By Krisztina Fenyo
BUDAPEST (Reuters) - When he saw a sea of face masks around Budapest, Hungarian orchestra conductor Ivan Fischer had an idea; turn an unpopular pandemic necessity into a tool of music appreciation.
Fischer's music-enhancing face mask has two plastic cups shaped liked life-size palms attached to the mask's strings and designed to fit around the wearer's ears, allowing concertgoers in the age of coronavirus to enjoy improved acoustics.
"I got to this idea that it should look like a hand because when we put our hands here..." he said, cupping his palms around his ears, "... we always understand the other person easier, we hear the consonants, and the music sounds much more beautiful."
Speaking as the orchestra rehearsed for an evening of Beethoven and Strauss, Fischer - the chief of the Budapest Festival Orchestra - said his masks help to emulate church acoustics, with warmer undertones and clearer, sharper contours.
Fischer's invention is proving popular with concertgoers, with dozens of people wearing the mask as they took their seats at Friday's performance.
The acoustic mask, which costs 8,000 forints ($27) if ordered through the orchestra's website, comes in glittery and black and white versions.
Audience member Zsuzsa Hunyadi-Zoltan said the sound was "clearly better" with the special mask in place.
"It focused the music more. I tried it, I took it off and put it back on and one can clearly feel the difference," she said.
(Writing by Marton Dunai; Editing by Helen Popper)