London orchestra builds in obsolescence

Do orchestral musicians have a future in the brave new world of digital technology? And more to the point do musicians even care about their future? The following worrying story, which was given to me by a professional musician, suggests that the answer to both questions is no.

Music composition software is a large, and lucrative, market currently dominated by Sibelius. But there is a new player in the market called NOTION, based in Greensboro, NC, and their new software offers two competitive advantages over Sibelius.

First, NOTION uses London Symphony Orchestra players to produce the sampled sounds, and this gives improved quality. ActiveX is fully exploited, and the results are pretty realistic, with the percussion instruments really sounding like bass drums and tam-tams, a big improvement on typical MIDI samples.

The second feature is the really worrying one. The London Symphony samples can be used in live performances. NOTION say: ' The NTEMPO feature which gives you real-time performance control. Rubato, holds, cutoffs, and vamps are accommodated with perfect precision. Incorporate NOTION performance as live accompaniment to players, theatre, or anything else in the real world - seamlessly'. This means you can simply tap the keyboard to conduct it to stay in sync with a live band.

In 2004 impressarion Sir Cameron Mackintosh controversially replaced half the musicians in his Edinburgh production of Les Miserables with American computer software called Sinfonia, which records and reproduces the sound of 300 different instruments.

The purpose of the NOTION samples must have been blindingly obvious to the London Symphony Orchestra musicians at the recording sessions in EMI's Abbey Road Studios, yet they chose to go ahead with them. In view of what happened to their colleagues in Edinburgh that is pretty extraordinary. Although when you consider the same players accepted a recording deal with LSO Live that earns them each around £400 (720 US dollars) per year in total from the sale of all their award winning CD's it becomes a bit more understandable.

Now, if you still think this is a lot of fuss about nothing follow this link, and listen to the strings in the Nutcracker Overture and the choir in the snowflakes waltz played on NOTION - truly frightening. If you are a professional musician you may well be listening to your own funeral march.

Read NOTION's response to this article here On An Overgrown Path.

Image credits: and BBC News. Image owners - if you do not want your picture used in this article please contact me and it will be removed. Report broken links, missing images and other errors to - overgrownpath at hotmail dot co dot uk
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Anonymous said…
I'm not surprised some musicians are up in arms, while others are only interested in the quick buck.

Plus ca change.

However, I am rather impressed with the sounds. Sibelius has nothing like the choir sounds at the end of the snowflakes waltz - sounds like real singers.
Pliable said…
NOTION has its own blog, follow this link.

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