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Broadway Musicians Replaced With Synthesizers

timothy posted more than 3 years ago | from the making-love-to-a-corpse dept.

Music 319

wooferhound writes "Sophisticated synthesizers and computer-manipulated recordings are increasingly taking over orchestras. Sounding almost like real players, while costing much less, they're especially popular with provincial or touring companies. But until mid-July — when 'West Side Story's' producers announced that a synthesizer was replacing three live violinists and two cellists, or half the orchestra's string section — staff violinist Paul Woodiel thought that at least the classics would be immune to the trend. There are computer programs able to read and play back music scores — a boon to composers who can now hear their work as they write — and software allowing conductors to control the tempo of the machine, in the same way that they direct live players."

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319 comments

Your post (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33097044)

Replaced by my fp

I can't wait... (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33097052)

...until the Rocky Horror Show is completely synthesized and performed by robots with buggy participation.

Captcha: waived

Re:I can't wait... (1)

jshackney (99735) | more than 3 years ago | (#33097482)

Anxiously awaiting the MST3K broadcast of this masterpiece.

What is the issue? (2, Insightful)

h4rr4r (612664) | more than 3 years ago | (#33097062)

What is the issue here?
We automate lots of other work, why not this?

Oh noes, someone is no longer going to be doing a repetitive job better done by a machine, truly the end of the world.
Why where they not already using recordings was my first question when I saw this article.

Re:What is the issue? (-1, Flamebait)

DriedClexler (814907) | more than 3 years ago | (#33097118)

The difference is that Broadway musicians weren't producing anything of value in the *first place*. In contrast, say, buggy-whip makers did produce something of value, it's just that they were obviated by the production of something even more valuable.

Anyone sad that Broadway won't have *real* musicians anymore? *Yawn* ... didn't think so. Broadway musicals are for the easily-amused. (Like people who find significance in the presence of two words with root "muse" that I just used, or how "muse" rhymes with "use".) Or people who feel they have something to gain by association with Broadway.

Re:What is the issue? (2, Insightful)

roman_mir (125474) | more than 3 years ago | (#33097382)

Well, many people who do not produce anything make a lot of money doing it anyway.

Basketball players. Hockey players. American football. Soccer. Tennis. Sprint runners. High Frequency Trade floor owners. Politicians. Various PHBs. Many people who supposedly do 'create' something as well, we have all seen programmers like that, it's not only managers who can be occupying space and taking in salary and not producing shit.

I bet a mid-range professional violin player does not make anywhere near the same money as a mid-range professional basketball player. That's because the paying audience is limited to the theater and I don't know what kind of advertising deals they get either, but it would be inconceivable. However they do produce something: an experience for the customer - patron.

So now if you go to a show expecting live music but instead you get pre-recorded computer music, isn't that similar to lip-synching and at least shouldn't that be reflected in the ticket prices and in the show description, because if you RTFA you'll find out that the customers apparently didn't even know that half of the orchestra was replaced with a (badly built - apparently it crashes too often) computer program.

So the ticket prices need to reflect this new reality, because otherwise it's only 'helping' the top management who get in more dough, that's about it.

Re:What is the issue? (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33097390)

Well, yes, there are people who are sad. For example, people like me, a violinist still studying in school whose dream is to perform with professional theatrical groups in ballet, opera, cabaret, and, yes, Broadway. I suspect that when you see the phrase "Broadway musical" you're thinking of works like "Beauty and the Beast" or "Oklahoma", but musicals have come a hell of a long way from there, and suggesting that all musicals that have ever been on Broadway are simplistic, conceptually or musically, is just displaying your own ignorance. And that aside, even works at the Rodgers-and-Hammerstein level present plenty of opportunities for *actual* musicians (unlike synthesizers) to add to the expressive quality of every song and scene. This is a story about machines being used, not to let people out of a tough task, but taking jobs away entirely and reducing an art form to a less complex and less musically pure sound (not to mention massacring the intentions of the composers of these musicals).

Re:What is the issue? (1)

QuantumLeaper (607189) | more than 3 years ago | (#33097624)

I agree with you, I used to play the violin but I was never good at it. Why even use a Synthesizers, just record the score and play it back on an MP3 player, it even more portable, and will sound the same. What's next replaces the Actors with robots?

Re:What is the issue? (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33097120)

I can't wait until they automate programing and all related computer tasks. Removing the 'person' from those duties will save money and reduce errors

Re:What is the issue? (1)

h4rr4r (612664) | more than 3 years ago | (#33097156)

I agree, the humans can spend their lives with far less drudgery.

Re:What is the issue? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33097470)

We could just use the software we have got, and stop writing any new software.
There is a total glut of software, for every possible task, and it's so easy to copy that there is no reason to keep writing new programs.
There are already more computer games out there than I could play in a lifetime.

Eventually, the software industry is just going to have to face the fact that the days of artificial scarcity are over.

Re:What is the issue? (1)

h4rr4r (612664) | more than 3 years ago | (#33097490)

That is what FREE software is doing, or did you think this was some actual revelation you were making?

Re:What is the issue? (3, Insightful)

ImNotAtWork (1375933) | more than 3 years ago | (#33097122)

There are some people who enjoy going to the same live show multiple times. They relish in what is the same as well as what is different in each performance. A synth is not even close to a live performer. A recording gets mundane to those who go to multiple showings. It is similar to the difference of using a code generator and point and click interface for a novice compared to getting in there yourself and seeing what the real code is and writing it yourself.

Re:What is the issue? (1)

h4rr4r (612664) | more than 3 years ago | (#33097164)

I would think those people would go to the orchestra.

