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Ask Slashdot: Resolving the Clash Between Art and Technology In Music?

timothy posted about 3 months ago | from the all-musical-instruments-are-technology dept.

Music 121

An anonymous reader writes This article in The New York Times shows the clash of purists and people who desire to experiment with "new technology" available to them. The geek in me is really curious about this concept of a digital orchestra (with the ability to change tempos, placement of speakers in an orchestra pit, possibly delaying some to line them up ...). I understand that instrumentalists feel threatened, but why not let free enterprise decide the fate of this endeavor instead of trying to kill it by using blackmail and misrepresentation? Isn't there a place for this, even if maybe it is not called opera ... maybe iOpera?

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buggy whip makers feel threatened (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47237419)

Again.

There are pros and cons from both sides (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47237795)

Have been doing music composition for decades (first analog, the old style, and since the 1980's I've been adopting the digital technology into music composition) and I can tell you that there are pros and cons from both sides

The electronic music scene might have had at least 2 decades of development - for some, it's matured enough, that whatever they need, there are libraries that they can tap into, but for others, there are things that they can do the old style way are still not available digitally and/or what is available on the digital side are not flexible enough

It ain't a horse whip versus pedal - it's all about the completeness of the ecosystem

Re:buggy whip makers & theater organists (1)

drkim (1559875) | about 3 months ago | (#47238827)

...as long as that guy is in the pit playing the theater organ live while the movie plays, it'll be fine.

There's no way a 'recorded' music & sound effects score playing along with the movie could ever sound as good.

Just be honest, it'll be fine (2)

istartedi (132515) | about 3 months ago | (#47237427)

All this machinery making modern music
Can still be open-hearted
Not so coldly charted it's really just
A question of your honesty, yeah, your honesty

Rush, The Spirit of Radio. Full lyrics easily found elsewhere. This was the first thing that popped into mind when I saw the summary. That was recorded in 1979 and released in 1980 according to Wiki.

Re:Just be honest, it'll be fine (1)

Jim Sadler (3430529) | about 3 months ago | (#47237869)

There have been machines made to do things like play a real trumpet with some success. I suppose that a robot could play a violin or other instruments as well. So fat it is a question of how well a robot can play. Then we have the idea of electronics creating instrumental sounds of an instrument that does not exist. That could be of real value to traditional instrument makers as much of the science behind producing items like a really great trumpet are poorly understood. One problem is that people who build instruments feel, but do not actually know, how they produce a really great instrument. Oddly the performer is not a good judge as what he hears will not be what the audience hears.

Re:Just be honest, it'll be fine (1)

SternisheFan (2529412) | about 3 months ago | (#47238605)

Music is music, no matter what form it is created from. The masses decide whether said music is "good".

Masturbation (1)

sycodon (149926) | about 3 months ago | (#47237433)

"That's not music, Martelli. That's masturbation"

Fame, 1080

Re:Masturbation (1)

sycodon (149926) | about 3 months ago | (#47237457)

Link [youtube.com]

Re:Masturbation (1)

K. S. Kyosuke (729550) | about 3 months ago | (#47237479)

Wow. I never imagined Romanesque people being so open about stuff! But then again, with their treatment of heretics, anything that didn't resemble the Gregorian chant would have probably gotten described as something obscene.

Re:Masturbation (1)

swedishsax (3694669) | about 3 months ago | (#47239447)

They actually let someone use that word in a youth-oriented prime time show in the early '80s?
You guys really have regressed.

Re: Masturbation (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47239903)

It was a movie.

The Clash? (1)

fleabay (876971) | about 3 months ago | (#47237435)

By order of the prophet We ban that boogie sound Degenerate the faithful With that crazy Casbah sound But the Bedouin they brought out The electric camel drum The local guitar picker Got his guitar picking thumb As soon as the shareef Had cleared the square They began to wail

Re:The Clash? (1)

fleabay (876971) | about 3 months ago | (#47237449)

Well
that
didn't
turn
out
as
well
as
I
thought.

Re:The Clash? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47237565)

PREVIEWSUBMIT

Re:The Clash? (1)

I'm New Around Here (1154723) | about 3 months ago | (#47238113)

Yeah. Slashdot loves to fuck up white space.

Union tactics (2)

Oligonicella (659917) | about 3 months ago | (#47237467)

I personally don't find the sampled sounds to be as nice to my ears. But the threat of boycotts, coercion and retaliation against artists that choose to use a new medium is nothing more than unionism to protect salary and I find *that* despicable.

I may be older than the bulk of the /. crowd, but some of my favorite music simply *cannot* be played by an orchestra. I remember when they had the same lame outcry against electronic instruments.

Re:Union tactics (2)

fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) | about 3 months ago | (#47237589)

I realize that anything that can be tenuously connected to 'unions' is intrinsically evil and all (though, while TFA had a couple of quotes from musician unions, obviously against the idea, it had no mention of any union acting against the outfit staging this sampled version, just individual nastygrams sent without any broader consultation or endorsement); but, in an enterprise like theater where individual people, at least stars, are commonly economic actors in their own right, is telling a performer "I find your willingness to replace music with samples corrosive to the medium, you should be ashamed of yourself, and I won't work with you." any different from telling a company "I find your willingness to use suppliers in exploitationstan repulsive, you should be ashamed of yourself, and I won't buy from you."?

Re:Union tactics (2)

Oligonicella (659917) | about 3 months ago | (#47237771)

I know the article didn't mention unions, I said those tactics (which the article did mention) were the same type of strong-arm tactics used by unions.

Re:Union tactics (2)

visualight (468005) | about 3 months ago | (#47238019)

Why does the Free Market only allow powerful and wealthy individuals to force change? I really really don't understand why organized labor, or boycotts for that matter, is --morally-- wrong for so many people.

Is there some natural law that says if you don't have a lot of money you have to take what's handed to you? Like it's some kind of sin to say to your neighbor "Hey I don't like what these guys are doing, so us good people should not patronize/work for them."

When all the business owners get together and cooperate to bust unions and socialize the idea that unions are immoral isn't that EXACTLY THE SAME THING?

Fifty years ago most wage-earning Americans were in favor of Unions. A shit ton of money and effort have been expended during the last 50 years to change YOUR view on the matter.
Just sayin...

Re:Union tactics (1)

dryeo (100693) | about 3 months ago | (#47238837)

Yet it is rich people (think Rudolf Hearst) that have been responsible for pushing for laws that put millions of Americans (and millions of non-Americans) in jail and totally ruining their lives to protect their businesses (pulp paper) from new technologies (efficiently separating hemp fiber for paper), not unions. Even now it is industry groups pushing harsh penalties for interfering with their business models (control and distribution of intellectual property) and pushing the American Government to bully other governments to follow along.

Re:Union tactics (4, Insightful)

cryptolemur (1247988) | about 3 months ago | (#47237601)

I may be protectionism, or it may be serious consern for quality. Or both. You do know that the luddites didn't oppose machines, but machines that produced poor quality stuff -- they were afraid that people would be fooled to buy third grade crap instead good quality products.

Too bad they were beaten, shot and hanged for it, and we have the world we have now...

