Beta
×

Welcome to the Slashdot Beta site -- learn more here. Use the link in the footer or click here to return to the Classic version of Slashdot.

Thank you!

Before you choose to head back to the Classic look of the site, we'd appreciate it if you share your thoughts on the Beta; your feedback is what drives our ongoing development.

Beta is different and we value you taking the time to try it out. Please take a look at the changes we've made in Beta and  learn more about it. Thanks for reading, and for making the site better!

ASIMO to Conduct Symphony Orchestra

ScuttleMonkey posted more than 6 years ago | from the hopefully-no-stairs-to-the-conductors-podium dept.

Robotics 86

DeviceGuru writes to mention that Honda's ASIMO robot will apparently be leading the Detroit Symphony Orchestra in a performance of "Impossible Dream" from the conductors podium. Along with cellist Yo-Yo Ma, the mechanical marvel will hopefully have a better performance than some of the earlier public appearances. "Honda says it is giving the Detroit Symphony Orchestra a gift of more than $1 million to create The Power of Dreams Music Education Fund. The fund is intended to help the Detroit Public Schools, which has suffered from severe cost constraints that have hurt the district's ability to provide music education, offer students the opportunity to learn to play instruments, read music, and participate in bands or orchestras."

cancel ×

86 comments

Sorry! There are no comments related to the filter you selected.

Patronage (4, Insightful)

gihan_ripper (785510) | more than 6 years ago | (#23283394)

It's a shame that the Detroit public school system is in such a dire state that it has to stoop to entertaining Honda'a whims in order to gain funding. This harks back to the old days of wealthy patrons supporting the arts. Though in this case, it's a large Japanese corporation rather than individual aristocrats.

Re:Patronage (4, Insightful)

m.ducharme (1082683) | more than 6 years ago | (#23283514)

What old days? The patronage of wealthy people has never stopped funding the arts, and continues on to this day. Most major arts centres are funded in large part by their endowment funds, and those organizations pay money to people who ensure that those endowment funds continue to receive large donations.

Re:Patronage (4, Interesting)

gihan_ripper (785510) | more than 6 years ago | (#23283556)

Sorry, I should clarify that I'm writing from a European perspective. In Europe (certainly in the UK), the arts are primarily funded by the government, or by other public bodies. Read the BBC article [bbc.co.uk] . In this respect, the US is much more antiquated. Perhaps I shouldn't be surprised by this ASIMO story, but I am surprised none the less.

Re:Patronage (2, Interesting)

strabes (1075839) | more than 6 years ago | (#23283592)

You're making the assumption that the arts are better funded by government. Yes, I realize the Founders of the U.S. made provision for the "useful" Arts in Article I, Section 8, Clause 8 of the U.S. Constitution, but that is what is known as the "Copyright Clause" and says nothing of funding. I see no reason for government to become involved in funding the arts, especially when there is more than enough private capital readily available.

Re:Patronage (1)

gihan_ripper (785510) | more than 6 years ago | (#23283662)

I'm not actually gung-ho about government funding either. I agree with you that a massive bureaucracies are very poor at arts funding and I can point at many instances when people I know have suffered because of this kind of art-by-committee. However, my original post was meant to (whether or not it succeeded) point up the absurdities that occur when corporations rather than individuals get involved with arts funding. Corporate sponsors generally just want to be seen to be funding the arts, so they'll either throw around money indiscriminately, or (as in this case) will use the arts as an advertisement.

Re:Patronage (1)

strabes (1075839) | more than 6 years ago | (#23283730)

I agree. If corporations want to give their name a positive connotation, they should get involved in foreign aid and poverty elimination, C.K. Prahalad style. This will help them and the poor.

Re:Patronage (1)

somersault (912633) | more than 6 years ago | (#23284032)

Microsoft do plenty of that but I don't think it's given their brand a positive connotation :P They provide really (or ignore the illegal vesion) of Windows to poor countries). If you are only doing it for the publicity or future profits and not from generousity then it's still not really going to help your image. I think what Honda are doing is quite cool though, but I already liked them (just - they are a bit arrogant sometimes in areas such as motorsport).

Re:Patronage (1)

strabes (1075839) | more than 6 years ago | (#23284334)

Good point. I guess I was assuming that the corporation isn't evil to begin with, which isn't always the case.

Re:Patronage (3, Insightful)

owlnation (858981) | more than 6 years ago | (#23283792)

In Europe (certainly in the UK), the arts are primarily funded by the government, or by other public bodies. Read the BBC article. In this respect, the US is much more antiquated. Perhaps I shouldn't be surprised by this ASIMO story, but I am surprised none the less.
This is true, but this is not a good system -- at least in the UK. The problem with the Arts Council and Lottery funding is that is is bureaucratic, clique-ish, nepotistic, and absolutely thoroughly corrupt.They are unaccountable and wholly non-transparent.

As someone who work regularly with new filmmakers in the UK, let me assure you that none of these funding bodies will help anyone they don't know, or have a relationship with in some way. It's jobs for the boys -- just like any local government or NGO organization.

