We stand with members of the New York City Ballet protesting TONIGHT as Lincoln Center allows a visiting ballet to dance to canned music! That’s right, at NYC’s famed home of the Juilliard School and a bastion of live performing arts, audience members are paying up to $125 a ticket to see “Stars of the 21st Century dance to a recording!! Orchestra members will be passing out educational flyers at 6:30 PM in front of Lincoln Center Koch Theater.
News & Events
Attention NYC-area music-lovers!! Live Music needs our support on MAY DAY! At 4pm on Tuesday, May 1st, members of the NYC musicians’ union, Local 802 AFM and supporters of initiatives like Save Live Music on Broadway and Justice for Jazz Artists will be meeting at Union Square in Manhattan, joined by representatives from dozens of other unions. Musicians will be march in support of core values like more music in public schools, fair pay, pensions and benefits for musicians, and, of course, LIVE MUSIC on Broadway and beyond! If you are in New York, please bring an instrument and join the march! For more info, visit www.Facebook.com/Local802AFM.
A recent flurry of letters to the editor have been published in The New York Times in response to a piece detailing the increasingly common Broadway practice of having a live orchestra play in a side room, with the music “piped in” to the theater. Naturally, this has led to a lively discussion over at the Save Live Music on Broadway Facebook page. How does “piped in” music compare to seeing and hearing a live orchestra performing in the same auditorium as the cast and audience? Below are a few of the comments we have received so far:
Teri Booth thinks having the musicians in the theater is essential: “Live theatre has an ‘energy’ to it,” she says. “When [musicians] are removed from the actors and the audience, [they] are no longer part of— or contributors to—that experience.”
Facebook fan Liese Kaye M writes that “Yes, it is ideal [for the musicians] to be in the same area as the stage and performers, but if that’s not possible, a LIVE orchestra in another area of the theater is ALWAYS preferable to a recording.”
Ross Kratter writes, “If everything is going through the sound system, why should it matter where in the building it’s coming from if it’s being played live, and thus the musicians are keeping their jobs?”
Commenter Chris Dierl also thinks the amplification is the real issue: “For too long, sound designers have decided that natural sound is bad, because it is beyond their control. This has given us over-produced, radio-mixed orchestras”
We love hearing from informed theatregoers! Your passionate support is why so many theatre fans have signed our petition to keep Broadway live. (By the way, if you haven’t signed it yet, what are you waiting for? The petition is just to the right of this blog, and it only takes a minute to sign!). Your sharing of our posts in the social media universe is how we have built such a large and vibrant Facebook community. What do you think about this debate? Is amplification a problem in modern musicals? In addition to the threat of recordings replacing live music entirely, is piped-in music also an obstacle to your enjoyment of Broadway shows? Let us know!
On the New York Times’ Letters to the Editor page, Broadway fans have been debating the qualitative difference between live orchestras in the pit and having the music piped in from another room.
One asks, “What about the actual live, vibrating sound waves coming from acoustic instruments? Doesn’t someone paying a fortune for a ticket deserve to feel the vibe? Isn’t this an integral part of live music? This is a very bad idea. The audience deserves the whole package. Please don’t let this become standard practice. Give audience members all that they deserve and bring the band back home now.”
Another points out that “People recoil with horror at the idea of prerecorded music on Broadway. But with amplified music of any kind, and most certainly with music coming from a different floor in the theater, the net effect is no different in kind from a prerecording.”
This is an important debate and one worth having! What are your thoughts on this trend? Is having live music piped into a Broadway show much better than playing a recording, or to your taste and experience can anything match having the orchestra in the same auditorium with the performers and the audience? Let us know on Twitter, Google Plus, or Facebook! And remember to take a moment, if you haven’t yet, to sign the petition demanding Broadway producers keep the music live.
As we’ve reported before, musical theater is not the only art form threatened by the use of recorded music: dance is also a frequent target of those willing to sacrifice artistic integrity for a few extra dollars. We were saddened to hear that the Paul Taylor Dance Company has just become the first major dance company in history to perform at Lincoln Center to canned music instead of being accompanied by professional musicians. It is unfortunate that some people don’t seem to think that audiences care enough to notice that they are paying top dollar for a musical experience one could approximate with iTunes. Not only that, this use of canned music sets a dangerous precedent for a treasured cultural institution.
