Thursday, November 1, 2012

Integrating Technologies to Magnify the Support of Our Mission

The Concord Band has always had several raisons d’être, but none is more important than that of bringing the best in concert band music to the community. Our principal method for doing this, of course, is through playing concerts at our permanent home at the Performing Arts Center at 51 Walden Street, Concord, at our summer home at Fruitlands Museum in Harvard and elsewhere.

The Concord Band has always taken advantage of contemporary technology to support this mission. For decades, we have offered audio recordings, initially on vinyl, and, for many years now, on CD.

Since 2008, in cooperation with Concord-Carlisle TV, we have also been making high-quality video recordings (using four cameras and professional audio) of our formal Fall and Winter concerts for presentation on CCTV’s local public access cable channel, and accessible online via CCTV’s video-on-demand website. In this article we focus on how the Concord Band is taking advantage of YouTube on the Internet and extending it to provide unprecedented pow- er in accessing videos of our performances of individual pieces of music.

YouTube, which first became available in 2005, is a free, widely-used video- hosting/sharing website, or video server, owned and operated since 2006 by Google. It is a repository for all types of short videos most commonly used for recreational purposes, ranging from pop-music videos (mostly professionally produced) to “home movie” clips, primarily (in their creators’ opinions) humorous in nature. YouTube can also be used for more serious purposes, which it supports via the ability to create YouTube channels. The Concord Band’s recently-created YouTube channel, concord.band. ma, now holds 86 video-recorded performances, extracted from videos of full- length concerts from October, 2008, through our most recent concerts.

Our YouTube channel can be used as are most other YouTube channels; i.e., by entering the name of the channel in the YouTube search box, all the videos in our channel will be available for selection. However, by integrating YouTube with spreadsheet technology, we are able to provide much more powerful support to serious members of our community—our own Band members as well as concert band musicians and conductors, music academicians, and concert band music lovers everywhere.

Performance Video Database. The integration of spreadsheet searching and sorting of the pieces in the YouTube channel, which we refer to as our Performance Video Database (PVD), makes it possible to watch videos that meet specific criteria. Examples of the kinds of selections made possible in this way include, “pieces composed by James Curnow” and “pieces commissioned by the Concord Band”.

Over time, the PVD will grow both in terms of the number of videos included (rows) and the data kept for each piece of music (columns). While the number of pieces in the PVD is relatively modest now, by the end of 2028, that number is expected to reach about 500. The number of columns is also likely to grow substantially. Some of the columns that are likely to be added next include link to program notes, composition type and solo instrument. When the first of these is added and the cor- responding links supplied, it will be possible to read directly what appeared in our printed concert program about a piece. Until composition type is entered for each piece in the PVD, it will not be possible to re- quest a list (and then watch the associated videos), for example, of all marches or overtures contained in the PVD. To see which pieces feature a particular instrument or voice, one will sort on solo instrument or search that column for, e.g., “flugelhorn”.

The implementation of the ability to manipulate the PVD was done in two stages, permitting access to the capability long before the ultimate polished version could be made available. The first version required that the PVD be distributed as an Excel spreadsheet. The names of the pieces are hyperlinks (shown in the actual spreadsheet in blue, and underscored), so that when the name of a piece is clicked on, one is taken to the corresponding video in YouTube. If anything involving selectivity is desired, the PVD can be searched and sorted before going to YouTube. Since the PVD would not change from when it was created in April, 2012, until after the upcoming Fall concert, this approach was not an unreasonable way to start.

A first publicly available version of the Performance Video Database is now on the Band’s website, concordband.org. Placing it on the Band’s website has two advantages. Since scanning and sorting the PVD and then linking to the Band’s YouTube videos is done from the Band website, it brings people to the Concord Band website who might otherwise only visit YouTube. There is much worth knowing about the Concord Band beyond our YouTube clips, as useful as they may be.

We hope that what we have done—make Concord Band YouTube videos accessible with so much more selectivity than is possible with YouTube alone—will encourage other YouTube users to do likewise.
Daniel S Diamond

Dan Diamond is a mainstay of the Concord Band, having served for decades and wearing many hats, including Trustee, percussionist, editor, fundraiser, publisher, and producer.

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