A mixture of Government funded things (with full transparency and accountability) and private finance is the only way to ensure new artists and new work is created.

For all that Europeans like to boast and be elitist about their arts systems, other than in the former communist countries, there's very little art created compared to the market driven US systems. Take TV for example -- the US TV shows hire the best people in the world, they are innovative and challenging despite the limits of the ratings system. There's no shows from any other country anywhere that offer that degree of technical talent, and technical innovation.

Re:Patronage (1)

drinkypoo (153816) | more than 6 years ago | (#23283982)

There's no shows from any other country anywhere that offer that degree of technical talent, and technical innovation.

On the other hand, most American television is entirely devoid of actual content - it's slickly processed shit. I'd rather have something of substance without the pretty wrapper.

It seems that many of the best documentaries and such (not to include the recent David Attenborough special on Polar Bears that doesn't even use the phrase "global warming" which is currently kicking some polar bear ass) as well as period dramas (the English love their periods) come out of England to this day. So it's not all bad :)

Re:Patronage (1)

timeOday (582209) | more than 6 years ago | (#23285228)

As someone who work regularly with new filmmakers in the UK, let me assure you that none of these funding bodies will help anyone they don't know, or have a relationship with in some way. It's jobs for the boys -- just like any local government or NGO organization.
I really, really don't see how you think private patronage is the solution to this? The American system: you let rich people write all the laws so they end up with the vast bulk of the wealth, then they fund whoever they feel like. Even if the government system is 100% corrupt, it only amounts to the same thing - commissioned art at the whim of a few.

Re:Patronage (1)

sir fer (1232128) | more than 6 years ago | (#23286588)

or worse scripts. Honestly, calling US TV "art" is stretching the definition of the term beyond breaking point, and then some. A better term would be "cultural propaganda"

Re:Patronage (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23291510)

there's very little art created compared to the market driven US systems. Take TV for example -- the US TV shows hire the best people in the world, they are innovative and challenging despite the limits of the ratings system. There's no shows from any other country anywhere that offer that degree of technical talent, and technical innovation.
Actually, this is due to the very market you conjure as a panacea. I live in Germany, and there's hardly any TV shows, series, movies etc. here that aren't imported (usually from the USA); but the reason for that is simply that doing so is cheaper.

I mean... imagine you're a TV station. You now have the choice to either buy a show from the USA that's already successful there (and which likely will be successful here, too) for a certain price and dub that, or create your own show, which may well fail and which will cost a (much) higher amount in any case. What do you do?

I have no idea how to solve this - in fact, I have no idea whether this is even really a problem, since as long as they're good, I couldn't care less about where shows come from -, but let's make no mistake; the market is what's created this situation, and it's a stable situation - a local maximum. There's other stable situations that could've arisen, but this is the one that did, and it's stable despite the free market.

Re:Patronage (1)

drinkypoo (153816) | more than 6 years ago | (#23283970)

Sorry, I should clarify that I'm writing from a European perspective. In Europe (certainly in the UK), the arts are primarily funded by the government, or by other public bodies.

Before that, it was funded by rich individuals.

In this respect, the US is much more antiquated.

I don't know that supporting artists is something best done by government. I think the most valid thing that Government can do in most situations is get out of the way.

Re:Patronage (1)

m.ducharme (1082683) | more than 6 years ago | (#23284336)

I don't know if "antiquated" is the right word. I'm in Canada, and here, the arts are inadequately funded by the government, and larger centres also have endowment funds with active recruiters. Is it more or less "antiquated" if the wealthier members of your society stop taking an interest in the arts? One nice thing about the endowment model vs the government funding model is that there is more stability and reliability in the level of funding. My wife worked as the general manager of a small live theatre, and every time there was an election at the provincial or federal level, her funding dried up for 3 months while the election campaign happened, and was likely to disappear if the government fell.

Re:Patronage (1)

bandgeek22 (1282814) | more than 6 years ago | (#23288646)

I wish they would fund the arts here in the US. because they don't. I'm in band and we have to make our own funds.Now they have the nerve to try to get rid of the arts and it makes me really mad. They have never burdened themselves with the costs and now they want to get rid of it. It is dumb. I wish I could hear their performance. It should be really interesting.

Re:Patronage (2, Funny)

portnux (630256) | more than 6 years ago | (#23283648)

What's a shame is that Honda won't offer me a million bucks to let that goofy thing mow my lawn.

Re:Patronage (1)

maxume (22995) | more than 6 years ago | (#23283768)

The public school system isn't stooping to anything. The DSO is stooping and using the resulting gift to help the schools. Everybody involved is clearly an asshole.

Re:Patronage (1)

jav1231 (539129) | more than 6 years ago | (#23284124)

No the shame is that much of that money will go to administrative uses or to the board and never make it to the teachers, let alone the student needs. Educational spending in this country is through the roof and the ROI is in the shitter. But hey, keep raising my taxes "for the children."