Re:Union tactics (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47237637)

"the luddites didn't oppose machines, but machines that produced poor quality stuff" [citation needed]

Re:Union tactics (1, Informative)

I'm New Around Here (1154723) | about 3 months ago | (#47238145)

For gods sake, look up the origination of the term, you fucking lazy moron.

For myself, I didn't know the source of it up until a few years ago. I wondered why someone said something that didn't make sense to me. I read its Wikipedia entry. Today, I know exactly what cryptolemur is saying.

With the whole world of information at your fingertips, it would have been easier to google for "luddites" than to type your response.

Re:Union tactics (1)

Barsteward (969998) | about 3 months ago | (#47239441)

maybe he's a luddite.......

here here (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47238173)

I went to a live jazz concert last night and sat about 3 feet from the pianist. It's definitely not the same as sitting by a loudspeaker.

here here (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47239483)

Yeah - you could have switched the loudspeaker off...

Re:Union tactics (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47238039)

First they came for the trades unionists.

Is it really about "art"? (1)

CRCulver (715279) | about 3 months ago | (#47237487)

Probably a good number of the engineers designing digital orchestra hardware and software might be keen on exploring new possibilities in music, but the suits who have chosen to use them to replace live musicians in musicals, and now this opera production, are thinking first and foremost about how much money they can save when they don't have to pay human beings any more. I have no particular opinion on the use of digital orchestras, but I wish their use were motivated by something deeper than filthy lucre.

Re:Is it really about "art"? (1)

fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) | about 3 months ago | (#47237681)

It is worth noting that, while money is definitely on the table, odds are good that at least part of the bitterness, and conflict, stems from the fact that only opera levels of money are on the table: Opera as a genre, while it has some 'High Art' old money and classy buildings here and there, faces a dwindling and aging audience, relatively weak interest in younger demographics, and production costs that remain comparatively high.

On the one side, even people who are wholehearted opera enthusiasts, dedicated acting career to it, high enough on the food chain that they don't necessarily face immediate economic pressure, etc. can quite honestly make the argument "Well, outside of a few major cities with sufficient concentrations of potential audience and a few outfits with long histories and some generous patrons, opera will either use electronic orchestras, use (even cheaper and worse) prerecorded soundtracks piped through the speaker system, or simply nonexistent."

At the same time, anyone who has a stake in the continued existence of live orchestras(either as a performer or aesthetically) is probably entirely correct in suspecting that, if almost-as-good-and-substantially-cheaper opera starts to be produced, demand for live orchestra performers will likely decline, probably even faster than it has, and quite possibly to the point where there isn't enough demand to pay for training and ongoing practice, that keeps part-time musicians in decent shape, much less the continued availability of full-time musicians, and the field of live opera will be basically toast.

At least in fields that aren't contracting and quite possibly dying, fights over cost-cutting tend to have slightly better defined battle lines between the mercenaries and the purists.

Re:Is it really about "art"? (2)

dgatwood (11270) | about 3 months ago | (#47237731)

This.

And the reality of the matter is that digital instruments do a good job of replicating piano, organ and other keyboard instruments. They can also do a halfway decent job with mallet-based percussion. However, it really isn't feasible to digitally replicate the sound of non-percussive instruments like brass and woodwinds, because there are simply too many different things that a real instrument player can do to change the quality of the sound. For example, when playing a brass instrument, you can:

  • Vary the position and tightness of the lips and jaw to change the tone to be brighter or more mellow
  • Start and stop notes with anything from crisp tonguing all the way down to "lip tonguing", resulting in radically different attacks and cutoffs
  • Lip slur between notes instead of tonguing
  • Vary the volume of a single note arbitrarily while you're playing it
  • Vary the pitch while you're playing it
  • Sing while you play a note (multiphonics)

And so on. There's simply no feasible way for software to simulate all those different variables without modeling the entire instrument, and even if you did that, you'd have to have a much more complex input controller than keyboards or wind controllers or any other MIDI input device that currently exists. By the time you've learned to play something as complex as that, you'll probably find that it's easier to learn to play the actual instrument. :-)

Re:Is it really about "art"? (1)

CRCulver (715279) | about 3 months ago | (#47237807)

You've just explained why the Vienna Symphonic Library will not be playing Ferneyhough or Saariaho anytime soon. However, the provincial opera performance in question is of Wagner, whose scores (like most from the early-mid Romantic era) do not call for extended techniques, and the VSL was designed to represent this era fairly well.

Re:Is it really about "art"? (1)

dgatwood (11270) | about 3 months ago | (#47237991)

None of those things qualify as "extended techniques" except the pitch bends, multiphonics, and lip slurs. Everything else is stuff we instrumentalists do every day, in pretty much every piece, sometimes because the director says, "Could we make that a bit brighter/more brassy," but more often, intuitively, based on what's happening in other parts, without any notation to guide us.

That's why it is always almost immediately obvious whether a brass recording was done with real instruments or synths, even with really good sample sets. The sample sets just can't reproduce the richness of a real-world performance.

Okay, maybe not for trumpet punctuation in a pop song, but....

Re:Is it really about "art"? (1)

Mal-2 (675116) | about 3 months ago | (#47239617)

That's why it is always almost immediately obvious whether a brass recording was done with real instruments or synths, even with really good sample sets. The sample sets just can't reproduce the richness of a real-world performance.

Okay, maybe not for trumpet punctuation in a pop song, but....

maybe to the people who have played them, even if they no longer do... but to the rest of the listening public, it is anything but obvious. If an unsophisticated listener can't tell the difference between a tuba and a cimbasso (same range, VERY different timbre), how can you possibly expect them to know the difference between a real tuba and a well-sampled synthesized one? They're not going to.

Re:Is it really about "art"? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47237829)

It's quicker to work with live musicians too. If I want the brass to sound softer I can say 'play it softer'. If it's a midi orchestra, then someone has to reprogramme that part of the show, which takes hours. If it's a pre-recorded orchestra, you are just stuck with it most of the time.

These little touches make the difference between average and great in an artistic work.

Re:Is it really about "art"? (1)

mean pun (717227) | about 3 months ago | (#47238383)

And the reality of the matter is that digital instruments do a good job of replicating piano, organ and other keyboard instruments.

My son, who is a talented piano player, disagrees. He has played some of the electric piano `replacements', and he says they are interesting to play, but the real thing is still a far richer and interesting instrument.

There are still plenty of effects in real pianos that are not emulated properly. Two examples: resonances in the other strings of the piano when you strike a string, and striking a key, leaving it half-pressed, and striking again. The piano pedals are also not easy to emulate, I understand, but I don't know the details.

Re:Is it really about (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47238833)

(sorry for the Anon Coward post, on a friend's computer)

Yes, this. Very true.

I work doing music for games and tv shows. We find two things: first, skilled musicians can get much more interesting and varied sounds from their instruments than can be managed from samples (usually the Vienna Symphonic Library). Not talking extended techniques.

Second, it's waaaay quicker and easier to get a live group to adjust and adapt their dynamics and tempos than it is for me to fiddle with settings. That is, I can take two days to get music to match and sync with an action sequence. Or some musicians can do the same in three ten minute takes, responding to my verbal directions and using their skill to make it interesting.

