When Did Synthesizers Replace Live Orchestras?

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ItalianStallion81
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When Did Synthesizers Replace Live Orchestras?

Post by ItalianStallion81 » Sun Nov 09, 2014 9:43 pm

Does anyone remember exactly when synthesizers began to replace parts of live symphony orchestras?

Also, what brands of synthesizers are favored among recent symphony orchestras? I could go on about this. . .

When the trend just started, in the 1980s, I could think it was stuff like the Yamaha DX7, Roland D50, Fairlight CMI and the Synclavier.

~Ben

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Re: When Did Synthesizers Replace Live Orchestras?

Post by Z » Sun Nov 09, 2014 9:59 pm

Synths have not replaced live orchestras and never will.
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Re: When Did Synthesizers Replace Live Orchestras?

Post by commodorejohn » Sun Nov 09, 2014 11:37 pm

What Z said. To a certain extent they've been subbing for session orchestras on pop recordings and budget movie soundtracks pretty much since the birth of digital samplers, and they are better at that than they used to be, but they've never come close to all-out replacing them, and I don't foresee that happening.
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Re: When Did Synthesizers Replace Live Orchestras?

Post by ItalianStallion81 » Mon Nov 10, 2014 12:18 am

commodorejohn wrote:What Z said. To a certain extent they've been subbing for session orchestras on pop recordings and budget movie soundtracks pretty much since the birth of digital samplers, and they are better at that than they used to be, but they've never come close to all-out replacing them, and I don't foresee that happening.
Since 1987, some Broadway theater productions featured synths in place of some (if not all) string musicians. One of the first to begin the trend toward "virtual pit orchestras" was the production of Les Miserables, which used the Yamaha DX7 FM synth.

Another one of those was the 2009 revival of West Side Story after July 2010.

One version of the story about this here:
http://www.synthtopia.com/content/2010/ ... thesizers/

~Ben

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Re: When Did Synthesizers Replace Live Orchestras?

Post by ppg_wavecomputer » Mon Nov 10, 2014 12:48 am

ItalianStallion81 wrote:Does anyone remember exactly when synthesizers began to replace parts of live symphony orchestras?

Also, what brands of synthesizers are favored among recent symphony orchestras? I could go on about this. . .

When the trend just started, in the 1980s, I could think it was stuff like the Yamaha DX7, Roland D50, Fairlight CMI and the Synclavier.

~Ben
Have they...?

Oh, yeah, now that you mention it, I remember attending a concert of the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra, conducted by Herbert von Karajan in the early 1970s. He had one of the hugest Serge Modular rigs I've ever seen, about 100 panels arranged in an arc around him.

The instrumentalists were rumoured to have faked their performances and it was *all* Serge...

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Of course I'm being sarcastic.
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Re: When Did Synthesizers Replace Live Orchestras?

Post by meatballfulton » Mon Nov 10, 2014 1:23 am

Andrew Lloyd Webber has used Kurzweil workstations for his Broadway productions.
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Re: When Did Synthesizers Replace Live Orchestras?

Post by Gianni » Mon Nov 10, 2014 1:48 am

ItalianStallion81 wrote:Does anyone remember exactly when synthesizers began to replace parts of live symphony orchestras?
I worked as a pit musician for a while and I just hated the idea of synthesizers doing orchestral parts. Died a little inside everyday, specially when I had to do it.

Fortunately, that kind of crime only happens in theater.

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Re: When Did Synthesizers Replace Live Orchestras?

Post by calaverasgrande » Mon Nov 10, 2014 5:06 am

there are some low budget films and broadcast production that use sample library stuff.
I've read of a few composers that did the composition in a sample library as 'temp' only, with intention (and promise of producers) to replace it with a conducted score before final print. But you know, shoots run long, budgets get cut. Some genius thinks music is just some frilly c**p that you can fake it through.
So then they go with the temp music for the final print and the composer demands they Allan Smithee his name off the credits.
Though to be fair, symphonic libraries have gotten very good. If you put the effort into composing with them well and do some work on piping it through a very good room simulation reverb, I doubt most of us could tell the difference.
(I think I see a target painted on my back with that comment).
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Re: When Did Synthesizers Replace Live Orchestras?