According to James Fayette, former principal dancer with the New York City Ballet and current New York Area Dance Executive at the American Guild of Musical Artists (AGMA), “The ballet’s founder George Balanchine was often quoted as saying ‘See the music, hear the dance.’” Fayette added, “Music is essential to the experience at the David H. Koch Theater—where I danced to live music at every performance. It was the beauty of the orchestra’s art that created a complete expression of the ballets and a full artistic experience for the audience.”
We here at the Save Live Music on Broadway campaign hope that Lincoln Center’s leadership will recognize that allowing dance residencies to foist recorded music on an unsuspecting audience is not good for the venerable arts complex—which is home to the Juilliard School, educator of the world’s top musicians!—and it is poison for New York’s reputation as a global artistic capital.
Much like the Paul Taylor Dance Company at Lincoln Center, some Broadway theater owners and producers have attempted to sell prerecorded shows to unsuspecting audiences. Audiences must be able to make informed decisions before spending their money on a diminished experience. That is why we ask that you share this story and sign our petition against use of recorded music on Broadway. Let producers know you love live music!
The holiday season is here, along with all of its attendant traditions: the drinking of hot chocolate, the exchanging of gifts, the singing of carols. Unfortunately, in Boston, there is a new holiday tradition that is about as welcome as a re-gifted fruitcake: using canned music in place of a live orchestra in the Rockettes roadshow.
For the second year in a row, “The Radio City Christmas Spectacular” in Boston will not be offering the rich, fully live experience of the Rockettes accompanied by a 35-piece orchestra, as in New York City. Instead, Boston’s Rockettes will be high-kicking along to lifeless recordings.
According to many reviewers, last years’ canned production deserved nothing from Santa but a lump of coal. The Boston Globe’s Terry Byrne decried it as “painfully bloated filler…with every vocal and every musical note prerecorded,” resulting in “a sameness to the sound that becomes increasingly boring.”
Another Globe columnist, Lawrence Harmon, complained that “Audiences would never sit still for animatronic Rockettes made of aluminum alloys and powered by hydraulics. Yet somehow they pay big bucks for the halfway experience of seeing live dancers absent the live musicians.”
Despite attempts at retooling the show this year with new sets and additional songs, critics continue to scold the “Spectacular” for its lack of live music. The Boston Herald’s Jenna Scherer writes that, “…for all its glitz and spectacle, it’s hard to get past the canned elements of the show. The instrumentals are all prerecorded, as is much of the singing. What sets theater apart from other forms of entertainment is that it’s live. Take that away, and you might as well be watching the show on TV.”
It is a shame that this show, which is marketed as a family experience, is depriving audiences of the magic of live music. Some of those involved may pocket a bit more by using recordings, but the kids of all ages who see this “halfway experience” will be poorer for it.
As we know, there are some producers who fervently hope the audience won’t notice when they swap out live music for tinny MP3s. That is why we ask that you please share this post with anyone you know who cares about music, and let those producers know how you feel. Only by sharing this information about shows that use synthetic or recorded music—and by voting with our feet and our wallets—can the music-loving audience take a real stand for keeping the music LIVE!