If you do the math, it's significantly cheaper to pay a *union* scale 45-person orchestra for 3 hours of studio work, than to pay me to mess around with my gear for two weeks (which is what it can take for a show or part of a game). About 1/2 to 2/3 the cost, usually.

Plus it will sound way better.

I like it better too. I love writing the music, but it's very tedious and soul-crushing to digitally match the music to a video. That's what musicians are for, IMHO.

Re:Is it really about "art"? (1)

beaverdownunder (1822050) | about 3 months ago | (#47239143)

While I agree most digital pianos do not have the greatest sound, VST plugins (particularly Kontakt) can emulate a piano quite closely using libraries that are gigabytes in size. It's not uncommon to see a MacBook chained to a digital piano during a performance.

Re:Is it really about "art"? (1)

Mal-2 (675116) | about 3 months ago | (#47239581)

This.

And the reality of the matter is that digital instruments do a good job of replicating piano, organ and other keyboard instruments. They can also do a halfway decent job with mallet-based percussion. However, it really isn't feasible to digitally replicate the sound of non-percussive instruments like brass and woodwinds, because there are simply too many different things that a real instrument player can do to change the quality of the sound. For example, when playing a brass instrument, you can:

  • Vary the position and tightness of the lips and jaw to change the tone to be brighter or more mellow
  • Start and stop notes with anything from crisp tonguing all the way down to "lip tonguing", resulting in radically different attacks and cutoffs
  • Lip slur between notes instead of tonguing
  • Vary the volume of a single note arbitrarily while you're playing it
  • Vary the pitch while you're playing it
  • Sing while you play a note (multiphonics)

And so on. There's simply no feasible way for software to simulate all those different variables without modeling the entire instrument, and even if you did that, you'd have to have a much more complex input controller than keyboards or wind controllers or any other MIDI input device that currently exists. By the time you've learned to play something as complex as that, you'll probably find that it's easier to learn to play the actual instrument. :-)

You haven't used the virtual instruments made by Sample Modeling [slashdot.org] then. I have. They're well worth the money.

Breath-based vibrato. Volume (and timbre) that tracks breath in real time. Pitch bends that alter timbre. Asymmetric (easy to bend down, hard to bend up) pitch bends if you desire. Attacks are based on three factors: initial velocity, breath data (or aftertouch) following note-on, and the space following the preceding note. It actually does quite a nice job -- it takes a bit of adjustment to know that sometimes you have to play EXTREMELY legato to get the effect you want, where it would come out as mush on a real instrument if you tried to do that, but that's just a matter of altering technique. Also, they'll do flutter tongue and growl. Singing through the horn is best done outside the synthesis software, since it's an acoustic interaction between two pitches. The only real problem is latency, but on any reasonably fast setup this can be kept under 22 milliseconds.

While it's true you can't easily control ALL parameters at once, it's highly unusual that you need growl, flutter-tongue, and multiphonics all within the span of an interval so short you can't step on a pedal to choose between them. For studio work, hand-editing said parameters after main recording is dead simple (I don't even attempt to do my pitch bends in real time for recordings, though obviously I do live). Brighter/darker is a matter of changing equalization or changing sample sets on the fly (which can be done with a single keystroke or MIDI command in any DAW I can think of). While emulating instruments accurately is a rather different skill set from actually playing them, it's quite a doable one. It does help if you know how they work, but it doesn't mean you have to be particularly good at them. For example I can play trumpet and horn, but low brass is completely beyond my abilities. That doesn't stop me from accurately emulating their actual response. If I do a rip across an octave, the notes in between are going to represent actual partials for at least one valid valve/slide position for the starting and ending notes, because at a fundamental level, all brass instruments behave the same. If you play one, you grasp them all.

You don't have to take my word for it. You [bandcamp.com] can [bandcamp.com] decide [bandcamp.com] for [bandcamp.com] yourself. [bandcamp.com] .

Re:Is it really about "art"? (1)

u38cg (607297) | about 3 months ago | (#47237917)

This is not a case of dispensing with the musicians to make money, this is about staging opera in a time and place where there is no way you could afford to produce a full scale production. And it's not like the avant garde of opera isn't already neck deep in digital production anyway; the ENO has produced stuff like Sunken Garden which integrated orchestra and digital music throughout, and done it brilliantly (from a technical point of view; the show itself was dross).

Re:Is it really about "art"? (2)

CRCulver (715279) | about 3 months ago | (#47237979)

This is not a case of dispensing with the musicians to make money, this is about staging opera in a time and place where there is no way you could afford to produce a full scale production.

And why can't you afford to produce a full-scale production? A lot of the push for replacing live musicians with the VSP is coming out of the United States, where there are insufficient cultural subsidies. This development will only make the problem worse, as now the state or private patrons are even more likely to deny funding based on the fact that machines could technically be used instead. You don't see something like this in Finland, where even the smaller provincial capitals manage to put on operas with a full human ensemble, thanks in large part to generous arts funding (an approach that has also ensure wider interest in opera among the population in than in the US).

Drum machines... (1)

QuietLagoon (813062) | about 3 months ago | (#47237493)

Remember when drum machines threatened to put all drummers out of work?

.
Well, drummers still have a lot of work, and drum machines are a rare site nowadays.

Re:Drum machines... (2)

Threni (635302) | about 3 months ago | (#47237551)

> drum machines are a rare site
Well, it's hard to open port 80 on them...

Re:Drum machines... (3, Funny)

Hognoxious (631665) | about 3 months ago | (#47237649)

Drummers? The article is about musicians.

Re:Drum machines... (1)

dgatwood (11270) | about 3 months ago | (#47237743)

Remember when drum machines threatened to put all drummers out of work?

And now, a rather large percentage of modern music uses at least some sampled drums. Mind you, it is often triggered by an actual drummer, though not always.

Re:Drum machines... (1)

Technician (215283) | about 3 months ago | (#47238339)

In the live performance world, live performers is the norm. On the other hand, drum machines have pretty much been replaced by MIDI sequencers, so the drum track is CH 10 of the 16 channel MIDI specification for General MIDI. MIDI is quite common in recording. The insturments can be repeated perfectly every time while he vocals can do as many takes as required to get their part right. Sequenced music is common in soundtracks and many small artists recordings. For good insturment sounds, the MIDI is often fed to a sequencer by either 5 pin MIDI, or USB. Most good keyboards and digital drum sets include MIDI and/or USB connections for use with a sequencer, sound module, or other use. Using sound fonts (insturment sounds) in your software synthesizer, you can do most of the recording on a PC with a very good library of sampled insturment sounds.

I have seen bands using a laptop with a keyboard or digital drum set to add to the library of sounds beyond the built in sound fonts.

Sound repro (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47237505)

Speakers sound like shit. They are thin sounding, no exceptions. The debate of whether or not 320kb/s aacs sound indistinguishable from cds is moot when you compare any recorded sound to the real thing. I can imagine Data playing great violin, but speakers that sound like RealLife will require some kind of instantaneously morphing nanotechnology or something.

