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Thread: The tradition of the concert hall performance

  1. #1
    Senior Member Oneiros's Avatar
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    Default The tradition of the concert hall performance

    I'm interested in what others think about the way that most of us listen to live classical music - that strange, almost religious ritual of the concert hall. Of course this was an invention of the 19th century, and yet we act as if music before this time was designed for concert hall performance too, when this is far from true. How many contemporary performances of Mozart or Bach were listened to with undivided attention and in complete silence? To me this is implying false values in such music.

    This tradition seems determined to remain static, admitting very few new pieces to 'the repertoire', and I think its rules (dress codes, don't clap between movts, remain silent, etc) and formality are obstacles to a more widespread appreciation of classical music. Surely this is contributing to the dwindling audience numbers at performances.

    Of course I enjoy live performances, and there is nothing like hearing a symphony live in concert, but when all classical music is assimilated into the concert hall I think that is taking it too far. I believe we need to create other, more publicly approachable environments for our music, or watch it fade behind other more immediately appealing genres.

    I know some will oppose these ideas, and that's ok. As a young musician, I would like to see classical music continue into the 21st century with a wider appeal, and less of an intimidating atmosphere associated with it.

    Anyway, please add your thoughts to this potentially controversial discussion.

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    Senior Member ChamberNut's Avatar
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    phatic,

    I partially agree with you're saying.

    I'm 33 years old (I consider myself in the 'young' crowd ), and I love going to see a live performance at my local symphony orchestra. This will now be my 2nd year as a subscriber to several concerts.

    Our symphony orchestra offers a broad range of concert series that appeal to a broad range of musical tastes. In addition, the dress code is not enforced. At a regular symphonic concert, the crowd is a mixture of younger and older people, some dressed casual, semi-casual and some dressed formal.

    Our symphony orchestra also offers what are called "Musically Speaking" concerts, which are highly interactive with the audience. Before actually playing the musical work, the conductor will talk to the audience about the work, and explain about certain points in the music, and have the orchestra demonstrate by playing a small excerpt. The conductor also asks the audience questions and answers questions......it's one of my favorite concert series!

    Also, there are children's programming, called 'Sundays With The Family".

    In other words phatic, some symphony orchestras are broadening their programs, ideas and horizons to appeal to a greater mass. I think it's been a great success in my city. Plus, we have a young, energetic and enthusiastic conductor who has pre-concert talks that I find very envigorating!

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  5. #3
    Notserp89m
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    agreed phatic,

    Classical music has a stigma of being the music of snobs and upper class people, which i think is more a testament to the environment of classical music than the music. Tons of people enjoy classical and don't even know it but they would never think of stepping into the concert hall where the "aristocrats" go. I actually went to a performance for schools of the local symphony when i was in high school. They played the unforgettable theme for Copland's Rodeo and about three kids were saying, "hey it's the song from the "Beef" commercial, I love that song." And as if on queue at the end of the performance they exclaimed, "it's whats for dinner." I also understand you want the best acoustics for an orchestral performance because of the subtle nature of the music at times. I still think that the music should be played in other venues. I go to school near a library with a large and beautiful front lawn with large oaks that must date back at least 200 years, and i find myself dreaming of watching a string quartet playing out on the lawn. Or maybe even have classical music in a bar, hell i don't know but there needs to be some kind of change with the changing audience and the changing times. We need to remember that it is the music that is pure and important, not the concert hall and the fancy traditions.

    As a young enthusiast of classical music and American folk i really see the extremes in a musical environment. I sometimes wish that classical had more of the friendly laid back nature of mountain music.

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  7. #4
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    phatic's post raises several questions. Indeed, I find it impossible to address the central question (as alluded to in the thread's heading) without first dealing with the other questions. Not necessarily answering them, but examining them, or at least giving them a glance.

    So here are the questions.

    Are audiences for symphony orchestras dwindling? I know this is a common idea, but it doesn't seem to be universally true. I wonder what one would find if one were to research attendance for every orchestra in every country over the past two hundred years or so. (I wonder how many people who've ever attended a symphony concert were there for the music?)

    Is dwindling attendance a problem? I mean for music itself, not for the business. Out of all the things that can be called "classical music," how many require a full symphony orchestra to perform? If there's enough interest in these pieces, there'll probably always be orchestras somewhere to play them.

