The YouTube Symphony Orchestra, an international online symphony organised by the world’s foremost user-generated video site, performed at New York’s legendary Carnegie Hall Wednesday to thunderous applause. It was the culmination of a multifaceted project amounting to what YouTube executive Patrick Walker called "the world’s first online symphony." It also may be the most creative use of Web 2.0 in history.
The Orchestra consists of 96 musicians from 33 countries chosen from over 3,000 musicians worldwide who submitted video auditions in January via YouTube. The final selections were made based on votes from ordinary YouTube users.
The musicians only had three days to get to know each other and rehearse before performing together at Carnegie Hall.
At the concert, the Orchestra played pieces by a diverse group of composers, including Mozart, Tchaikovsky, and John Cage, though the crowning achievement was “Internet Symphony Number One: Eroica,” composed by China’s Tan Dun specifically for the project.
Preceding the live Carnegie Hall performance, the winners were asked to submit videos of themselves playing just their part in “Internet Symphony Number One: Eroica."
YouTube then compiled a “mash-up” – a video fusion of individual musicians playing their part, edited seamlessly to sound as though they were performing in the same concert hall.
Walker, in a video he posted on YouTube, said it was important that internet users feel they could participate “no matter what instrument you play.” Instruments featured in the mash-up included a musical saw, a man banging on metal bowls of different sizes, and a man playing a traditional horn while wearing a Star Wars Stormtrooper mask.
“Eroica" is also the name of Beethoven’s Third Symphony, and composer Dun's composition bears slight elements of its namesake, particularly in the horn arpeggios. Dun said in a YouTube video that his symphony was meant to be “a bridge [from] the old masters to today,” and his piece reflects a chronological and cultural progression.
The ghost of Prokofiev dominates the beginning string and percussive sections, followed by Stravinskyesque dissonance, and then Chinese-inspired music (for which the scale consists of only five notes).
In a YouTube video, Michael Tilson Thomas, the Orchestra’s director, said: “I hope this will be the first of many get-togethers.”