Re:Patronage (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23288750)

WTF are you talking about? The Detroit Public School System and the DSO are completely separate. Their missions are totally different: The DSO exists to make Detroiters feel slightly less desperate about the decline of their city. The public school system exists to raise funds to support the lavish lifestyle of Kwame Kilpatrick. In the oldened days, it used to have some function regarding education the kids of Detroit, but that quaint notion was set aside about 3 decades ago. And yes, I live in metropolitan Detroit, and am fully justified in my assertions.

Dearohdearohdear (3, Funny)

Harold Halloway (1047486) | more than 6 years ago | (#23283404)

Having known a few professional orchestral musicians in my time, I can tell you that they will be absolutely fucking delighted at having to play with a robot.

Re:Dearohdearohdear (1)

Plutonite (999141) | more than 6 years ago | (#23283418)

Yeah, but it makes for a more interesting story to tell the wife.. " director today was a robot!" is probably better than "we played the Chopin piece then got drunk as penguins at the hotel bar".

Re:Dearohdearohdear (2, Interesting)

psychodelicacy (1170611) | more than 6 years ago | (#23283922)

Many conductors I've worked with are egotistical, loud, and prone to temper-tantrums. At least these musicians won't have to put up with having obscenities hurled at them because they looked at the conductor the wrong way!

Re:Dearohdearohdear (1)

drinkypoo (153816) | more than 6 years ago | (#23284004)

All two [former] professional orchestral musicians I know are fucking dingbats. I do know two professional classical musicians who are not fucking dingbats, but one is a Chamber Music Cellist and the other is his wife who is a Pianist and has more recently become an Opera conductor. (She is Japanese, but not a robot.) Neither is "in the orchestra" in literal or figurative sense.

Both of the wingnuts I referred to earlier play strings (viola, violin) and the flute. Is it common that these people are brain-damaged? Maybe it has to do with the frequencies involved.

Re:Dearohdearohdear (1)

skeeto (1138903) | more than 6 years ago | (#23284860)

She is Japanese, but not a robot.

I am glad we got that cleared up, though I am a bit dissapointed now.

Re:Dearohdearohdear (2, Interesting)

PMuse (320639) | more than 6 years ago | (#23284430)

The human musicians don't need to follow the robot's direction for anything more than basic time keeping. It's not as if the robot were running the rehearsals or deciding musical interpretation. Call me when the robot learns to follow a human conductor.

At least Honda paid a reasonably good sum for this blatant product placement.

Re:Dearohdearohdear (3, Insightful)

erlando (88533) | more than 6 years ago | (#23284640)

It sounds like you've never sat in an orchestra. The conductor is more than basic timekeeping at all times. If this was not the case, why aren't all orchestras just using a metronome at their concerts?

My prediction is that this performance will be under par for the orchestra. It will sound mechanical.

Re:Dearohdearohdear (1)

PMuse (320639) | more than 6 years ago | (#23285538)

I've seen a fair number of celebrity guest conductors of orchestras in my day. At least this one will be programmed with the right numbers of measures and reasonable tempos (in effect, a moderately advanced metronome that is programmed with the number of measures and the tempo changes).

Yes, the performance will sound mechanical and uninspired to those with an ear for such things. A talented human conductor would supply more, but the robot can manage to get from start to finish because the musicians will compensate for its inadequacies.

Heck, the performance might not be that bad -- because a human conductor will rehearse the music and unify the musicians on interpretation. If the robot is programmed to direct in a way not incompatible with that interpretation, the musicians will supply much of what is needed. That does not that the robot is capable of doing a conductor's job -- he'll just play one on TV.

Indeed, why not? (1)

maillemaker (924053) | more than 6 years ago | (#23285736)

>It sounds like you've never sat in an orchestra. The conductor is more than basic timekeeping at all times.
>If this was not the case, why aren't all orchestras just using a metronome at their concerts?
>My prediction is that this performance will be under par for the orchestra. It will sound mechanical.

I played in a band through all of my school years until college.

While the director was essential during practice, during performance, all they /were/ was a metronome.

When I sang with a choral group, we did not have a director.

Good performers know the music and are in tune with one another. No metronome needed, human or otherwise.

Re:Indeed, why not? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23289880)

Right, and if come performance time the orchestra still needs to watch the conductor like a hawk...you can bet it's not going to be a very good performance.
 
The magic has to happen in rehearsal, or not at all.

Re:Dearohdearohdear (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23285922)

The funny thing is that the DSO, like any high-end professional orchestra, could probably put on a great performance of this piece without any conductor at all. When faced with a substandard conductor, professional-level musicians often stage a collective and unspoken mutiny, following each other and ignoring the conductor almost completely. The performance is good, the conductor follows along to keep up appearances, and the audience is usually none the wiser.

The difference in this case is that the robot can't follow the orchestra. If the performance sounds mechanical, it's not because the musicians couldn't play well without an emotional, human guiding hand. It's because they had to watch the robot and prevent the visual performance from looking bad.

Re:Dearohdearohdear (1)

spiderbitendeath (577712) | more than 6 years ago | (#23286000)

My orchestra conductor always told us we had to be able to play without her, in case she fell over dead on stage.

