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What exactly is it that a conductor does?

I'm watching the movie "The Hidden Face". (seriously great movie). The primary actor is a conductor. What exactly is it that a conductor does? All of the orchestra has the music, so each should know their part. I'm confused as to why the conductor is considered such a genius, unless he/she is the author of the music and has a certain way of interpreting it. Even so, I don't get it. Forgive my ignorance. But please explain.
Thank you.

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    Dec 11 2012: The conductor interprets the piece. From the notes he or she creates a musical vision. You could make the analogy to a film director interpreting a script.

    I was told that classical music used to be much more free for interpretation, but some of that tradition is somewhat lost. But there is still major differences when you listen to the same piece by different conductors.

    I suggest you listen to a couple of different versions of Mozart's Requiem. It's a good place to start and it's been done by so many conductors.
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    Dec 10 2012: They are the guys punching tickets in trains and trams.
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    Dec 10 2012: musicians play instruments, conductors play musicians
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    Dec 10 2012: 30-seconds on Bing got me this:
    "The conductor makes sure that the music piece is interpreted properly by acting as the guide to the musicians or singers. He chooses and studies the music score, may make certain adjustments to it and relay his ideas to the performers so that when the music is played, there is unity and harmony. He schedules rehearsals, plans the orchestra's repertoire and attends to other matters concerning the group he leads."
  • Dec 10 2012: It costs much money and effort when we need great interpretation, decision making and juggling of all problems, and even it is not easy to guarantee quality gaining the benefits against the cost. Here, we need a conductor because he/she is the most sophisticated, so plays a crucial and efficient role in the work and performance of an orchestra. That's the bottom line.

    Moreover, it is related to a concept, 'group.' For a perfect performance, personal taste, opinion, and point of view are sometimes neglected under joint agreement. Again, we need conductor as a leader, guide, and instructor.

    I'm not a specialist in this area, so I feel sorry that I cannot explain it exactly. All I know is a conductor plays a vital role in the performance:).
  • Dec 10 2012: Daryl, Intellectually I guess I get it, but not practically. Look, all of you have the same music, the same beat or tempo.. So why is this guy a maestro? Can you give me -- as a neophyte lover of this form of music -- an analogy that I can understand? I'm sure I'm not the only one out here who would gain a better understanding of thiis. Thank you in advance.
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      Dec 10 2012: technical adherence to musical notation does not measure up against playing with "feel" and that is even more apparent once 2 or more people play together.

      it's hard enough getting 5 guys in a band to create a swing or groove, I can't imagine how difficult that is for an orchestra to do that. hence, the conductor.

      Analogy - following the recipe for chocolate cake letter for letter or baking a chocolate cake with direction from a master chef..
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    Dec 10 2012: What the conductor brings most importantly to the music is his or her…..ear, physically as well as creatively. Without the conductor's ear how would the individuals of the orchestra know exactly how loud to play, or when just the slightest hesitation before playing works better for the overall experience? If you've never sat in the orchestra pit or with the musicians it may be hard to understand how important it is to have the perspective of the audience to guide your playing.