Ok, I need some help.

My friend recently sent me this video of a 7 year old conducting an orchestra with the subject title "unbelievable!"

As someone who can barely play a guitar, can't sing a lick, and has no musical talent whatsoever, what is the purpose of a conductor, and why is it such a big deal that this 7 year old can conduct a symphony? I've nothing against what the young man has done, I just don't understand it.

My take as a non-music person is as follows:

1. I believe I could stand there and wave the baton and face towards the correct instrumental group that is getting ready to play.

2. Does the conductor really do anything of value standing there. For instance, if someone were to just count of 1 - 2 - 3 -4 couldn't orchestra all start at the same time, and then play their instruments at the right time to the right beat and so forth?

As I watched the video, I really didn't see anyone looking at the conductor. It looked like they were all looking at their sheet music most of the time.

So any elaboration on this subject would be much appreciated.

David Lilienfeld writes: 

Sure. I speak as a former cellist and pianist. The role of the conductor is three-fold:

1. The conductor sets the beat so that all players are playing to the same one. Otherwise, you may have one player who is slightly faster or slower than the rest. The conductor provides the means around that problem, since s/he sets the beat and shows with with his/her baton movement. In a similar way, the conductor cues the various instruments.

2. The conductor provides an assessment to the players concerning whether they are playing too loudly, not loudly enough, or just right.

3. If any of the instruments are being played out of tune, the conductor provides the feedback to that player

4. Through movement, facial expressions, and the like, the conductor communicates emotion about the music to the players. A good conductor can use his/her facial expressions and the like to coax the best music out of the members of the orchestra. von Karajan and Bernstein (and to a degree, Ormandy and Toscanini) were masters in the use of their faces and body movements to bring out a uniform interpretation of a given piece.

I hope that helps.





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