For Classical Music Lovers, the Internet Becomes a Concert Hall
Many people, including music lovers, shy away from live classical music for all kinds of reasons - distance from the recital hall, objections to dressing up, apprehension in the face of an entire Mahler symphony.
The Web, however, offers a few barrier- dissolving advantages for the closet classical music fan. Global Music Network (www.gmn.com) and Online Classics (www.onlineclassics.net) are the most comprehensive classical-music concert venues online. The two sites, British counterpoints to the legal nightmare called Napster, present artist- and corporation-sponsored Webcasts free.
There are other sites, like www .webconcerthall.com and
www.centerseat .com, that have some classical music offerings.
But the nuts and bolts of Global Music Network make it revolutionary. Its offerings are evenly split between classical and jazz. It also carves its concerts into separate audio files; users register via e-mail for access to hyperlinks to each movement of each musical piece.
Users select concerts, whenever they choose, from a substantive menu. They then listen to them in any number of formats, including RealPlayer, Windows Media Player and QuickTime, in whatever order they see fit.
Global Music Network's premise is simple: the station gets the Webcast rights for concerts that have already occurred at some of the world's
best-known locations, then offers the concerts online for a week or so. It offers high-quality, streaming recordings that cannot be stored on the listener's computer, but the performance lives longer than it would have on conventional radio.
Other features on Global Music Network include biographical and historical articles, links, free audio clips for downloading, interactive forums and a selection of recordings for sale.
The artists found on Global Music Network include the veteran cellist Lynn Harrell and the fiery Russian maestro Valery Gergiev. And of most
consequence for a music site, the sound streams with seamless fidelity, in spite of the Net congestion that seems to plague a good deal of streaming audio.
Online Classics is similar to Global Music Network, but it focuses on classical music, ballet, Broadway musicals and dramatic theater.
The problem with Online Classics' more sophisticated
experience is that it doesn't offer GMN.com's sound quality because of its many facets. Audio and video together require a substantial amount of bandwidth, which can sometimes cause that sort of "concert
experience" not to buffer very smoothly.
That high-profile artists like Yo-Yo Ma and the
mezzo-soprano Anne Sofie von Otter (on Global Music Network and Online Classics, respectively) participate in this new form of concert is significant. It suggests a performer's interest in obtaining wider, more enduring exposure within the classical music field as well as
reaching those not able to attend the Théâtre du Châtelet in Paris or the London Proms.
With continued interest from remote-music lovers, the Web might even contribute to the survival of classical music. The proliferation of sites like these presents the chance to draw people into a larger classical music community, doing for music what the Internet has already done for commerce.
Classical music in cyberspace is affordable and accessible, and requires no more effort than television. One can only wonder what Beethoven, a deaf man whose greatest personal struggle was communicating, might think about an audience knocking on the doors of his world through a broadband connection.
Copyright 2000 The New York Times Company