Tuning the Concert

Gold Arts Award Portfolio

The Journey: Can classical concerts engage modern audiences? November 19, 2010

Filed under: 1D Summary: form and communicate a view — concerttuning @ 1:00 pm
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Having played the cello for over a decade and played in countless concerts I have to admit that I rarely attend concerts. If I don’t go to concerts who does?

I asked a number of people what they thought about classical concerts. Click the links below to read their comments about what they love and/or hate about concerts as well as their idea of a perfect concert:

I developed my view about what makes a good classical concert after listening to other people’s responses and attending events. Click the links below to read the articles:

You can read my final argument here which emphasises the need for concerts to diversify.



My issue in the arts: the classical concert experience November 14, 2010

Filed under: 1D: issues — concerttuning @ 10:28 pm
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How do we transform the conventional classical concert experience to make it more engaging for a wider audience?

One word answer: Diversify

Want to know a little more…

Technology has allowed music to step into the C21st but the conventional concert experience is still stuck in the past. We need to diversify the concert experience to give people a choice in the way they interact with classical music.

Want the full picture…

Today, live concert experiences are not the only way we can hear music. Music permeates our everyday lives. At the click of a button we can hear it on an ipod, instantly download it from the internet or even hear it played in public spaces such as London underground stations. The way we interact with music, including classical, is thoroughly modern. The exception to the rule is the concert experience. This tradition has remained relatively unchanged since the C19th.

For the listener who is accustomed to having technology and all its benefits at their finger tips, stepping into a concert hall can either be a welcomed or mystifying step into another world. For the vast majority of the population, their reaction tends to err to the later. If cultural institutions want to attract young and diverse audiences into the concert hall, they need to recognise the way the modern person chooses to interact with classical music.

Problematically, transforming the conventional classical concert experience is not a straightforward task. It is all too easy to criticise the current format of concerts, but it is not so easy to put forward a successful new model. However, I would argue that the main step we need to make is to diversify. We need more variety in the types of concerts that are promoted and more variety in the music played.



The Orchestra of the future? October 27, 2010

Filed under: 1B: research,1D: issues — concerttuning @ 1:18 pm
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Southbank Sinfonia is unique in that they are the only full-time, independent Orchestral Academy currently in existence, but it is their open-mindedness that really bowled me over when I met their Chief Executive, Justin Lee.

They are actively paving the way into the future. Not only are they prepared to re-evaluate the role of the orchestra in the 21st century, but they are equipping their players with the ability to survive the modern music market. Justin Lee explained that their aim is not only to generate creative people who are passionate about music, but crucially to develop musicians with the means to communicate this. Consequently, they are trained in public speaking and are expected to talk to the audience at concerts.

The organisation is not tied to the rigidity or risk of a concert series. This gives them the flexibility to explore alternative avenues and take artistic risks, ensuring that there is still a role for the orchestral musician in 20 years time. Prepared to look beyond the autonomy of classical music, Justin Lee relishes the opportunity to collaborate in cross-art performances. This comes from his passion to reveal connections. Classical music is not chronological or closed to the world, though many a conventional concert typically portrays it as such.  Instead, through his programming he hopes to weave musical connections across time or use other art forms to shed light on the music. If they had a niche it’s their use of movement. For example, the musical mirroring in a Bach Canon was demonstrated in concert by two players physically imitating the direction of their musical subjects.



My ideal concert at 8pm on Monday 25 October October 25, 2010

Filed under: 1D: issues — concerttuning @ 7:54 pm
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I can envision a concert that I would be proud to promote. The idea came when I was reading an article in es magazine about how art exhibitions moved out of white space into warehouses and factories.

The concert would be held on the top floor of an old factory with brick walls and structural supports jutting out into the room. Around the room would be a balcony with an iron hand rail where you could overlook the whole space. At the far end of the room would be a large window divided into foot-wide squares with a spectacular panorama of a city.

The venue would double up as an art gallery with a constantly changing selection of art work on display, with some items for sale. Audience members could arrive early for the concert to look at the art work or to buy drinks at the bar/cafe. Between the structural supports would be cosy alcoves lit with ambient lighting where people could intimately talk.

The evening would start dramatically when all the lights were dimmed into near darkness while an intense spotlight marked out a lone artist. The musician would play a short piece from memory of no more than 5 mins. It could be baroque to modern as long as it was captivating. The idea would be to turn heads and draw people in to listen.

After the applause the lights would rise slightly and a presenter for the evening concert would come to the spotlight. He/she would invite people to take a seat around the artist whether a vintage armchair, beanbag or cushion. Drinks would be permitted in the performance area. Alternatively people would be free to wander around the gallery or watch from the balcony above. He/she would open up a dialogue with the artist, discussing the work they just heard and offering the audience an alternative insight. No snobbishness would be allowed and people would be encouraged to speak in normal everyday language. There would be no concert programmes but if an artist chose, they could write in chalk on the walls as well as choosing which art works they wanted to be surrounded by.



What do you think of classical concerts? September 26, 2010

Filed under: 1D: issues — concerttuning @ 9:39 pm
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Wordle: What do you think of classical concerts?
I asked friends and family what they thought about classical concerts, using these questions as prompts:

* What comes to mind when you think of a classical concert?
* Do people like yourself go to classical concerts?
* If you have been to a classical concert, what was the experience like?
* If you could change anything about classical concerts, what would you change?

You can read their feedback in the comments of this post or look at the wordle that all their thoughts created. Please do add your own thoughts too!


Young Creative wants informal concerts in intimate settings September 5, 2010

Filed under: 1D: issues — concerttuning @ 7:42 pm
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I met up with Susie Attwood, a stronger advocator of Non Classical, to hear her perspective on tuning the concert.

When asking what got her really excited about music, Susie replied playing her violin with others, like in a string quartet, while listening to music on her own. This contrast in wishing to be with others to perform, but wanting her own solitude to listen was an interesting point. Unpicking this statement apart illustrated her preference for a quiet, relaxed, totally absorbed way of listening, which she felt could not be achieved in a concert hall when she was too self aware of others. It is due to the record that this solitary style of listening is possible, but we decided though possible to recreate this with live musicians it may be a bit awkward!

Going back to the problem of the concert hall, Susie elaborated that the whole thing was too self-conscious. There is a set protocol to follow that has become like a ritual similar to that of a stereotypically bad image of Church with a silent reverence to the music.  It’s not relaxed nor is it fun. It is such a niche that people will only ever attend if their parents took them to concerts or if they played an instrument when they were young.  This makes it problematic for new comers, for example her non-musical friends will turn up late or don’t plan far enough in advance to book tickets.



To cry or not to cry August 29, 2010

How emotional do we/can we/ should we get at concerts?

Classical music is emotive, but there is this problem that you are meant to go through an inner psychological journey, rather than outwardly expressing this journey.

This may not be helped by our British culture. Imagine a stranger wailing on your shoulder at a concert. You just wouldn’t know what to do!

  1. Do you offer a hankie?
  2. Reprimand them and tell them to keep a stiff upper lip?
  3. Or do you ignore them and hope the problem will go away?

I found myself at the Prom on Sunday night where Sir John Eliot Gardiner was conducting the Czech Philharmonic Orchestra. Greig’s Piano Concerto was simply beautiful and I constantly struggled to hold back my tears. To be fair I was feeling emotional before I entered the concert hall, but none-the-less the music augmented this feeling.

I was in a quandary: to cry or not to cry? Was is socially inappropriate? Will people think I am silly for crying or a fool for letting my emotions run so array?