Virtual Orchestra

A Brief History

Virtual Orchestra development began in 1987. The intent was to develop a sophisticated and innovative live-performance music system that was capable of simulating both the sound and behavior of the traditional acoustic orchestra. This implied a performance system with the ability to follow tempo changes and to adjust to subtle musical nuances in real time. Initial research began at the Conservatory of Music at the University of Cincinnati.

While Virtual Orchestra development was continuous and ongoing, it was challenged by the technological conditions that prevailed through the late 1980s and early 1990s. This included slow microprocessor speeds, low memory capability, equipment bulk, and software reliability issues. Regardless of the imposing limitations, the Virtual Orchestra design strategy was daring, risky, and always cutting-edge. That strategy was defined by three fundamental objectives:

1) the deployment of 40+ audio speakers to achieve spatial realism
2) natural interface technology based on physical gesture detection
3) innovative sampling, synthesis, and orchestration techniques for sonic realism

By the mid-1990s, with numerous high-profile performance credits, the Virtual Orchestra had achieved international recognition. However, this early recognition was often critical and accompanied by public outrage. Fueled by musician skepticism and bolstered by union resistance, it was not uncommon to encounter strong anti-Virtual Orchestra reviews such as the following:

......the virtual orchestra work of Bianchi and Smith is responsible for “… the dehumanization of society and the deterioration of education.”

Charles H. Parsons, Opera Now

In 1997, Realtime Music Solutions (RMS) was founded in New York by Jeff Lazarus, Frederick Bianchi, and David Smith. The aim of RMS was to develop and promote innovative live-performance technology including Sinfonia® (the virtual orchestra). In 2004, the first patent (No. 6,696,631 - Music Performance System) was awarded to RMS.

A key factor in the worldwide acceptance and success of the technology has been the ongoing association with major theatrical licensing organizations including Musical Theatre International (MTI), the Rodgers & Hammerstein Organization, the Bernstein Office, and Andrew Lloyd Webber's Really Useful Group (RUG). Important collaborations over the years have included Lucent Technologies, Cirque Du Soleil, Broadway, Off-Broadway, London’s West End, and numerous tours in America and Europe. The technology has been used in over 400,000 performances including the following productions:

9 to 5
Annie Get Your Gun (Stone version)
Beauty And The Beast
Big River
Bring It On
A Christmas Carol
Cinderella (1957 Original)
Cinderella (1997 Enchanted)
Damn Yankees
The Drowsy Chaperone
Fiddler On The Roof
A Funny Thing Happened...
Guys & Dolls
Hansel and Gretel
High School Musical
In The Heights
Into The Woods
Jekyll & Hyde
Jesus Christ Superstar
Joseph...Dreamcoat (Original)
Joseph...Dreamcoat (UK-Mega Mix)
The King And I
Legally Blonde
Les Miserables
Les Miserables SE
Little Shop Of Horrors
Magic Flute
Marriage of Figaro
Miss Saigon
The Music Man
Once Upon A Mattress
Peter Pan
The Phantom Of The Opera
The Producers
Ragtime SE
Rent SE
Singin In The Rain
The Sound Of Music
South Pacific
Sunset Boulevard
Sweeney Todd
Sweeney Todd SE
Thoroughly Modern Millie
Thoroughly Modern Millie SE
The Wedding Singer
West Side Story
White Christmas
Willy Wonka
Wizard of Oz

Sinfonia® 2004