Re:What is the issue? (5, Insightful)

Naturalis Philosopho (1160697) | more than 3 years ago | (#33097258)

Good point. I'm not a big Broadway fan, but isn't the point of a live show, after all, the fact that it's being performed, uh, live. If I want to heare edited recordings, or speakers, I'll go to a movie or wait for the Netflix viewing of the same story rather than pay for an expensive ticket to sit in a tiny theater in the middle of a dirty city to hear the same recorded sounds.

Re:What is the issue? (2, Informative)

king neckbeard (1801738) | more than 3 years ago | (#33097396)

I'm sure the lights of many live shows are just as if not more controlled than this. You may say that lights aren't as important as music, but I'd say that's a matter of opinion and people in the respective fields would probably disagree.

Re:What is the issue? (3, Insightful)

timeOday (582209) | more than 3 years ago | (#33097556)

Are you inherently against automation, or is the limitations of currently technology you don't like? I see those as two separate issues.

Ayways, I would support a truth-in-advertising requirement, but otherwise let people vote with their pocketbooks. If I'm watching a movie, I'd rather watch it with a highly produced soundtrack playing over loudspeakers (i.e. what is actually done now) rather than piano accompaniment (like the old days), yet nobody would buy orchestra tickets just to watch a "conductor" push the Play button.

Re:What is the issue? (4, Informative)

wooferhound (546132) | more than 3 years ago | (#33097616)

Live performances are never the same, that is why the orchestra is there. The song can be faster one night, or the onstage actor may change things up to keep it interesting, the orchestra can make changes on the fly that go along with what is happening onstage. A repeat customer appreciates the differences that they experience. It may be the same show but it is different every performance.

I am a spotlight operator at our local theater and I can assure you that a Broadway show is different every night. This is what keeps the crew awake during something that could be incredibly repetitive.

Re:What is the issue? (1)

king neckbeard (1801738) | more than 3 years ago | (#33097300)

It said that these machines can be 'conducted.' I'm not sure how sophisticated this is going to be, but it seems to leave a human element still present. Furthermore, it can give composers a larger sonic palette, meaning that they can easily switch between a traditional orchestra, a latin ensemble, an array of synths, and various new combinations without having to deal with the logistics being insane.

Re:What is the issue? (1)

wrf3 (314267) | more than 3 years ago | (#33097330)

There are some people who enjoy going to the same live show multiple times. They relish in what is the same as well as what is different in each performance. A synth is not even close to a live performer. A recording gets mundane to those who go to multiple showings.

There's no reason that a synthesizer has to generate the same performance each time. I'm sure someone will come up with heuristics to give a synthesized performance a "live" feel.

Re:What is the issue? (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33097124)

You could replace the actors by robots, or by a fancy projector. But you don't, because it's a live show on Broadway, not a movie or a video game. People expect live performances by the actors, why not by the musicians too?

Re:What is the issue? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33097190)

it doesn't matter what people expect. it matters what they shell out of their wallet. If the audience doesn't like it and stop attendi .. you know where this is going.

Re:What is the issue? (2, Insightful)

nomoreunusednickname (1471615) | more than 3 years ago | (#33097256)

Movies used to be silent, accompanied by a live piano player. Times are changing, i'm sure you will find people who pay for your robot actors.

Re:What is the issue? (1)

ohiovr (1859814) | more than 3 years ago | (#33097420)

Movies used to be silent, accompanied by a live piano player. Times are changing, i'm sure you will find people who pay for your robot actors.

Like at Chucky Cheese!

Re:What is the issue? (1)

QuantumLeaper (607189) | more than 3 years ago | (#33097684)

Sounds more like the Hall of Presidents at Disney World but Chucky Cheese works too, I guess...

Re:What is the issue? (4, Funny)

Inner_Child (946194) | more than 3 years ago | (#33097468)

There's already precedent for this - plenty of people paid to see Hayden Christensen as Anakin.

Re:What is the issue? (1)

shawb (16347) | more than 3 years ago | (#33097580)

I have personally paid multiple times to see robotic musicians. [capturedbyrobots.com]

Re:What is the issue? (2, Insightful)

jonbryce (703250) | more than 3 years ago | (#33097128)

The issue is that if they do that, I may as well buy a recording and play it on my iPod.

Re:What is the issue? (1)

h4rr4r (612664) | more than 3 years ago | (#33097168)

99% of the time I agree you might as well do that. If this is not popular or does not lower cost no one is going to do it. Nothing to get worked up over.

Re:What is the issue? (5, Insightful)

ushering05401 (1086795) | more than 3 years ago | (#33097166)

What is the issue here?

And industry founded on the creation, performance, and appreciation of human creativity is about to suffer devaluation of the human talent upon which it is based.

We automate lots of other work, why not this?

Because this is not 'work,' it is multi-sensory immersion into a subjective framework of context and meaning. Otherwise they could just have the beeb 'casters get up and read the scores/scripts and no one would notice a difference.

Oh noes, someone is no longer going to be doing a repetitive job better done by a machine, truly the end of the world. Why where they not already using recordings was my first question when I saw this article.

Let me guess: Your world view is that it is turtles all the way down?

Re:What is the issue? (1, Informative)

h4rr4r (612664) | more than 3 years ago | (#33097216)

And industry founded on the creation, performance, and appreciation of human creativity is about to suffer devaluation of the human talent upon which it is based.

Put down the bong. This is an industry like every other. If anything this will make the creators able to produce more works. You are just mistaking the workers for the creators. Also by reducing cost it should allow more people to be creators rather than workers.

Re:What is the issue? (3, Insightful)

FuckingNickName (1362625) | more than 3 years ago | (#33097384)

Acting and playing music require creativity (as creativity requires work). For example, Patrick Stewart enables Shakespeare, Scrooge and Star Trek. This is not because he understands how robots work but because he understands how humans work.

