American Novelist Kurt Vonnegut, Jr. wrote in his book "Timequake" that no longer were people being handed their heads on platters, but with tweezers. This is referring to the ever growing obsolescence of human effort and skill in the face of microchips, the wheel, and the like.
Garritan is a software company designing and publishing Virtual Orchestras.
The flagship product of the company is the 'Personal Orchestra',The PR line being: "An Orchestra for Every Musician". (exactly what the world needs)
It is favored by the great Yanni (who has been recently commissioned to write an overture for the christening of The Leviathan Penile Counting Machine), and other hacks who hope to profit from the demise of a once great tradition and profession. It is currently the sole musical implement used in performing the scores for hit TV shows, Monk, CSI, Sex and the City, as well numerous video games and commercials.
Knowing this, I could've gone either way. What put me in the cynic camp was the use of Garritan's Personal Orchestra in lieu of a symphony for performances of Wagners Die Walkure and Strauss' Die Fledermaus by the Golden Gate Opera.
Many of you have likely heard of the musician strikes against taped music on the Las Vegas Strip (which was lost) and the Virtual Orchestra debacle on Broadway (which was won).
Garritan's Personal Orchestra takes the idea of a Virtual Orchestra to new heights. Like other VO's it is capable of replicating all the voices of an orchestra in real time.
The difference lies in the quality and pliability of sound. Whereas other VO's are midi based, Garriton managed to find enough talented, professional players willing to sell themselves and the future of their craft up the river to create for each instrument, live, fully real WAV palattes covering everthing from intrument type (Many real Stradivaris, Guarneris, Steinways etc were used) to bowing style, vibrato, intensity, breathiness, timber.... even mistakes. Nor is this all too technical,
simply input the dynamics and style you want, and it mixes the appropiate files for you, if you have an external midi controller (i.e. your Casio keyboard) even easier.
While I wish I was simply ridiculing a stupid idea which had no portent from my pedestal, I am indeed quite embarassed by the effort which it takes to distinguish the phony (when used well) from the symphony, so anger at its suave trickery certainly contributes to my disparaging attitude.
GPO is Fruity Loops given incredible powers, if only it were as harmless as Fruity Loops. But whats the worst part of all this?...(sigh) I want it.
At only 250 USD, I should say that this will give everyone access to the tools necessary to create Symphonic, Big Band Jazz and Chamber music. I should say that. But I think its plenty more likely that many a slacker who can't/won't learn the craft of composition well enough to deserve a symphonic performance will be able to WOW! ignorant friends, family, movie producers and worst of all...women. perhaps the game is finally up for music as a serious discipline, and the sonic world will overflow with uncontested (and uncontestable) mediocrity.
On a happier note, Great Britain recently ordered thousands of copies of the program for use in its public schools... So at least future generations of England will still remember the symphony and its reportoire as one of Western Civilization's redeeming accomplishments... After all, we all know how expensive wagon axles can be thanks to Oregon Trail.
Hopefully someone writes a more positive angle...