Okay, this is a weird topic, perhaps. But I have been watching PBS’s “Great Performances” series called “Now Hear This…” which is intriguing to me, as part of my world is being a working musician.
One of the very clear statements by the program host, “celebrated Violinist and Chief Conductor of the Mexico City Philharmonic, Scott Yoo”, is that the real reason for a “Conductor” is that the folks on one side of the Symphony Orchestra “…can’t hear the other side.” Extrapolation: If there was an effective multiple, in-ear monitor mix for EACH of the instrumentalists, you wouldn’t need a conductor. Unless for show.
Motion picture soundtracks have had this situation for years… with many recordings for film tightly timed (the performing instrumentalists) with headphones. In a live performance, in-ear monitoring has evolved to an extremely high level. Shure, Inc., out of Illinois, is a major player in this field as are others in the “transducer” manufacturing game… those who make microphones often make headphones. There are about 100, plus or minus, musicians in a Symphony Orchestra.
This means you’d have to invest a substantial amount initially for a 100+ feed monitor mixer with in ear headsets. However, this “one time” investment would last years. Not to devalue the position of a Conductor, but from a Post COVID economic standpoint, it seems that not requiring a conductor for timing might be a huge step forward. Plus, even WITH a conductor, certainly creating a better way for everyone to hear each other would be a benefit. The entire concept MUST have already been employed at better funded Symphony Orchestras… …just sayin’.