Will orchestras swap sheets for tablets?

In a press release from late November 2012 the Brussels Philharmonic (Belgium) said that it is the first orchestra in the world to switch paper sheet music for tablet scores. Not quite true. The Bamberger Symphoniker (Bavaria-Germany) already performed from Fujitsu-Siemens computers in 2004.

Sheet music or iPad?

Sheet music or iPad?

However, a report in the International Arts Manager says that the Brussels Phil move is expected to save the ensemble “a great deal of time, effort and money”. The management thinks that it could save 25.000 € each year in paper costs alone.

Of course there may be a couple of advantages: the distribution of sheet music gets much easier for the librarian. He has just to put it online for download by the musician. Or he can put it directly on the tablets. Notes, remarks and bowings from the section leaders (esp. in string sections) have only to be done once. You can store the whole orchestra library on one hard disc etc.

On the other hand: What about the existing scores and sheet music in the orchestra library? Scan them all? An orchestra needs many tablets for the musicians. This is a big investment. Last but not least: Many musicians prefer to use sheet music of a special (bigger size) on the stand. A small size tablet screen usually does not provide as many information on one page as sheet music. What about any technical problems during the performance. And what about millions of printed scores and sheet music in the orchestra libraries and publishing houses?

There may be further more ideas and thoughts on this issue. My opinion: orchestra managements will have to observe this development. But the investment needed and a couple of disadvantages of tablets seem to be too big for a fast swap of sheets for tablets. Another point: orchestra business is conservative – why changing a good running (sheet music) system? What do you think?

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3 thoughts on “Will orchestras swap sheets for tablets?

  1. It’s too usual to change bowing on the go. And what if the battery is in bad condition and runs out during performance? I Still prefer paper.

  2. The purchase of say 80 tablet computers is indeed substantial. However, an orchestra manager with some guts ought to be able to negotiate a good deal with the supplier.

    The average audience member of an orchestral concert is comfortably above 60 years old, and not yet using tablets. If the orchestra is considered a marketing platform with a specific target audience, then the technological supplier might even be charged for the promotion of such ‘easy-to-use technological devices’.

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