Multimedia Beethoven: The Ninth Symphony. (data base) (Software Review) (Compute's Getting Started with Multimedia Applications) (Evaluation)
by Richard O. Mann
If Beethoven's magnificent Ninth Symphony (or music like it) moves you at all, you must see and hear Microsoft's multimedia tribute to this glorious piece of music. At its core is an excellent CD recording of the entire 68-minute symphony. Added to it is free access to any part of the symphony as well as a wealth of educational material about it and music in general. No visitor to my home escapes without seeing a demonstration of this remarkable product -- Multimedia Beethoven: The Ninth Symphony Microsoft, One Microsoft Way, Redmond, Washington 98052; 800-426-9400; $79.95).
The opening screen offers five modules: A Pocket Guide, Beethoven's World, the Art of Listening, a Close Reading, and the Ninth Game. A Pocket Guide lists on a single screen the four movements and their component parts. Click on Scherzo de capo in the second movement, for instance, and it instantly plays that portion of the symphony. You can browse through the entire symphony section by section and begin to appreciate the structure of the music.
The centerpiece or heart of this program is the section called A Close Reading. It plays the entire symphony from beginning to end, with a detailed explanation of what's going on appearing on the screen as it plays. Explanations change every 10 to 30 seconds, interpreting the music in rich detail. A separate window keeps you informed of where you are in the structure of the symphony.
Beethoven's World is a long educational sequence explaining the life and times of the master composer. Throughout this section, every opportunity is used to illustrate the concepts with actual music. Click on a button on the screen, and you'll hear the relevant passage from the symphony.
The Art of Listening explains musical concepts, starting with the architecture of the symphony and working through a hundred screens of fascinating information, all illustrated by musical sequences. It's perfect for basic- or intermediate-level music education.
Once you've learned these lessons, you're ready for the Ninth Game, an amusing and enlightening question-and-answer game. Questions come from three categories. Listen Up asks about musical concepts. Knowing the Score involves the symphony itself. Life and Times quizzes you on Beethoven himself.
Questions in the first two categories involve playing clips from the music. "In which passage," it asks, "are the brass the dominant instruments?" You click on four buttons to hear four passages, then select your answer. In each case, a partially animated Beethoven comments in German on your choice of answers.
Multimedia Beethoven shows the magic and power of multimedia--it's a true merging of glorious sound, enlightening text, and visuals into a new experience.