Home
Loading
  Contact Us    
Virtual War

For some musicians, their role in classical music's future has been shaken as recorded and synthesized music conspire to replace them.

by Drew McManus
November 7, 2005

Bookmark and Share
Virtual War
There's a battle raging along the front lines of classical music over the use of recorded and synthesized music to replace live musicians, particularly those who perform for ballets and musicals. Of course, the war itself is very old; musicians have long fought against technological advancements which threatened their livelihood.
 
At the early part of the 20th century, it was radio and phonographs which began to displace live musicians and even today, recorded music continues to be used in that capacity. However, the most recent participants in the war are "virtual orchestra" machines, a complex series of networked computers and sound modules with an alphanumeric, mouse, and midi keyboard interface. The preprogrammed musical score is reproduced via a "tap" feature that allows the device to follow a conductor's beat pattern. Additional details about "virtual orchestra" machines are available in an article published here at The Partial Observer from April, 2004.
 
Over the past year, this latest series of battles has produced advances and losses for both sides. The musicians have made significant advancements by securing a ban on the use of "virtual orchestra" machines in three major U.S. markets which thrive on live music: New York City, Las Angeles, and Washington D.C. In all three of those cities, the American Federation of Musicians (AFM), who represent the musicians in each of those locations, have successfully negotiated agreements preventing the use of "virtual orchestra" machines replacing live musicians with all of the key venue owners and theatre managers.
 
On the other side of struggle, large organizations such as the Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre (PBT) and Cablevision's Radio City Music Hall "Christmas Spectacular" are using recordings of orchestras for their performances. 
 
In both cases, the musicians are fighting within the parameters of the National Labor Relations Act (the Federal law overseeing these issues) to rectify the situations. In Pittsburgh, the PBT's board determined midway through contract negotiations with the musicians that they would simply not use live music for their entire 2005-2006 season. In NYC, Cablevision and the AFM were also in the midst of delicate contract negotiations when, just before the opening of the show's preview performances, the president of Radio City Entertainment, Jay Marciano, told a reporter from 1010 WINS radio that he thought the union was "greedy'" and warned "there are new synthesizers that can recreate orchestras," producing "canned music" for anything from  "Silent Night" to the Rockettes high-kick tunes.
 
In Pittsburgh, the PBT has paid a price for eliminating live musicians from their productions in the form of lower ticket sales and unfavorable media coverage. As such, the PBT endured a backlash from patrons who felt that the use of recorded music in place of live musicians was false advertising given that the organization had always used live music in the majority of their past productions. Many patrons contacted the PBT and local media outlets to express their frustration over having to pay the same ticket price for what many characterized as "less product".
 
In NYC, the annual "Christmas Spectacular" official commenced their performances on Friday, November 4th so ticket sales figures are currently unavailable. The "Christmas Spectacular" webpage only mentions the use of recorded music on a single page buried within the website which states,
"This year's show will be set to a world-class musical score, recorded by a 55-piece orchestra and heard through the most advanced sound system available. This year's version of the Christmas Spectacular will be the biggest and best ever."
However, the New York Times reported that Cablevision's decision to use a recorded orchestra in lieu of live musicians is a first in the show's 73-year history. Whether or not patrons will feel this decision justifies the same ticket price is yet to be seen.
 
Unfortunately, these recent campaigns in the war over the use of live or recorded/synthesized music are unlikely to bring the conflict to an end. All the same, it does force the larger discussion of the value of live music in performing arts productions into the larger realm of cultural conversation. If those involved in the creation of classical music wish to see the public realize that live musicians play an indispensable role in the performing arts, then they'll promote every opportunity they can to encourage those discussions.

(0 Comments)
Post a Comment

Send Us Your Opinion
(Comments are moderated.)
Your Name:*


Your E-Mail Address:*
(Confidential. Will not be published.)


Location:


Comments:*
Note: In order to control automated spam submissions, URLs are no longer permitted in this form.



Verification:
Please type the letters you see above.

  Printer-Friendly

Bookmark and Share


RSS FEED
RSS Feed for Neo Classical: RSS Feed for Drew McManus
EMAIL ALERTS
Sign up to receive an e-mail notice when new articles by this author are published. Your address remains confidential, and you may cancel at any time. A confirmation email will be sent.

Your e-mail address:
po Books
Now Available!

Teachings of a Three Year Old... Turned Tyke,
by Hal Evan Caplan.

A father learns from the wisdom of his toddler.

More Information.

More by Drew McManus
Starting Next Month, Neo Classical Will Have A New Voice
After more than three years, it's time for a sabbatical.
by Drew McManus, 5/7/07
April Is Take A Friend To Orchestra Month - 2007
But can word of mouth programs really make a difference?
by Drew McManus, 4/2/07
Status Still Counts
It Still Takes A World-Class Ensemble To Get The Cultural Consciousness To Sit Up And Take Note.
by Drew McManus, 3/5/07
Rules To Live, Er, Listen By
Some straightforward advice on how to become a courteous listener.
by Drew McManus, 2/5/07
'The King Is Dead. Long Live The King!'
Changes in how classical recordings are created ushers in a new era.
by Drew McManus, 1/8/07
An Interview With Paul Scarbrough, Russell Todd, and Christopher Blair From Akustiks
The art of acoustic science succeeds best with a healthy dose of human input.
by Drew McManus, 12/3/06
But You Knew That Already, Of Course...
It's time for classical music to let go of pretentiousness.
by Drew McManus, 10/2/06
» Complete List (62)


RSS FEED
RSS Feed for Neo Classical: RSS Feed for Drew McManus

Recently Published
View Article May I Be Frank, Mr. President?
Challenging a double standard in the Oval Office
by Greg Asimakoupoulos, 12/15/17
Salvator Mundi
Not the painting but the Person
by Greg Asimakoupoulos, 12/7/17
When the Newsman Becomes News
Lamenting yet another fallen hero
by Greg Asimakoupoulos, 12/1/17
Let's Hear It for Moms and Pops
Celebrating Small Business Saturday in a very personal way
by Greg Asimakoupoulos, 11/22/17
An Earthquake in La La Land
Examining what's been exposed in the rubble
by Greg Asimakoupoulos, 11/17/17
Where is God?
Reflecting on the tragedy in a little Texas town
by Greg Asimakoupoulos, 11/10/17
An All Saints Day Tribute
Remembering those who left us
by Greg Asimakoupoulos, 11/3/17

Get the Partial Observer's
'recently published' headlines via RSS.


RSS Feed for Recently Published PO Articles    What is RSS?
Reproduction of original material from The Partial Observer without written permission is strictly prohibited.
The opinions expressed by site contributors do not necessarily reflect those of the editors.
Copyright ©2000-2017 partialobserver.com. All rights reserved.
Home · Site Map · Top