If you think that acting is for robotic simpletons, you are welcome to upload to Youtube a video of yourself reprising any of Stewart's roles. For Youtube is full of fools who think they are stars, but few so pompous as to regard a live performance as nothing but a subroutine executed.

Re:What is the issue? (2, Funny)

h4rr4r (612664) | more than 3 years ago | (#33097422)

And yet in musicals the actors/singers get the their names on the credits.

Patric Stewart is in deed a fine actor, but far less creative than the person who wrote his roles. If a machine could do his job, and allow him to be even more creative, why not? You don't think he would like to be able to create virtual partrics that could go out and perform works while he did whatever he liked? Perhaps even performing a work he particularly enjoyed while they make him money or perform other useful work?

Re:What is the issue? (4, Insightful)

FuckingNickName (1362625) | more than 3 years ago | (#33097494)

Patric Stewart is in deed a fine actor, but far less creative than the person who wrote his roles.

Shakespeare was exceptionally creative with English and his plays can be admired even on paper (still much better with good actors, though). But TNG's writing was symbiotic with Stewart's panache, and TNG would have been shit if you or I had played Picard.

If a machine could do his job, and allow him to be even more creative, why not?

But a machine cannot do his job - to interpret a character and respond to a live audience as effectively as a human requires a human (or something sufficiently close to a human that it should enjoy the rights of a human). And it does not follow that a machine doing his job would "allow him to be" something else - he may have neither the interest nor strength of ability in writing that he possesses in acting. The guy's been honing only one of these skills for decades.

You don't think he would like to be able to create virtual partrics that could go out and perform works while he did whatever he liked?

Creating little humans somewhat like you and with the ability to perform as well as you do is having children. Children are not your slaves.

Perhaps even performing a work he particularly enjoyed while they make him money or perform other useful work?

I have no indication that Stewart's bottleneck in life is his lack of money.

Re:What is the issue? (3, Insightful)

PixelSlut (620954) | more than 3 years ago | (#33097620)

This industry is different in that the workers are also creators. Musicians take what is written on a page and do something creative with it. There is always a ton of detail that is left out of music, and it's up to the performers to fill in that detail. Claude Debussy said that "music is the space between the notes."

Beethoven was the first composer to provide actual tempo markings (as in, 120 beats per minute, as opposed to just saying "Allegro" or whatever). Before him it was up to the performers to figure out how fast something should go based upon a couple words. As things progressed, composers added more and more detail to their works. Look at some works by Mahler or Hindemith and there is a lot more detail there. But even then, they're leaving out a ridiculous amount of information that's being filled in by the best judgement of trained musicians who understand the styles they're playing.

Yeah, technology helps composers create works faster and more easily. But I don't think most composers would be very happy having their works performed by machines at this point. The machines just aren't yet capable of sounding that interesting.

Re:What is the issue? (2, Funny)

GNUALMAFUERTE (697061) | more than 3 years ago | (#33097528)

Well, if there were any actual theater in Broadway, I'd say you are right, but 99.999% of Broadway is not art, is Musicals.

Broadway is the cheap gringo alternative to actual theater. You go and see a lot of assholes run around and sing shit, that's your cheap replacement for actual theater.

Here, we call that "Teatro de Revista" and only the illiterate masses go see that shit.

The day Broadway figures out how to replace actors with holograms, they will, and nothing of value will be lost.

Did you knew that the ONLY country in the world where Musical Theater means 90% of all productions is the USA? Around the rest of the world, Drama and Comedy still reign. Musicals are for the illiterate masses.

You need a new symbol for Theater, that replaces the masks of Thalia and Melpomene for the silhouettes of the left and right gluteus of Andrew Lloyd Webber with a huge $ symbol smeared all over.

Re:What is the issue? (4, Insightful)

JWSmythe (446288) | more than 3 years ago | (#33097224)

    Machines make perfect replications. They can play the composure exactly as written. Unfortunately, that's a beginners mistake. When you play from the sheet music, you can tell the people who are beginners. They can play the written music technically perfect, but they can't put any feeling into it. An excellent musician will play a song where you'll feel it. It's that little something extra that we put in, so you know there's something special to it.

    I guess in an orchestral setting, you want that technical perfection. Every element of a section must play just like the rest of the elements, or something will sound wrong.

    What they're headed towards is technical perfection of the piece. It doesn't take a bunch of machines playing the part. They could do a lot better with a good recording of the orchestra. By recreating parts of the orchestra with machines, all they're doing is making themselves feel all warm and fuzzy because they spent a lot of money doing it. Wheee, you've reinvented MIDI.

    People usually show up to live shows to see the live show. If they want a recording, they can rent the video.

    I go out to see live bands. If I wanted to hear the jukebox, I'd just go where there is no live band. There's a difference, no matter how well it was recorded.

Re:What is the issue? (4, Informative)

CRCulver (715279) | more than 3 years ago | (#33097428)

Machines make perfect replications. They can play the composure exactly as written. Unfortunately, that's a beginners mistake. When you play from the sheet music, you can tell the people who are beginners. They can play the written music technically perfect, but they can't put any feeling into it.

Depends on the composer. It is true that scores of earlier epochs left much of the detail out, and the only reason we know that the musician's deviation from the score isn't incompetence but "feeling" is because of a continuous performance tradition. Of course, with ancient music there's much controversy, because the scores have very little detail at all, but we're not sure exactly how these pieces were performed.