Re:Dearohdearohdear (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23291682)

It sounds like you've never sat in an orchestra.
Heavens. Did you even read the GP's post? That's precisely what he was saying - that the conductor's more than just a metronome with arms, and that therefore, the robot will not be able to replace one.

Re:Dearohdearohdear (2, Insightful)

Clomer (644284) | more than 6 years ago | (#23285890)

I am an orchestral musician myself (not at the professional level, but I do play the cello semi-regularly with a local community orchestra). I can tell you that by the time the group is ready for performance, the conductor's job is 99% complete. The main thing a human conductor does is run the rehearsals. He brings the Orchestra together so that they are ready to play together, with a unified vision of the music, on performance day. If he did his job right, then depending on the music he might not even have to be there for the performance.

I guarantee that this robot did not run the rehearsals. A human conductor did. And that human conductor is the true conductor of the performance, regardless of whatever is standing on the conductor's podium when the orchestra actually performs in front of an audience.

Re:Dearohdearohdear (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23287340)

My brother plays with the DSO. Can't wait to hear his reaction, though I imagine it will be something like, "His technique was a bit mechanical, but, still, he was better than ninety percent of the guest conductors we get. And, best of all, the strings hated him."

I think this is a good thing (4, Interesting)

CRCulver (715279) | more than 6 years ago | (#23283406)

When it comes to contemporary repertoire, the more "robotic" the conductor, the better the performance. This is because usually composers try to write exactly how their music should sound, extending the notation if necessary, instead of leaving it up to the judgement of the conductor, who might come up with something completely different. In Per Norgard's Symphony No. 3 [amazon.com] , for instance, the whole effect of the music is based on as close an adherence to the golden section as is humanly possible by the performers, and a conductor who plays what he sees without adding in any extraneous phrasing is desirable. In Elliott Carter's mature music, balancing all the tempos properly is extremely difficult for a human conductor.

I don't foresee ASIMO replacing human conductors permanently, but I suspect that any performance he conducted of modern works would sound better than those by conductors trained like Bernstein or Karajan, who tried to make the music fit their own universal style instead of following the wishes of the composer.

Re:I think this is a good thing (2, Insightful)

dreamchaser (49529) | more than 6 years ago | (#23283510)

Let's replace all the musicians as well then with robots who play each note perfectly just as the composer envisioned. No?

This is a bad thing for music, not a good thing, and a cheap publicity stunt.

Re:I think this is a good thing (1)

CRCulver (715279) | more than 6 years ago | (#23283642)

Let's replace all the musicians as well then with robots who play each note perfectly just as the composer envisioned. No?

Most of today's leading composers had composed electronic works, and the courses at IRCAM are extremely popular for musicians from all over the world. While writing for live human ensembles remains popular for several reasons (not least that few halls are set up for electronics), for several decades composers have been delighted by the greater control they have in how a piece ends up sounding when they work with electronics.

Re:I think this is a good thing (2, Insightful)

dreamchaser (49529) | more than 6 years ago | (#23283920)

I've been a musician for close to 30 years and I understand that, but the symphony is NOT the place for non human 'musicians'. There is a place for electronic music, and the symphony hall is NOT it.

Now get off my lawn.

Re:I think this is a good thing (3, Insightful)

drinkypoo (153816) | more than 6 years ago | (#23284012)

This is a bad thing for music, not a good thing, and a cheap publicity stunt.

Well, it doesn't sound like it's ALL that cheap. But seriously, why is it a bad thing for music? I mean, the same thing was said about the record player, the electric guitar, and the synthesizer (and still is today, but only by luddites. Get off my lawn, and turn down that music!)

Re:I think this is a good thing (1)

value_added (719364) | more than 6 years ago | (#23283530)

I don't foresee ASIMO replacing human conductors permanently, but I suspect that any performance he conducted of modern works would sound better than those by conductors trained like Bernstein or Karajan, who tried to make the music fit their own universal style instead of following the wishes of the composer.

Assuming, of course, the composer hasn't been dead for a few hundred years, isn't well known or understood, or the instruments used at the time are still available in the same form.

That said, I agree that the idea of replacing the human element has its limitations, but I guess what's most notable about the article is that the idea isn't as dismissable as it once was. I used to have a prejudiced view of anything electronic when it came to music (at least music that wasn't pop oriented). Real music had to be interpreted and played live, and each performance was, by definition, unique. That point of view mostly evaporated after I sat through a performance of a Disklavier [wikipedia.org] , essentially a modern-day version of a player piano. This press release [yamaha.com] might give everyone an idea as to what I'm talking about.

Luckily, at least for me, my own tastes tend toward solo pieces performed on stringed instruments. A machine may be able to conduct, or play a piano, but a cello or guitar, for example, would be beyond a machine's abilities. At least that's what I hope is and remains the case.

Re:I think this is a good thing (1)

vertinox (846076) | more than 6 years ago | (#23283676)

A machine may be able to conduct, or play a piano, but a cello or guitar, for example, would be beyond a machine's abilities. At least that's what I hope is and remains the case.

