Here’s an innovation that makes Justin Hughes’s scholarship on “microworks” all the more relevant:
[Conductors can now use a] computerized baton [to]. . .Â lead an “orchestra” with no musicians — the product of a computer program designed by a former Vienna Philharmonic cellist and comprised of over a million recorded notes played by top musicians.
Aspiring composers who couldn’t otherwise afford to have their creations performed by an orchestra can now commission a high-quality computer-generated recording for a fraction of the price. For communities facing the loss of their orchestra, it could be a way to keep performances in town — even if it means a computer stands in for half the players.
This reminds me of an old economics article by Baumol on the “cost-disease” in the arts, and services generally: whereas a pin factory can make a pin-maker 10,000 times more productive than he would be working alone, a string quartet required the same amount of labor inÂ 1970 as it did in 1870.Â But perhaps not after innovations like these take hold….
To take this in a speculative direction: what is to keep us from thinking of producers or theÂ recording industry as being all thatÂ different from the musicians displacedÂ by a program like the one above?Â PerhapsÂ in a remix culture,Â pop songs themselves are as fundamental as notes.Â Perhaps the only thing separating the note-contributors in the program above fromÂ today’s cartelized songmongers is the latter’s market power.