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The Upside of Distance:

Composer Anna Clyne Finds Room to Innovate

We embrace new technology to share performances with audiences, using every means available. The visual and audio story of an online concert can be told many different ways; we write each unique story with whatever tools the project necessitates. ”

Marc Geelhoed, DSO Director of Digital Initiatives

We are technology geeks, but deliberate ones, guided by the principle that technology should always support and never compromise the artistic capabilities of the musicians on the stage. That’s one of the reasons we love the technology composer Anna Clyne is using to continue being part of the music-making process in a meaningful way when pandemic travel restrictions make it difficult to physically attend rehearsals.

Anna and her partner, Grammy-winning audio engineer Jody Elff, have created an audio-visual system that enables her to hear and see the orchestra in real time as if she were present in person, allowing her to comment on balance and phrasing remotely. For new works, initial rehearsals are a sacred time for the composer to hear how a work is coming to life and make edits so the vision of the work can be fully realized. Recently this work has been inhibited by composers “attending” rehearsals via shaky Zoom connections and cell phone comments relayed to the conductor, so a high-quality alternative is particularly exciting: enter Ted the Head.


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The concept of a Head system won’t be new to DSO patrons who followed the process of last year’s acoustic tests, conducted in celebration of Orchestra’s Hall’s centennial season to qualify claims that the hall is acoustically perfect, but this application harnesses a Head for two-way communication. Learn how the system works in the video below, where DSO cellist Jeremy Crosmer interviews Anna on the Stride composition process (00:00) and Ted (14:06).

Another factor for the DSO in planning programming during the pandemic has been sustainability: how will what we create in this time carry over to a more in-person world, so that we have built a stronger foundation and not contributed to a “lost year”? Anna and Jody’s system is built with the same intentionality; Ted opens possibilities for future applications that tackle accessibility and environmental factors: patrons who can’t physically attend could experience the music as though they were in the space and fuel emissions from travel could be curtailed.

Anna will join us in rehearsals this week courtesy of Ted's recent arrival in Detroit. Watch the DSO perform Stride on Saturday, February 13, or on-demand through 2/27.

DSO Digital Concert Conversations: Composer Anna Clyne and DSO Cello Jeremy Crosmer

Watch "Stride" on DSO Digital Concerts