But there are plenty of composers who want their music to be performed exactly as notated, with the musician putting what he thinks is "feeling" into it. They have gone on to add so much detail to their scores that the musician couldn't possibly introduce something extraneous. Ferneyhough's scores are hyper-notated like this, as are a few of Ligeti's pieces (the Cello Concerto, for instance). Stockhausen and Xenakis have written scores where instead of a general metronome marking for the movement, each segment is specified as a certain number of seconds so that the conductor or musicians don't add any rubato.

Re:What is the issue? (4, Interesting)

KiloByte (825081) | more than 3 years ago | (#33097440)

You are _mostly_ right. The sheet music doesn't contain full information. A good part is missing and has to be re-added by a musician every time the composition is being played.

But... what if you record _that_? Or, create good enough algorithms that can guess that missing information?

You get the same effect as live musicians -- and if you want little errors here and there, they can be introduced as well, just like deBeers' claims that mined diamonds are "better" can be derailed by adding some junk to diamonds being grown.

Re:What is the issue? (1)

JustinOpinion (1246824) | more than 3 years ago | (#33097478)

An excellent musician will play a song where you'll feel it. It's that little something extra that we put in, so you know there's something special to it.

But, that "little something extra" is undoubtedly quantifiable. Physically, it amounts to the minute details of the timing of notes (e.g. intentional mis-timing), how long notes are held for, and so on. Obviously, all these things could be recorded and analyzed. Currently, music scores just list the notes, but one could easily markup a score with thousands of details appended to each note, telling a synthesizer how to play that note. The computer reproduction would then convey every bit of the emotion and "something extra" that the human had.

But of course you could argue that this would just amount to a perfect recording of the sound of the expert human musician. The computer cannot, one might argue, improvise, or respond to the conductor's cues about timing, emotion, and so on. But, again, this all sounds fairly quantifiable. There is nothing magic about music that sounds "sadder" or "angrier" or even transcendent. In each case, an algorithm can, in principle, be developed that lets a computer automatically apply all the right micro-details to the notes. And it's again just a technical challenge to write software that allows a conductor to switch between algorithms in real-time (e.g. in response to what's happening on stage).

I'm not saying these are trivial problems to solve. Like any problem in AI, it's truly vexing and makes us appreciate how good humans are at many tasks. But I fail to see anything in the skill of a musician that cannot be recorded, analyzed, understood, and turned into an algorithm. Like other areas of AI, the problem will seem impossible... until one day it is solved and then it becomes obvious that computers can do that task. Already computers can play music at a level that laymen can scarcely tell the difference. I doubt it will be very long before even an expert can't tell the difference in a blinded test.

So, while I agree with you that an excellent musician puts something special into their work, I think it is a mistake to characterize computers/machines as mere perfect replicators--they can do quite a lot more, and indeed will soon enough be making deeply emotional-sounding music all by themselves. (Whether this is good or bad or course depends on your perspective.)

Re:What is the issue? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33097512)

I am sure we can make a robot that closes its eyes and makes a "im trying to shit" face that 90% of "musicians" use to show "feeling"

fact is remove that visual cue and you cant tell the difference (most of the time)

Not repetative (1)

spopepro (1302967) | more than 3 years ago | (#33097226)

The problem is: It's not repetitive. Time in a production is not kept strict. Actors botch things all the time. Now, if you were able to automate the actors, the stage manager, the run crew, the lighting and probably the audience as well, then the automated music will work perfectly.

Re:Not repetative (1)

fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) | more than 3 years ago | (#33097314)

We've had automated systems capable of maintaining at least limited feedback relationships with their environments since the days when pneumatics were cutting edge.

This isn't somebody opening winamp and hitting "play". That would, indeed, be pathetically inadequate.

A system capable of, say, tracking a conductor would be just slightly above the tech level of the gaming peripheral that microsoft will be rolling out at $150 a pop in the near future. I'm sure a pro-level setup can do better right now(and, if need be, you can always cheat a bit. Nothing like making something IR reflective to make a machine vision system's life easier...)

I don't know whether synthesized musicians will cut it with live audiences or not; but keeping pace with some environmental stimuli is not going to be the limiting factor.

Re:What is the issue? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33097332)

The difference is powerful unions, with political and other connections.

I would guess this will eventually lead to a very unpleasant situation.

Re:What is the issue? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33097344)

The issue here is that playing samples out of a PA system sounds like shit compared to a live orchestra.

Re:What is the issue? (1)

Major Downtime (1840554) | more than 3 years ago | (#33097380)

won't be long until the synthesizers get outsourced.

Re:What is the issue? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33097682)

Music is art, not science.

Sorry (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33097068)

Sucks to be outsourced, sorry to hear it.

Signed,

Computer Programmers
Manufacturers
Textile Workers
Tech Support
etc...

Hey they came for us first ... (1)

opencity (582224) | more than 3 years ago | (#33097292)

sound systems circa 1962, midi circa 1982, protools 1990-ish. They've had machines to do that for a while.

"first they came for the rhythm sections, but as I did not play bass ..."

signed,

a still sometimes working musician

ps: File sharing screwed the lawyers, not the players. Won't someone think of the lawyers ... sob ...

Help me out here... (3, Insightful)

Chordonblue (585047) | more than 3 years ago | (#33097090)

What would be the difference between having a synth play this live, or simply a recording of a synth playing during a live performance? The one question I would ask is: Did replacing actual musicians make the ticket prices go down?

A: Probably not. Profits will be up though!

Copyrights? (1)

mangu (126918) | more than 3 years ago | (#33097150)

What would be the difference between having a synth play this live, or simply a recording of a synth playing during a live performance?

If you play a recording you have to pay to the recording copyright's owner.

If you play from the original score you have to pay to the score copyright's owner.

