in: News & Features

April 24, 2012

BSO Makes Concerts Available Online For Entire Year

by

Beginning with tonight’s concert of Beethoven’s First Symphony and Mendelssohn’s Midsummer Night’s Dream (a re-transmission of last Saturday’s performance) , The Boston Symphony will begin hosting web streaming of its concerts on its BSO Media Center. These web broadcasts will continue to be produced by 99.5 Classical New England, and continue to be offered on the latter’s website as well. CNE will also continue its live Saturday-night BSO and weekend Tanglewood concert broadcasts on its network of radio stations.

Are the two outlets’ respective webcasts “duplicative services” similar to ones that audiences bemoaned after WGBH went all-talk at the end of 2009 and began to offer many of the same programs as WBUR? (See BMInt article here.) From the BSO press release, one might conclude that their announced one-year streaming protocol is a significant contrast with Classical New England’s single week offering for each event, yet CNE will also be moving to year-long availability for the streams, since both institutions are working under new rights agreements with the performers. The BSO has also disclosed its intention to stream at a fairly high bit-rate, 128 kbps, for a sound quality probably superior to current live FM broadcasts; this is something CNE already does.

“It’s incredibly thrilling to be able to share the concerts we present on a weekly basis to music lovers  from across the country and around the globe through the BSO’s new concert streaming offering at bso.org,” said BSO Managing Director Mark Volpe.  “We hope that the 7 million individuals who visit bso.org each year will enjoy this opportunity to listen to these free BSO and Pops concert streams, thanks to our partnership with WGBH.”

The BSO’s Director of Public Relations Bernadette Horgan had this to add, “We value our 60-year relationship with WGBH and continue to work closely with them in every way to help bring the music of the BSO and Pops to ever greater numbers of music lovers.”

We put some questions to Ben Roe, Director of Classical Services for CNE, as to the reasons for the duplicative offerings and where the collaboration might lead.

There will be no difference in content or availability; what visitors to the BSO Media Center will hear is exactly the same as what will be available on-demand on Classical New England.  Both are taken from the re-broadcast of the Saturday night concerts that we now air on Sunday afternoons from 1 –3…which is also the same content that is heard on our growing network of stations around New England (including WFCR in Amherst, WAMC in Albany, Vermont Public Radio, and the Maine Public Broadcasting Network).

I think it’s a terrific move for both the BSO and for WGBH.  Visitors to www.bso.org will now be able to access fresh content of the BSO doing what it does best – performing live in concert at Symphony Hall.  And for WGBH, we will effectively be able to broaden the reach of our BSO concert productions to an audience that may well be unfamiliar with our station, its services, and its broadcast schedule.

I agree wholeheartedly with Mark Volpe’s assessment that this move to one-year on-demand access of BSO concerts sets an industry standard; it’s my goal that we may increase the technical quality of the online broadcasts that they similarly mark a new standard in the orchestral world.

Even after reading the comments of Messers Volpe and Roe, one is left wondering about the longer-terms plans of the two institutions. How central are the BSO broadcasts and streams to Classical New England? Will the BSO want to take charge of producing and distributing its own performances? Methinks there will be more on these topics in the next few months. Yet the stakes are also rather low, since neither institution will be seeing any significant revenue from streaming of BSO concerts.

The BSO is justifiably quite proud of its broadcasting history. BMInt is pleased to publish a section from yesterday’s BSO announcement:

BRIEF HISTORY OF THE BOSTON SYMPHONY ORCHESTRA BROADCASTS

The BSO’s first live concert broadcast took place on January 23, 1926, initiating a series of Boston Symphony broadcasts, privately-funded by Winfield S. Quinby, a “well-known Boston coffee merchant,” that continued through the 1927-28 season. Winfield also sponsored nine Saturday-night Boston Pops concerts in the spring of 1926, marking the first Boston Pops broadcasts. From late 1932 until 1938, BSO concerts were carried—though not always on a regular basis—by NBC. Following the Tanglewood Music Shed inaugural broadcast on August 4, 1938, the BSO, as a non-union orchestra, was barred from the air by the American Federation of Musicians. Broadcasts were resumed soon after the ratification of a union contract in December 1942, and national broadcasts of the Boston Pops began in the spring of 1943. The BSO broadcasts continued, first on NBC, then on ABC, through the 1947-48 season. No BSO concerts were broadcast from Symphony Hall during the 1948-49 season, though portions of BSO rehearsals were aired for three seasons starting in the fall of 1948 as part of the half-hour NBC series “The Boston Symphony Orchestra in Rehearsal,” bringing the first stage in the orchestra’s broadcasting history to a close.

