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Possible B'way musicians strike


_Sweet Willie_

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Sweet Willie, thanks for bringing this to everyone's attention. Here's a link to the SaveLiveBroadway site. There's a petition there that can be filled out to show your support. I filled out the petition a little while back and just received this thank you from them yesterday. It includes a phone number to call as well.

 

Thank you for supporting live music on Broadway! Broadways orchestras have received countless expressions of support, over 17,000 audience members have signed our petition so far. Its been inspiring to all of us who work in musical theatre. But unless you act now, live musical theatre may soon be dead!

 

Theatre owners and producers are insisting on the unlimited right to replace Broadways orchestras with machines and synthesized pre-recorded sounds. They have actually brought these machines into most theaters and are threatening to use them if we dont agree to their demands.

 

As composers, orchestrators, music directors and performing musicians - we speak with one voice in asking you to help us save live musical theater. Replacing our orchestras with machines would destroy the very essence of the live performance we work so hard to create each night. And you the audience member, will be cheated out of the quality product you paid for and expect to receive.

 

HOW YOU CAN HELP

 

We urge you to call the League of American Theatres and Producers at (212) 764-1122 and tell them to keep the music of Broadway LIVE. Tell them you wont be back to Broadway if they kill the music. Also, please write a letter to your local newspaper about the importance of ensuring live music on Broadway (sample letters are available in the "In the Media" section of www.savelivebroadway.com).

 

This message is brought to you by Local 802 of the American Federation of Musicians and by Broadways composers, arrangers, orchestrators, music directors, conductors, music copyists and performing musicians.

 

Wally

I have basses to play, places to be and good music to make!
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  • 2 weeks later...
I thought it was great to see so many people supporting the musicians on this one. Every broadway show I've seen had great music that virtual orchestras just couldn't match. Without them these shows would have lost much of their impact. However, my fear is that the show's producers will eventuallly win this battle and replace the orchestras for good. It seems that about the only instrument that's safe from going "virtual" is the electric guitar.
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Upon hearing both sides of this tale...I'm a bit on the fence...now.

 

I still hold firmly to the belief that live music is essential to a live musical. If an actor misses a cue or an entrance and the orchestra doesn't give them a couple bars to catch up, it can mean disaster. Can you imagine someone backing up a tape or moving a digital cursor to accomplish the same thing? Give me a break. Live musicians MUST stay on Broadway. The alternative is not one I'd like to see.

 

Here's the catch, though...someone close to me works as an usher on Broadway, and their show was just flat-out closed by this strike. It probably will not reopen. This means they're out of work until March.

 

I think it's unfair that the point of contention that Wally's talking about isn't mentioned in the press (their coverage is very pro-producer in this matter). But they ARE covering a point of contention that makes me scratch my head...

 

Why does a musicians union get to tell a show's composer that he has to hire 12 musicians if his score calls for 9? Why do those remaining 3 musicians still get hired to not play anything for the entire run of a show?

 

I'm not making this up...my friend's witnessed it...and my friend the idea of a computer full of .wav files replacing an orchestra...but they have a point: why must a producer pay a musician to sit in the pit and not play anything?

 

Why must a composer rewrite his score just because "There have always beeen 12 players in this particular theater?"

 

I don't mean to bait a flame war here...but I'm seeing both sides of this tale at the same time, and I've got a bone to pick with both of 'em...

 

Ever since Disney moved into Broadway, they've been trying to break the Unions...which irks me greatly...they're trying to save money and turn Broadway into more of an assembly line factory than it's already become.

 

But, for the sake of argument, what if a composer decides for good musical reasons to write a score for solo piano? Must they be forced to either re-arrange it or spend huge amounts of cash on instrumentalists who are going to bring a sandwich and a book and not play anything?

 

Justify this, please. Even if it's just to say I'm not in the 802 trenches and don't know what I'm talking about...

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Ben, my understanding is that "walkers" haven't happened on Broadway in quite some time. What does happen is that when more musicians are required than the score calls for they will increase the string compliment. The musicians like this and as well I would think any composer would be happy to hear the music played with the additional strings.