Re:Sound repro (1)

CRCulver (715279) | about 3 months ago | (#47237531)

Why do you think people want something that sounds like "real life"? Human beings today are exposed to far more recorded music coming out of speakers than acoustic live performance, and their ears are attuned to the former.

Even in art music this is a noticeable trend. I'm active in classical music fora and filesharing circles, and I'm amazed at how many fans with many hundreds or thousands of CDs have no interest in going to the concert hall, because they are more comfortable in how classical music sounds off a CD or FLAC download (for example, a solo violin or cello in a concerto will likely be mixed louder on a disc than it sounds in live performance).

As the late composer Fausto Romitelli once said, "Ever since I was born, I have been immersed in digitalized images, symthetic sounds, artifacts. Artificial, distorted, filtered, this is the nature of man today."

Re:Sound repro (1)

Jawnn (445279) | about 3 months ago | (#47237567)

Why do you think people want something that sounds like "real life"?

Wrong question, my friend. People want something that sounds "alive". Let's be clear... I have nothing against electronic music. Some of my favorite pieces have no "real" instruments in them. But I also know that there is no substitute for a well crafted instrument in the hands of a master, and that includes the "vox humana". (Insert rant about Autotune here)
"Sounds just like" never quite does.

Re:Sound repro (1)

dgatwood (11270) | about 3 months ago | (#47237751)

Even in art music this is a noticeable trend. I'm active in classical music fora and filesharing circles, and I'm amazed at how many fans with many hundreds or thousands of CDs have no interest in going to the concert hall, because they are more comfortable in how classical music sounds off a CD or FLAC download (for example, a solo violin or cello in a concerto will likely be mixed louder on a disc than it sounds in live performance).

Don't blame the CD. Blame the soloist who refuses to be miked during the live gig.

Re:Sound repro (1)

CRCulver (715279) | about 3 months ago | (#47237801)

Don't blame the CD. Blame the soloist who refuses to be miked during the live gig.

Why do you think that the soloist has any say in this? It's generally the music director's call, and the idea of miking a soloist in traditional repertoire (as opposed to an IRCAM piece) would not appeal for at least two major reasons:

  • 1) It increases the costs significantly, as you are paying not just an expensive soloist but also a union technician to set up the miking and speaker assembly -- that's why some ensembles do rather fewer works with live electronics than they'd like;
  • 2) The subscriber audiences that orchestras depend on financially and for whom they programme this kind of traditional repertoire to keep them coming would express discontent with messing with the original scoring.

Re:Sound repro (1)

dgatwood (11270) | about 3 months ago | (#47238001)

I suppose it depends on the ensemble as to who says no. Either way, the problem is that someone says no. :-)

Right, let "free enterprise" decide.... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47237507)

Because it always makes the most sensible and valuable decisions. Indeed, let "free enterprise" decide ALL aspects of life!

Re:Right, let "free enterprise" decide.... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47237557)

When free enterprise decides who can get a job, you know someone's going to die penniless.
When free enterprise decides who can buy food, you know someone's going to starve to death.
When free enterprise decides who can get a date, you know someone's going to die a virgin.
And so it goes.

Re:Right, let "free enterprise" decide.... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47237963)

When free enterprise decides who can get a date, you know someone's going to die a virgin.

And much to the chagrin of the conservative establishment, every now and then one of them gives birth anyway.

Re:Right, let "free enterprise" decide.... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47238043)

The only thing worse being the ideological heat death that is egalitarianism.

I don't understand (4, Insightful)

EmperorOfCanada (1332175) | about 3 months ago | (#47237525)

Are these people looking for stagnation? I suspect that new technology will produce all kinds of horrors (think synth and drum machines in the 80s) but all kinds of interesting things will no doubt come out. The music and the technology that make the music should be an endless dance. Acapella continues to amaze and that is about as technology free as possible, yet some acapella is generated by having a single singer and playing games in the recording studio.

Some painters use amazing techniques to blend and layer very complex paints and lacquers to great result; yet Picasso apparently used a common house paint for some of his greatest works.

Often the medium is the message. For instance if a wood carver is working with wood they might allow changes in the grain of the wood to dictate what they are doing potentially resulting in beautiful art. Yet putting a block of wood into a CAM machine and allowing a 3D design to be precisely cut can generate a whole different and also pleasing result. One or the other is not necessarily wrong, just different.

So if a purist wants to be pure then they should have fun with whatever purists that want to play with them; but the moment that they tell another artist to stop what they are doing then it is no longer art but a stagnant religion.

Re:I don't understand (1)

fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) | about 3 months ago | (#47237745)

Well, parts of the genre do celebrate 'tradition', which is pretty close to stagnation with higher culture cred; but I imagine that they are also nervous because more or less any endeavor(some fields more radically than others; but all of them to a degree) tend to depend on having some minimum scale, above which economies of scale help make them viable, new people can be trained and educated fast enough that the field's unwritten knowledge(and yes, no matter how you try to document stuff, every field has a body of knowledge that is very difficult to pick up without either arduous rediscovery or learning-while-doing with people who already know) doesn't die off, and so on.

If there is plenty of demand to go around, only the crankiest of purist assholes spend their time whining about damn kids these days, and it's a 'the more, the merrier!' sort of enterprise. If people are dogged by the fear that not only is their bread and butter probably going to disappear; but their entire emotionally-invested-tradition is likely to become nonviable, things get ugly, always have.

Re:I don't understand (1)

EmperorOfCanada (1332175) | about 3 months ago | (#47238987)

Yes my technical experience with this was watching IT people fight for Novell. There was this one IT asshole where I worked and he liked to brag that he had well over $20,000 worth of Novell certifications. So he called me with great excitement when a new very powerful server was delivered from Dell. I was admiring it as he struggled to get Novell on it. So he called the Dell uber support line and they laughed and said that none of their new machines were tested for Novell compatibility.

I should have looked on his wall to see if his framed certifications wilted a little bit that minute. But even after I quit a year or so later he was still fighting the Novell fight. I would not be surprised if he now works for some government agency maintaining some creaky old Novell system.

Re:I don't understand (1)

king neckbeard (1801738) | about 3 months ago | (#47237961)

I suspect that there would be less objection if the intent were to make new music with new technology, but this is taking Wagner and apparently pretty much just replacing the instrumentalists with samples. So, old message in a new medium.

Why do opera at all then? (4, Insightful)

AthanasiusKircher (1333179) | about 3 months ago | (#47237535)

Let me start by saying that I think anybody should be free to put on whatever kind of performance they want, and if people come and pay for tickets, so they make money -- terrific.

But this whole thing is a little weird to me. The entire style of singing in traditional opera (especially Wagner, which is what this particular story is about) is predicated on traditional acoustics, without electronic enhancement. Those crazy warbling sopranos do so to differentiate themselves timbrally from the orchestra and allow their voices to get to the audience. A singer otherwise would often get lost among the wash of sound from a 100 orchestral instruments.

So, if you want to get rid of the acoustic instruments, why the devil keep the operatic vocal performances the same? Give the singers microphones and let them perform in varying vocal styles, as done in most pop music and on Broadway these days.