On October 6, 1951, WGBH signed on the air for the first time with a live Boston Symphony broadcast, making it the longest continuous relationship between a broadcaster and symphony orchestra in the nation. From the mid- to late 1950s, NBC also carried portions of the BSO concerts, either live or on a tape-delayed basis. In the late 1950s, the Boston-area station WCRB began to carry the orchestra’s Saturday-night concerts, as did a number of other stations, including New York’s WQXR and the QXR network along the eastern seaboard. In October 1957, the Boston Symphony Transcription Trust—ultimately to become a joint venture of WGBH and WCRB—was created to produce BSO broadcast tapes for syndication throughout the country. Though syndication was discontinued for lack of funds in the early ’90s, tapes are still made for the orchestra’s archive, and live concerts from Symphony Hall and from Tanglewood, the orchestra’s summer home in western Massachusetts, continue to be aired on WGBH’s Classical New England.

28 Comments

  1. Great news!!!  Many times after a Saturday night concert I wished I could hear the concert again multiple times.  

    Comment by Robert Summers — April 24, 2012 at 2:07 pm

  2. There is still an audience for live radio broadcasts, so I see no reason for Classical New England to drop those. The pre-concert and intermission interviews and concert-related features are a reason for people to want to hear the broadcasts over CNE. Presumably there is no reason for CNE to discontinue the webstreams either, since they bring additional people into the station’s ambit.

    Comment by Joe Whipple — April 24, 2012 at 3:16 pm

  3. *I am astounded that a union could prevent the public from hearing one of the great orchestras.

    The BSO makes no mention of the stereo broadcasts of the BSO that were done with WGBH, WBUR, WCRB, WCRB-AM (and mayhaps WBCN) in the 1950s.

    Corno di Bassetto II

    Comment by corno di basetto — April 25, 2012 at 6:18 pm

  4. *** The BSO has also disclosed its intention to stream at a fairly high bit-rate, 128 kbps, for a sound quality probably superior to current live FM broadcasts.

    Actually it is incorrect. The 128 kbps is sufficient for newscasters who talk about whether but it is no way acceptable for classical music and it is not way near of what FM broadcasts might do. FM has dynamic compression but it is not near as damaging as digital compression that come from DSP proceeding from whatever 24bit sampling rate BSO use for arrive to the MP3 stream. Even high bits rate will not help and to do the things right they need to have a dedicated A/D processor that will output let say 24kHz , 32kHz PCM (can I hear 44.1kHz?) with no further digital processing of any kind  after A/D.

    Comment by Romy The Cat — April 26, 2012 at 10:02 am

  5. Here’s an American public radio station that does right by musical sound quality in its streaming — WNED in Buffalo. I’m listening at this moment to a very worthwhile San Francisco Symphony concert (Ravel, Rachmaninov, Walton) conducted by Semyon Bychkov.

    This (assuming it works) — http://www.publicbroadcasting.net/wned/ppr/wnedfm.asx — may give you an idea. “192 kbps” it says on the station’s website.

    Comment by Richard Buell — April 27, 2012 at 8:39 pm

  6. As is so often is the case here and elsewhere, it’s Roman who is mistaken. 128k is entirely acceptable for music, more than acceptable, although there *are* better data-reduction schemes (try listening to AOL classical radio sometime) today. Easy to check the facts, and the matter has been blind-studied to death. Less processing conversion would be nice, too, but that’s not going to happen, and the best we can lobby for is reduced processing, not zero.

    >> 
    Actually it is incorrect. The 128 kbps is sufficient for newscasters who talk about whether but it is no way acceptable for classical music and it is not way near of what FM broadcasts might do. FM has dynamic compression but it is not near as damaging as digital compression that come from DSP proceeding from whatever 24bit sampling rate BSO use for arrive to the MP3 stream. Even high bits rate will not help and to do the things right they need to have a dedicated A/D processor that will output let say 24kHz , 32kHz PCM (can I hear 44.1kHz?) with no further digital processing of any kind  after A/D.

