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taped music


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#16 Guest_Barb_*

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Posted 04 February 1999 - 07:42 PM

The system that you hear the taped music through is the same system that the live orchestra is being played through; the only difference being the one mechanical piece playing the recorded music. And these systems exist in the house and are not dependent on what the company has. I would hazard a guess that most any big theatre you step into has a sophisticated means of playback, and I would go a step further to say that most of the major companies have access to means of playback. And as to the cueing of a piece of music, as with lights, it starts with the stage manager. A technician doesn't do anything until he/she is told to, just as the conductor is "cueing" the musicians.

I think it would be wonderful if all companies could afford the luxury of live music when called for, but unfortunately, that ideal world doesn't exist for every company these days. Fortunately, there are other methods to still produce the art, and maintain the integrity of the work, without bankrupting an organization. I personally feel that though a live performance with live music is to be savored, as any other fine experience in life, I don't think belittling what organizations do to taped music is the answer. I think through education, we can heighted the technical quality that all companies are able to bring to their audiences. And that's what is really important, that there is dance out there, everywhere, for everyone to have a chance to appreciate whether in New York City or Youngstown, Ohio, 50 million dollar budget or 500 hundred thousand, or 5 thousand.

#17 Guest_Sean_*

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Posted 05 February 1999 - 09:58 AM

Orchestra vs taped music, I think everyone in ballet would prefer the use of orchestra but is it unfair to see less fortunate companies due to location go belly-up due to this. I feel if a company performs in their "hometown", the ballet company should use every means possible to supply an orchestra. But, if a company decides to tour than taped music should be accepted. As Barb has already stated, taped music can work but only if you plan well and allow artists to be involved in the recreation process. Let's not forget that by expanding the visibility of a ballet company through touring, (tape/orchestra) can only benefit the world of dance. I would rather see a quality-taped music touring ballet production than not to see one at all.

#18 Alexandra

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Posted 05 February 1999 - 06:49 PM

Everything that's been said about the economics of using live music is, I'm sure, true. And in some cases (sorry, musicians), I think musicians have priced themselves out of the market. There was a movement in the '80s and early '90s for the "pick up" orchestras (like the one the Kennedy Center used) to become "real" orchestras, or be paid as thought they were a real orchestra, when, in fact, they are not.

That aside, and with all sympathies to smaller, poor companies, if you want to play in the big leagues, you have to use live music. Or, said less crudely, a first-rank classical ballet company must have first-rank productions, dancers, and musicians. It's that simple.

I have great respect for civic ballet companies. One of the nicest "Giselles" I ever saw was by a tiny, once-a-year troupe in Virginia, with imported principals (not stars), one 16-year-old boy as Wilfrid AND peasant pas, and a passle of girls who would never get into even a minor regional company. But the production was genuine, in the way a first-rate high school production of Hamlet is genuine, and the families and friends of the performers (the audience) got a very good idea of what "Giselle" is like.

The bar re taped/live music is being bent all the time -- summer pick up companies, Soloists of the You Name It Ballet -- but, clear sound system and high tech aside, I agree with Marc. I'ts like playing soccer without a ball -- great analogy. We'll soon have virtual dance on the Net, too -- or we would, if there were enough dance fans to make it economically viable -- but it's not the same thing.

Alexandra

#19 Marc Haegeman

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Posted 06 February 1999 - 12:23 PM

Great idea (and this is of course another thread -- sense and nonsense of touring), to expand the visibility of a ballet company through touring. But not at all costs, I think. The result is at times anything but benefitting the world of dance. For instance, it's sad to hear from people, who went to see a ballet performance of some visiting company for the first time in their lives, that they came back with a big disappointment because of the obvious poverty and low-standard of the whole event. Even before the final curtain came down they already had made up their minds: This was the first and last ballet performance they would ever bother with. Indeed, "Is ballet only THAT?"

As could be seen a couple of years ago when "The Stars of the Kirov Ballet" were touring the USA for several (some dancers said "endless") weeks in a row, with taped music: is this the proper way to get acquainted with ballet or with a famous company?

