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Topic: virtual vs real orchestra battle

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  1. #1

    virtual vs real orchestra battle

    I wonder if anyone came across this article in NY times ...

    http://www.nytimes.com/2004/03/25/theater/25ORCH.html?pagewanted=1&8hpib

    I thought it was interesting. I cannot take a complete side for or against the virtual orchestra, since I do believe real and virtual orchestras must co-exist to keep motivating better virtual orchestras. The human skill in playing instruments will always be a standard to look upto.

    However, what annoyed me about this article is the last line, which quotes David Lennon (president of the Broadway musicians\' union) as saying that composing for the virtual orchestra is just as good as composing for a tape recorder!!! That I am sure everyone here would agree is COMPLETELY wrong.
    These ignoramuses do not understand that only the individual notes are sampled in a virtual orchetra. The music still must come out of the composer!!
    What Lennon says (downplaying the virtual against the conventional composer) is justified only if the conventional composer PLAYS EVERY instrument in the orchestra himself. Now, how preposterous does that sound!!

    The challenege rather should be for a real orchestra lead by Mr. Lennon to mimic the compositions of (for eg.,) Francesco Marchetti done with the GPO!!

    any thoughts anyone?

  2. #2

    Re: virtual vs real orchestra battle

    One factor is a fear of people losing their jobs, which is a fear that besets people in all fields where radical technological change happens.

    However, what is often overlooked is that the technology creates jobs as well. Someone has to play the samples, someone has to record them. Someone has to sell them. Someone has to build all the components of the computers used to run them. Someone has to write, produce and sell the software used to run them. etc etc . . .

    What actually happens is that technology moves job up the skills ladder - it takes jobs away from the unskilled or those whose skills are obsolete, and transfers them to those with more and newer, cutting-edge skills.

    I think we\'re seeing this process at work in music just as we have in many areas of manufacturing. I can\'t see that there\'s any point in fighting it.

    I\'m convinced now (I wasn\'t a few years ago) that it\'s possible to produce strong, deep, passionate, meaningful human music using just samples. You only have to look at the depth of passion and feeling for the musical art-form evident on these boards. So long as that is the case, the fact of music will continue to exist, while the precise form that it takes is transformed once more, just as it always has been through history.

    I believe there will always be a demand for live performance, because it has a particular kind of human interaction that people want. Possibly not in theatre pits - after all that\'s not where most peoples\' primary attention is when they go to a show. But probably for bands and concert orchestras.

  3. #3

    Re: virtual vs real orchestra battle

    We have entered a revolutionary era in music. If you are a composer who writes a large symphonic work and if your name is not a known commodity, the chances of having your work performed is highly unlikely. Your best bet is to save your pennies and take a plane to eastern Europe where you can hire a fine orchestra to play your work and have it recorded. This makes you a composer-producer. Total cost: about 15 to 20 grand. The cost of producing a new symphonic work is in many cases prohibitive for most US orchestras. They need to play Mozart, Beethoven and Brahms, etc to hold onto those aging audiences. If your are a known composer whose works and name are recognized your struggle will not be as great as a virtual unknown. Philip Glass is a great example.

    Programs such as GPO and GOS are are heaven sent for composers who can have a virtual realization of their creative ideas, instantly and economically and now with true realism, and I suspect that these programs will get even better in a short amount of time.

    My thought is that if I were still a performing musician I would be more than a little worried at this time.

    Just think that if the great composers of the past had this technology avialable to them. We would most likely have more than 9 Beethoven Symphonies, and who knows maybe 400 Haydn Symphonies.

    Ira Kraemer

  4. #4

    Re: virtual vs real orchestra battle

    I couldn\'t read the article because I am not a registered member of the site.... boo hoo

    I don\'t doubt that sample libraries will become bigger and better in the future, nor do I doubt that more and more people will take up the mouse and try their hand at composing - courtesy of cost efficient virtual orchestras. What I do not believe, however, is that any concert musicians should be worrying about losing their jobs - at least not any time soon. There is still a LONG way to go before any sample library can emulate the sound of a real orchestra. They can get close, but listen to the same piece performed live and you\'ll notice the difference.

    Think about the amount of velocity splits and articulations you would need! I don\'t doubt the power of sample libraries either. Without them, I\'d probably be back at the university pursuing my useless and incomporably BORING mathematics career.