    Comment by david moran — April 28, 2012 at 12:43 am

  7. *** As is so often is the case here and elsewhere, it’s Roman who is mistaken. 128k is entirely acceptable for music…Easy to check the facts, and the matter has been blind-studied to death…

    A ridicules foolishness! You are absolutely incompetent on the subject not to mention that you are deaf if you insist that 128k is entirely acceptable for (classical) music. The existence of the Morons like you exactly what make the propagation of digital infection in audio regrettably possible.

    Comment by Romy The Cat — April 28, 2012 at 11:09 am

  8. My, how personal and juvenile. Report back when you have tested it blind.

    Comment by david moran — April 28, 2012 at 11:27 am

  9. If this were a barroom, and there was a bouncer on hand …

    Comment by Richard Buell — April 28, 2012 at 4:34 pm

  10. There is a bouncer-in-waiting.

    Comment by Lee Eiseman — April 28, 2012 at 5:21 pm

  11. The contestants are both partly right: FM has no inherent compression, although gain-riding is usually imposed.  FM has an upper limit on modulation (in order not to spill over into adjacent channels.)  But broadcasters typically squeeze all the audio up into the higher levels, because “louder is better” for most listeners, and low levels are drowned out in automobile listening.To verify this, try to get hold of some of the early WGBH FM broadcasts of Victor Campos’s master tapes — of course not via a recent WCRB/WGBH rebroadcast.  Even certain periods in WGBH BSO broadcasts were markedly more accurate than the current job (try Tennstedt.)

    But 128Kb/S is NOT as good sounding MP3 as are 192 or 320Kb/S, and is certainly not as clear or dynamic as unprocessed FM.  If you can find an MP3 stream of a CD in your collection,  do a live comparison to hear the difference.

    Comment by Martin Cohn — April 29, 2012 at 9:19 am

  12. Right, 128 bit reduction is not as nice as 192 and higher. It is surprisingly good, though, and nothing near as bad as alleged. (And the comparison you suggest is meaningless unless blind. Not saying you will not hear the difference, though.) If you really want to keep up with the state of the art in this area, since it seems alas to be the way of the future, you must get to know the bitrates beyond MP3, like Dolby AAC, which can sound marvelously CDlike. AOL Radio (classical) is a good place to start, as I say. Campos’s mastertapes were stunning, yes, though one thing I like about the new bit reduction is how (in general) dead quiet it is compared with even best-quality FM and analog masters (which are often very quiet but not like good-quality online streaming of digital sources).

    Comment by david moran — April 29, 2012 at 10:11 pm

  13. Martin Cohn,

    there is absolutely nothing partly right in my comment. And my comment was not targeted to FM compression. Dynamic compression that frequently use and overused in FM is absolutely different subject, very loaded subject and has no relation to bit-rate reduction that is used to convert row, presumably24 bit stream to kbps-rated stream.

    It is not even about the rate of digital compression. Yes, 320Kb sound better than 128Kb but none of stream that were touched by ANY post conversion DSP processing ever as good as the row stream. I do not even mention the kbps-rated streams – they are worthless garbage in my view, regardless the rate. As today there is no dingle DPS processor (and I am well faille with the best in the world) that can do such a simple DPS function like dropping sampling rate to twice slower or striping a topmost bit.  Take for instance an 88kHz file and try to convert it to 44kHz, or convert 24 bit fir to 22 bit tile. Theoretically it is very straight forward. In first case it is divided by 2, no rounding or no approximation of any kind. In second case we all know that there are truly 24-bit systems out there (well there are some true 28bit A/D that in fact are capable for full use of 24 bit) but they very really used at full capacity because of multiple reasons), so killing the 23 and 24 bit shall not affect the result. Well, theoretically…

    Unfortunately even such as simple operation, as today, could not be done by damaging the fabric of sound, of cause if owe know how to listen and do not use Moranic judgment. I do not even mention such severe DSP procedure as employing digital compression and creation a kbps-rated stream.  For sure the minimization of bandwidth traffic is understandable desire and we are not at the point where we can broadcast 16/44 stream. The redaction of sampling rate to 32kHz would give up to 15K bandwidth kHz, or use of 24kHz sampling and getting 12kHz bandwidth. I would very much prefer to have upper bandwidth limited signal that have all richness of processed sound then to have digitally compressed surrogate with full bandwidth and full dynamic range but with castrated spirit of music.