Perhaps the second means a lower cost than the first.

Re:Copyrights? (1)

tepples (727027) | more than 3 years ago | (#33097182)

If you play a recording you have to pay to the recording copyright's owner.

If you play from the original score you have to pay to the score copyright's owner.

As I understand it, if you play a recording, you have to pay both.

Re:Copyrights? (1)

fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) | more than 3 years ago | (#33097364)

I suspect that synchronization is more important than licensing costs(particularly since a good software synth costs $$$$ while a FLAC decoder costs $0).

If you play a recording, the action on stage has to happen exactly as fast as it would have during the recorded session. If you have a synth being fed input from a camera tracking the conductor and/or scene changes from the guys in the lighting booth, your music will stay in time with your actors.

Re:Help me out here... (1)

h4rr4r (612664) | more than 3 years ago | (#33097172)

Or less profitable productions will continue on as they have lower costs.

I bet that more than anything.

Tempo (1)

tepples (727027) | more than 3 years ago | (#33097198)

What would be the difference between having a synth play this live, or simply a recording of a synth playing during a live performance?

Read the summary. The synth handles tempo changes far better.

Re:Help me out here... (1)

sonsonete (473442) | more than 3 years ago | (#33097206)

If you have a recording, the orchestra can't adjust for a mistake or improvisation on the stage. A computer can be programmed to listen for certain cues, but still doesn't have the necessary skill to make the minute adjustments necessary to keep everyone in sync. With a live synth controlled by a conductor, there's still someone there who can adapt to less-than-ideal circumstances. Replace the actors with robots, though, and there's not much of a difference.

Broadway, last bastion of resistance (2, Interesting)

fyoder (857358) | more than 3 years ago | (#33097100)

software allowing conductors to control the tempo of the machine, in the same way that they direct live players.

I did something like this with an Apple IIe in the early days of MIDI in a scene where an actor had to fake playing the piano faster and faster as the scene progressed. Up in the booth I tapped up the tempo following the actor, rather than have the actor have to follow a recording.

What's amazing about Broadway is that it has held out so long. In large part that's due to unions, but I think also audience expectations. One isn't surprised a low budget production in the boonies would cut corners, but if you shell out for a Broadway ticket, you want the full meal.

Re:Broadway, last bastion of resistance (4, Interesting)

LizardKing (5245) | more than 3 years ago | (#33097178)

The Kahler "Human Clock" was a MIDI clock generator that allowed drummers to control the tempo of sequencers. They were produces back in the late 1980s, and one was used by New Order.

maybe they'll work it into the script (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33097110)

The Jets designated geeks will sit in front of the stage controlling the music on Windows PCs during their musical numbers, while the Sharks use MacBooks.

What about the artists? (3, Insightful)

mangu (126918) | more than 3 years ago | (#33097112)

The media industry makes so much noise about what they call "piracy" supposedly causing artists to starve, how can they allow this automation to happen?

After all, a live performance is much harder to "steal". The only way I can imagine of doing it would be drilling holes in the theater wall to let people watch from the outside without paying.

Automating musicians' jobs takes away one sure way they have to earn a living.

Re:What about the artists? (1)

j-b0y (449975) | more than 3 years ago | (#33097234)

Indeed. I'm not sure what the industry could do in this case. It would be up to the theatre owner to contact the musicians - which they can choose not to do. I imagine the composed would get a cut if electronic score has to be licensed for public performance (it would be slightly strange for this not to be the case).

It might be hard to find musicians later though; I'm not sure many musicians make a full time career out of this sort of work, but it might be just be the last straw - god knows I've seen enough string quartets busking these days and that can't be much of a money spinner.

All in all, it sucks to be a musician these days - composing, recording or performing seems to be a talent which is rather unappreciated (to the extent that anybody is willing to pay for what a musician produces).

Re:What about the artists? (3, Insightful)

h4rr4r (612664) | more than 3 years ago | (#33097262)

Or maybe making things that sound like they could have been made 500 years ago is not something people will pay much money for.

It is not like they have a right to make money producing something no one likes. I do a lot of DIY stuff, much of it no one would buy but I still do it. I have a day job, and I suggest these folks investigate idea.

reminds me of (1)

crow5599 (994334) | more than 3 years ago | (#33097116)

Reminds me of the early 1900s, when live orchestras would play during silent movies. Along came recorded movie sound, and thus pre-recorded musical scores to accompany them, and the musicians protested this invasion and the loss of their jobs. I was trying to find an entry about it on the Paleo Future blog, can't seem to.

Live performance different from film (5, Interesting)

spopepro (1302967) | more than 3 years ago | (#33097180)

There is a major difference. The big moment that happens at 93:27:34 in the movie will always happen at 93:27:34. There is no such dependability in live performance.

I've made a few paychecks as a pit musician and I can't imagine how the synths will be controlled. If it is a person at a keyboard with a super advanced tone module then you are really just replacing a few musicians with a single one, not exactly groundbreaking, and it's frequently done with a standard piano covering parts that can't be hired (your local production of Fiddler on the Roof likely has a piano covering the accordion part).

If this is a computer, like the one FTFA that is mentioned to keep crashing, well, I can't see this actually being ok for any real performance where people are paying money. Crashing is one thing, but even if the program works perfectly, now everything has to cue off the computer. What if someone is late on an entrance? What if there is a technical problem? What if an actor drops a couple lines? An entire verse? There is a very delicate interplay between the actors, the stage manager, the conductor and the musicians to make everything match up every time. It's why opera is, for my money, the most stressful job I have ever taken as a musician.

