The Virtual Orchestra

I received an email from a fellow musician that bodes ill for the future of the performing arts. It’s bad enough that the arts have essentially been eliminated in our schools. Must professional theatres go the same way? If major arts facilities don’t understand this issue…. well, I just wonder who’s going to pay $100 (or more) for a ticket to see a show that’s not even played live.

On Tuesday December 21, 2004 the musical show “Oliver” will open at the Orange County Performing Arts Center. This show is traveling with a machine known as the Virtual Orchestra. This machine uses digital sampling to record and replace live musicians in the pit.

This is a very real threat to the future of live music. The Virtual Orchestra jeopardizes every phase of the music business. Last year the Broadway musical theatres in New York City were closed for three days as singers, dancers and stagehands joined with musicians in refusing to work with this device. As a result there is no Virtual Orchestra on Broadway.

On Tuesday December 21, 2004 Local 7 will be distributing leaflets to the opening night audience. To be noticed and taken seriously we must have a large number of people participating. You as a practitioner of the art of making music owe it to yourself, as well as to all musicians who have come before you and who are yet to come, to standup to this attack on our profession.

The Orange County Performing Arts Center by its very name proclaims to be dedicated to the performing arts. To replace musicians with this mechanical device is a betrayal of the purpose for which this magnificent structure was conceived, funded and erected. It cannot be allowed to contribute to the decline of music performance by employing the Virtual Orchestra as a cost saving device without hearing from us.

I’m in Las Vegas until the 21st, so I won’t be able to be there. But “canned” music bothers me, because when I lived in Las Vegas in the late 80’s, the hotels on the Strip decided to save money by replacing live musicians in the orchestra pit with taped music. The musician’s union went on strike at every hotel in town. They stayed on the picket lines for literally years. Eventually they just stopped picketing, the battle lost. And today, there’s not a live orchestra left anywhere on the Strip that I know of.

  2 comments for “The Virtual Orchestra

  1. Jon
    December 9, 2004 at 8:49 am

    Wow, that really sucks. The machines must be stopped!

  2. Goober
    August 22, 2005 at 2:03 pm

    How do they expect that poor machine to food on the table? I hear that machine has a wife and five hard drives to support.
    You bastards!!

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