Tag Archives: leonard bernstein

Smash the Synthesizers

There’s a scourge stalking Broadway. It’s called the “synthesizer,” and it uses “technology” to generate sounds that heretofore could only be generated by human “musicians.” And like other human-supplanting devices such as mechanized looms, grain threshers, and sex robots, the “synthesizer” must be stopped.

So warns violinist Paul Woodiel, who is quite sure that Leonard Bernstein would have been at the head of the smashing line:

Now, after 500 performances, our producers have told us and our union that in order to cut costs they will chop our string section in half, releasing five musicians and “replacing” them with a synthesizer piped in from another room. I don’t think Lenny would have approved.

[…]

Soon, though, if all goes according to plan, these songs will be produced by a skeletal string section accompanied by an inert, artificial, electronic device, which an engineer will try to manipulate, hoping to deceive audiences into thinking it’s the real thing.

Indeed, it would be pretty unfair to deceive audiences that way. If we grant the producers this one deceit, they’re sure to follow it with others. Next they’ll replace the story’s gang members with “actors” only pretending to be gang members. Instead of expensive real guns, they’ll probably start using prop guns that only pretend to fire bullets. Heck, they might even start faking some of the deaths in the play!

Better just to pull the plug:

So here’s my proposition: if the show is no longer profitable, the producers should simply close it with its dignity intact. Doing so might put me out of work, but it would honor (rather than demean) the legacy of Bernstein’s crown jewel.

That’s a pretty forceful statement, that he and all his co-musicians and all the actors and all the stagehands and the directors and costumers are all offering to quit their jobs in order to fight off big King Synthesizer. All of the co-musicians and actors and stagehands and directors and costumers are on-board with his crusade, right?