have children. I think it just goes to show that everyone wants to be a conductor," Blodgett said.

I think that's correct; everyone wants to be a conductor, at least all classical music fans. And I think that everyone has one piece that, above all others, they'd like to conduct; for me, that piece is Jupiter, the Bringer of Jollity from Gustav Holst's The Planets.

What would your choice be?

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