This all strikes me as an incredibly odd project -- they're going to replace musicians with oodles of speakers pointed in various directions to simulate musicians playing? All of this technology to propagate an art form whose style of performance and singing is predicated on acoustic real-life performance?

And why bother with all the sampling at all? Why not just hire real musicians to perform, record them, and then play that back with just the singers doing their thing? Surely the investment that's going into this to figure out how to place oodles of speakers, getting all that sound equipment, etc. could probably pay for a one-time investment in a decent karaoke-style recording of actual instruments?

From TFA:

Tino Gagliardi, the president of Local 802 of the American Federation of Musicians, in New York, likened it to operatic karaoke.

That sounds precisely like what it is. Not that there's anything wrong with that -- if they can get somebody to pay for it, why not? I don't get why the heck anyone would want to do with opera, whose aesthetic is all about low-tech, but whatever floats your boat.

For the purists, there is one further question, though:

Staging a "Ring" cycle in Connecticut with a digital orchestra is the dream of Charles M. Goldstein, a musician and would-be impresario who was once an extra chorister at the Met, and who founded the Hartford Wagner Festival with the idea that one day Connecticut could become the only place outside of Bayreuth, Germany, to perform entire "Ring" cycles every year. He argued that there was no loss of jobs for musicians because, from the outset, he had never planned to use live players in the pit.

Here's the problem -- what does "perform" mean? Literally, from its etymological roots, it means to put something into its final form. Actual live music depends on responsiveness between singers and conductors and orchestra. Nothing is ever quite the same twice -- and that is often one of the cool things about live music.

This guy is proposing to "perform" pieces by using canned sampled pre-recorded "orchestras" (if I understand it correctly). I'm not saying it isn't an interesting idea, but why do it with Wagner or traditional opera at all? Is there really an audience who really wants to see effectively a dressed-up opera karaoke?

Re:Why do opera at all then? (1)

tomhath (637240) | about 3 months ago | (#47237573)

I wish I had mod points for you - these are my thoughts but expressed better than I could have.

If someone wants to go to a performance and listen to recorded music while they watch a "artist" prance around lip synching to a backtrack they can buy tickets to any pop or hip-hop concert. No need for trained or talented singers there.

Re:Why do opera at all then? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47237685)

The problem with using recordings is that the musicians normally synchronise themselves and follow cues from the stage. The actors also follow the musicians, so there is a syncronicity to some extent. When it flows together, it's a wonderful thing. To some extent you can do this better with samples, as you can slow or speed up or change the performance dynamic slightly in real time. With a straightforward recording this is tricky. (Time stretching works to some extent, but can sound a bit odd.)

I've done a hell of a lot of live music performance, accompanying singers and actors in all genres. I've worked with pre-recorded material, sample/midi playback with variable tempos and 'jump cut' cues, and fully live musicians. There is never that electric excitement that makes live performance so wonderful when you use pre-recorded music. This is not something that can be captured, you have to be there and experience it for yourself.

Another aspect is that the director can work very quickly with live musicians. They can say 'take that a little slower, pull your dynamics back a little, and sit the sound behind the stage action'. A good pit orchestra can do that instantly, and the director can get a feel for it right away. A midi programmed one will take an hour or so to re-write. A pre-recorded one might take weeks to sort out another recording session, or you may just not bother.

This relationship with the director is important, and it gives them much more freedom to tweak the work in real time, and get better results faster. Time is always precious when creating the work!

Re:Why do opera at all then? (1)

NormalVisual (565491) | about 3 months ago | (#47238015)

The problem with using recordings is that the musicians normally synchronise themselves and follow cues from the stage.

This is the biggest issue for me. Most of my pit experience is from playing musicals, and while everything you said applies, there's another issue - when one of the performers has a brain fart and skips the first verse of a song, a real pit orchestra responds instantly and seamlessly because they're listening to what's going on independently of the conductor, and know the show. If an actor misses a cue, the orchestra vamps until he gets his act together, and can make it sound like nothing out of the ordinary happened. If for some reason the conductor gets out of sync with what's happening on stage, the orchestra knows to ignore him and to follow the stage when need be. All of those situations have happened to me personally, and I've yet to see an electronic performance that can deal with them effectively.

Having said that, I agree with some of the other posters that most of the sampled/recorded music in musical theater today is there because of money. It's not cheap to field even a small (5-7 members) pit orchestra for a show that does even only five performances per week. It's been years since I had the opportunity to play a show simply because all the theaters around where I live don't use live music anymore.

Re:Why do opera at all then? (1)

Mal-2 (675116) | about 3 months ago | (#47239605)

A recorded backup band, a click track and a handful of live musicians has been the norm in shows for a long time, I'm afraid. I've seen shows where the "band" was clearly a dozen or so people, but the majority were all on tape and all that were actually played were the lead trumpet, the drums, and the piano. If one of them was missing, they've got a scratch track for them too. (It's all multi-tracked on ADAT or something similar, so it's not a big problem.) If the performers on stage screw up -- and sometimes they do -- then tough titties for them. They have to figure it out on the fly and make the adjustments. Choreography is so dependent on timing anyhow that they'd rather have the singers step on their dicks than make the entire crew have to adjust to the mistake.

Re:Why do opera at all then? (1)

fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) | about 3 months ago | (#47237821)

My understanding (from TFA and from very peripheral involvement as the support techie in a few situations involving sampled music reproduction(not for performance purposes; but it's actually a fairly popular thing in music education/guided practice, where the computer records you and plays accompaniment for whatever instrument the student is supposed to be learning)) is that the synth-orchestra is midway between a live one and a 'just a recording' background music.

With the more or less exhaustive sampling of all the instruments, you get a MIDI-on-steroids arrangement where you aren't just playing back 'a recording', you can play back any number of instruments, each playing any series of notes, on any number of physical outputs, limited only by your speakers and your software.

I don't know if anybody has done something clever with pointing a Kinect at the conductor and having the 'orchestra' respond, though that'd be a pretty natural thing to take a stab at; but if you are doing the (considerable) work of exhaustive sampling and then just doing a static playback, you are wasting your time. Simply getting a couple of high-quality recordings and playing those back would be easier, faster, and a lot less complex.

Where sampling(along with sophisticated instrument modelling/synthesis, where available) gets interesting is that it can respond in real time, if you have worked out how to measure what it is supposed to respond to.

I don't know how effective this Mr. Goldstein's setup is; but that's the somewhere-between-present-and-not-too-distant-future potential of sampling that makes it even more threatening than mere recording to the live musician. Recordings, however good, are static. Exploiting a library of samples and synthesis models, especially in real time and in response to inputs like 'conductor waving baton' or 'vocal performance' rather than 'experienced audio tech providing input designed for the computer's convenience', is very much a work in progress; but if it can be brought up to spec, it's a great deal closer to 'performance' than it is to 'playback'.

Re:Why do opera at all then? (1)

Bite The Pillow (3087109) | about 3 months ago | (#47238009)

Hold on to your hat.

Seriously.

There are lots of little productions of all kinds of opera all over the place, using a piano. Yes, a piano, instead of an orchestra.

You want to know how it is received?