As for the hi-tech efforts to "recreate" the orchestra, with even manipulating the speed of the music by computer and so on, that really sounds frightening. For when the computerized ballerina?

#20 Paul W

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Posted 06 February 1999 - 07:20 PM

Re: Taped vs Live music & small-time touring ballet companies.

I think it is approaching outrageous that the discussion on these topics tends to imply that unless a ballet company has a first rate orchestra and is "judged" to be competant enough (by whom in advance?) to properly represent ballet to the general public, it should stay at home and only invite the local townsfolks. Clearly most companies are second-rate , when compared to the very few which can (or should be able to) present "the highest calibre" dance performances.

I'm sure there is no disagreement that having less than the best orchestra (or none at all) or having less than the most accomplished dancers produces less than the best dance performances. The discussion has addressed this truism. No problem there.

However:
There seems to be a kind of tone in the discussion so far that when "less than the best" dance is presented too conveniently or goes on tour, some grave damage is done to ballet as a whole. If none but the best were to be presented , how could anyone ever judge what is the best? Let the dance-going public decide what they want to see or not, and if a company can survive on what it has at its disposal, then that too is good. The more that is presented the better, is how I would view it.

And besides, who will serve on the "dance police" committee to issue permits to allow dancing by only the most qualified companies in public?

#21 Alexandra

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Posted 06 February 1999 - 11:05 PM

Paul, it's not that they "can't" go on tour. It's that if they want to be considered first-rate companies the standard is still live music, for all the reasons that have been stated here.

While I don't subscribe to everything Arlene Croce wrote, I do agree with much of it, and the Croce line that applies here is: "Ballet is good only when it is great." There is a lot of truth in that.

Alexandra

#22 Marc Haegeman

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Posted 07 February 1999 - 06:09 AM

Yes quite, Paul, let the ballet-going public decide what they want to see or not. The public has been doing nothing else, here in Western Europe.

The last ten years or so we have been treated to several visiting companies from Eastern Europe, Russia (I guess they appeared in the USA as well). The first time the company presents 'Swan Lake' with almost no sets (you know, 'Well-filled ballroom' says the program for the third act, and there is nothing but a chair on the stage), dusty costumes, a hissing tape that makes so much noise that you wonder if the house is on fire -- and I won't say anything about the quality of the artists involved.

Yet, everybody is fooled, partly also because the company sometimes appears under a "borrowed" (read: "false") name of some other more illustrious company ("Kirov", "Bolshoi" seem to be favorites), which allows them to ask even more money at the box-office.

But the second time this company appears here, hardly anybody is fooled anymore and the house remains painfully empty. The public has decided. The company won't even think of appearing a third time.

And the ballet world became a little poorer again.

Nobody decides who "can" and who "can't" go on tour, nobody decides about "good", "the best", and so on. But heaven forbid if that would be the only way to see ballet.

#23 Guest_jonathan s_*

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Posted 07 February 1999 - 09:07 AM

What gets lost with recorded music for dance is what I can only call "now-ness". We have all - dancers and musicians alike - experienced those days when you just 'got through' a performance . We have all had those weird days when everything was wrong -you're tired, nervous, depressed - and then suddenly in the middle of the performance, you just fly with the music or dance.

One of my favourite performances ever was of Ben Stevenson's Three Preludes. There was a last minute cast change, and I suddenly found myself on stage playing for two of my best friends, who were partners off-stage, but not usually on it. To cap it all, we happened to be sharing a room on tour as well. The atmosphere was extraordinary when the curtain went up - it didn't feel like a performance at all, just something fun that 3 friends do together of an evening. It went like a dream, and there was something special about everything - music & dancing - that I'll never forget.

Since the advent of home hi-fi and video, the meaning of the word "performance" has shifted subtly to imply "perfect performance".