Re:Live performance different from film (3, Informative)

h4rr4r (612664) | more than 3 years ago | (#33097236)

The conductor controls the tempo and cues just like he controls the orchestra now. You are replacing a bunch of musicians with one robotic one that the conductor controls. This means more folks will get to do creative work, writing and conducting and less the drudgery.

Re:Live performance different from film (1, Insightful)

spopepro (1302967) | more than 3 years ago | (#33097260)

Cuing a computer as a conductor is creative work, while playing an instrument is drudgery? You are so far away from any sort of artistic reality it's difficult to think you are anything other than a troll. Chances are (supported by other comments here) that you haven't paid for any live performance of any kind in the last 10 years, which does devalue your thoughts somewhat.

Re:Live performance different from film (2, Insightful)

h4rr4r (612664) | more than 3 years ago | (#33097354)

Not true, I tend to go to the local theater pretty often. Last thing I saw was Wicked. I really loved spamalot went to that 3 times. I also enjoy going out to see local bands. Playing an instrument is not drudgery, playing the background for a musical is.

Re:Live performance different from film (1)

h4rr4r (612664) | more than 3 years ago | (#33097378)

Also as I type this I am sitting below a 4 foot tall oil on canvas painting, so I do tend to spend money on other arts as well:) I just don't think playing the same music every night for a year while the actors get all the attention is anything but drudgery.

Re:Live performance different from film (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33097568)

And presumably, since you think this, you don't work in a pit orchestra. The people who *do* work in a pit orchestra would probably have had an easier time getting a job in a B&N in a suburb outside NYC with lower living costs than irregular work in theatre, so if they think their job is drudgery as well as being a lot of work for low pay, they must really hate themselves.

Re:Live performance different from film (2, Informative)

king neckbeard (1801738) | more than 3 years ago | (#33097368)

It depends on who you ask. A conducted musician probably sees the actual playing as where the art is, while the conductor sees the conducting to be where the art is. A good conductor is certainly important, and if the tools were sophisticated enough to handle various cues to an extent similar to a musician, the artistic elements lost could be greatly reduced while opening many new opportunities.

Re:Live performance different from film (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33097282)

Things don't have to be cued off the computer with these programs. The synth is played in tempo like any other instrument, and also has capabalities to skip measures on the fly, or set up emergency vamps. Basically any situation that a live player has to deal with has been accounted for. Yes, you have to practice on it to become good at it, so in that respect its just another musical instrument, it just produces a lot more types of sounds.

I for one agree that these don't and can't ever sound as good as a full pit of live musicians, and that Broadway perhaps isn't the best place for this, but these programs are very useful for small theaters and schools that don't have the budget to hire more than a few players. I've music directed shows like this, and it is always a struggle to cover parts with a single keyboard, a woodwind doubler and a trumpet.

Re:Live performance different from film (1)

Jeremy Erwin (2054) | more than 3 years ago | (#33097302)

Do you often attend hundred hour films [wikipedia.org] ?

Re:Live performance different from film (1)

westlake (615356) | more than 3 years ago | (#33097544)

There is a major difference. The big moment that happens at 93:27:34 in the movie will always happen at 93:27:34. There is no such dependability in live performance.

There are really two differences.

In the silent era, musical accompaniment looked something like this:

"Picture Palace" theater orchestras.

Prestige productions and venues. First Run. Premium ticket prices. The house offers live entertainment as part of the regular program.

The grander suburban theaters will have a Wurlitzer theater organ for music and sound effects and an orchestra pit which sees at least some use.

The neighborhood or Post theater has only a piano.

The problem, of course, is that you need to produce and distribute three or four versions of the score.

You might be distributing three versions of the score to the same house, to accommodate low-budget matinee screenings and so on.
           

Re:reminds me of (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33097232)

It reminds you of the early 1900s? I'm impressed that you're using a computer at 110.

Tragic (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33097130)

I for one find this tragic. Music in general has been in decline. Record companies have made music about everything but music. Now people like Madonna and Lady Gaga are musicians, but people are more likely to notice what they're wearing before they notice anything about the music. Now that they've made recorded music and concerts so banal, they only have musicals and orchestras left to attack.

Re:Tragic (1, Insightful)

h4rr4r (612664) | more than 3 years ago | (#33097194)

Stop going to that crap. Go to a bar and see a regular band. I would rather we have many bands made of folks who make only middle class incomes than our current system.

Re:Tragic (1)

h4rr4r (612664) | more than 3 years ago | (#33097386)

So indicating that pop music is often drivel and society would be better served with more variety in music is trollish?

Neat Technology (2, Interesting)

fussy_radical (1867676) | more than 3 years ago | (#33097132)

As someone who has played an instrument, I find it pretty cool that they are able to get a machine to read music... It was only a matter of time though. What is music? Fractions and frequencies. Something a computer should be able to handle.

What I haven't heard is a really good synthesizer. My God, Have you heard CATS? That shit sounds like it was done on the Casio the kids have in their bedroom.

In the long run though, this should make the "ARTS" more accessible to the public. I find that to be a good thing.

Re:Neat Technology (2, Interesting)

FooAtWFU (699187) | more than 3 years ago | (#33097184)

Something I read recently comes to mind, about rendering J S Bach with 8-bit chip tunes [linusakesson.net] :

The goal is not to play the right notes in the right order; that's the starting point. Then you have to adjust the timing of every single note, listening and re-listening, making sure that it doesn't sound mechanical. You have to add movement, energy, and emphasis ... You need fermatas and ornaments ... The amount of work that goes into programming the computer will never be less than the work that a traditional performer would put into studying the same piece of music.

While in theory I agree that machine-read music is feasible, I'm skeptical as to the extent which it's going to be good, even from a quality synthesizer.

