Concerts


In one of my university classes, we have been given an assignment to create a webpage – specifically a blog. Now, musicians, often, aren’t very technologically capable, so a blog seems like the best choice for them (yet, for some of them, it’s even a step to far). But of course with this, comes the obligatory speech about “Web 2.0” – the so-called internet phenomenon that is putting placing content onto the internet into ordinary peoples hands.

Just recently, I’ve noticed two blogs that, while not mentioning it specifically, seem to imply that we need to redevelop Classical Music into a style that puts it into ordinary peoples hands.

Alex Ross points us to an Interview with Seattle Symphony lead cellist, Joshua Roman, who says:

“I would love to see the classical-music industry crumble, just absolutely fall to bits. Because I think then we’d have to start over. We’d have to say, well, what is it? What is classical music? Is it this concert hall, is it these tuxedos? No, it’s this music. And then we could start over from the beginning, build it up, find people who like the music. Like rock and roll started, like the punk movement started.”

A few days prior, Greg Sandow posted two articles – Good things — the Pittsburgh Symphony and Clarification which focus on initiatives being run by the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra that focus on bridging the gap and reaching out to the people that aren’t already in the hall.

So, is this the start of a revolution? A change to Classical Music 2.0? I think so, and the parallels with Web 2.0 are similar.

At first, the Internet was used for sharing knowledge between Universities and the Military. It was designed for those that understood what was in there. As the Internet became available for people in their own homes, pages started being designed that were of interest to them. It still required a knowledge of the system to create a page, but the infomation was there. Now with Web 2.0, anyone can publish their thoughts to the web through blogging, plus infomation is more readily available, and is often linked to throughout the “blogosphere”.

Classical Music is similar. At first, it was intended for academics – only those who could understand it listened to it. Eventually it started breaching out, and some people who didn’t have any knowledge of Classical Music started listening to it, and enjoying it. They would get some knowledge, and enjoy the concerts, and through devices such as program notes, were able to understand more about the music.

With Classical Music 2.0, the boundary must be breached between the knowledge and the everyday people. A conscious effort must be made to not only reach out to these people, but to embrace them within our community.

Interaction is most likely one of the key elements of Classical Music 2.0. I know from personal experience that as I have gotten more involved in Classical Music, and I have met the musicians that play in my local symphony orchestra, I enjoy the concerts more, because I can recognise the players and say “Oh yea, I learnt from that guy” or “I had an orchestral tutorial with him” or “I played some chamber music with her” or even just “I had a drink with that girl after one of my concerts”. The personal connection is such an important tool, and it brings people back, because they want to see how you’re doing.

One of my lecturers, Michael Goldschlager, talks of this as part of his experience as part of the Macquarie Trio – one of the most successful chamber groups in Australia until their break-up just recently. He says they formed a personal relationship with their audience, often consulting them about decisions such as venues, meeting them after the concert, and welcoming a relaxed atmosphere. He puts this forward as part of their success over the 15 years that they were together.

Interactivity definatly seems to be the key to reinvigorating Classical Music. Not just getting the musicians to interact with the audience to keep the people that come, but also administration interacting with their audiences and potential audiences to provide programming choices that attract new people. What’s the point in making all these changes to how the musicians behave if you don’t provide that programming that will attract new audience members.

Henry Fogel recently wrote a piece exploring whether denying people the opportunity to applaud between movements of a piece was causing people to be scared of attending a classical music concert. He quotes various sources from the past pointing out examples of where the audience have applauded during the work, and makes it seem natural.

Now, I am a “traditionalist” – though Mr Fogel would have me believe otherwise – because I do not want to applaud after movements – only after the work. There are a number of reasons that I do this. First of all, I have been a performer. I know the concentration that is required for an entire work. Just because you’ve completed one movement, doesn’t mean that you can let down your guard. If someone chooses to clap, and the whole audience then joins in, your concentration is broken, and it can take a little while for you to get back into it. Second – despite what Mr Fogel says – I believe that works are intended to be conceived as a whole. Even a work such as Scheherazade, which Mr Fogel claims to be four seperate tone poems, is in itself one tone poem that is split up into four different sections. But there is a common story line that runs through the whole work. Disrupting this through applause is like standing up and cheering during an ad break on the telly. There’s still more to go, and it’s just going to get better. In Scheherazade, the whole work is building up towards the last movement.

And it’s not just tone poems either. Concerti are the ones most often interrupted by Applause, generally after the first movement, which more than likely has the most fantastic cadenza that even I want to applaud their work. However, any multi-movement work – including concerti – must be conceived in a wholistic manner. If you separate each movement then the connection is lost. There is then no reason for the second movement to be slower. There is then no reason for the works to be in related keys.

Now, I don’t scorn the people that do applaud – and perhaps that is the real change that needs to be made. Ensure that we as musicians do not scorn those that want to applaud, but in a like manner – allow those who wish to remain silent and take in the work as a whole to do so. The change is then not so much of a forced one – one of encouraging people to applaud, thus taking away from those who wish to take in as a whole – but is a welcoming one that welcomes people into classical music, no matter whether they want to applaud at every movements end, or whether they – like myself – wish to take in the work as a whole.