Much has been commented on the impressive Apple iPad advert, featuring the Finnish-born Philharmonia maestro, Esa-Pekka Salonen. In the series of videos, the principal extolls the virtues of composing orchestral pieces on the Apple tablet, making clear the immediacy with which one can capture moments of inspiration, whenever and wherever they may occur.
The lofty Apple production values, slick editing in line with the score, Salonen’s leading performance and the featured iPad App, Orchestra, have all drawn enamoured reactions from across industries, including tech, classical, advertising and mainstream press.
“I would be delighted if someone discovers classical music through the app… that alone would justify the existence of the app.” Esa-Pekka Salonen
A Bite of the Apple
The classical industry as a whole is glowing from an endorsement from Apple, especially since the latter has so cosily courted the mainstream industry for so many years. It is refreshing, also, to see a contemporary composer shoved centre-stage. No wigs for miles. Alas, dodgy hair persists.
Much of the credit should go to the developers of the Orchestra App in conduction with Salonen, featured in the spot, namely; Touch Press. If you haven’t yet, check out their Deutsche Grammophon Beethoven’s 9th effort too, which employs a lot of the same functionalities as the Orchestra platform.
As with anything exposed to Apple’s huge consumer base, there are many rejoicing in the fact that classical will now have hoards of new, younger fans, most of whom are invested in paying for downloads from iTunes and “have taste” (whatever that means).
There persists a problem, however, which the mainstream success of the advert has ironically illustrated poignantly. Namely, the length of classical records.
That the adverts have been viewed on YouTube over half a million times does not indicate half a million new, digitally-savy classical consumers, eager to buy tickets and recordings. It means that three minutes is still long enough to tell a good story, and short enough that it holds the pop attention span.
I am not surprised the campaign has been a hit, and have seen many non-classical fans sharing it online. However I doubt many of those same new admirers have taken the time to listen, in its entirety (just shy of half an hour), to the FREE recording of the concerto previewed in the advert. I would love to see the metrics on this (but am not holding my breath, Apple).
Amidst the progressive moves in the classical industry to widen the art to a new, younger audience, the problem that cannot be solved is the fact that mainstream audiences are used to short bursts of artistic gratification, and classical composers tend not to believe that their story can be told in such a short amount of time.
It is an impasse which requires a change in listening attitudes of music fans and a change in composition attitudes on the part of classical composers. Neither of these things will be achieved without long term commitment and some compromise.
If classical is interested in getting back to a revenue positive model to nurture future talent, it can take confidence that it clearly has extremely marketable facets for the modern, tech age, including Salonen and his Orchestra App. But the product needs to be right for the audience.
You can download the Violin Concerto composed by Esa-Pekka Solonen in the advert for free at iTunes