"What's this whole world comin' to?
Things just ain't the same
Anytime the hunter
Gets captured by the game"

 -The Marvelettes


At the turn of the 19th century, the horse and carriage, as major transit vehicle, was supplanted by Henry Ford's motorcar. Now, after the turn of the 20th century, the performing musician, in much the same way, has been marginalized as a major player on the stages of live theater and in the studios of cinema production houses by the use of music synthesizers and the newest generation of music synthesizer and the sampling mentality... the virtual orchestra.

Electronic music synthesizers have been in existence over 90 years, ever since Lev Sergeevich Termeng created the theremin, an instrument which produced eerie sounds and mainly was used in science-fiction movie soundtracks and avant-garde music ensembles. (indeed, the pipe organ of J.S. Bach's era can be argued to have been the first natural synthesizer, with stops that mimicked the instruments of the time and even the human voice) Like so many musical inventors, Lev Termen never intended that his instrument would become a modern orchestral staple, in fact, his invention was, at first, commisioned by the Russian miltary as a proximity locator, but by the 1970s, popular music was not popular unless an electronic sound synthesizer was somewhere in the mix. 

The purists railed. Even I, who, in 1973, purchased my first electronic synthesizer (for $1,300.00 and that was everything I had, back then), an Electronic Music Laboratories - EML 101 - (yes, I still have it!) was skeptically elitist at the instrument's almost self-insistence upon sounding like traditional, orchestral, acoustic instruments. In fact, synthesizers still are years, maybe decades away from fooling all of the people all of the time, even when played by the most able and sensitive musicians. I still believe that digital can only and ever approximate analog. While digital and wireless may be as cool as one can get, analog and wired is as real as one can get. Technology, however, has closed the gap to the point where, "...only your hairdresser knows for sure!

So we're all caught in the vortex. Musicians who have incorporated musical electronics for every righteous or self-serving reason, from economic necessity to pioneering spirit, revel in the easy way to become multi-talented. We too, have abdicated our old-school scholarship by succumbing to the production value, " it live or is it Memorex?" Rather than to convince people of our art or to draw people to our art, through practice and presentation, we settle for technical trickery. Virtual reality is no longer an oxymoron. Hmm, that's pretty ugly.

Deep down, that is what concerns serious musicians most. Not our systematic loss of jobs and station, not our continuing battles with producers and publishing houses, not even our dwindling musicianship but rather, our listeners' apathetic disconnect. Through technology and mass production, our audiences have been de-sophisticated and de-sensitized to the point where they can neither hear nor feel the differences anymore. Even worse, with the economic promise of, "more for less", the cheaper grade is more often sought. That hurts most deeply because basically, a faithful artist wants ultimately to reach someone.

It is in our hands to maintain the highest levels of honor and artistry. Also, it is our responsibility to be the caretakers of our own heritage. It may be all of our human ability to whisper, to speak, to shout and then, to scream. When, however, the plug comes out, then we'll find out who still can sing.


"Many are called but few are chosen..."

and unfortunately,
many of the chosen never should have been called.


Comlaints without suggestions? That's not how I work!

There are two immediate, short term answers:


1. As performers, demand, work for and effect sensible polices which maximize the inclusion of live musicians in all arenas where live performances occur. By "sensible", I also mean that we do not kowtow to usurious practices on either side of the ledger, those ranging from union lockouts to invisible payments to non appearing musicians. Further, and perhaps a little easier, now that we musicians actually produce much of our work outside of once strangling contracts, ensure that record companies (as well as ourselves) continue to pay fair residuals to every project musician, regardless of production station, as long as sales or syndication remains viable.

2. As musicians, maintain a depth of scholarship and practice so as not to be excluded from so many professional musical levels due to expediency or to lack of knowledge. In such a way we can mold our working environment, hone our preferences and continually provide for our performance networking community. In such a way, we can surround ourselves with people we trust to do supporting and structural work, which we either are loathe or incompetent to perform. In such a way, we can continue to inform, educate and entertain our audiences, which once looked to us for excellence but now settle for or even seek entertainment by bombardment.


"Problems cannot be solved

at the same level of awareness

that created them."

Richard A Cummings
An American In Thought

R.A. Cummings (2005)
Copyright © IMARA Music