While audiences at Broadway’s “West Side Story” thrill to the on-stage drama, musicians in the orchestra pit are fighting a battle every bit as vicious as the Sharks-Jets rivalry.
This is gang warfare of a high-minded sort, pitting some of New York’s best live musicians against a synthesizer they fear will usurp the job of playing Leonard Bernstein’s pulsating score. Sophisticated synthesizers and computer-manipulated recordings are increasingly taking over orchestras. Sounding almost like real players, while costing much less. [...]
There are computer programs able to read and play back music scores — a boon to composers who can now hear their work as they write — and software allowing conductors to control the tempo of the machine, in the same way that they direct live players.