Matching Sights to Sounds
by Kerry Coughlin, Akron Beacon Journal staff writer
When Alan Balter conducts the Akron
Symphony Orchestra in Stravinsky's Petrouchka ballet tonight,
sound and video engineer A.J. Stokes will be directing his own symphony
of sorts backstage at E.J. Thomas Hall.
Stokes will lead three videographers and a technical
crew in the orchestra's first live video experiment. A 10 by 14 foot
jumbo screen will give the audience a close-up view of the conductor,
plus the musicians and their instruments. More than 130 video shots
of musicians will be shown during the 40-minute ballet, said Stokes,
a Hudson resident.
"It's probably about 40 minutes of sheer terror
for me," he said.
Timing the video images to the music is complicated.
All shots must be framed, focused and cameras must be switched within
precise variables. For example one timpani roll in Petrouchka
lasts only three seconds before video cameras must switch to another
"They're not going to wait for us," Stokes
said of the orchestra.
The large video images are meant to give the audience
a sense of closeness with the musicians. And for the first time, viewers
may witness the intimacy between orchestra and conductor, whose back
is always turned to the audience.
Petrouchka, which is rich in solos, is the
perfect piece to capture the energy of the orchestra close-up, Balter
"The orchestration is so colorful," he
said. "There are so many solos; there are so many combinations
of instrumental color."
The musicians are so comfortable with the piece,
the conductor doesn't think they will become too distracted by the large
screen that some of them may see out of the corner of the eye.
The ballet Petrouchka was written to include
a visual element, so Balter believes it is appropriate to add the video
screen. The conductor, who has wanted to do the project for years, said
he needed the right musical piece, finances and technical crew to make
the experiment possible.
According to Connie Linsler, executive director
for the orchestra, "tonight's video venture will cost several thousand
The project isn't intended to change the music at
all or dictate how the audience members feel about the music, Linsler
said. After the concert, the orchestra will gauge audience reaction
through a written exit survey.
Stokes will be so busy tonight, he won't see the
big picture until he watches the videotape after the concert. With the
assistance of his wife, Nancy, he'll be following his colorfully highlighted
score, watching three small monitors and giving directions to the camera