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Old 05-10-2019, 04:52 PM   #1
Location: Rochester, NY
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Default Can a computer really replace an orchestra?

On May 5, 2019, the Wall Street Journal printed an article by Jacob Hale Russell and John Jurgensen describing an experiment they conducted. They asked two music professors to listen to 30-second passages of a Beethoven symphony created by a computer as well as passages by live orchestras. Both professors were unable to pick out the computer generated passage on their first try! The article goes on to describe the different types of technologies being developed to create music without musicians.

What are your thoughts on this?
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Old 05-19-2007, 10:39 PM   #2
Location: Florida
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Default Computerized Orchestras

I don't think the question should be whether or not a computer can replace an orchestra. They already have in forms of the 'tracks' that are replacing live musicians in pits around the world for anything from ballet and opera to broadway productions. I believe the true question should be: "Can computers replace the live orchestral experience?" Of course the answer to this is no. Another good question related to this topic could be what can we as orchestral organizations do to better 'modernize' our programs and draw in younger crowds. I'd be interested in seeing viewers ideas on this.
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Old 06-08-2019, 05:40 PM   #3
Location: Ontario Canada
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Default more than just a computer

I write orchestral music and at first I used a computer just to generate conductor's scores, but after I had templates set up I was able to hear computer realizations of the scores as well. As the technology improved I have been able to use orchestral emulations for clients (Tv and corporate mostly) who expect the same kind of orchestral score as movies, but with the budgets of commercials.

So...having worked in the trenches I know for a fact it is possible to have a computer realized score sound as real as an orchestra, but not without a lot of work! You need huge drives, and a fast throughput, cutting edge samplers and cutting edge libraries, plus you need to have both an understanding of what a real orchestra is capable of as well what your library is capable of as well. To make a mock-up truly realistic requires almost as much attention to detail as orchestrating on paper!

I guess the real answer to the question is: no computer can replace an orchestra, but a capable composer-engineer, a powerful computer, some top end libraries, lot's of time and good gear can certainly come close!

The main aspect of that use though isn't concert performances (obviously) it is movie scores and music to picture. In a lot of those cases, it is too expensive to hire an orchestra anyway, so while losing an audience or performance work seems to be a valid concern, I doubt a lot of orchestras have any real need to fear.
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Old 06-11-2019, 02:24 PM   #4
Location: Charlotte, NC
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The results of that test surprised me. They had a link to the excerpts, and I thought it was pretty clear which one was a computer. Anyone else try it?
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Old 09-06-2019, 01:14 PM   #5
Location: Minneapolis, MN
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When I took the test, I was fooled into thinking Roger Norrington's version was the computer's because of the thinner sound quality and the mechanical interpretation (typical of him). But I sent the link to my friend (my first fiddle teacher) who told me there was a woodwind passage so cheesy it was a dead giveaway.
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Old 09-08-2019, 11:32 AM   #6
Location: Del Mar, CA
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Sometimes I see technology as a wave, a wave as high as a mountain sweeping everything away in its path. The computer and software used in creating music is part of such a wave. At first, it's a novelty. "Wow, look what we can do! Create a whole section of violins, then add some drums!" And then some take it a step further, creating entire symphonies on a MIDI keyboard. The sounds of the early software sounds "synthetic" and not very real, even though the sounds may be actual samples of real instruments. But the "feel" isn't quite right. Then time goes by, and new technology comes up with modeled instruments. All the while people are experimenting with new ways to control the sounds - varieties of MIDI controllers evolve, guitars, horns, woodwind controllers. And the software continues to get better, more accurate, more under the feel and control of the player. And the computers get faster, more powerful. And then people develop software that actually composes music, from pattern recognition of evey piece of music ever written. Thus, you have a computer system with the entire history of music in its database, an ability to play in perfect pitch, and to combine and recombine patterns in infinite ways. In the very near future, there will be music contests, like the chess playing contests between the chess master and the computer, to see whether the computer can create and play a better piece than people.

Now, at this point, many of the real musicians and composers will freak out in dismay, and say "music is dead!" or fear for their jobs and such like. I think what may happen is that by being exposed to such a scenario, musicians and composers will be able to see "music" in a way they've never seen it before. Something like a total comprehension of how music has been created for the past several hundred years. The computerized system will mark the end of music as we know it, yes. But it will open a door to the real capability that only humans have - to actually "create" - to produce something "new". This is the point in the process that I look forward to.
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