    Comment by Romy The Cat — April 30, 2012 at 8:00 am

  14. Back in 1999 or thereabouts, I had the chance to hear some of my live concert masters from the Troy Music Hall processed at various bit- and sampling rates, as an experiment.  At about 196 kbps I could not easily tell the difference between my masters and those data-reduced files.  Shortly thereafter I purchased my first MiniDisc recorders, and, again, had great difficulty telling the difference — so much so that, on two occasions, I actually mastered — yes, mastered — chamber concerts from Union College in Schenectady on MiniDisc.

    The real audible difference came from miking and mic positioning, and the pickup patterns I used with my Calrec Soundfield microphone (serial number #13, last of the hand-made Soundfields).  With proper miking, lower data rates are very difficult to distinguish.

    Last night, I heard WAMC’s one-day-delayed broadcast of Haitink/Fellner mixed program from the night before.  In the hall, the playing must have sounded fine.  But the WGBH pickup enlarged every last slip and untidiness of the orchestra, and the woodwinds were made to sound closer and louder than the entire cello and bass sections.  That, to me, caused greater pain than any lack of digital resolution.

    Comment by Don Drewecki — April 30, 2012 at 11:29 am

  15. Would need more civility on this site and no name calling.

    Comment by Robert Summers — May 1, 2012 at 11:33 am

  16. *** Would need more civility on this site and no name calling.

    Yes, it is an unfortunate fact that if a subject is not strictly music related but has relation to music reproduction then you immediately fitness deaf from their MP3 Yahoo-Morons who yell from gutters their banal absurdities. It is what it is.

     

    Comment by Romy The Cat — May 1, 2012 at 12:24 pm

  17. Hey, 
    Cat man / Ro man, yelling from your own gutter: If you really cannot bear people disagreeing with you (even when they know much more than you), why not leave the site to those who wish to discuss matters thoughtfully and respectfully and go hurl your insults and namecalls somewhere else? Jeez, seriously.

    Comment by david moran — May 1, 2012 at 6:44 pm

  18. All this Romy versus the universe business is excessively tiresome.

    Me, I’m headed off to bed so I curl up with my copy of Freud’s “The Psychopathology of Everyday Life.”

    Zzzzzzz

    Comment by Richard Buell — May 1, 2012 at 7:14 pm

  19. Richard, there is no “Romy versus the universe” syndrome.  Here are some boring internet fools who follow me online and proclaim own existence by attacking me. You are just an unfortunate witness of the “ceremony”.  Stick respecting subject, not the people who talk about subject and you will not be tiresome…

    Comment by Romy The Cat — May 2, 2012 at 12:25 am

  20. The BSO’s own BSO Media Center has a sophisticated appearance but is rather slow to load on my 3 MBS DSL. The 99.5 Classical New England “BSO Radio” loads much faster but is rather generic looking.

    The two outlets sound identical, and neither allows one to skip forward in the program very far

    The 99.5 site is using a 15 year old picture of Till Fellner.

    The BSO site lists Friday afternoons as the dates for all of their streams, whereas the 99.5 site lists the correct Saturday dates

    Comment by Lee Eiseman — May 2, 2012 at 8:55 am

  21. This is no minor complaint. It seems to be impossible to find out in advance from the 99.5 Classical New England website precisely what music is going to be played.

    Such information is readily available from countless broadcasters elsewhere on this planet and indeed used to be supplied in abundant detail by WGBH Radio itself.

    Are listeners thought to be as passive as all that?

    Every time I look at that website it seems to have outdone itself in clutter and irrelevancy. It’s not at all clear what the damned thing is for, apart from the usual business of self-promotion and getting their hands in our pockets. Nekulturny, as the Russians say.   

    Comment by Richard Buell — May 2, 2012 at 10:39 am

  22. Second thoughts. Yes, there’s a fair amount of performance material in the “on demand” or “listen again” mode — which is A Good Thing — but as to the real-time right-now old-fashioned radio broadcasts, the attitude seems to be Don’t Ask/Don’t Tell. And playlists by definition are always in the past tense ..