Re:Neat Technology (1)

Threni (635302) | more than 3 years ago | (#33097446)

Look at the number of recordings of Bach's Cello Suites, Beethoven's Piano Sonatas etc etc etc. Having the music is one thing. Sure, if you want to knock out some product to maximize shareholders returns then kick out the humans and stick a couple of boxes in there, but some people are going to notice, and the art is going to be poorer; partly because of the quality loss, and partly because it's yet another avenue closed to jobbing musicians. Don't kid yourself that ticket prices are going to go down. FM -> DAB, vinyl -> CD, film -> digital photography, hand drawn animation -> computer generated stuff. It seems to me that we're losing a lot of quality and charm in the name of convenience or cost; I don't see it coming back, and I think society will be much poorer for it.

Re:Neat Technology (1)

tepples (727027) | more than 3 years ago | (#33097242)

Have you heard CATS? That shit sounds like it was done on the Casio the kids have in their bedroom.

Actually the voice of CATS was done on SoftVoice TTS, as were the rest of the voices in All Your Base [albinoblacksheep.com] . The background music was done on an emulation of the same sound chip used in a 1980s Yamaha FM synthesizer.

Re:Neat Technology (1)

RocketRabbit (830691) | more than 3 years ago | (#33097558)

You hear really good synthesizers all the time. You just don't realize they are synthesizers.

The "really good synth" problem was solved in the late 1970s.

Why not have a look at csound, which is, by any academic measure, a really good synth.

They can do that now?! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33097238)

>There are computer programs able to read and play >back music scores Did they just discover MIDI??

The result of sampling (1)

proxima (165692) | more than 3 years ago | (#33097246)

Much of the move away from live instruments to computers (especially in things like TV soundtracks) is the result of modern computing, storage, and sampling. Rather than trying to simulate the sound of a piano, you can painstakingly sample each note at multiple velocities. Depending on the desired complexity, the samples easily reach into the gigabytes for a single instrument. Yet the end result is a digital piano that's incredibly realistic; recording a real piano live better than a good sample is becoming more and more difficult. A "live" piano in person will still sound better than most speaker setups, but for recorded music sampling is really impressive.

The line between traditional and electric, analog and digital continues to blur. Rather than an analog guitar amp, it's easy to have software with a number of digital amps to provide any number of sounds.

Overall I think the benefits vastly outweigh the loss of more traditional music playing. As TFS says, modern computing allows composers to have an incredible array of instruments at their disposal. It's easier and cheaper than ever to create really interesting music of all genres, making the key constraints the right ones - training, practice, and talent.

Great musicians have embraced new technology (4, Insightful)

Palestrina (715471) | more than 3 years ago | (#33097290)

Critics see synthesizers as little better than some barbarian force trampling the classical music landscape.

Example: J.S. Bach didn't hide from the newly invented piano and cry "Ach, mein Gott, give me mein harpsichord and save me from the barbarian pianoforte". No, Bach took the piano and made it his bitch. Ditto for Telemann and the keyed flute.

And remember, electronic instruments have been part of classical music since the 1930's and Edgard Varèse.

If you want to hold back the evolution of musical instruments, then you might as well throw away your violin and go back to banging sticks and stones together.

Re:Great musicians have embraced new technology (1)

Yvan256 (722131) | more than 3 years ago | (#33097320)

As a more modern example, Jean Michel Jarre based his whole career on synthesizers. I don't really like his latest works, but his 1970-1980 albums really are classics.

In the year 2525 (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33097306)

In the year 105105
If man is still alive
If robot can survive
They may find

In the year 252525
The backwards time machine still won't have arrived
In all the world, there's only one technology:
A rusty sword for practicing proctology

In a future year that ends in a 20
A schlubby merman will come and try to get chummy
He may look like a watery wimp
When in fact, he's a bloodthirsty shrimp

In the year one million and a half
Humankind is enslaved by giraffe
Men must pay for all his misdeeds
When the treetops are stripped of their leaves

Scary virtual instrument and ensemble examples (4, Insightful)

StandardCell (589682) | more than 3 years ago | (#33097324)

The Vienna Symphony Library is available today and can essentially replace an orchestra to all but the most discerning of ears. Here is an example of the E.T. theme [youtube.com] . There are a couple of parts where I can tell it's a bit artificial sounding if I really listen, but it's approaching the flawless threshold.

That said, there is a particular order of ease of simulation: percussion (including piano), strings, brass and woodwinds. The latter two are notoriously difficult to emulate because they are so closely tied to non-discrete complex forms of movement of the mouth (articulation). For example, see this demo [youtube.com] of one of the betters saxophone emulators - still something missing even to uneducated ears, but not too bad in a mix. Strings can also be difficult to emulate, but if apps from companies like Prominy are coming out, guitars [youtube.com] and violins [youtube.com] , this is getting scary.

There are a couple of serious implications of this. First and foremost is what the value of a live performance is with and without musicians, which the linked article addresses. The second is decreasing numbers of people willing to learn these instruments. For a lot of folks who compose for small-budget TV and movies and can't afford musicians, it's a great way to go. Nevertheless, it's the same cautionary tale as the decline in handwriting that coincided with the rise of computers with keyboards. You can't replace handwriting in a lot of circumstances.

Re:Scary virtual instrument and ensemble examples (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33097376)

"There are a couple of parts where I can tell it's a bit artificial sounding if I really listen, but it's approaching the flawless threshold."

Huh? It sounds nothing like an orchestra. Remember we are talking about live ACOUSTIC instruments compared to playing back samples though speakers.

