Synthesized Music on Bway - Can You Tell the Difference?

July 20
6:01 PM 2010


As BroadwayWorld has previously reported, the producers of WEST SIDE STORY on Broadway are planning to replace half of its string section with a synthesizer. This has sparked much debate, with opponents claiming that a synthesized sound alters the theater-going experience.

On WNYC's Soundcheck today, host John Schaefer debated the use of "virtual orchestras" on Broadway - and beyond. John was joined by Paul Woodiel, a violinist who plays in the pit orchestra for WEST SIDE STORY, and Paul Henry Smith, the creator of the Fauxharmonic, a computer program that uses digital versions of musical notes to replicate conventional instruments.

From Broadway theaters to opera houses and Hollywood production studios, digital orchestras are providing controversial alternatives to real-life musicians. How much of a difference does it make? John pitted two versions of a selection from Handel's opera Xerxes - one commercial recording with full orchestra vs. a version performed with the Fauxharmonic - to see if listeners could tell the difference.

Can you tell the difference? Listen to the full audio from the program here: (The comparison begins near the 14:00 mark.)

To check out WEST SIDE STORY on Broadway, visit


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