Music As A Defining Attribute Of Humanity

In a recent piece I wrote for The Partial Observer, I focus on two new robots, one from Toyota and one from Sony, that are supposedly the latest in humanoid robotics.  When researching the article I discovered that both companies use musical qualities to help define the humanistic qualities of their new product.  The Sony robot can conduct an orchestra and dances to music while the robot from Toyota plays a trumpet.

I wanted to take a moment here to reiterate a sentiment from the Partial Observer article:

Not only should these robots be embarrassing for Sony and Toyota, it’s insulting to musicians and the world of classical music. It’s not offensive along the lines of robots reproducing live music but more toward how these companies can use music as a “defining” attribute of humanity when the world wide consumption and interest in classical music is declining.

After I published the article my wife, a talented and witty musician, pointed out that neither company demonstrated if their robot has managerial skills.  She then posed the following question:

“If the robots use music as a way to define their human attributes, does that mean being a manager isn’t a defining attribute of humanity?”

Good question.  I never get tired of learning new ways to love my wife.

About Drew McManus

"I hear that every time you show up to work with an orchestra, people get fired." Those were the first words out of an executive's mouth after her board chair introduced us. That executive is now a dear colleague and friend but the day that consulting contract began with her orchestra, she was convinced I was a hatchet-man brought in by the board to clean house.

I understand where the trepidation comes from as a great deal of my consulting and technology provider work for arts organizations involves due diligence, separating fact from fiction, interpreting spin, as well as performance review and oversight. So yes, sometimes that work results in one or two individuals "aggressively embracing career change" but far more often than not, it reinforces and clarifies exactly what works and why.

In short, it doesn't matter if you know where all the bodies are buried if you can't keep your own clients out of the ground, and I'm fortunate enough to say that for more than 15 years, I've done exactly that for groups of all budget size from Qatar to Kathmandu.

For fun, I write a daily blog about the orchestra business, provide a platform for arts insiders to speak their mind, keep track of what people in this business get paid, help write a satirical cartoon about orchestra life, hack the arts, and love a good coffee drink.

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