Saturday, September 11, 2010

Thank Heaven for the BBC

The Proms have come and gone, marking the end of summer. This season of concerts, like no other, captivates my imagination; many weeks of great music, performed in one of the world's most iconic venues, aimed at making such masterpieces accessible to the general public, and out of phase with the main concert season. Occurring just as I move back to the US, it was exceptionally poignant this year.

Thanks to the foresight of the BBC, the concerts were broadcast using a new high-quality streaming service Coyopa - named after a Mayan god of thunder. Coyopa streams at 320 kbps (that's the bitrate of audio files one can purchase from Amazon, and higher quality than one typically gets from iTunes). The Proms have been a testing ground for this service, which will now be withdrawn, evaluated and (one sincerely hopes) made a standard streaming option in the near future.

Tonight, I listened to the Last Night of the Proms on my KEF loudspeakers, via this digital service, my computer's soundcard, and my Cambridge Audio amp (the computer soundcard being clearly the weakest link in this chain). The quality was astoundingly good for digital streaming, something that became exceptionally apparent at the end of the Prom, when the audience were singing along to the familiar (in the truest sense of the word) tunes of Jerusalem and Land of Hope and Glory. In closing my eyes, I was seated in the upper circle of the Royal Albert Hall. (with miraculously generous leg space). The orchestra was below me; music reaching directly to my ears, and music resounding from the mushroom-patch above. All around and below me, resonating fiercely, was the audience, singing in joyful abandon. I sang. I pointed skyward; a confirmation to the heavens, in a manner that reminds me immediately and solely of a certain Italian friend of mine. For a while, the 3000 odd miles seemed tangibly shorter.