    Comment by Richard Buell — May 2, 2012 at 11:04 am

  23. Good points, Richard Buell.
    Apparently the veil of secrecy seems to be getting more popular, unfortunately. I was going to point to KCME as a station which tells us in advance what they will be playing, but they seem to have stopped, except for a weekly e-mail from the program director listing some highlights and themes for the coming week.
    I don’t know if they’re so freewheeling at CNE that they don’t know in advance what they’ll be playing. I suspect it’s actually that they’re afraid that people will decide to tune their sets elsewhere rather than listen to certain pieces. In my case, however it would work the other way: knowing something I want to hear was coming up would be an inducement to listen (and watch the Red Sox with the volume turned down, if at all).
    My dad used to quote a saying from his youth, when there were concerts on town bandstands: “You can never tell from where you’re sitting, what the band is going to play.” To which I’d only add, “unless it’s on WHRB.”

    Comment by Joe Whipple — May 2, 2012 at 2:34 pm

  24. In response to Richard and Joe, the use of advance playlists seems to vary inversely with the conservatism of the legal advice the station gets (and sometimes they don’t get any, and just do whatever they’re told by soi-disant copyright holders). There are those who take the view that for a station to, as it were, telegraph its punches is a kind of invitation to record the streams (a copyright violation). Some stations’ licenses with labels and suchlike prohibit advance playlists; and there were some funky clauses in the ASCAP/BMI streaming licenses (are they still called “experimental” by the societies?) that could be interpreted as prohibiting advance listings.

    That’s not to condone the lawyers’ interpretation, which any time I looked into it seemed a ridiculous stretch, but some stations are just more risk-averse than others. WHRB, of course, publishes its listings in print form (which might not count as advance notice if you relied on postal mail, but at least they get it on their web site now), and I’ve noticed that government-owned stations, like BBC,  ABC and RNZ tend to have advance listings.

    Comment by Vance Koven — May 2, 2012 at 4:10 pm

  25. According to a source at Classical New England:

    Because of the  the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) 1998, it is against the law to publish playlists of copyrighted material in advance. This act also imposed a number of strictures on broadcasters and streamers, fueled in large part by intense lobbying from the RIAA.

    CNE’s streaming playlist information is now prominently placed at the top of its home page.

    Playlist information for on-demand programs, such as The Bach Hour, Live from Fraser, New England Summer Festivals, Arias and Barcarolles, and of
    course the Boston Symphony Orchestra broadcasts can be published without restriction.

    CNE apparently provides accurate information for their own programs, including such syndicated offerings as Performance Today and Pipedreams.

    Comment by Lee Eiseman — May 3, 2012 at 10:19 am

  26. Thanks for the digging, LE. This is valuable to know.

    And I commend your careful wording: “CNE apparently provides [my italics — rb] accurate information for their own programs …”

    Let me offer a challenge here to BMint’s readers. Go to http://www.wgbh.org/995/index.cfm and see what intelligence you’re able to prise out of them. And then report back here.

    Part of the problem — and these are my print-media prejudices speaking — is that a website has just too much space to work with, and that a result the possibilities for confusion, sprawl, duplication, and non-delivery of vital information are immense.

    Could it be that the people at CNE themselves are flummoxed by this strange ominous wriggling creature? I wouldn’t be surprised.

    And those cries of “Feed me! Feed me!”

    Comment by Richard Buell — May 3, 2012 at 1:10 pm

  27. A well-designed web page:

    http://www.swr.de/swr2/festivals/schwetzinger-festspiele/sendungen/-/id=657016/v5sc4n/index.html

    As I write, Dorothea Roeschmann and Julius Drake are performing the Wolf/Goethe Mignon Lieder, live from the Mozartsaal at Schwetzingen.

    Virtually all of the Schwetzingen broadcast events — some two dozen plus — are archived for listening on demand.

    Comment by Richard Buell — May 3, 2012 at 3:47 pm

  28. Lee Eiseman writes (quoting CNE):

    “Because of the  the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) 1998, it is
    against the law to publish playlists of copyrighted material in advance.
    This act also imposed a number of strictures on broadcasters and
    streamers, fueled in large part by intense lobbying from the RIAA.”

    That is correct from what I understand.  It is cited as the reason why you can’t get playlists from the classical stations on Sirius/XM satellite radio.

    Comment by Don Drewecki — May 7, 2012 at 11:45 am

RSS feed for comments on this post.

Sorry, this comment forum is now closed.