While I’m not avid classical listener, I’m familiar with some of the major pieces and composers, and have on rare occasion gone to the symphony. Because my children and wife are all learning piano through the Suzuki method, we learned about the 5 Browns. Last night the family saw the 5 Browns at Powell Hall in St. Louis. The concert was breathtaking.
I expected all their performances to be with all five of them up on stage at their pianos. That would seem to be the trick of it, yet only a third of their performances involved all five. I found with the pieces with only one, or two, or three, I stayed as engaged as with all five. I stayed engaged because the 5 Browns have taken a different approach to their music.
Most symphonic performances I have attended have been beautiful, but not engaging. The 5 Browns engaged the audience by talking about each piece before they played it. This allowed the uninformed audience to connect with the song as it was played, even though it was the first time we’d ever heard it. When Deondra explained the visuals of the piece Danse Macabre, a nighttime revelry of the undead complete with a solo from Death, I was able to experience the piece on another level. Greg’s explanation of Prokofiev’s Toccata, a perpetual motion chase scene out of Bullet or the French Connection, made the piece thrilling. It also didn’t hurt a police siren from outside wafted through the auditorium a moment before he started playing. Holst’s The Planets, an inspiration for countless science fiction movie sound tracks, brought the visuals of Star Wars and Star Trek to mind.
This is the trick that Augmented Reality developers are going to have to learn to make compelling AR. The 5 Browns showed last night that classical music isn’t languishing because the music isn’t relevant to today’s culture. The place was packed with the under twenty crowd. Classical music is languishing because it hasn’t connected with any new fans.
So as developers work on AR, remember your audience. Don’t try to impress us with tricks. Use AR to bring to life objects, places, and ideas. Engage us with the history of old buildings, teach us the concepts of how our amazing world works, visualize the world in ways that help us understand it better and help us change it.
I’d like to leave this post with a video from the 5 Browns. I wish I could find a video that compared to the amazing performance we saw last night. The one I’ve chosen is good, but it was nothing compared to the experience of seeing it live. I can’t recall which Brown brother played nearest us for the piece, but I will say, the image of his hands flying across the keys in a blur will be with me for a long time.