1. Video Artist International has acquired the distribution rights to the visual archive of the Boston symphony Orchestra
and will issue DVDs of historic performances by the BSO, originally telecast by WGBH-TV. The first release, scheduled for next month, includes concerts
led by Munch (Berlioz), Pierre Monteux (Stravinsky/Brahms/Hindemith), and Sir John Barbirolli (Delius, Walton, Brahms).
2. On the seventh floor of the St. James theater, two musicians in the orchestra for "The Producers" give
new meaning to the phrase "phoning it in." The theater's pit is too small to fit a harpist and a percussionist, so every night Anna Reinersman
and Benjamin Herman cram themselves into a 10-by-20-foot room draped in crimson velvet curtains, with water pipes running above.
As an air conditioner hums, they watch a little man -- the conductor -- on a television monitor. Headphones pipe in the music from
colleagues in the pit downstairs, and close-range microphones transmit their playing downstairs where their parts are mixed with the other players'
and broadcast though loudspeakers to listeners in the audience who cannot tell the difference. "I could play in my underwear and they would have
no idea what's going on." Mr. Herman, the percussionist said. For Mr. Herman, the "sky pit" is the ultimate job.
The absence of a loud orchestra around him removes the worry about hearing loss, a common occupational hazard, and the playing requires
less effort because the sound mixers regulate volume. Sitting in with the two musicians can be a bizarre experience of a seemingly random series of
Mr. Herman, gliding among his instruments with extreme economy of motion, delivers a quick timpani rumble, the twong of wind chimes,
a tambourine tattoo. Ms. Reinersman, her hands moving like ballerinas draws out disassociated arpeggios, glissandos, plucked figures. But when you listen
with headphones, the random sounds lock in with the rest of the orchestra like puzzle pieces, and the precision is startling.
The shrunken pit can be lucrative: two rows of seats at $100 each can add up to $40,000 a week. NYT 5Oc04
3. Even in the 21st century, old-fashioned audio tape can be critical evidence in criminal investigations. But determining
a tape's authenticity has required painstaking manual work and a sharp pair of ears--until now. The National Institute of Standards and Technology has
developed a real-time magnetic imaging system that lets investigators "see" signs of tampering while tapes are playing.
NIST modified a cassette player with 64 custom magnetic sensors that detect and map the microscopic magnetic fields on audiotapes
as they're played. A desktop computer connected to the sensor array converts the magnetic data into displayable images.
Authentic, original tapes produce images with non-interrupted, predictable patterns. Erase and record functions, however, produce
characteristic "smudges" that correlate to "pops" and "thumps" in the audio signal. Copies of recordings also lack telltale
markings specific to different types of tape players. The images have a resolution of about 400 dpi. NIST is already at work on a system with 1600-dpi.
The technology can be applied to tapes from all kinds of devices, such as answering machines, cassette recorders, and even DATs.
President, Boston Audio Society