What is really frustrating about the angst in our industry is the lack of creativity in the arguments we make for why an Orchestra is important. I put a heavy focus on why an Orchestra is important to its own community which is a firm belief that I have, but it seems that there might be a global crisis in confidence with the answer bandied about the most often being the dreaded “shrinkage” (what would we do without Seinfeld) that needs to occur. So for those commenting negatively about the Detroit Symphony, let me ask you this: What would Star Wars be like if the soundtrack only had a Synthesizer playing?…..
This weekend I do a program of film music and it got me thinking that our very lives have a soundtrack! Everyday nearly every person will hear an Orchestral instrument or an Orchestra, on TV, and at the movies especially. Last year in the US the combined gross revenue for Movie attendance, sales of DVD’s and rentals topped $25billion! The Orchestra plays a big part in those numbers and yet we struggle.
There’s no such thing as background music in the movies, even the genre “silent film” is a misnomer, as live music would accompany every major (and most minor) films before the “talkies” came into existence, so by buying a ticket people were supporting live music! The same is true of the experience now in terms of how important music is to a film, I mean Darth Vader without the Imperial March is a respitorally challenged Halloween costume searching for an asthma inhaler, it’s the orchestra that makes him truly terrifying! Imagine the flying scene from Out of Africa without the music (it’s below!). Lord knows Lucas, Cameron and Spielberg understand the power and necessity of the Orchestra which they use one in every one of their films. They could endow a big part of our industry forever and barely feel it! Lord knows it helped endow them!
The point is that whether it’s for profit or not, in the studio or on the stage, the Orchestra which is so necessary for a film to give its emotional power, has to survive. The sonority and the colors are so organic and so connected to emotion that no special effect can emulate. An Orchestra can provide the timeless quality in a film about the past just as it can open our imagination in films about the future using identical instruments, it is the bridge that connects the fantasy to believability, and emotional reality.
Where did these composers of film music experience get their ideas? I am guessing at least in part in live Orchestra concerts, otherwise how would they understand the power of that sound. The great film composer Dimitri Tiomkin once thanked the great composers when giving his acceptance speech at the Oscars. So when I read people’s comments of how it’s not important to support an Orchestra because the audience numbers don’t justify it, it’s outdated etc…..I would just like them to list their top 10 movies, and then ask them to go watch them with the sound turned off, and ask them then if they think the Orchestra is irrelevant and outdated!
We need to turn the argument around and start challenging the “outdated” argument, we at the very least need to start connecting some dots here…please!!!!!