Thursday, June 19, 2008

'Virtual Maestro': An Orchestral Guitar Hero?

Play a 'Virtual Maestro' on the Wii
'Virtual Maestro' lets players use Wii controller to conduct orchestra
By Chloe Fussell
updated 5:33 p.m. PT, Thurs., June. 19, 2008

LONDON - You may be a wicked axe man thanks to the "Guitar Hero" videogame by Activision Inc, but are you ready to take on a whole orchestra?

Two U.S. professors have created "Virtual Maestro," which allows a player to use the Wii console made by videogame company Nintendo to conduct the Verbier Festival Orchestra... well, a recording on a 42-inch plasma screen of them anyway.

But if you want to play, you'll have to get off the sofa and get down to a classical concert.

The game was brought over from the United States for trials and was a hit this week with audience members in the foyer of London's Barbican centre.

Young concert-goers waved the console around — some wildly, others shyly — to Rossini's William Tell Overture, Berlioz's Symphonie Fantastique and Tchaikovsky's Symphony no. 5.

"It's pretty fun to use, but also great to watch others play it," said Barbican visitor Owen Powell, as he watched gamers leap about in the throes of conducting.

"For so many people, classical music is about a crusty music hall," said Ann Drew from banking firm UBS, which sponsors the game and the Verbier Orchestra. "The design was intended to bring a new, different experience to concert-going."

The game will tour Europe and organizers hope to set it up in venues before concert performances.

The company which created "Virtual Maestro" is aiming to develop it further, but the sponsors say there are no plans to allow budding Karajans and Gergievs to play it on their Wiis at home any time soon.

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