You arrive at the concert hall and, instead of getting a program, pick up a small piece of electronic kit that could revolutionize the experience of live symphonic music.

You take your seat, and Stravinsky’s Firebird begins. As the music proceeds, you glance down at the small screen in the palm of your hand and read: “Stravinsky’s virtuosic orchestration reaches a climax in this passage, where the illusion of WHOOSHES! is created by passing lines quickly from instrument to instrument.”



Later the screen encourages you to listen for short repetitive rhythms as “the Firebird struts her stuff”, for seductive string pizzicatos, “chirping winds” and dazzling runs by three harps.



You glance at the screen again and see live pictures of conductor, soloists and orchestral players.



The Concert Companion (CoCo for short), developed in the US, embraces wireless technology to help concertgoers understand what is going on as it happens. An operator sits at a computer in the hall and, on cue, transmits programme notes to every device.



CoCo, which uses a standard PDA (personal digital assistant), has already been on trial with five orchestras in the US, including the Philadelphia and the New York Philharmonic, and will be used regularly by other orchestras throughout the 2005-06 season.



Some observers are already hailing it as a potential saviour of the classical concert because of its potential for winning new audiences by demystifying Bach and Bruckner – or even Birtwistle.



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