 

Wally

I have basses to play, places to be and good music to make!
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Originally posted by BenLoy:

...Why does a musicians union get to tell a show's composer that he has to hire 12 musicians if his score calls for 9? Why do those remaining 3 musicians still get hired to not play anything for the entire run of a show?...

 

...Why must a composer rewrite his score just because "There have always beeen 12 players in this particular theater?"...

 

...But, for the sake of argument, what if a composer decides for good musical reasons to write a score for solo piano? Must they be forced to either re-arrange it or spend huge amounts of cash on instrumentalists who are going to bring a sandwich and a book and not play anything?...

 

Sorry to excerpt several sections of your post, Ben, potentially putting some of them out-of-context, but hopefully my response will make it all coherent.

 

My understanding from one piece I read about this (now I can't for the life of me remember where I read it!), is that the musicians have the support of the composers/arrangers/music directors. I hear where you're coming from and I've heard that the hiring of un-needed musicians to meet these quotas based on theater size has happened in the past, but perhaps many composers are fine with having as many musicians as possible -- even if they only take full advantage during certain musical numbers during a given show. It may even encourage them at times to think "outside the box" in terms of instrumentation -- "Ahhhh, maybe I can incorporate that didgeridoo solo into the score..." (extreme example, I know!).

 

That said, I'm certainly no expert on all of this and I haven't been keeping track as closely as I should. I am interested to hear what others have to say. Are there any B'way musicians who frequent this board?! Johnny Miller, are you out there?

 

Peace.

spreadluv

 

Fanboy? Why, yes! Nordstrand Pickups and Guitars.

Messiaen knew how to parlay the funk.

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Most composers would like to have as large an orchestra as possible. I don't think they are the ones who want the numbers of the musicians reduced.

 

The suits always want to make more profit, they are the ones who decide that the orchestra could be smaller. Or that they'll just replace them with tapes, the audience will never notice the difference.

 

They've already ruined the ice capades.

That's all on tape nowadays.

When they figure out how to replace the skaters with holograms, they'll do that.

Actually, most of the skaters (other than the stars) are severely underpaid, they get kids who love to skate and think that this is their big break.

 

The top 40 club scene has disappeared around here because all the clubs went to disco music on records and then went out of business because they lost the audience.

 

Now I'm seeing digital player pianos in hotel lobbies. I'm sure they are really good at taking requests and chatting with the customers.

 

Next we will go to symphony concerts and find a bank of computers and tape players on the stage.

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Sequencing has it's tendrils everywhere....except, for the time being, the symphony.

 

Ultimately, as Jeremy says, the marketplace decides. If Broadway tickets are priced out of the market because musicians are gobbling up the money, Broadway will go dark.

 

The Houston Symphony is contemplating a strike because funds are low...the board wants an across the board 7% pay cut and the musicians are only willing to fork over 4%.

 

Our kids are not taught how to listen. Once again, back to the school music education program. (In fact, in education at large there is a "Sesame Street" syndrome...deliver information in short, exciting 30 second packages. Kids now expect to be taught that way; never exploring more deeply the concepts they are exposed to. And teachers cannot match that...video production is a week of intensive work by an enormous team to deliver a half hour of instruction.)

 

The Bass Performance Hall, here in Ft. Worth, has become recognized as one of the top 20 performance halls in the world. In the endowment there is set aside funding for 20 concerts per year...every orchestra guest artist is asked to include in their contract a morning concert to schoolkids that are bused in. In this way, I've been treated to free concerts by Wynton Marsalis, Victor Goines, and perhaps a dozen classical touring acts.

 

Is it enough? I dunno. One point has to be stressed...live instruments in a hall sound different and feel different than recordings. Perhaps we should set up speakers on stage...play an orchestra selection, and then have the orchestra play it.

 

If people did an A/B with live and recorded music, they'd prefer the live every time, I'm convinced.

