I have never been a part of a traditional classical performance, but I write music that involves cello, doublebass, viola, and violin. I have never played live with this music, but when I play with these musicians, they learn the piece, and I don't have to conduct for them (and I wouldn't). Coming from a band-oriented perspective in music, I expect the people performing a piece to know it. So I don't really get the need for a conductor. I realize that working with a large group like an orchestra presents some complications, and the most obvious one is making sure everybody stays in time with each other. But to me, it's far easier to just listen to the people I'm playing with, rather than trying to play in time with a bouncing baton. In terms of dynamics and expression, shouldn't the orchestra playing a piece know how they should be playing before they perform it live? Is it not ridiculous that such talented people need to be told during a performance when to diminuendo or when they should be playing pizzicato? A related issue is the need for sheet music. Even when they are hammering out Pachelbel's Canon, it seems classical musicians need a sheet with the notes in front of them. Some comedian had a good quip about this, when Guns N Roses performed with an orchestra, and the orchestra all had sheet music in front of them: "So Slash can remember the tune, but the first violin of the Boston Philharmonic is having a little trouble?" "A? Now A minor. . .uh oh, back to A! My fifty years of training did not prepare me for this!" This sort of thing wouldn't be tolerated in any other form of music, of course (I'd like to see the reactions if I showed up to an RnB gig with sheet music and asked the band leader to let me know when I need to be palm muting). So why is it that in a world of such talented and knowledgable musicians, a conductor and sheet music are always necessary?