(who does their videos, by the way? Pete would probably know.)
when I came across
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EltW4w2W_Ys and I started thinking about my "high school band" days, and how our sound always sounded so *mushy* and I had the recurring thought "If the band's seating is 100 ft across, and sound travels at 1000 ft/sec, the clarinets should hear the trombones be off by 1/10th of a second -- or, at 120 bpm, 1/5 of a beat."
I mean, I'm sure skilled musicians (not me at the time) compensate for this in a variety of ways : but any form of compensation you could have only "works perfectly" for at most one spot (2 spots if the band is aligned precisely along a line). It seems like the "best" you could do is "everyone plays off the conductor's baton" (information from this travels at the speed of light) and for a listener at a large distance, l, from the center of the band, to whom the band is aligned perpendicularly, hears different instruments as if they were at most
sqrt(l2 + 2500) - lfeet apart, which, as l gets large, behaves sort-of like (1/(2*l)])*2500. Or, better yet, pick the spot (the king's chair?) at which the sound has to be perfect, and align the entire band along the rim of a semicircle with that spot as the center (somewhat close to what bands and orchestras actually do).
But still, the time delay to to sound travel when you're sitting inside the large band/orchestra means that musicians can't really react to each others sound they would in a small ensemble. In essence, they have to rely on the (centralized?) conductor for synchronization. Which is probably yet another one of the many reasons why groups that do real improvisation tend to be small.
Also, that guy with the monocle in the elite box off to the side? He's probably hearing one of the worst orchestral performances of his life.