Very well. Especially because the venue tends to be tiny, and a huge operatic voice in a tiny venue is almost physically overpowering. Any loss in using a fake orchestra is gained in just having the purity and proximity of the human voice.

I saw La Boheme with just a piano, and it was great. As great as one of the most common operas ever can be, to be clear. Of course, the piano player is now at the Met so that might have influenced it a bit. I have heard lots of other reviews of similar performances. No complaints.

Turns out, people go to an opera to hear people singing. Or for the social scene, in which case no one cares about the performance. Who knew? If the orchestra isn't there, they still eat it up. If the costumes aren't there, they eat it up.

If the audience is there for a full performance, they are going to be pissed if it isn't a full performance. If they are okay with just live people, maybe that's the real attraction.

Call it karaoke if you want, and belittle the lack of interaction between a performer and a conductor. But it happens all the time, all day long, and on the weekends people pay to see it.

It's already happening, and it's popular. So go tell this guy that something he's planning to to *better* and *closer* to reality in certain respects isn't worth doing unless it's in quotes. Because the world is already on his side.

Re:Why do opera at all then? (1)

AthanasiusKircher (1333179) | about 3 months ago | (#47238087)

I know of opera performances with piano. I've seen them, though usually they are in a smaller venue with limited staging. That's a different animal entirely -- turning large concert music into chamber music, and it's been done for centuries.

Such performances also retain the feeling of a truly live performance with acoustical instruments, with musicians interacting with each other rather than following some fake karaoke contraption with speakers laid out to simulate the layout of an orchestra.

I'd definitely pay to hear a chamber performance of an opera. But even in the opera world, Wagner's a bit of a specialty, and I find the idea of a chamber performance of the Ring to be a much weirder idea than Puccini, though maybe that's me.

Re:Why do opera at all then? (1)

iMadeGhostzilla (1851560) | about 3 months ago | (#47238165)

I went to see an opera recently (free tickets), and given that the orchestra was hidden from view, I imagine I wouldn't have been upset much had the music been prerecorded -- all of my attention was on the stage. Maybe we are naturally more impressed by people singing and moving about than by great instrument playing.

The net (short term) consequence of the project is, if it happens, people will be able to see and hear masterful singers performing live to the background digital music. Compared to nothing at all due to financial issues, it seems like a benefit.

Why do opera at all then? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47238305)

On one hand, in a recording or composing environment, I would not be able to compose without technology assisting me. I just don't have the capacity to play every orchestral and rock instrument every time I need to quickly lay-down a track. Nor call someone at 3:00am to blast out a trumpet solo.
However, it seems bizarre when you apply that to live work, I did that a number of times in my early career and I found it horrid trying to play a soulful guitar solo *with an audience* when the backing is electronic. You have to follow the machine. It is now in charge. There's a fundamental disconnect. It's been documented in various psych papers, or at least you can infer it from the research. Trained musicians brains grow differently, and furthermore, the more a musician improvises, the more the brain changes.

It seems to stem from money, and ego. Thus:

Let's replace musicians with robots. Humans are too expensive.
Same with the engineers. Computers could do far more responsive and accurate sound design. And cheaper, obviously.
Stage management can/is being automated. That will cut more expenditure.
Logistics will/is being automated. Keep costs down
Then we should replace the composers with algorithms derived from some program studying all music available. No having to pay a non-deserving rent-seeking leech, then :)
Of course, the audience are not a good judge of things such as musicianship, either. In fact, most sheeple suck. They should be replaced with robots. Cuts down on catering costs, too!
That just leaves a lip-syncing performer, and the management. (Most of which will be replaced by AI, too).

It's bizarre, but it seems to be going in that direction, and rather quickly.

Re:Why do opera at all then? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47238599)

People have touched on the issue, but I'll call it straight out. People are no longer taught anything about music, so think what they are being fed on the Radio is "good" and music. The people here that are saying the synthetic is bad seem to have at least some knowledge of music and musicianship. People that enjoy Dream Theater and Rush tend to be musically trained, people that enjoy Justin Bieber tend to be clueless about music and musicianship.

Not many of the people being fed lip synced dance shows stop to think about how different it is to actually perform. Many of these people don't even realize that these pop singers are lip sinking, and those would outnumber the people that knew that the majority of pop singers can't write a song. Since those things are hard to grasp, they have no concept of what it's like to do this as a full time job as a real musician.

Growing up I studied music, I performed, and I appreciate a great musical performance.

Re:Why do opera at all then? (1)

ExecutorElassus (1202245) | about 3 months ago | (#47239647)

Wish I had mod points this week, because this is absolutely correct. The giveaway is right there in TFS:

why not let free enterprise decide the fate of this endeavor instead of...

.
This is exactly what is driving these decisions. You know why Bayreuth is the only place in the world to do the full Ring cycle every year? Because mounting a 12-hour operatic spectacle is fucking expensive, and only the place with a guaranteed audience for it -- that is, an audience willing to pay a premium to see the opera in the house that was specifically built for this music -- can survivie doing it.

Make no mistake, the trends cited in TFA are not motivated by much creative interest. They are primarily motivated by cost-cutting and standardization drives, which -- you guessed it -- are the consequences of market capitalism. I mostly dislike orchestra unions -- they seriously interfered with a lot of work by myself and my colleages when we tried to compose things for orchestra that they didn't like -- but if we take your arguments and the OP's as valid, then they are protecting a legitimately valuable experience from debasement.

New paradigms (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47237555)

Technologies need to bring new art paradigms to be accepted as a novelty rather than a threat to traditional usages and and current actors.

There is no clash (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47237577)

I'm in the NYC music scene and have also been around to different music scenes in the USA. I've never heard of this clash the NY Times is reporting on. I'm in the experimental/electronic music scene but I interact with classical and traditional musicians. I have never experienced any clash, tension, or one upmanship between different genres of musicians. On the contrary, I've found a respectful appreciation for the artistic contributions of everyone in the music scene. Not sure where they are getting this idea?

Live music has certain expectations (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47237595)

This isn't a clash of tech and music, it's a clash of the customer's expectations for live music and the product being delivered.

When it comes to opera and orchestra, if I'm in the audience I expect to see the source of the sounds I hear. That's why I'm paying to go see it live rather than sit at home on my stereo. If I hear a symbol clash I should be able to look out into the orchestra and see a guy hitting a symbol. Cutting some of this out is not delivering the experience that people expect. The character of individual live orchestras is very much a large part of the experience to hearing this type of music live. Hearing sound samples from the New York philharmonic when you're in Chicago absolutely does cheapen the experience.

On the other hand, if the sounds can't be replicated by humans then of course it's fine to use backing tracks. That's the unspoken agreement that exists for all live music, is it not? If a rock band is using an orchestral backing track, that's reasonable. If a rock band is piping in a pre-recorded guitar solo, people are going to be disappointed. Even at electronica shows the audience expects the artist to do as much live as he can (leading to the classic scenario of a DJ pretending to twist knobs and punch buttons that aren't even hooked into anything).

Tron (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47237615)

Tron was disqualified from receiving an Academy Award nomination for special effects, because the Academy felt at the time that using computers was "cheating".

