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Were there always conductors in a orchestra?


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Answered 2007-11-10 09:00:55

No.

Conductors as we know them first appeared in the late classical period, but there had been other types of conductor before that.

The first attempt to keep an orchestra's timing together was trialled in ancient Greece, where the 'conductor' beat the time with a stick, holding the orchestra together. The renaissance saw a return of this idea, where an individual could strike the floor with a stick or their foot, or in some cases tap a book, to keep time. Jean-Baptiste Lully died as a result of this practice. He was conducting a performance celebrating a return from an illness he had, when he accidentally hit his foot with a conducting rod. The wound became infected and he died. In the Baroque period it became more common for a harpsichordist or (rarely) a violinist to keep the piece together. The harosichordist provived a continuo to keep time, while the violinist sometimes played and waved his bow to indicate time when he was not playing. By the waning years of the classical period, the bow had been replaced with a rod and the instrument became useless to the conductor, resulting in the conductor we know today.

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