*coughs* [slashdot.org]

Actually, its not hard for any machine to play any type of music because music notation itself is a programming language, but I think the thing that humans have over machines is analog imperfection which is the hardest part for the machine to replicate which every performance a human gives is (like you said) unique.

The other... Which is probaly something that machine intelligence will achieve in the next 20 to 100 years is the ability to actually create music that is not only entertaining but as provocative as some of the great composers which so far not computer can do.

Even so in 500 years I bet there will still be artists and musicians performing their trades even though machines could do it thousand times better only because the experience the musician gets from actually performing. Experience is something a machine can't really do for you.

Re:I think this is a good thing (2)

erlando (88533) | more than 6 years ago | (#23284678)

A machine may be able to conduct, or play a piano, but a cello or guitar, for example, would be beyond a machine's abilities. At least that's what I hope is and remains the case.
*coughs* [slashdot.org]

You have GOT to be kidding me. That sounds like a 6 year old who just got finished with the first few lessons. The sound of every note is totally flat. It lacks any kind of touch. Mechanical and insulting to music.

Re:I think this is a good thing (1)

LordVader717 (888547) | more than 6 years ago | (#23286678)

but I think the thing that humans have over machines is analog imperfection

I've got a few machines sitting at home here who would like to disagree with you.

Re:I think this is a good thing (1)

BAM0027 (82813) | more than 6 years ago | (#23283712)

I acknowledge your point, especially your last paragraph. In my opinion, I see this as marketing campaign funding research with a touch of public entertainment thrown in.

Your point references several pieces that may be specific or even a trend with composition, but, and I could be wrong, The Impossible Dream which will be performed is probably _not_ one of those that was written for exacting performance.

For me, classical performance is a peculiar exercise that can produce amazing examples of grace whereupon the entire orchestra guided by the conductor has an opportunity to tap into the beauty that the composer wrote down. An essential part of this is interpreting the intent of the composer and that goes beyond the written note. That takes an experiential vocabulary of imagery and emotion that I doubt ASIMO has the capacity for.

For those compositions that are to be performed exactly as transcribed, I imagine them best executed with the composer as the conductor and that the performers would achieve creeping perfection within a studio for that optimal recording. The composer would be able to more fully convey his intent as words on paper are often lacking and, regardless of craft, usually open to interpretation. Not a better or worse kind of music, but different and, perhaps, more suited to a robotic performance.

That being said, if Honda has achieved emotion in ASIMO, I look forward to learning more from this performance. In the meantime, I laud Honda's use of marketing to benefit The Power of Dreams Fund.

Re:I think this is a good thing (1)

maxume (22995) | more than 6 years ago | (#23283808)

What does "sound better" end up meaning though?

Things like 'adherence to the golden section' sound an awful lot like the composer is substituting a demonstration of how clever he is for the stuff that Beethoven and Mozart called music.

Re:I think this is a good thing (1)

psychodelicacy (1170611) | more than 6 years ago | (#23283966)

Using the golden section is not particularly clever; the cleverness lies in the golden section itself and its apparent ability to enhance artistic beauty. Since it has been shown to do so in terms of visual arts, I think it's a valid and interesting endeavour to see whether it will have the same effect on music.

Medieval music is also a far cry from what Beethoven or Mozart would call music. A lot of it is far more like ultra-modern music such as minimalism than it is like what we think of as "classical" music. Every era has experimented with sound, and those experiments don't always produce anything one would want to hear. But they're worth the time and the trouble because, occasionally, they produce works of beauty and sheer genius.

Re:I think this is a good thing (1)

gardyloo (512791) | more than 6 years ago | (#23284518)

Using the golden section is not particularly clever; the cleverness lies in the golden section itself and its apparent ability to enhance artistic beauty. Since it has been shown to do so in terms of visual arts [...]
Meh. Yes, rectangular thingies appearing with something close to the golden ratio are often visually "balanced". And it does appear quite often (though one usually has to look closely for it) in nature. However, the spate of finding the golden ratio in every bit of classical architecture and sketch by Da Vinci is annoying when you realize that the findings are pretty much artistic numerology: The ratios are ALWAYS approximate (as they must be), and usually VERY approximate, along the lines of "Gosh, this thing and this thing are in the ratio of 1.5 to 1... It's the golden ratio!", and "If I just tweak this line to lie here, under this, instead of over that, well, that's pretty close to the golden ratio."

      I'm not aware of any artwork touted as having deliberately included the ratio in it, and being particularly pleasing.

Re:I think this is a good thing (1)

psychodelicacy (1170611) | more than 6 years ago | (#23285600)

I wasn't talking about art deliberately created with the ratio in mind, though, just that things that look good (it is claimed) often happen to have the golden ratio in them inherently. But you're right about it being pretty tenuous. Still, as something that's touted as being a thing of beauty, I maintain that trying to apply it to music is a worthwhile endeavour - regardless of whether the end result proves or disproves a theory.

Re:I think this is a good thing (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23283928)

I'm don't think you know what you're talking about.