#24 Paul W

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Posted 07 February 1999 - 09:57 AM

Alexandra & Marc, your points are well taken! As I think I implied, I AGREE that a real orchestra is probably always preferable to taped music. And certainly one prefers truly professional sets and lighting to something just thrown together. I guess I have not YET experienced such poor performances or orchestration to feel there is a threat to ballet as a whole. I suppose if I had experienced what Marc describes has happened in parts of Europe, I would be more concerned. Not having a resident ballet company nearby makes those of us with growing interest in ballet hope for as many visiting companies as possible, even if they only bring their tape recorder.

#25 Alexandra

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Posted 07 February 1999 - 10:29 AM

And I agree with that, Paul. It all comes down to (may I bang my tin drum again) the integrity of the artistic director. A small company that tours, bringing ballet to people who couldn't otherwise see it, and has no pretensions to grandeur, can get away with a whole lot more, in my book, than Marc's example of, say, The Glorious Stars of the Fabulous Kirov Ballet, who comes with no sets, no costumes, and no music. I saw a "Bayadere" danced by a small Russian provincial company a few years ago that used (I am not making this up) a wheelchair ramp for the Himalayas, and, I swear, had all six corps de ballet members go it down three times. Just don't bring Bayadere, is the answer to that question.

Back when Eliot Feld was trying to be a classical choreographer, he only used chamber music, something he could afford. (It's cheaper to rent a string quartet or a violinist than a whole orchestra.) So it can be done, even on a budget.

I think what people are afraid of, and why I was so strict on the "if you want to be considered one of the big guys, you have to have real music" line, is that if more and more people start using taped music, people will get used to it. This is what always happens. A standard slips, people yell, and everyone is terribly upset the first year. The second year, less so, etc., until a decade later, the slipped standard has become the norm. The tie between ballet dancing and music is so deep and so spiritual, as well as practical, that many people will fight hard to keep it from happening.

Alexandra

#26 Guest_jonathan s_*

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Posted 08 February 1999 - 03:06 AM

My impression of working to tape is that dancers have to work much harder in order to make it look good. They have to look as if they have never heard the music quite like that before (even though they have heard the tape a hundred times) It's a matter for research, but I have a feeling that with tape, dancers are never quite on the music - not so much as to be unmusical, but just far ahead in nanoseconds to make the performance look dull. I wonder if it's because they know what's coming, and so never have that energy that comes from having to anticipate the next move of the orchestra.

I'm not against taped music, since it enables many small companies - and big principals too - to entertain in small theatres and the fact is, we would see an awful lot less than we do if it weren't for tape.

But I agree with Alexandra that as it becomes standard practice to use tapes, the whole joy of music & dance as a live collaboration will get pushed aside. It also behoves modern composers to create works that make hearing live music exciting.

I was amazed to read that when Johann Strauss II went to the States last century, an orchestra played the "Blue Danube" waltz to an audience of 100,000, with a choir of 20,000 singers. He had to relay his beat to a HUNDRED conducters scattered among the choir to get it together. That's a sensation that could never be reproduced by a tape or video.

#27 Olivier

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Posted 08 February 1999 - 03:41 AM

This is a very interesting debate...
And I would like to point a few things out about the choice of live or taped music for touring...

The base of the problem is of course economics...But when a company is faced with the decision, it is not only the Artistic Director's integrity that matters.
What is appealing to presenters is a cost-effective company...a famous company (preferably), cheap to bring, that will guaranty sell-out...(because of the economy in their country, the Bolshoi and Kirov are very cheap companies to present).
I think we should blame presenters integrity and interest also !
An the audience members need to raise their opinion, they are the one buying the ticket, if they were not satisfied with taped music, the presenters need to hear about it !

And Jonathan, you are right about dancers having a much harder time to make ballet look good with tape...Dancers start to forget the music, they don't have to pay much attention to it, it becomes a second nature and you loose the spontaneity of the dance...they loose connection and don't get any opportunity to play with the music, to respond to it or to use it properly !

Long live LIVE !!!

Olivier

#28 Alexandra

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Posted 08 February 1999 - 09:21 AM

I'm going to close this thread, because it's so long it took my computer nearly two minutes to load it! Please continue posting on the Taped Music #2 thread.

Alexandra


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