Mozart And Productivity

OK, so I got up early and banged out a few hours worth of work (editing, the kind of work that I can only do first thing in the morning, ugh), and then went to the gym … just got back, picked up my WSJ on the way back in, and saw this headline (subscription required):

Behind Surging Productivity: The Service Sector Delivers … Getting More Mozart for Less

The article then goes on to discuss how firms are reducing costs in the service sector, and it starts with a story about how the Opera Company of Brooklyn is using only 12 musicians in the orchestra, and a computer will play the remaining parts of the score.

Very interesting, I said to myself; I’ll have to post something on it and see what Tyler Cowen has to say about it.

I sit down to my computer, and checking before I started this post, I found that Tyler had already delivered, complete with links to other commens by Arnold Kling.

Technology helping service provision overcome Baumol’s “cost disease” … there are several examples of such phenomena throughout history, but data are scarce and services were not historically as important a share of economic activity as they have become.

So this, as Radar would have said on M*A*S*H, is highly significant.

2 thoughts on “Mozart And Productivity

  1. Very interesting article. I know a couple of jazz musicians who literally lost their minds when they read this article. But there is always a cost to this type of surging productivity. Are we so quantity driven now that quality will fade?

  2. I’ve wondered the same thing … for me it’s that different types of music are more closely substitutable on CD than live (which I think translates to being able to do what the article discussed). I am much more likely to go see an opera or a jazz concert or a band now than I am to go to the symphony, unless the performer or the particular piece of music is distinctive or meaningful to me. I think that’s because the quality of symphonic performance recording is so high (combined with my tin ear!). But opera, for example, is almost entirely lost on me unless I can see the sets and the costumes.

    It’s interesting that the orchestral replacement they discuss took place in an orchestra for an opera. My hunch is that they’d be much less likely to be willing to do that substitution in an orchestra playing a symphonic piece.

    Maybe there’s also a good thing out of things like this — what if a small town symphnony can’t find a vibraphonist, for example, but there’s a piece they want to perform that requires it. Computers can expand the repetoire of such orchestras. Just a thought …

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