Now you can attend a Berlin Philharmonic concert in the comfort of your living room. For about the cost of a movie ticket you can watch the Berlin Philharmonic perform in their virtual concert hall. This blows my mind. Classical music is a field that has not been dramatically changed by technology. Yes, the internet has revolutionized marketing strategy, and recording artists have benefited from new developments, but when it comes down to the actual performance, attending a concert in 2009 is much like attending a concert in 1989. Until now if you wanted to see an orchestra outside your region you would have to travel to their home town or hope that they would tour close to your home. Tickets were bought according to travel plans, not necessarily because of the music or artist on the program.
As exciting as this technology is, a virtual concert will never be the same as physically attending a concert for the same reasons that watching a DVD is not the same as watching a movie on the big screen. Scale, ambiance, and volume are all factors, but the biggest difference is you, the audience. The collective energy of an audience is an amazing force. I have attended concerts that were an amazing experience despite a luke-warm performance because of an engaged, energetic audience. On the flip side, I have also attended tremendous concerts that fell flat because the audience was sleepy. The heart pounding drama that ensues when a soloist breaks a string, holding your breath and leaning forward to hear a particularly quiet passage, experiencing the force of sound when the whole group is playing as loud as possible: these are all things that I expect would be lost with a virtual broadcast.
Still, I plan to scout out Berlin's season and find a concert or two to virtually “attend.” Like the DVD, virtual concerts have their place, and it's a whole lot cheaper and more convenient to attend their concert in my living room that to fly to Berlin.