"Let's raise the level of this conversation" -- Jeremy Cohen, in the Picasso Thread.

 

Still spendin' that political capital far faster than I can earn it...stretched way out on a limb here and looking for a better interest rate.

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Originally posted by BenLoy:

Why does a musicians union get to tell a show's composer that he has to hire 12 musicians if his score calls for 9? Why do those remaining 3 musicians still get hired to not play anything for the entire run of a show?

 

they have a point: why must a producer pay a musician to sit in the pit and not play anything?

 

Justify this, please. Even if it's just to say I'm not in the 802 trenches and don't know what I'm talking about...

Ben - this was essentially the producers' argument. But sorry, I think it's crap - a "solo piano" show would likely be addressed by an arbitration panel, which in the past has adjusted the minimums for shows that needed smaller pit orchestras. So the "artistic control" issue is bogus. [The spin on that issue was amazing though - goes to show what a $$ P.R. campaign can do for ya.]

 

The shocker in this strike (and the real clout) was that Equity came out in solidarity. Gives me hope for the world of actors!

 

... a side thought: The battle ground is not over the prospect of a Broadway show with a completely sequenced score. It really IS about the numbers: Question whether it's acceptable to have a three-piece band that plays V-instruments (i.e. - outfitted with V-Drums, V-Guitar, and Mondo-Synth-Samplers) ... Suddenly a 3-person, "live" setup makes all the noise (albeit sampled) that was once made by a full(er) orchestra. Don't laugh - it's happening right now (maybe not on Broadway, but in a number of big, off-Broadway shows here).

 

I think the hard number (be it 18 or 24) guarantees are REALLY important ... and why?

Well, of course it's important to the quality of Broadway shows, and the solidarity of musicians. But there's a selfish side to this for me too; now that the NY studio scene is drying up, theatre gigs are one of the last ways that musicians in this moneysucker of a town can actually make a living playing ... and more NYC music opportunities means more good musicians in NYC, better NYC musicians means means better music in NYC. See - AFM makes music better! :thu:

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The minimums have been set at 18 and 19. The good part of this is that even though it is only a four-year contract the minimums can't be brought up again for ten years.

 

Wally

I have basses to play, places to be and good music to make!
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hell, i'll sign the thing. anything to keep musicians paid and tourist bucks rollin in to nyc. personally i think broadway is a sewer in dire need of flushing. musicals are pap that only tourists and bored, over the hill debutantes pay to see. they're certainly not worth the price of admission. $75 for a MATINEE seat to see DEBBIE GIBSON play eponine? a BACKSTREET BOY in rent? or my favorite: kathleen turner, alicia silverstone and the guy who nailed a pastry in american pie in the braodway version of THE GRADUATE (edging out titanic the musical, and that was pre-dicaprio). but if producers want to charge those prices, let 'em pay the musicians a kings ransom. it ain't a musical without music and it ain't music without musicians.

 

whatever. i could give a rats ass about broadway. all those plays do for me is clog the streets on my way to colony and raise the price of a martini in some of the better bars. you wanna see theater? go to some rat hole and see talented actors working to put rice and beans on the table without the benefit of union musicians, make-up artists, costume designers, etc.

Eeeeeehhhhhhhhh.
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jeremyc:

Next we will go to symphony concerts and find a bank of computers and tape players on the stage.

I realize this is a joke of sorts, but I feel I should add my 2 cents nonetheless. I kinda' doubt we'll see that happening for the same reason I doubt we'll ever see a computer screen replace a good book, or a Tablet replace real pencil-on-paper drawings, or why movies will ever fully replace theatre. There's someting much more human about a book than a computer screen (and everything else mentioned), and I don't think that we're ready to let that go. A machine can never reproduce the energy, the "soul" of a piece.
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and on that note, i heard the strike was over today on npr

 

and i scored tickets to "the marriage of figaro"

at the LSU theatre in 2 weeks

 

:thu:

Double what we got o mr. roboto

 

Double

Double

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