A great story just appeared in the Washington Post a couple of days ago that is the most perfect example I’ve ever seen of the importance of Purpose in our musical experiences. In my earlier post on the topic, I suggested that there can be problems when musicians have one Purpose for performing their music – and the audience have a different Purpose in being there to listen to it.
So in this (I will admit) highly amusing tale, journalist Anne Midgette describes what happened when a ‘Stravinsky Rave’ was hosted in a Washington D.C. nightclub. The idea was that Stravinsky’s Rite of Spring would be performed by a live orchestra with dancers in a nightclub. But the night, at least as far as Midgette describes it, seemed to have been rather an awkward affair. The conductor, on several occasions, told the audience off for taking photos. Or for talking during the music.
That right there is a classic mismatch of Purpose. It seems pretty clear, from the way the conductor acted, that his chief Purpose was to present the Stravinsky Rite as a serious piece of music for the audience to appreciate. And certainly it sounds like there were people there for that purpose as well.
However, by the sounds of it, there were also a bunch of people at the club who assumed that if you put something on in a club, surely, the rules are a bit more relaxed? After all, why can’t you take photos and talk during the music at a nightclub? You would for any other band, right?
In short, there was a clash between the Purpose of ‘presenting serious music’ and the Purpose of ‘let’s have a fun night at a club’. None of which was probably thought out explicitly by either the performers or the audience, but it well and truly played out on the night.
A few good blog reads over the last week. Greg Sandow has released not one, but two articles on how to imagine the future.
- Imagining A Bright Future – which is also interesting because of the two commenters: one who sees a lack of musical knowledge being the problem while the other says ‘change the music’!
- Tabatha fixes orchestras – some interesting ideas that tie in with my thoughts on Personal Connection (coming soon!)
- These Aren’t Your Grandpa’s Older People – A fascinating blog post by Joe Patti who reminds those of us with an art form that has an older audience that the new old people aren’t the same as the old old people. (It’ll make sense when your read it!) ‘Observations have been made that often people age into an appreciation of classical arts and culture- orchestra, opera, ballet etc., but let’s not forget that they aren’t necessarily aging out of the experiences and interests they had when they were younger. If the icons of their youth are still able to rock, they are ready to rock along with them.’
I’m still writing up my thoughts on Personal Connection and classical music, but in the meantime, I noticed that concerts in private homes have been getting more airplay nowadays.
This has been becoming a thing in America thanks to the amazing work that Groupmuse has been doing, but it seems to be spreading to other genres as well. (As this short BBC video shows.)
As if they could read my mind after my last post on Purpose and classical music experiences, San Francisco Classical Voice came out with the following article on the New Music Paradox. Some of the language used is fascinating.
“One reason why,” says Deborah Borda,” the L.A. Philharmonic’s president and CEO, “is that contemporary music is not nearly as doctrinaire as it used to be. As great as they were, the years of Milton Babbitt, Elliot Carter, and Roger Sessions are over. It’s a different ethos now that crosses borders and is more accessible. I don’t mind saying that a new work is accessible. We want people to come. I also think,” she adds reflectively, “judging by the period we’re entering, there are going to be a lot more pieces with a distinctly political message.”
I love the way Borda has phrased this. By saying explicitly, ‘We want people to come’ and also ‘there are going to be a lot more pieces with a distinctly political message’, she is being upfront about the Purpose that their audience might have for listening to the music. (And also slyly inferring that the older generation of contemporary music composers may not have had audience access in mind.)