Bayside Summer Nights. The true sound of the orchestra is missing.
I’ve been sitting in on some voice lessons at the studio of a good friend. In the course of the conversation between lessons, the topic of sports performance came up, and then we realized the truth of what has been happening to singing.
Imagine a baseball game where the pitcher is required to have a robot arm. Technically the robot arm is an option but practically it’s a requirement. Not only does the pitcher have a robot arm, but the coach controls the robot arm and selects the speed and location of the pitch along with the type of pitch.
In this hypothetical scenario, what would be the requirements for being a pitcher? The number one requirement would be a personality that is ok with having a fake arm and letting the coach control it. What would be next? The physical appearance of the pitcher might be important and public personality would be a factor. The ability to throw a baseball would not be a factor.
This is exactly what has happened to singing. I’ve brought up the issue of microphones in the past without realizing the true extent to which mics and soundboards and digital manipulation have changed the singing game. The producer making the decisions for the soundboard is the coach controlling the robot arm in this exercise.
If we remove microphones and mixing technology from popular singing, what happens? MTV had their Unplugged series back in the 90s but those singers were all microphoned and it was produced for TV.
We treat our athletes like criminals when they try to artificially enhance their performance. Why haven’t we done the same thing for singers?
Well, you may say, mass media requires a microphone. That is true.
What if there was an organization that maintained the requirements for standard amplification and any concert outside or performer outside those requirements was banned from performance? That sounds stupid, right?
My chief complaint here is the double standard. Athletes are eviscerated for enhancing their performance while singers, who could not otherwise sing, have careers based not just on enhanced performance but robot-arm-pitcher level enhanced performance.
If I were to put my finger on the number one reason popular music doesn’t resound with me, this would be it. Popular music is, at its foundations, untrue and inauthentic. In my opinion that makes it not worthy of the title of art. It is a craft, it is an ability, it is entertainment but it is not, in any way, shape, or form, art because it is not based on the true voice of the singer.
Perhaps this is why I’ve never frequented outdoor symphony pops concerts such as the now canceled Bayside Summer Nights. The true sound of the orchestra is missing. The few times I’ve gone have been with my kids and we talked freely during the concert because, why not? There’s no nuance or subtlety to obscure.
To go a step further, should microphones be added to opera, I will never attend or participate in another opera.