Bases empty, two outs, a 3-1 game, #8 hitter up. Nothing comes down to this.

Monday, January 31, 2011

Yankees to Feature New York Philharmonic as "Band in Residence"

NEW YORK (Bottom of the Fourth) - The New York Yankees are one of the most storied franchises in baseball history. The New York Philharmonic is the most prestigious orchestra in America. The only real surprise is that it took this long for the two to hook up.

It was announced on Sunday that the Phil will serve as Yankees "Band in Residence" during the 2011 baseball season. The orchestra will perform any and all musical duties typical to a baseball game, including playing the national anthem(s), and the seventh-inning stretch music, "Take Me Out to the Ball Game" and "God Bless 'Merica". 

Additionally, the group will take over responsibility for playing the intermittent organ noises meant to rev up the crowd. Since these snippets happen often and throughout the game, the orchestra will need to be at the ready at all times. Unfortunately, given the size of the group (50+ members), there isn't a space on the field large enough to accommodate them while the game is being played.

As a result, Yankees' Director of Stadium Operations Jesse Fine-Gagne says the members will be dispersed all around the field: behind the plate, in foul ground along the sides, and in the bullpens. In particular, trombonists, accustomed to sitting in the back and doing nothing, will join the relievers in the bullpen while violists will be strategically placed directly where the highest percentage of foul line drives are hit, because nobody likes violists.

Since this means many of the musicians will be out of sight range of the others, conductor Alan Gilbert will be broadcast on some of the stadium's video screens to coordinate all the music. While this measure ensures that the members of the orchestra will play at the same time, Yankees physicists are still working on the problem of sound delay that will be unavoidable when musicians are spread out over several hundred feet.

The philharmonic's composer-in-residence Magnus Lindberg has been hard at work arranging a suite called Baseball Sounds for Orchestra, but took time out of his busy schedule to speak with Bottom of the Fourth. And despite a 30+ year composing career, Lindberg says this is his greatest challenge to date.

"There are so many natural sounds at a baseball game," Lindberg explained, "and I want to capture all of them in my masterwork. Every guffaw, every empty peanut shell crunching underfoot, every drunk Queens asshole yelling at A-Rod. It will all be in the music. This is gonna be some John Cage shit up in this bitch."

The brass section hasn't yet figured out a solution to the obvious risk inherent in playing during a live baseball game: baseballs flying into their bells. Dr. Luke Wesley, joint professor from the departments of Athletics-Influenced Symphonic Music and Orchestral Baseball Studies at Columbia University, says it's both inevitable and dangerous. Tubists, in particular, carry a very high risk of "sudden, unexpected air flow reversal resulting from lodgement of baseball-shaped projectile in instrument", which can lead to "complications arising from spontaneous puffy-cheek".

The aspect of this radical change most anticipated by the Yankees players themselves is the live renditions of their walk-up music. In particular, Mariano Rivera, famous for entering each game along to Metallica's "Enter Sandman", is excited to see what the orchestra does with his classic theme. "I think getting those violins and oboes in there is really going to add another layer of intensity," said Rivera.

Joba Chamberlain, noted fan of classical music, is excited to see how Gilbert coordinates famous works with baseball events. "I'm thinking Thus Spake Zarathustra [the theme from 2001: A Space Odyssey] any time a Yankee pitcher gets to two strikes. Wouldn't it be awesome to strike out some asshole on the DUH DUH?"

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