What’s the point of such things?

The Cleveland Orchestra is considered one of the best in the world. Like all classical music ensembles, it faces the problem that the audience for it is aging. In order to attract a younger and more diverse group, it engages in various programs that have more contemporary and popular music. One of the things that it advertises are things called Movie Nights that say that a film will be shown on a big screen in the concert hall with the score preformed live by the Cleveland Orchestra. They have had films like Back to the Future and the next one will be Raiders of the Lost Ark.

These movie nights seem to be popular but I am a little mystified as to how it works. After all, the film has its own score built in. Does the orchestra play in addition to it? Or is the original score somehow stripped out and the orchestra replaces it? Of course, I could answer these questions by actually going to a performance but I am taking the lazy way out and appealing to readers who may have actually attended such an event.

And what is the point anyway? Of course, in the first three decades of films when they were silent, there was usually live musical accompaniment in the theater but that made sense. To do this now seems a little contrived.


  1. Rob Grigjanis says

    I’m guessing they strip the score out. If they did this with The Third Man or Picnic at Hanging Rock I’d be tempted to go. Does the CO have zither and panpipe players?

  2. enkidu says

    I’ve been going to orchestral concerts for over 40 years and the audience was always aging! Now there are a few young people, like I was 40 years ago, but this is a taste which usually comes with maturity, so people start listening when they’re already aging.

    As to playing the soundtrack of movies that already have a soundtrack, I guess it’s ok once in awhile, especially if it attracts new audience.

  3. says

    In the 1980s, 90s and early 2000s, it was common for rock groups to play with orchestras. It was financially beneficial for orchestras, and rock bands are actual musicians, writing legitimate sheet music that can be arranged for large groups. Unfortunately, instrument-playing bands at the top of the charts and doing big tours are getting fewer and fewer. I suspect orchestras see playing soundtracks as a new way to bring in paying customers.

    At the risk of writing a “Get Off My Lawn” rant, what bothers me about millennials or even the last 30 years of people is the lack of apperciation for what came before. Prior generations of younger people were raised on their parents’ music, which often included classical, jazz, country, pop (by “pop” I mean Frank Sinatra or Patty Page), show tunes and other styles. Nowadays, many kids are raised without any knowledge or appreciation of music from prior decades or centuries. They only hear something older when a “dj” samples a performed piece of music and gives a credit in a liner note.

  4. flex says

    As a counter-point to leftover1under’s comment, I have had discussions with several co-workers about their adolescent children just starting to play music (always guitar). In all cases the parents are amazed that their child is trawling through youtube and listening to things their parents never listened to. Things like classical, jazz, swing, blues, show tunes, and other styles.

    Maybe the average millennial listener isn’t being exposed to a variety of music, but it seems like the millennials interested in music have a much wider range of things to listen to then many of us in the pre-internet generation. And if you look at the output of young musicians you’ll find that they will mix styles. I’ve gone to concerts with young musicians where I’ll hear classical, jazz, blue-grass, folk, and rock all during the same concert. I love what the younger musicians are doing.

    But then there was the conversation I had with my stepson, who has no interest in music. When I indicated that I’m a fan of classical music, he thought I meant classic-rock, not Bach. But I blame that on his mother (my wife).

  5. says

    @4, leftover1under

    OK, I’ll spare you the rant and just say that comment sounds a lot like anecdotal, confirmation bias nonsense. Do you have anything resembling hard evidence for your claims?
    (Also, I find it interesting that you would bring up Sinatra. Sinatra wasn’t that long ago. I’m a millennial and, sure, I don’t listen to much music from before I was born, but, for people born another 30 years before me (so the 1950’s), Sinatra would have been part of their lifetime, not “before.” So I guess I’m not sure what “prior generations” you are even talking about.)

  6. Dunc says

    Maybe the average millennial listener isn’t being exposed to a variety of music

    I have strong doubts that the average listener of any age or time period was every exposed to that wide a variety of music:

    Elwood: What kind of music do you usually have here?
    Claire: Oh, we got both kinds. We got country and western.

    it seems like the millennials interested in music have a much wider range of things to listen to then many of us in the pre-internet generation

    Hell yes. Back in my day, you were limited to stuff they played on the radio, stuff you could find in a record shop, stuff your friends had, and stuff your parents had. Even if you knew exactly what you were looking for, actually tracking it down could be a major challenge. These days, you have access to what were previously rare, collectible recordings just a few clicks away. There’s more pre-WWI jazz on YouTube than there ever was in any jazz aficionado’s treasured collection of 78s.

    left0ver1under’s comment @4 also conflates styles with periods. Even if “millennials” do only listen to music that’s been released during their lifetimes, they still have access to a far more stylistically diverse range of material than their parents would have.

  7. mnb0 says

    @4: “which often included classical”
    During the heighdays of classical music many children never listened to classical music at all. They had to work on the land or in the factory.

  8. invivoMark says

    To answer Mano’s questions:

    It is my understanding that when movies are made, there are multiple audio tracks: one for the score, one for sound effects, one for voice. This is a reflection of how the movie is assembled, but it is also useful when a movie is to be dubbed in another language. Some or all sound effects might be on the same track as the voice track (which means they would also need to be dubbed -- I recall watching a dubbed movie in German in which the sounds for characters kissing or eating grapes were (very loudly) dubbed). Thus, it is possible for a movie to be played without the score, but with the other normal sounds the movie would have.

    As far as why one would want to see a movie like that, I suppose it’s the same as why someone would want to go to a concert when they could listen to the same artist’s music at home: it’s just a better experience hearing music live sometimes. I think it would be fun to see some movies with the music performed live.

  9. Mano Singham says


    Thanks a lot for that explanation. I had not realized that there were multiple audio tracks. Of course it makes sense to have it for the reasons you give. I just had not thought it possible to have multiple tracks, especially in the days of actual film, before they became digital.

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