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March 18, 2005

Orchestral Efficiency

Reading this (ABC) story:

A national report on the state of Australia's orchestras has struck a sour note with musicians. While the report finds that the New South Wales, Western Australian and Victorian ensembles are viable, the Queensland, Tasmanian and South Australian orchestras have been earmarked for downsizing and corporatisation.

triggered the thought of an old joke. After digging around on the net, I found a copy of it here:

Memo From: Efficiency & Ticket, Ltd., Management Consultants

To: Chairman, The London Symphony Orchestra

Re: Schubert's Symphony No. 8 in B minor.

After attending a rehearsal of this work we make the following observations and recommendations:

1. We note that the twelve first violins were playing identical notes, as were the second violins. Three violins in each section, suitably amplified, would seem to us to be adequate.

2. Much unnecessary labour is involved in the number of demisemiquavers in this work; we suggest that many of these could be rounded up to the nearest semiquaver thus saving practice time for the individual player and rehearsal time for the entire ensemble. The simplification would also permit more use of trainee and less-skilled players with only marginal loss of precision.

3. We could find no productivity value in string passages being repeated by the horns; all tutti repeats could also be eliminated without any reduction of efficiency.

4. In so labour-intensive an undertaking as a symphony, we regard the long oboe tacet passages to be extremely wasteful. What notes this instrument is called upon to play could, subject to a satisfactory demarcation conference with the Musician's Union, be shared out equitably amongst the other instruments.

Conclusion: if the above recommendations are implemented the piece under condsideration could be played through in less than half an hour with concomitant savings in overtime, lighting and heating, wear and tear on the instruments and hall rental fees. Also, had the composer been aware of modern cost-effective procedures he might well have finished this work.

I wonder if the bureaucrats involved in assessing the various orchestras realised that the efficiency story is supposed to be a *joke*...

Posted by Peskie at March 18, 2005 12:00 PM