Amplification

Who likes Steve Martland?

A composer like Steve Martland is not easy to listen to, as often his concerts are amplified way too loud, probably to help prevent the audience falling asleep.

Not all instruments are acoustically brilliant, to begin with, and balancing acoustic with electric or electronic instruments almost inevitably involves amplifying the former. Also, amplification has many functions apart from making things louder: it can place sounds at different points in space, it can colour them in various ways including transforming them into altogether new sounds, and it can be used in order to create sound-combinations and balances (say, bass flute and trumpet) which couldn’t occur naturally. By disengaging the loudness of a sound from the physical effort required to make it, amplification opens up enormous possibilities for the musical imagination which are far from being exhausted.

However, in my experience, it usually ends up sounding too loud, and the amplification is often done to save money on players. Steve Martland himself has said that orchestras don’t really need so many string players, as they could use amplification instead.

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