Post by sourwookie » Mon Nov 10, 2014 5:24 am

Long before synths. The Mellotron was doing this very well in the 60' s and on (King Crimason and Moody Blues). h**l, Days Of Future Passed is more Mellotron than most people realized.


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Re: When Did Synthesizers Replace Live Orchestras?

Post by ItalianStallion81 » Mon Nov 10, 2014 6:27 am

While I know this trend is a black eye for the remainder of the live orchestral string musicians, but in the far future, what if the same thing happened to live rock bands? The people that are the guitarists, bassists and drummers?

Imagine attending a Rolling Stones concert with only Sir Mick Jagger putting out simulated guitar and bass sounds using only one (or two) keyboard(s) and replacing Charlie Watts's role - drums - with a drum machine?? We can do our part and slow down this trend!

~Ben
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Re: When Did Synthesizers Replace Live Orchestras?

Post by ItalianStallion81 » Mon Nov 10, 2014 6:36 am

I forgot to say that the whole reason synths came into play on Broadway (and beyond) was due to the many AFM Local 802 strikes in NY. More often than not, producers of Broadway plays wouldn't let their productions go unfinished because of such strikes; instead, any of the real orchestral musicians affected by the strike who refused to honor the picket lines would have their parts replaced with synths and backing tapes.

~Ben
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Re: When Did Synthesizers Replace Live Orchestras?

Post by calaverasgrande » Mon Nov 10, 2014 6:56 am

its funny to hear this now.
This was a huge topic back in the 80s 90s.
Musicians who had never made a dime playing music had adamant opinions on it.
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Re: When Did Synthesizers Replace Live Orchestras?

Post by CS_TBL » Mon Nov 10, 2014 6:57 am

ItalianStallion81 wrote:Since 1987, some Broadway theater productions featured synths in place of some (if not all) string musicians.
A synthpad player is cheaper than 60 string players, has less travel cost declarations and occupies less space in the pit. Furthermore, a synth has more sound possibilities; a synth can thus be a cost effective solution as well as a new sound to the palette.

The latter is a creative choice, the first is a financial and practical/logistic choice. Producers know about the latter, and with theatre production budgets declining: who's surprised that synths are taking over where they can (as far as actors aren't singing along with a pre-recording)?

We're nearing the point where it's very hard to hear the differences between virtual orchestras and real ones. Not quite there yet, but we're heading into the right direction. Give it another ten years and there'll be ensembles based on solo layers, with 10+ round robins and 12+ velocity steps for everything. By then, the sound isn't the the critical factor any more, only the playing is. E.g. rather than stringpad-playing you'd need to do stringline-playing (at least for live), or enter the correct notes manually in an editor and playback.
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Re: When Did Synthesizers Replace Live Orchestras?

Post by commodorejohn » Mon Nov 10, 2014 7:06 am

There's a world of difference between even the best virtual orchestras and the real thing in a live setting. It's like piano VSTs - there are some damn good ones and on a recording they can do a pretty good job of convincing, but the acoustics are just too different between a sound emanating from a couple speakers and a sound emanating from 60-70 individual players (or, for the piano, from a large wooden resonator box.)
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Re: When Did Synthesizers Replace Live Orchestras?

Post by CS_TBL » Mon Nov 10, 2014 7:21 am

You refer to two speakers creating phantom images of individual instruments that have been placed somewhere between (or beyond) left and right? The same problem would occur with orchestral recordings then. I'd say it'd be quite something if we'd have an identical sound from a sample library compared to a recorded orchestra coming from speakers.

But anyway: it's only 2014; just wait, and we'll get there. Just look at 3d and what we can model these days in film and what kind of virtual sets there are. That CGI-method was science fiction in the 80's, now it's normal and getting better with each film.
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