Re:Tron (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47237643)

Yes, but the irony was hilarious: using computers, to make a movie about computers, was cheating.

Funny (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47237627)

When it comes to downloading music, suddenly the free market isn't good enough for this crowd.

slashdot web site (0)

issicus (2031176) | about 3 months ago | (#47237679)

holy shit the ads on here suck. I leave /. front page open often and god damn.. so many new windows and audio crap. it's worse than any other website I go to regularly. wtf happened?

Re:slashdot web site (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47237739)

I get no ads, or at least no ads that have their own windows and no ads that play audio.

misleading title (1)

issicus (2031176) | about 3 months ago | (#47237699)

It's the clash between prerecorded samples and real live instruments.

Sure there's a place for this (1)

Mister Liberty (769145) | about 3 months ago | (#47237721)

The margin, it's called.

Opera is a dieing art form (1)

rlh100 (695725) | about 3 months ago | (#47237793)

Opera attendance in America is dropping off dramatically. Most of the audience are older women and couples. Over 50. The opera community is having a very hard time attracting younger members. Competition of other types of music and high ticket prices.

So I think what this person is trying to do is great. It probably won't be a success. But it may draw new audience members in.

Once when I complained about modern classical music to a friend of mine who composes new symphonies, he said:
"Traditional classical music has had time to filter out all the bad symphonies leaving just the best. With modern classical we are listening to it in real time. All the new compositions and ideas, good and bad. Isn't that exciting."

RLH

Re:Opera is a dieing art form (1)

westlake (615356) | about 3 months ago | (#47237859)

Opera is a dieing art form

and so, it would appear, is correct spelling.

It probably won't be a success. But it may draw new audience members in.

Why would new audiences be drawn in by a mechanistic note-by-note MIDI performance of a Wagnerian score?

Re:Opera is a dieing art form (1)

rlh100 (695725) | about 3 months ago | (#47238525)

Sorry about dieing. It looked wrong but aspell liked it.

When you comment on someone's spelling errors do you ever think about how that might hurt the writer. I know you probably thought it funny or helpful but spelling has always been a struggle for me. Up until 10th grade when an English teacher looked at any of my writing, the first thing out of their mouths was "Robert, you need to work on your spelling". Like Calvin, I would tune out and visit planet Zoke. It was not until age 16 that I got an English teacher who made me feel like I could write. That was almost 40 years ago.

And for people who suggest that maybe I should use a different spell checker, aspell works for me. My text editor is vim. My spell checker is aspell.

Besides there are some basic problems with spell checkers as Taylor Mali says in his hilarious poem:
"The The Impotence of Proofreading"
Watch here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v... [youtube.com]

What "new technology?" (1)

westlake (615356) | about 3 months ago | (#47237813)

It's hard to see MIDI accompaniment as "new technology."

Player piano rolls were edited to achieve a kind of mechanical perfection in performance or to weave in showy theatrical effects no human keyboardist could produce. The problems begin when you to try to synchronize a live performance to a recording.

For greater economies outside the major cities, you could simply dispense with the sets and local casting and show the movie.

Using new technology can quite well be art (1)

Opportunist (166417) | about 3 months ago | (#47237845)

"Art" is a very subjective thing. And coming up with a novel way to use technology to create art, isn't that art by itself? The first person to discover that you could create music with a Gameboy sure was an artist.

It's questionable, though, if the thousands that copied him, are.

Art, like everything, evolves. Develops. Some say that one of the "duties" of art is to break down boundaries, to evoke a reaction from the one consuming it, to stir emotions and to make people think. All this does actually require that art reaches for new ways to express itself. And one of them is by definition technology. Technology is usually the spearhead of human development, the "newest of the new". It's only logical that technology will be used to create art if new art is what you are aiming at.

That is one side of the coin.

The other one is how art is used to make content creation easy. Note how "art" is absent from the previous sentence. Technology is more and more used as a substitute for artistic and creative ability. One of the most blatant examples thereof is autotune. If you don't know it, google it. Autotune has been abused far too many times by people who have exactly zero voice to create something that can be listened to without creating the pressing urge to puncture your ear drums. Still, it can be used in artistic ways. If you want an example of a GOOD use of autotune, take "Believe" from Cher. You may like her or not, but this was a creative, artistic way to use a tool that is usually just abused by talent free morons to create content.

Technology, as always, is neither good nor bad when it comes to art. Its use is what matters.

As usual.

Re:Using new technology can quite well be art (1)

Barsteward (969998) | about 3 months ago | (#47239463)

"Art" is a very subjective thing. - very true and highly overrated and highly elitist

free enterprise indeed (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47237875)

...but why not let free enterprise decide the fate of this endeavor instead of trying to kill it...

Really, you don't get why? Let's put this in another context then. Do you get why offshoring tech jobs is bad? And why people don't want to participate, training their Chinese or Indian replacement? But that's just "free enterprise deciding" isn't?

If you can't wrap your head around that one, how about the idea that the workers are also a part of the "free enterprise" equation? The workers deciding not to support this is free enterprise deciding. Free enterprise isn't solely about consumers.

*eOpera (1)

arielCo (995647) | about 3 months ago | (#47238025)

Because e- is for Electronic. Unless the Internet (or, <deity> forbid, Apple) had something to do with it.

what do you think a free market involves? (1)

Trepidity (597) | about 3 months ago | (#47238095)

Threatening someone that if they do X, you won't hire them and will do your best to convince others not to hire them, is perfectly compatible with a free market. In some regulated markets it might not be allowed (e.g. some such tactics might fall afoul of anti-trust or collusion laws), but in a completely free market, such tactics would be allowed.

Australian Chamber Orchestra (1)

jblues (1703158) | about 3 months ago | (#47238193)

The Australian Chamber Orchestra used a virtual version of itself to reach out to new potential audience members. This was using real audio and footage though - reassembled into an interractive experience. http://m.youtube.com/watch?v=s... [youtube.com]

More about composition. (1)

Kazoo the Clown (644526) | about 3 months ago | (#47238271)

I think the real dichotomy is more between modern composition and older works. I'm only interested in listening to Wagner or Mozart for so long, at some point I'd like to hear something that's fresh. But many of the modern composers seemed to me have lost sight of what sounds good, preferring to take some kind of conceptual approach that may be of interest to other composers but I find often isn't very interesting to listen to. After the likes of Xenakis, Philip Glass, Laurie Anderson and a few others, I found it to be mostly elitist insider music, and tuned out. And I'm a musician myself, but that kind of stuff just lost me. I now listen more to Chris Clark, Peter Scherer, and maybe John Zorn and some ethnic-fusion experimenters, Jazz and electronica artists and a few others who at least haven't lost sight of what sounds interesting. As far as I'm concerned, "purists" of any kind are tending towards boring. If you see your art as a museum piece be a purist and re-create that which has come before. But as I think Grace Slick once said, "Van Gogh never had to paint a painting twice."

