Monday, March 26, 2007

Great Moments in Bad Historical Analogies

The ongoing story of how synthesized instruments and entire virtual orchestras are taking over musical theater pits gets another look in yesterday's New York Times. There's some interesting speculation about whether this technology, which for now at least is almost always supplemented by live instruments, can actually help musicians in any way, but it's hard not to be cynical when apologists on behalf of the technology are quoted as saying something like this: "'Technology is always a threat to live music,' said Bruce Pomahac, director of music at Rodgers & Hammerstein. 'When the pianoforte replaced the harpsichord, every harpsichordist was out of a job.'" Really? Was there some sort of harpsichordists' union that wouldn't allow its card-carrying members to try out that newfangled piano with it's oh-so-mysterious keyboard layout?

I honestly don't know how a writer just leaves an absurd quote like that in a story without rebutting it at all. At any rate, one reason I'm glad that I care about the human factor in performance is that it makes me less worried that audiences will someday be happy to have laptops do my job. I know that no laptop can play Struass like me.

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