Sunday, September 11, 2011

Streaming Video (Sept 2011 column)

We have written extensively about YouTube in past Clarinet Cache columns, but we haven’t mentioned much about other places to view clarinet videos on the web.  YouTube is just one of many ways to share and search video on the web; also, live video streaming is becoming increasingly popular as the technology improves.  For this column, we’d like to explore some places clarinetists may want to visit to view streaming video on the web.  

InstantEncore is a streaming video and audio sharing site designed with classical musicians in mind.  Ideal for performing artists, ensembles, and composers as a way to share their music, InstantEncore also makes social networking easy for musicians who aren’t web savvy by coordinating YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, and website updates in one place.  Classical music fans can easily search the site for videos and audio by genre, composer, instrument, artist name, etc.  As the site is focused on classical music, content is easier to sort through and generally higher-quality than that found on YouTube.  Also, InstantEncore videos tend to have more complete information about artists and works than other video sharing sites, which often leave out crucial facts like movement numbers, conductors, or performers.

Chamber music seems to be the most well-represented genre on this site. Clarinetist José Franch-Ballester is featured in several videos with the Camerata Pacifica, performing movements from Beethoven’s Quintet for Piano and Winds Op. 16 and Harbison’s Wind Quintet. There is also quite a bit of new music, including works with multimedia and electronics. Clarinetists may also be interested in the videos of symphonic works performed by ensembles such as the Chicago Symphony and the New York Philharmonic.

The videos generally tend to be excerpts or single movements, but many complete works can be found in the audio section of the site.  InstantEncore has a nice player for streaming audio that allows you to queue up a playlist of recordings -- we recommend Charles Neidich’s recording of Stravinsky's Three Pieces, Bil Jackson’s recording of Kevin Puts’s Clarinet Concerto with the Aspen Chamber Symphony, and David Shifrin’s performances of Bernstein's Sonata and Bartok's Contrasts.  Universities have even begun to use the site to promote their music schools, with tracks such as the Cleveland Institute of Music’s “New Music Series Highlights Fall 2010.”  

InstantEncore also allows a local or national search for upcoming and past chamber concerts.  There is some advertising on the site, but the sleek interface minimizes the obtrusiveness of the ads (and they presumably have to pay the web developers somehow!).  Hopefully this site will continue to grow as a destination for classical music listening and networking on the web.  

Live Streaming
In an effort to reach larger audiences outside of the concert hall, universities across the U.S. are now live-streaming broadcasts of concerts and programs, often accessible directly through the school’s site.  In addition to live-streamed concerts, the Yale School of Music website also holds a large supply of podcasts of various programs, interviews, and musical discussions.  Several podcasts feature the clarinet, including David Shifrin’s performance of Yale faculty composer Ezra Laderman’s Concerto for Clarinet and Strings. [EDIT: This podcast seems to be no longer available.]

Travelling westward to Indiana University’s Jacobs School of Music, the IU Music Live! website hosts several on-demand videos of past opera and ballet productions and over forty-three video and audio podcasts.  The live streaming project first started in November 2007 and all video production is student-run and managed by the Department of Recording Arts.  The number of programs available for viewing has grown to include performances of groups such as the IU Philharmonic Orchestra and Jazz Ensemble.  When browsing through the list of podcasts, be sure to check out the 2008 chamber music performance by the ensemble Trio Cayanne playing Jean Francaix’s Divertissement with Steve Cohen on clarinet.

Heading further south to our neck of the woods in Denton, Texas, the College of Music at the University of North Texas regularly broadcasts classical programs, with over eighty concerts streamed live during the 2010-2011 season.  Unlike the sites mentioned above, UNT unfortunately restricts access to archived programs, making them available only to UNT students, staff, and faculty.  However, what sets UNT’s live streaming video apart from the content on other websites is the ability for viewers to interact with each other during concerts.  Through the live broadcast platform Ustream, viewers watching the UNT concerts can interact and chat in real time with others, including those sitting in the audience using an iPhone app or with family members around the world. Blair Liikala, Director of Recording Services for the College of Music, often monitors these chats to find ways to enhance the live-streaming experience; for example, if a parent mentions which player is their child, Liikala can relay this information to the camera crew, instructing them to get a close up of that student.  It is this type of live interaction and instant feedback that allow remote viewers to experience the concert in ways that were previously not possible.

Ustream and Vimeo
Used not only by universities, Ustream is an interactive public website with a variety of live-streamed content.  Although the listing for clarinet-related videos is lacking in high-quality entries, a few videos stand out such as bass clarinetist Martin Moore playing Isang Yun's Monolog.  Another site worth visiting is Vimeo. With a seemingly endless supply of clarinet entries, this is probably the only place where you will find video of a man playing clarinet in the nude!!  Such alternatives to YouTube are becoming increasingly popular, and as faster internet connections allow video quality to increase, we look forward to watching more and more clarinet videos on the web.

Thanks to Chris Raddatz for giving us the heads-up about InstantEncore’s collection of clarinet video and audio!  If you have suggestions for websites we should take a look at, please e-mail us at  

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