Austrian Scientist Develops Software to Imitate Orchestra

Classic Arts News   Austrian Scientist Develops Software to Imitate Orchestra
The orchestra, in all its tail-coated glory, could be replaced by a microchip, reports The Guardian.

Audio software developed in Vienna can imitate human musicians to such a convincing degree that a casual listener might be unable to tell the difference. The product also allows notes to be combined in new ways so that composers can write music and play it on their laptop, thus avoiding the need to pay musicians' fees just to hear how their music will sound on instruments.

The Guardian says that approximately 10,000 people globally have purchased the software, which was developed by two Austrian musicians and costs between Ô£500 and Ô£6,000, from the Vienna Symphonic Library (VSL). According to the paper, the project was the brainchild of Herb Tucmandl, a former cellist in the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra, who was frustrated by his inability to pay for an orchestra to try out his ideas for film music compositions, and who found pre-recorded sample libraries inadequate.

The software was reportedly used extensively to make the soundtrack for the vampire film Underworld, starring Kate Beckinsale. It will also, according to the paper, add digital support to a live orchestra in the musical version of Lord of the Rings in London's West End.

Tucmandi told The Guardian he doesn't want computers to replace humans. From the sounds of it, literally, it doesn't seem like they will. Paul Hughes, general manager of the BBC Symphony Orchestra, needed less than a minute to identify the VSL's version of Samuel Barber's Adagio for Strings when compared with a 1992 recording by a Bonn orchestra.

He told the paper, "It's the texture. The attack of the bow on the string. The computer version is almost too perfect. It's impressive, but you don't have the right sort of phrasing." Regarding a recording of Ravel's Mother Goose Suite made with the technology, he said, "It's very good and beautiful, but incredibly bland."

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