We here at the Save Live Music on Broadway campaign are proud to announce our new Google+ page! Add us to your circles to stay up to date with the latest news on the campaign to keep Broadway live. Click this icon to check it out:
Recently, we asked our Facebook fans to share their favorite Broadway performances. Here are some of your replies:
“The orchestra for Wicked blew me away. The extremely high caliber of musicianship and the terrific writing were superb and not to be forgotten.” - Sue
“The Roundabout Theatre’s 1998 revival of Cabaret starring Alan Cumming, Natasha Richardson, John Benjamin Hickey and Denis O’Hare. Without a doubt. And the live music was part of the Cabaret set and absolutely essential!” – Maureen
“I love The Phantom of the Opera! I have seen the show 4 times and I just saw the 25th anniversary concert. It’s a huge part of my life and a part of who I am.” – Julia
“I convinced my 17 year old daughter to see Les Mis with me, rather than her first choice. As we left the theatre, she looked at me and said ‘Mom, I totally understand why you wanted to see Les Mis again. Thanks for making me go!’” – Kathleen
It is great to read the stories of so many passionate fans of the Broadway musical. So many people have been touched by the magic of musical theater. This is why it is essential that we fight to preserve the tradition of live music for future generations. Please take a moment to sign and share our petition to keep Broadway live, so that we can all continue to enjoy the breathtaking performances only a Broadway musical with a live orchestra can provide!
As regular readers of this website know, the replacement of live music with recordings is not only affecting fans of Broadway; it has become increasingly common in the world of ballet. As we reported earlier this year, the Washington Ballet has been using recorded Tchaikovsky in their productions of The Nutcracker since 2009. Now another, even more pernicious case of recorded ballet has come to our attention.
Back in 2008, the Texas Ballet Theater began using recordings in place of the Fort Worth Symphony and the Dallas Opera Orchestra. Of course, the ballet company did not advertise this fact, hoping that audiences wouldn’t notice that they weren’t getting the bona fide live ballet they paid for. Worse, they also added insult to injury by outsourcing some of the recordings. Rather than having recordings made in the USA, they had a canned soundtrack for the ballet Cleopatra recorded by the orchestra of the National Ballet of China. For this, they paid $30,000 to the Chinese government – outsourcing both American jobs and our very culture. It is a sad sign of what symphony and opera management are willing to do for a few extra bucks. With some Broadway producers looking for any way to pad their pockets, could musical theater be far behind? Will we see a revival of Annie Get Your Gun performed to a CD stamped “Made in China”?
These growing threats to live music are the reason we must remain constantly vigilant. Over 20,000 supporters of preserving the tradition of live musical theater have joined with us on Facebook to help spread the word. Only an informed and empowered audience will dissuade producers and theater owners from resorting to these cheap maneuvers. That is why it is so important that you sign and share our petition to keep Broadway live. When producers know that the audience will ask “but is it live?” before buying tickets, they will think twice before using outsourced recordings.
Like most people, you’d probably rather see live music performed than listen to a recording. But do you know why? Actually, it is in part because we get visual cues from seeing musicians perform. These cues inform how we feel about what we are hearing. A few years ago, psychologists at McGill University tried an experiment: they recruited 30 musically-trained participants and played them a Stravinsky clarinet piece. Some of the subjects saw the musician play, others just heard the music. Each subject used an electronic slider to signal the level of tension they felt from moment to moment, and the impact of the musical phrasing. What were the results?
“At times, the experience of tension and phrasing for participants who both saw and heard the performances was enhanced compared to judgments made by participants receiving information from only one sensory modality. At other times, the addition of visual information served to dampen the intensity of emotional response – seeing the musician may have revealed complexities in the emotional character of the music, leading to a more comprehensive interpretation of the piece or to greater aesthetic satisfaction.”*
In other words, being able to see the musician perform lead to a fuller, richer experience – one quantitatively different from just hearing the music played. Given this, it is unsurprising that 91% of theatergoers say the best part of Broadway is live music. By replacing live music with recordings, some Broadway producers may reap extra profits for themselves, but it comes at the cost of the audience’s experience.
But now that you’ve read this, you know something those producers don’t want you to know: that seeing live musicians perform leads to what these psychologists called “greater aesthetic satisfaction.” That is why we need to get the word out about the threat of recorded music on Broadway, so that people know what is going on! That is why we ask that you sign the petition against recorded music on Broadway, and why we ask that you share this page. Only when deceptive producers know that the public has wised up to their tricks will they stop trying to cut corners at our expense.
*Vines, B.W.; Krumhansl, C.L.; Wanderley, M.M.; Levitin, D.J. “Cross-Modal Interactions in the Perception of Musical Performance.” Cognition Volume 101, Issue 1 (August 2006): 107