The Next Step in “Live” Performance?

February 25, 2011

Mark T. Mitchell is thinking:

Cisco is boasting that its new communications technology will change the way we engage others. Indeed, when a hologram of a man in California appears before an audience in India and has a conversation with a “real” person, things feel a bit odd. Is this a mere gimmick that will confine itself to business meetings of tech companies or will this soon be part of our everyday experience? What is gained when a holographic figure replaces an image on a screen or a voice on the phone? I have to admit the technology is amazing, but is it significant? With this I could live in a cabin in Montana and teach classes in Virginia and hold regular office hours as well. Would the students find this satisfying? Would I? Could this technology affect the way we think about bodily existence?

I think the question of how our thinking may change if holograms of human bodies become common communication devices is a fascinating one. I see some real opportunities for music pedagogy — for example, making short regular visits to pupils’ practice sessions practicable. But it also leads me to some pretty wild thoughts about musical performance: could a hologram conduct an orchestra or play the viola part in a string quartet’s rehearsal when the “real” musician was snowed in? Would an audience made up of holograms cough less?

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