Re:I think this is a good thing (4, Insightful)

zx75 (304335) | more than 6 years ago | (#23284112)

The composer gives you structure, the maestro gives it style. Regardless of the amount of notation, simply playing what is on the page without a sense of musicianship is terrible. Now at the professional level I am confident that the players know how to balance themselves and what to listen for... but it is impossible to hear exactly what you sound like down in the pit or on the stage. That is what the conductor is for, to listen to the sound and tell you what corrections to make while you play... something a robot is incapable of doing.

And then you have composers/conductors like John Philip Sousa, and the widely known Sousa-marches. Very technical pieces of work, fast, and they can be hard to play. In addition to that, the score that is written on the page is wrong. I mean, literally Sousa wrote down a lot of notes that you are not supposed to play! Sousa himself knew which parts to play and which to ignore, but others didn't... which is why a Sousa march was never as good unless Sousa himself was conducting it. Only a skilled and attentive conductor would be able to listen to how he actually conducts it and reverse engineer the mistakes that he intentionally made in the score.

Welcome to the world of modern music. A robot can keep time... but so can a metronome. Give me someone who can hear and give me the cues I need to play with the rest of the orchestra while I am busy being deafened by the trumpets.

- From an amateur but active Flautist

Domo Arigato Mr. Rubato (1)

toddhisattva (127032) | more than 6 years ago | (#23284470)

I, too, think this is a good thing.

Because material that can better be directed and performed by robots, should be performed by robots.

When it comes to contemporary repertoire, the more "robotic" the conductor, the better the performance. This is because usually composers try to write exactly how their music should sound, extending the notation if necessary, instead of leaving it up to the judgement of the conductor, who might come up with something completely different.
I can imagine the micromanagement - "trumpets with Schilke 14A4A mouthpiece" and "cellos with Appaloosa-hair bows, downstrokes to be executed 3 inches from the bridge and upstrokes 2 and 2/3 inches to rehearsal letter seven, then switch to Cleveland Bay bows and the metric system."

Husa with a 'tude!

If this is how they compose, they should give up on people entirely and start using AU & VST softsynths. They can make their own softsynths and control every blessed sample.

Instead of spending so much effort trying to make humans sound like robots, they could spend it making robots sound more human -- if this is why they bother with humans at all. I suspect these composers have severe control freak issues heavily laced with masochism, and removing the humans would remove their reason for composing.

I know, I'm a relict with a soft spot for Solti. Solti couldn't even control his principal trumpet player! It's the interaction that makes it rock.

----

My proggy compositions. [freewebs.com]
My modern softsynths. [freewebs.com]

Tom Gersic's Giant Free Audio Plug-In Site. [gersic.com]
KVR Audio Plug-In Clearinghouse. [kvraudio.com]

BTW, I've used a bored-out 14A4A while being conducted by Husa (the mouthpiece choice was my own). I know nothing about which horses make good bow hair and wood glue.

Re:I think this is a good thing (1)

jberryman (1175517) | more than 6 years ago | (#23285880)

When it comes to contemporary repertoire, the more "robotic" the conductor, the better the performance.
What a terrible generalization. Have you ever seen Boulez conduct? Mahler was extremely specific about what he desired in his music; should a conductor be likewise robotic when conducting his symphonies?

A conductor must have the same skills regardless of the era of the music being performed: he must have an incredible full understanding of the score, the ability to find and keep proper tempi through changes in tempo and meter, and the ability to accurately communicate the relevant bits of his understanding of the score to the relevant players on the fly, among many other things.

In fact, unless this robot is capable of following the orchestra to a certain degree, it would be quite odd, possibly challenging to play under it.

For a $1M Grant... (3, Insightful)

FurtiveGlancer (1274746) | more than 6 years ago | (#23283456)

I'd be willing to listen to robots play a kazoo arrangement of "Feelings" five times. Without earplugs!

2008: A Detroit Odyssey (1)

valentingalea (1039734) | more than 6 years ago | (#23283484)

- Open the pod bay doors ASIMO!

Isn't $1 million ... (2, Insightful)

NotBornYesterday (1093817) | more than 6 years ago | (#23283496)

... a lot of money for a fancy metronome?

Re:Isn't $1 million ... (1)

mrbluze (1034940) | more than 6 years ago | (#23283690)

... a lot of money for a fancy metronome?
Isn't it so true - Man doesn't need the devil to make him look a fool. He is perfectly capable of doing it himself.

So what?..... (1)

IHC Navistar (967161) | more than 6 years ago | (#23283502)

So what? You could get any robot with articulated "arms" with servomotors to conduct an orchestra.

Re:So what?..... (1)

potat0man (724766) | more than 6 years ago | (#23284622)

Yeah but could it turn around, bow at the end, and then walk off stage?




Didn't think so.

Any sufficiently advanced technology... (4, Interesting)

Moraelin (679338) | more than 6 years ago | (#23284746)

Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from a rigged tech demo.

I'd be a lot more enthusiastic about the Asimo if you could actually buy one and see it execute _your_ program, or take your direction. As it is, it's essentially a black box. With all that implies. For all we know, somewhere behind the stage some real guy with a wiimote could do the conducting, and the robot could be just a remotely controlled box.

