Why Is the Orchestra Seated That Way? An Explanation

The layout of a Symphony Orchestra

The layout of a Symphony Orchestra

Why don’t the oboes and tubas sit in the front of the orchestra? Why don’t flutes and first violins swap positions, or — in what would be the coolest configuration, let’s be honest — bass trombones and contrabassoons sit right up front with the conductor? Why is there even a conductor at all?

There’s pretty much a reason for why everything we experience is the way it is (whether or not those are good reasons is an altogether different discussion), and the orchestra’s seating arrangements are no exception. In a recent article for The Florida Times-Union, the Jacksonville Symphony music director Courtney Lewis gives a brief explanation for why the musicians sit where they do. It’s an interesting look into acoustics and the history of music and performance. Full story.

James Bennett, II (WQXR) / May 4, 2017

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