The difference is immediately obvious, even to a five year old. Try having a real violin player play a piece, then play back a recording of it in the same room. They sound nothing alike, and would not fool anyone for even a second. Speakers have such huge amounts of distortion, their phase response is so mangled, their radiation patters and are so different, and our recording methods are still so primitive that we are nowhere near recreating the sound of an acoustic instrument.

I'm not saying it's impossible to do, but it may take another few hundred years of research to get even slightly closer to accurate reproduction. Waving paper cones in a box is not enough.

Re:Scary virtual instrument and ensemble examples (1)

EvanED (569694) | more than 3 years ago | (#33097414)

The Vienna Symphony Library is available today and can essentially replace an orchestra to all but the most discerning of ears. Here is an example of the E.T. theme. There are a couple of parts where I can tell it's a bit artificial sounding if I really listen, but it's approaching the flawless threshold.

To my ears it's not even close to what I get if I pop in the ET CD. That said, I suppose it could be YouTube compression and not source material.

Rube Goldburg machine? (1)

Spit (23158) | more than 3 years ago | (#33097334)

What's the point of replacing live musicians with a synthesizer? WHy not just use a backing tape which sounds exactly the same? Maybe because it points out that the stage performance could also get great savings, by being played from film...

Re:Rube Goldburg machine? (1)

tepples (727027) | more than 3 years ago | (#33097370)

What's the point of replacing live musicians with a synthesizer?

Asked and answered [slashdot.org] .

You may replace Broadway's musicians (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33097340)

But you will never replace our homosexuals.

Not until you get the mincing right.

Re:You may replace Broadway's musicians (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33097618)

C3PO was only the start! Experiments have been ongoing for the last several decades. Soon the armies of our enemies will be infiltrated, the terrorists distracted (as is inevitable, of course) by the queers in their midst. Luckily, DODT will save us from any counterattacks.

but the customers need to know (1)

roman_mir (125474) | more than 3 years ago | (#33097346)

There is only one thing about this that seems wrong, apparently customers who buy tickets are not aware that the music they are listening to is played by computers. The rest is usual RUR like nonsense.

Sarah Franklin, a talented 24-year-old violinist, joined a five-month North America tour for a revival of the musical "Camelot" with an orchestra of just four people.

"There was me on the violin, one cello, one French horn and a conductor with a computer," she said. The computer, using a software called Notion, played the rest of the semi-virtual orchestra.

Frequently the program crashed, abruptly leaving the three live musicians to play by themselves. But despite the glitches, most audience members were none the wiser, Franklin said.

"When people saw us down in the pit afterwards, they'd say, 'It sounded like there were so many more of you!'"

The musicians would wriggle out of the embarrassing situation by pretending that the rest of their colleagues had quickly left the theater.

"We got fed up with explaining and we didn't want to ruin it for them. They didn't need to know," Franklin said.

- This looks to me like false advertising. If people came to listen to live music they paid for the tickets accordingly. Maybe the musicians need to take a pay cut (I honestly don't know how much a violin player makes) but the bosses here seem to run a fake business. Maybe ticket prices also need to come down since the show is different.

True aficionados can immediately tell the difference between real and manufactured music.

- the difference would be not in the music notes, but in the vibrations of the air, unless the acoustics can repeat the same vibrations that actual instruments make. Then again, in the future the computers can control robots, who then could play actual instruments. Not like it didn't [wikipedia.org] happen before [youtube.com] .

Woodiel compares playing alongside a synthesizer to "making love with a corpse."

- a cheap one too, right ?:)

Even Smith readily concedes that today's virtual instruments cannot match live string players "by a long shot."

But advocates argue that axing salaried musicians in favor of a machine during today's economic uncertainty can extend the life of a flagging production, thereby saving many other jobs.

- how about informing the customers that this is happening and reducing the ticket prices accordingly? Also just maybe it is possible to retain human musicians at reduced dollar rates?

Nothing New (1)

ericdano (113424) | more than 3 years ago | (#33097412)

This is nothing new. This has been happening since the late 90s when I started playing shows. It can work if done right. I think the best way to do it is to have at least ONE real instrument and then have a synth doing the parts underneath.

In fact, the show I'm starting next week we have one violin viola and cello and someone playing a synth to fill up the section. Sounds ok.

Anonymous Coward (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33097448)

Wonderful. How many more years until there are no more musicians and actors and writers and anyone else artistic anymore - just a bunch of computer programs spitting out content for the humans toiling in the underground sugar caves?

'I didn't get the part!'
'Who did?'
'Nobody! They gave it to Harrison Ford!'
'Didn't he die like 50 years ago?'

Broadway as a Dance Club? (1)

BadAndyJ (963176) | more than 3 years ago | (#33097484)

This really just sounds like the conductors are turning into handsomely paid DJ's. Are they replacing the conductor's wand with a Wii remote, so the strings know what to do, and the conductor doesn't look like a keyboardist / DJ from your favorite hip-hop band? As long as they're advertising the fact it isn't a complete live playing of the music, I have no issues with it. But advertise the fact. If I want a recording, I'll pay $20 for it. If I want to actually hear the artist, and the local orchestra play, well I'll pay for that privilege in the ticket price.

A synth? (2)

rrohbeck (944847) | more than 3 years ago | (#33097530)

Sounds old fashioned to me. Shouldn't that be a PC with a high quality D/A converter aka sound card (or a few) these days?

A performance shows the skill of the performer... (1)

mark-t (151149) | more than 3 years ago | (#33097570)

If there is no performer, that is it is all synthesized, then there is, in fact, no real purpose for the performance at all.

I think that the trend being reported here is nothing more than a passing fad. In the long term, I cannot see this technology being practical anywhere outside of a closed recording studio, where only the music itself matters and the skill behind the performance is not actually meant to be directly appreciated.

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