    Musicians, you have nothing to worry about. [img]images/icons/smile.gif[/img]

    - Junk M.

  5. #5
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    Re: virtual vs real orchestra battle

    Originally posted by Junkmonkey:
    What I do not believe, however, is that any concert musicians should be worrying about losing their jobs - at least not any time soon.
    <font size=\"2\" face=\"Verdana, Arial\">You reckon!

    Have a read:

    http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/entertainment/music/3415747.stm

    Unfortunately, this sort of thing has been going on quite a while in London now and has affected a lot of us performers. It really feels a bit of a Stepford Wives situation!. It wont be too long before the band in the current production of Anything Goes gets replaced by an army of freshly polished Honda robots.

    Sample libraries are great for films, recordings, mocking-up, hearing stuff that probably isn\'t going to get played, allowing potential orchstras to hear how it might sound etc. But its a sad day when top drawer musicians start getting replaced in live work at halls and theatres. The event is supposed to be LIVE after all! [img]images/icons/mad.gif[/img]

  6. #6

    Re: virtual vs real orchestra battle

    My 2 cents...

    For the forseeable future, virtual orchestra will not be replacing the real thing. People still want to go see a live performance and hear it played by real people.

    Now that being said, is it possible that the technology will improve and improve to the point that a recording will be absolutely 100% as expressive and dynamic and realistic as the real thing? Perhaps. However, consider this. The only reason we are breaking our backs trying to EMULATE a real orchestra is because we\'re socially conditioned to think that music has to be played by a traditional symphonic orchestra. This is because they\'ve been doing it that way for several hundred years. I suspect, that our generation and the generation after that will continue to appreciate that sound...and we will continue to try to emulate it for the sake of saving money in film productions etc, and people will continue to appreciate going to see it performed live for all the reasons people say.

    However, if it does get to the point that nobody is bothering to go see it live anymore, and thus nobody is learning to play those instruments and actual real symphonies go away, to be replaced by technology that emulates it.... If and when that time ever came, within a generation or two, people wouldn\'t even be bothering to try to emulate a traditional symphony orchestra anymore. They would just be using technology to make dynamic, expressive, sound that people appreciate.

    I suspect that people will always appreciate a live performance and if its not traditional orchestral instruments, it will be other types of instruments, perhaps partly based on technology, that people will come to appreciate and want to hear and see live.


    Maybe the day will come when machines can add that subtle human touch to a performance as good or better than people can...and maybe then we won\'t want to hear or see live players..but I\'m not sure that will ever happen. Not to mention that for a lot of people there is a certain intrigue about seeing/hearing an accomplished musician perform their instrument in ways that seem incredible or miraculous to the listener. That is all part of the magic that machines won\'t ever replace.

  7. #7

    Re: virtual vs real orchestra battle

    Originally posted by dewdman42:
    Maybe the day will come when machines can add that subtle human touch to a performance as good or better than people can...and maybe then we won\'t want to hear or see live players..but I\'m not sure that will ever happen.
    <font size=\"2\" face=\"Verdana, Arial\">What a lot of people miss in all this is it ain\'t the computers that are making music -- it\'s still a human being on the other end of the stick.

    It kind of reminds me of how people used to look at instruments like the therimin -- yup, it\'s an instrument and in its own way every bit as difficult to play as a violin. Do you suppose the cave man looked at the first hide stretched over a trunk and went \"Hmmmm, him ain\'t real music like two rocks banged together!\"

    When I sit down in front of my keyboard and play the keys with the aftertouch and velocity, sustain pedal and (now!) mod wheel for volume, I am \"playing\" an instrument just like a fiddler plays when he drags catgut across some strings. The degree of difficulty might be smaller (although I might argue even that) but it involves human expression and no two \"performances\" of such an instrument will be the same.

    Will this stuff replace live musicians? To some degree technology has done that all along the line. Even Broadway shows use smaller orchestras now (or even canned music) -- because they have the ability to do so (a mere acoustic orchestra could not have done so and gotten smaller). There may well come a day when a full orchestra is a very rare thing indeed (whatever happened to band concerts in the small town park?) That is, unfortunately, what happens sometimes. But if the tradeoffs is that more music will be composed and played, that more people can make their own music (other than those who can spend a lifetime studying it), and that terrific sound can be learned by even the very young, I suspect the tradeoffs are worth it.

