Keyboard skills and electone combine to produce orchestral sounds

World Today

The electone has made its U.S. concert debut at an electronic music festival in Denver. It’s an instrument that allows a keyboard player to produce the sounds of an orchestra.

As CGTN’s Hendrik Sybrandy reports, electronic music fans in Asia hope to expand its popularity into North America.

An orchestra filled a classroom at the University of Denver the other day. Or it sure sounded that way. The music came from just one instrument: an electone organ, as played by Pang Bo, one of the world’s foremost electone players and devotees.

“The electone has a different kind of voicing that really enhances our imagination in playing or performing so it adds a lot of layers to our music performance,” explained the performer. In the informal workshop, Pang, the Dean of the Modern Music Institute of the Shenyang Conservatory of Music in China, demonstrated that, in the right hands and feet, what looks like a spinet organ can create just about any sound imaginable.

The electone, some argue, is a perfect musical fit for this digital age. “The audience is addicted to the bells and whistles that technology provides,” explained Dennis Law, the festival director.

Law also explained that the technology formed the backbone for Denver’s recent International Electronic Music Festival. This kind of multicultural, multimedia experience was what audiences want more of these days when they come to be entertained. “I’m looking at combining certain things in a way that makes it attractive so people come to enjoy it rather than feel like it’s an obligation,” said the director.

Technology has advanced. While the keyboard synthesizer, with its array of rhythms and orchestral sounds, is certainly not new, the electone lets you program digital sounds and changes in those sounds with a USB. And that takes music to an entirely different level.

Pang said that there are now more than 200-thousand electone players in China, where electronic music is very popular. “In all music academies in China, all of them have electone as a major,” said Pang Bo.

That music has yet to catch on in the same way in the U.S. Law hopes that the festival, which included an electronic music competition, will spark some interest. “The composers who do this do not actually have to play it. They’re submitting digital files for us to judge” added Law.

Teachers at the workshop said that electones, which cost roughly the same as some upright pianos, could put a band right at a student’s fingertips. “Right now, we live in a tech-savvy world. That’s all there is. So the students rely upon their iPhones, their iPads. So bringing this instrument to America would be a great benefit and asset for all of the students,” explained Kahlea Qualls, a Denver Public Schools teacher.

Few musicians play the electone quite like Pang Bo. Whether in schools or in concert halls, the kind of solo symphonies that he performed could be the future.