We've never seen it do anything except in controlled, pre-prepared settings.

E.g., ok, it can walk around corners and up stairs. Can it still do it if we move the corners or the stairs? What about if I bring my own stairs? E.g., so one can move a cart and the other can take a cup from the cart. Does it still work if I come as a human and move the cart 3ft to the side from where the first robot left it? What if I move the tables around? Turning around, bowing and walking off the stage isn't much different. Can it still do it, if you rearrange that setup at all?

There are so many ways one could cheat those demos, it's not even funny. E.g., for all we know, it could just be programmed exactly where to put each foot, in X, Y, Z coordinates, and fly off the handle if the stairs don't match those. Or it could have an RFID chip in each place where it must place the foot, and essentially just home in on those with each foot. Etc.

Essentially we don't really _know_ what it does, except for being a high-tech publicity stunt for Honda. It could be the most advanced robot in the world, or it could be the hoax of the century, or something in between. We don't know.

So basically I'll wait until I see one perform in an uncontrolled environment, before getting all "OMG! Asimo!" fanboy. Until then, heck, the Roomba is more exciting. At least you can see for yourself what it does when you stand in its way.

So until I see it do stuff outside

Re:Any sufficiently advanced technology... (1)

Zackbass (457384) | more than 6 years ago | (#23285886)

Actually we do know. Before you fly off the handle with ignorant speculation you should at least try to find a few facts. As part of my robotics research I've had the opportunity to see an Asimo in completely impromptu situations. Disregarding this, most of the 'rigged' situations you describe such as open loop trajectories are STILL extremely difficult to do well for an underactuated machine like Asimo. You could have at least tried searching Google Scholar first.

Asimo's comment (1)

Armakuni (1091299) | more than 6 years ago | (#23283542)

"Play, my little humans, play! Muah ha ha haaa!"

No he di'nt! (0, Redundant)

goldaryn (834427) | more than 6 years ago | (#23283550)

cellist Yo-Yo Ma

B*tch say what??? Yo' mama is a cellist!

Naming Contest? (1)

martyb (196687) | more than 6 years ago | (#23283552)

They should have a contest to come up with a name for the ASIMO conductor...

My vote? MetroGnome [wikipedia.org] ? !!!

Re:Naming Contest? (1)

Danj2k (123765) | more than 6 years ago | (#23283782)

My vote? MetroGnome [wikipedia.org] ? !!!

Unfortunately MetroGnome [metrocentr...head.co.uk] is already in use as the name of the group of characters who entertain children at the Metro Centre in Gateshead, England (one of the largest shopping complexes in Europe)

conductors and orchestras (3, Informative)

chocolatetrumpet (73058) | more than 6 years ago | (#23283560)

Consider how orchestral musicians are hired: the best possible soloist (often the most bombastic) is auditioned, but expected to fit in and know their place once hired.

The role of the conductor is as much political--the tamer of egos--as it is musical. How soon ASIMO will take over these duties I cannot say.

Personally, the idea of an orchestra, with so many people trying to do the same thing at the same time, might as well be replaced with robots. A small ensemble where the musicians have room to improvise and explore their personal creativity is much more interesting to me.

Re:conductors and orchestras (1)

CRCulver (715279) | more than 6 years ago | (#23283628)

A small ensemble where the musicians have room to improvise and explore their personal creativity is much more interesting to me.

Who cares about musician's "personal creativity"? Your average performer might be good at manipulating his instrument to produce sounds, but he probably isn't too good at thinking up what sounds to produce to begin with. Composition requires years of training, and only a small amount of musicians have succeeded in doing both composition and performance. And beyond the years of study, simple composing a word requires abundant time and the ability to go back and correct your mistakes before the public hears the piece.

I for one much rather prefer to hear music written by composers who have had abundant time to come up with an interesting form and do the calculations to realize it. There's plenty of room for improvisation in other genres like jazz.

Re:conductors and orchestras (1)

psychodelicacy (1170611) | more than 6 years ago | (#23284010)

And yet a lot of our canonical composers wrote their music in the expectation that the performers would introduce some improvisation. Added parts would be improvised in medieval music, for example, as would harmonies or other lines in the Renaissance, and music of the Baroque period regularly contains movements which are simply a series of chord progressions based upon which the performer is meant to make up his own music. Concertos will often contain cadenzas, passages in which a soloist plays without accompaniment in free time - these sections may be specified by the composer, but are often left to be improvised.

Re:conductors and orchestras (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23284602)

That is a rather ignorant statement, imho. I am personally studying to become a professional trombone/euphonium player, and auditioning for a top orchestra is not about playing the most impressive and crazy solo. A typical audition for an orchestra generally involves a heavy emphasis on excerpts from pieces. The judges attempt to determine how well a person plays the excerpt in a way that would fit with the section and the orchestra.
Being a great section player is not the same as being a virtuoso soloist, and the two require different mindsets and very different styles of playing.

