08.11.2012 17:37 Age: 1 year

An orchestra without paper sheet music?

Brussels Philharmonic, Samsung and neoScores launch a unique digitalisation project

Brussels, 7th November 2012 | Brussels Philharmonic, with Samsung and neoScores, begins an innovative task aimed at giving paper a digital future.

Today at Flagey, a group of media personalities from politics and the business world had an exclusive preview of what is to be the sheet music of the future. The multinational company Samsung supplied 100 Galaxy Note 10.1 tablets whilst the young Belgian partner company neoScores provided the innovative software. Under the baton of conductor Michel Tabachnik, the 92 musicians played Wagner and Ravel’s Bolero. A unique experience for the public present, who were seated amongst the musicians of the orchestra.

Gunther Broucke, General Manager of Brussels Philharmonic
“Brussels Philharmonic is a group in step with the times and is constantly reinventing itself. Both in its artistic projects and in the way it functions. The orchestra wishes to be a pioneer on every level. And if in our hearts we cherish the past, we are looking towards the future. The future is digital, and the next step is the digitisation of sheet music. So it is not surprising that we are working with Samsung and neoScores. Culture and small business go hand in hand with technology and we are convinced that, in the long term, this new partnership will enable our orchestra to function sustainably and more efficiently.”

But going back a little further in history, in the 19th century, orchestral scores were mostly manuscripts, and rarely printed. Printing fees were expensive and hand copying took a long time. So, editors and orchestras called upon “copyists”, who spent their time copying out scores and parts for individual instruments, note by note, day after day. It was only in 1950 that Xerox launched the first commercial photocopier - a giant leap forward. Yet up till the present day, the preparation of sheet music has continued to be an enormous task leading up to a concert.

Emmanuel Sproelants, Orchestral Librarian of Brussels Philharmonic

"Try to imagine: each piece of sheet music has to be distributed to over one hundred participating musicians. This requires a great deal of time, paper and meticulousness. And of course, all of these documents must be collected again and carefully preserved after a concert for future use. After all these years, they take up a lot of space. And even more so now that we have to store our archives outside of our building! Sooner or later, we need to look for alternatives.”

In short, the preparation and storage of orchestral parts has until now been a laborious and complex process. Moreover, an organisation such as Brussels Philharmonic with more than 100 concerts per season could save 25,000 euros in paper – every year!

Brussels Philharmonic has, as a result, sought a solution to optimise its working methods. The orchestra has called upon neoScores, a young Belgian company who is developing software specifically aimed at orchestras, as well as the Korean technology giant, Samsung. Combined with the neoScores software, the Samsung tablets are already promising very valuable advantages for the staff and musicians of Brussels Philharmonic.

Overview of the main features

  • With the combination of the neoScores software and the intelligent S-Pen stylus of Samsung, sheet music can be adapted and shared in an intelligent way between the conductor, the first violin, the whole orchestra or individual musicians. Adapting the bowing, the rhythmic accents, deleting a repetition? Everything is possible!
  • The GALAXY Note 10.1 has a 15 GB storage capacity, which allows it to use numerous applications and to easily record hundreds of pieces of sheet music.
  • The Brussels Philharmonic travel light: all of the sheet music is held in a tablet weighing only 600 grams, which the musicians carry everywhere with them.
  • Smart Stay ensures that the screen’s display remains active as long as the musicians are looking at it.
  • The tablets have a special concert mode (similar to Flight Mode) to avoid interference during the concert.
  • Pages: the musicians turn the pages of their sheet music via a secure sweeping system, so as not to find themselves ten pages ahead or to zoom involuntarily…
  • Reading with colleagues? With the neoScore software, musicians can choose to read their own part by themselves, or to read with a musician or another instrument group. Or two colleagues from another instrument group. Or three...

What's next?
Today’s concert constitutes the starting point for the replacement of paper by digital sheet music. The Brussels Philharmonic is to be a test run, so that, based on the experiences of the musicians and staff, the material and software will be perfected until they are finalised. The end of the process will offer a true revolution in the way that orchestras work the world over.

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