Re:More about composition. (1)

CRCulver (715279) | about 3 months ago | (#47238331)

There are some academic composers out there who, while not writing specifically for an academic cognoscenti, tend to be known only among such peers. However, Xenakis and Glass are not such composers. Many thousands of people visited the installations that Xenakis set up and came away wowed. Even today, a Xenakis orchestral concert is likely to sell out, with only the great expense of additional rehearsals getting in the way. Most performances of the string quartets sell out too, and the Ardittis and the JACK Quartet have included them in their programmes in order to pull in fans of IDM and other experimental genres. Xenakis has great crossover appeal.

And Philip Glass "elitist insider music"?! The whole deal with the New York Downtown composer scene was that they were writing for a general audience and inviting amateur performers. Glass's operas inevitably sell out, and classical record labels have long used his music, which sells well, to subsidize other, less popular musicians. Maybe you just haven't heard much from Glass -- he's certainly less "out there" than John Zorn, who you say you like.

But many of the modern composers seemed to me have lost sight of what sounds good, preferring to take some kind of conceptual approach

It's worth keeping in mind that as late as 1990, and perhaps even still today, the vast majority of composers on earth were writing ordinary tonal music, such as neo-Romanticism. The avant-garde was always only a small slice of what was going on at the time. Naxos's American Classics series and Melodiya can acquaint you with a great many of these composers who didn't want to radically break with tradition.

In the end we just stayed home (1)

paiute (550198) | about 3 months ago | (#47238285)

Round one: Digital music replaces musicians. Actors and audience don't much care.
Round two: Holograms replace actors. Audience doesn't much care.
Round three: Virtual audience replaces real audience. Real audience doesn't even notice, as the computers find that the all-digital performance can be optimized by running the simulation at many times real life speed. Der Ring des Nibelungen takes only 1.5 seconds in the new theater.

My granular synths just don't have the breath... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47238371)

control that "I" have on my clarinets (or trombone, for that matter). Albeit amateur hour in my case, I not only make digital instruments (to be discarded at whim) but I practice hard to play (ie. Intonation) ... to play is not merely to play a game. Like learning to speak, there is a point where you attain fluency and maybe even grace. I've made some 'interesting' music with digital machines, but much more interesting analog machines to make music and playing, is playing, after all.

If you have to ask, you're too damn primitive... (1)

digsbo (1292334) | about 3 months ago | (#47239077)

Symphonic, operatic, and chamber music at the world-class level is about nuance that only educated ears will understand. It's already a small market. That market is likely to balk at the use of electronics. That's ok.

People who don't care if it's electronic should go ahead and enjoy whatever they think they like.

However, don't tell me for a second that some computer can match the transcendent quality of a lifelong trained live orchestra and soloist for nuance, presence, and artistry. The instant you argue that, I'm already convinced you don't know shit about the art form. You can certainly tell me that you like it, or even that new music can be made with such tools, but simply don't be foolish enough to try to convince me that computers are better musicians than people.

Re:If you have to ask, you're too damn primitive.. (1)

Mal-2 (675116) | about 3 months ago | (#47239651)

Computers aren't musicians, they are merely instruments, and we've gotten to the point that for an awful lot of things, those instruments played (programmed) by actual people can produce quite good results.

In the case of a pit orchestra, this just means one player could cover an entire multi-instrument "book" with a single EWI/EVI and laptop rather than actually physically switching instruments, but it would do nothing to alter the actual number of people required. Each person could still only play one part at a time. Electronics such as vocal harmonizers can be used to get around this to a degree, but those can be used with ordinary acoustic instruments as well (as the fact that they are VOCAL harmonizers would tend to imply).

If you've got the budget and space for a two-piece horn section, but have the means to make it sound like a four or six-piece horn section, who is being harmed by doing so? The number of people who would be up there playing doesn't change in either case.

DISCLAIMER: There's an EWI sitting within arm's reach of me as I type this. I may have a vested interest in proving it worthy for certain applications that AREN'T supposed to sound synthy.

Avoiding being frog marched (1)

Xifer (2763577) | about 3 months ago | (#47239241)

Speaking as a singer, the machine orchestra needs to track and anticipate solutions to the singers variation of rhythm, pitch and dynamics. The singer is carefully monitoring the audience and deciding when a strict rhythm is needed to set up their expectations so that he can express by slowing down or speeding up their rhythms or using slightly blue notes or by changing the level of sound or even the nature of the phoneme that he is yelling. He is actually using the audience's pattern judgement to draw them into his performance. Normally when singing with an accompanist it is really a duet, as the singer is depending on the accompanist to read him and anticipate what he is trying to do. The conductor tracks him and will communicate his changes of tempo and dynamic to the orchestra with judgements on how to complete the ensemble. Karaoke is not very pleasing as it is like being frog marched through the music because there is no non verbal consensus on how the music will develop. So if i am working for an audience who has consented to listen to me, i want some sort of intelligence behind me tracking my decisions and forming a reasonable background for them which also has at least a fractal ability to delight the audience. Speaking as a journeyman pipe organ builder, the onset of new technologies tend to speciate methods and instruments of music. If you add a keyboard to a harp, you are no longer hands on and you have a harpsichord. What you lose in dynamics you gain in control of damping. In pipe organs we have seen electrification of actions, electronic tone generation, sampling, midi control of the instrument and these have all spawned different methods of play and different instruments. You have the electric action pipe organ, the jazz organ, samples you can download and play on your home computer and synthesizers which are a different instrument from where you started. And yet there are still a handful of pipe organ shops in the United States that build tracker (mechanical) organs which could even be gotten with bellows if you want them. This is because that form of the instrument is still considered useful because of the articulation it allows to the musicians for their music. In the article, there seemed to be something rather naive about the way they were bandying about a few speakers here and there. Speakers are directional and it takes a good sound engineer to design the acoustics in a given auditorium and tune it even before the musicians show up. It takes sufficient drivers to move the air in the room without blowing peoples ears out. Speaker stacks for surround sound can be expensive and for a grand opera are not trivial and you are not talking yet about the amplifiers and generators and boards to control them and then the computer and programming to produce the sound. If you have been to a large music gathering you have probably noticed the huge speaker stacks that enable them to accelerate the air around you without hurting your ears. I would say the way of singing for Wagner is optimized for an acoustic presentation in a large venue. It is very taxing on the voice to sing that way and takes a lot of athletic ability on the part of the singer to sustain it without electronic amplification although they are usually assisted by the acoustics of the room. If you mike them, you are no longer doing opera and you will attract a different type of singer and your music will become a different species of musical experience. So the singer will have to decide what direction he would like to follow with his music and what sort of audience he wants to cater to. I would suggest that there is room for all of them in music.

Classical with a light show. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47239379)

I just got home from a art festival in Minneapolis. The Minnesota Orchestra teamed up with an artist to put on a light show that reacted to sounds present and turned a performance in to a live fantasia viewing. I've never seen anything like it. It was a perfect blend of music, art, and gesture. I walked out of that knowing I just saw the best show in my life. Modern music has adapted to technology for live performances classical needs to do the same. That could do so much to bring in younger generations.

The finest example of technological art is ... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47239893)

Hatsume Miku. This robot voice has more songs created by more people in history. Tripshots and supercell are some of the best examples.

The World is HERS.

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