The subtleties required in most orchestral music requires the interpretation of humans. The conductor can not possibly convey all the nuances, and it often falls to the individual performer and section to create this while sticking to the guideline of what the conductor wants. A robot can not possibly interpret all of the gestures, expressions, and wants of the conductor.

huh? (1)

jberryman (1175517) | more than 6 years ago | (#23285934)

That's not really how orchestral musicians are hired. But you're right, I guess this whole "orchestra" thing will never work out, what with the hopelessness of us all "trying to do the same thing at the same time".

Directional sense of hearing ??? (1)

xhydra (1083949) | more than 6 years ago | (#23283596)

Does ASIMO have directional hearing because that is one of the most important skills of a conductor. This enables them to essentially conduct the orchestra. If ASIMO has this capability then it wont be long till your wive/ girlfriend runs off with one of these bots.

then/than (1)

Foole (739032) | more than 6 years ago | (#23283604)

...a better performance than...

awesome-o (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23283658)

what about AWESOME-O ?

I for one... (1)

HungSoLow (809760) | more than 6 years ago | (#23283674)

I for one welcome our symphony conducting robot overlords!

does anyone else see the irony... (3, Insightful)

acroyear (5882) | more than 6 years ago | (#23283716)

...inherent in the very idea that a Japanese robot from a Japanese car company will be leading an orchestra in the center of what used to be America's car manufacturing empire?

Stuff that Matters (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23283786)

How was this greenlit?

DPS (3, Interesting)

snkline (542610) | more than 6 years ago | (#23283814)

I wouldn't donate money to Detroit Public Schools unless it was with the stipulation that the entire administration be replaced. DPS's financial problems are caused by horrible mismanagement of funds, not because there wasn't enough money to begin with. I wouldn't be suprised if none of that money ends up going to music education....

Re:DPS (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23284950)

What you said about administrations is likely to be true for more than half of the public schools in the U.S. It's much worse than just a Detroit thing, unfortunately.

The singularity has arrived (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23284130)

I for one welcome our new robotic conductor overlords.

Detroit is a disaster. The voters are responsible. (4, Insightful)

Luscious868 (679143) | more than 6 years ago | (#23284296)

Perhaps if Detroit wasn't run by a corrupt mayor [freep.com] it's public schools system would be in better shape. Why do African Americans refuse to hold their elected officials accountable when they have clearly committed serious crimes? Marion Barry, William Jefferson, Kwame Kilpatrick and the list goes on. It's a real problem in Detroit going back to the Coleman Young days. Detroit voters would rather stick it to the suburbs by rallying around whichever black candidate paints the other black candidate as being white and in the end the only thing they end up sticking it to is themselves.

Don't believe me? Check out Kwame's State of the City [wxyz.com] speech and then try and tell me that he isn't trying to rally ignorant African American voters to his side by placing the race card. Read the text messages between himself and the women he was cheating with his wife on. The only person calling Kwame a "nigga" was his mistress.

BIG DEAL... ... NOT (1)

Jane Q. Public (1010737) | more than 6 years ago | (#23285062)

So what? A remote-control conductor. The minimum technology to do that has been around since at least the early 1800s, and probably long before then. Now, if they could PROGRAM it to conduct the orchestra, all on its own, start to finish, then I would be impressed.

Hmm (1)

anza (900224) | more than 6 years ago | (#23285276)

That's one expensive metronome.

Little more than a $20 mill metronome (1)

clicktician (1210898) | more than 6 years ago | (#23287048)

I would love to be there so I could scream "stand on one foot! Do the Hokee Pokee and turn yourself about!" Detroit kids will learn that conducting is nothing more than waving your arms to a programmed pattern.

Conducting is about 1% physical the rest is musicianship. Gestures are used because they are silent. And during the performance, what happens next is based mostly on what has happened up until that moment.

ASIMO knows only gestures. It knows nothing of the performance or whether the musicians are even playing, so why not make it funny to the audience?

Yeah, right... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23288956)

...so a robot will pretend to be a conductor? I bet it is nothing more than a fancy metronome - but most orchestra do know how to follow the 1st chair violist - for example with a guest conductor is there who does not know diddly-squat.

Big Fat Hairy deal. Will it really know how to quiet the trombones when they are too loud or get the cellos to play more staccto when they are dragging?

The robot is not conducting.... (1)

jotaeleemeese (303437) | more than 6 years ago | (#23318740)

Conduction is done during rehearsals, there the different sections of the orchestra fine tune how the piece of music will be interpreted and later on all the sections of the orchestra are "stitched" together in order to deliver a performance of the work in question.

To direct an orchestra you require of many intellectual attributes that currently are not the grasp of any robot, no matter how advanced.

In any orchestra the director can safely take a sit during the performance and the music would flow flawlessly.
Check for New Comments
Slashdot Login

Need an Account?

Forgot your password?

Submission Text Formatting Tips

We support a small subset of HTML, namely these tags:

  • b
  • i
  • p
  • br
  • a
  • ol
  • ul
  • li
  • dl
  • dt
  • dd
  • em
  • strong
  • tt
  • blockquote
  • div
  • quote
  • ecode

"ecode" can be used for code snippets, for example:

<ecode>    while(1) { do_something(); } </ecode>