Sunday, October 25, 2009

Open Rehearsals: More Successful in Virtual Worlds?

"I feel that I understand music at a deeper level than ever"
"This was even cooler than an ordinary concert. Let's do this again."
"Now I understand how much goes into the preparation for a concert"

These were some of the comments from individuals in attendance at last Thursday's Open Rehearsal with the wonderful Schumann Duo.

The day hadn't started out so auspiciously for Kahuna Schumann who had been struggling with a bad head cold and knew he would be unable to perform at length on the oboe, if at all. Thinking quickly, and not wanting to disappoint the audience, Clarissima Schumann suggested that the event take the form of an Open Rehearsal.

It seemed like a format that might fit the Virtually Speaking format of informal conversations. In this case, about music-making. But I did have some worries initially, based on my experience in RL. In general, audiences who enjoy rehearsals are already fairly well-informed about music, understand what to expect in an open rehearsal and are so interested in the process, that the interuptions in actual music don't bother them. Inexperienced audiences are often confused and bored, somewhat frustrated by not understanding what is happening.

What made this work so well in SL?

I think two factors were crucial. First, we could hear every word that was exchanged by the working musicians as they were wearing headsets. What a difference from the usual open rehearsal experience of conversations dropping into inaudible whispers. Secondly, audience members in SL were busily typing questions and comments into the chat bar as the rehearsal was in progress, rather than waiting for the end of the session (and losing flow and context). Rather than wait for the end to answer, the musicians were occasionally able to take a break, catch up on reading the questions and respond as they moved music stands, picked up a new piece of sheet music or moved avatars about.

In short SL broke down the wall between the people making the music and the audience members listening through the combination of asynchronous and synchronous communication tools that the virtual world is able to provide.

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