    But don\'t tell me it\'s music that isn\'t played by humans -- unless I come home some day and find my computer Minerva has composed and orchestrated a nice piece for me I\'m going to hold on to my belief that I\'m still the one in control <g>.

  8. #8

    Re: virtual vs real orchestra battle

    Hmmm, no way to delete your own posts here -- that\'s bad.

    Essentially I accidentally repeated my above post (instead of editing). My bad.

  9. #9

    Re: virtual vs real orchestra battle

    Originally posted by Ouch that hurts:
    One factor is a fear of people losing their jobs, which is a fear that besets people in all fields where radical technological change happens.

    However, what is often overlooked is that the technology creates jobs as well. Someone has to play the samples, someone has to record them. Someone has to sell them. Someone has to build all the components of the computers used to run them. Someone has to write, produce and sell the software used to run them. etc etc . . .
    <font size=\"2\" face=\"Verdana, Arial\">Well this is a hot topic, so I\'m going to try not to sink too deep here, but if you guys think that what the article describes is anything but tragic, then you are selfish.

    Paying musicians for a sampling session does not amount to a \'new career direction\' for them! Take those sessions for QLSO. They were done over a year and a half ago. The new sessions may be done this summer. How much do you gentleman think those players were paid? were they each paid $25,000 for the work? (poverty level).

    Now that they\'ve sold off their sound, they may find soon they\'ve sealed their fate.

    There is no way live music will survive if real musicians cannot make a living at it. It\'s all about money and profits, so the musicians be damned--we\'ve got our QLSOs and VSLs and GPOs.

    That\'s what those guys on Broadway (and in Vegas, and a bunch of other places fine musicians have secured regular work) who produce those shows and operas are saying to themselves.

    Yes of course I use this stuff myself or I wouldn\'t be on this forum.

    But never let it escape your thoughts that you pros who are making a living from this stuff have \'some blood on your hands\' so to speak, using products that have already put many fine musicians with much academy training into the unemployment lines, waiting to get hired at Wal-Mart.


    I don\'t know what the answer is, and I am NOT advocating a boycott of these products, far be it.

    But think about what\'s happening, and better still what the new latest products are doing to many orchestral musicians careers.

    I would advocate hiring musicians for your orchestral parts often.

    If the source of a LIVEABLE income is denighed fine musicians, then eventually there won\'t be ANY fine musicians to make these wonderful samples we enjoy so much! (And it won\'t take very long to happen either)

    I would also expect us to support the musicians by not removing from them their last source of income--paid Concerts, Operas and Broadway and Vegas shows. Don\'t attend shows that have replaced players with \'virtual\' orchestras. (and urge your friends and relatives to do likewise)

    Or we may have now the LAST quality tools we\'ll ever have....

  10. #10

    Re: virtual vs real orchestra battle

    Nexus, a lot of what you said comes down to a matter of taste. Who do you appreciate more, the players in the orchestra, or the composer of the music? Don\'t cop out and say you enjoy it all equally.

    Some people go to a symphony hall to hear the expressiveness of a live orchestra, and the acoustics of the concert hall.

    Others go to hear a piece that is meaningful to them performed in the concert hall because a) They enjoy the piece of music, and 2) the hall (likely) adds great natural acoustic reverb (which is why they go even though they have the \'tune\' on a CD).

    A minor digression and then I\'ll be done:

    When I was younger, I had no respect for people who did not play \"real\" instruments. I hated anything synthetic, anything done \"in a studio,\" I hated the fact that good producing sells records, etc. When I got older, I learned what goes into all the things I hated, and after my 8+ years of guitar practicing (intensely, I might add), I find myself moving more and more towards the \"fake\" instruments (synths, virtual orchestras, etc.). Crafting your sounds, mixing, enveloping, and most importantly WRITING your music (from a nearly infinite palatte of instruments) has made me put down the guitar...

    Trained ears can spot differences between real and fake orchestras. But the majority of people cannot, and if what sells is dependent upon that, then we must cater to the untrained. For we, like \"real\" musicians, gotta make ends meat.

    Real orchestras will sound better than virtual orchestras - for a long time anyways. But the difference may be so subtle that it\'s worth saving the money.

    - Junk

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