    Arising from that last question is the surprise question for a forum of this sort: What is classical music? We all blithely bandy that term about as if its meaning were straightforward and universally agreed upon. And we all know, don't we?, that it's nothing of the sort. (I tried, for instance, to see if I could figure out what phatic meant by "classical music." I couldn't. ChamberNut didn't even try, just went straight for detailing the various activities of his or her local orchestra to make whatever it is that they play appeal to a larger audience.) I do not think we need a universally agreed upon definition, by the way. Maybe avoid the term, as ChamberNut does, or define it if we don't.

    Notserp89m's wish, for instance, has already been fulfilled, but probably not with what he would recognize as "classical." (Since he also doesn't define the term, I'm only guessing. "He" is only a guess, too, from reading Notserp backwards.) Almost all the concerts I go to are laid back. And they take place in bars coffee shops and hotel lobbies and small rooms in palaces and people's houses, and some of them in symphony concert halls, where everyone dresses however they please. But there's no Haydn or Mendelssohn or Copland at these concerts. These are all concerts of contemporary music, many of them of music that's meant to be played over loudspeakers.

    And lastly, are any of the musics that have ever been designated as "classical" (medieval, renaissance, baroque, classical, romantic, impressionist, serial, experimental, minimal, electroacoustic, and so forth) intended for widespread appreciation? Music that requires some work, some attention, to appreciate won't ever be as popular as, well, popular music. I'm not sure we've identified a problem, yet. Audiences for Incapacitants are smaller than audiences for Mudvayne. Audiences for Lachenmann are smaller than audiences for Barber. And audiences for all of those are smaller than those for Jessica Simpson or for Justin Timberlake. And always will be. Are there members of Timberlake's audience who could appreciate Mudvayne or even Lachenmann? Perhaps.

    There's a worthy goal: get Simpson fans to enjoy Incapacitants!!

  8. #5
    Notserp89m
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    Ahh you deciphered the uncrackable code to find out my name . That is a good point that "classical music" is a very "loose" term. There is no real absolute definition, more a definition of opinion. I believe "classical music" though almost impossible to define but can be distinguished by listening to the work, though it will be very open to opinion. And i will admit i am young and not in the most progressive part of the country or world but i have never heard what I distinguish as "classical" outside of the concert hall or a "special event" setting. I know this could and is different in different parts of the world but why should it be. Even when i attend performances at my local concert hall all you have to do is look to the "box seats" to see the patrons fast asleep waiting to be awoken by the loud burst of the brass section. And it will always be true that Jessica Simpsons will have larger audiences, but i have no hopes of ever reaching that level, just a little informality. I would love to be able to play classical music with other people, just for fun, but it is not going to happen unless i join an established group with a conductor and a very serious mindset. But instead i had to go to my second love and buy a banjo to be able to play music with others just for fun. And yes i know classical generally is not easy to just mess around with due to its demand for skill and precision but it would like to try to entertain the idea.

    To conclude this post blabbering of unrelated thoughts (my attention span is not very good) I will say that bluegrass/American folk and “classical” are not the “coolest” genres of music around. I see hope in the bluegrass world where there is change and a youthful energy which has attracted a lot of attention and particularly that of young people. I see classical, and i see a relatively unchanging scene.

    But these are just my opinions and what i see in my world.

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    It is pretty much true that if you only go to symphony concerts, your impression will be that the world of classical music is a relatively unchanging scene. That's not universally true, fortunately, and it seems to be less true in some countries than in others. I went to Poland a couple of months ago, and one of the concerts of the Musica Electronica Nova festival took place in the Filharmonia Wrocławska hall, music for electronics and orchestra by Kaija Saariaho and others. The hall was pretty full, and stayed full after intermission, too--so none of the leaving at intermission when new music is played, as happens frequently in the U.S., well as frequently as new music is played, which is practically never!

    But mostly, the new classical kids are playing in coffee shops and bars and living rooms, and while they play flutes and trumpets and guitars and violins, still, they also play laptops, too. So yeah, there's stuff going on, and it's new music, too, not just new performances of the same old classics, music that's noisy and vibrant and alive. Well, be fair, some of it is quiet and vibrant and alive, too.

    Classical music started leaving the concert hall in the twentieth century, for sure. But a big old symphony orchestra is such a great resource of sound and talent, that even some electroacoustic composers I know will confess to wanting to write for it--if they thought they even had a prayer of getting things performed, they would, too.

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    Senior Member zlya's Avatar
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    I don't understand why Notserp89m can't play classical music informally with other people, just for fun. It's one of my favorite things to do. Whenever my Dad and I see each other we start on the four handed piano, and my best friend and I always have lots of fun with semi-improvised Clarinet concertos. Then of course there's the joy of vocal music--part songs and punting anyone (in the original notation, of course)? Reading through opera scores is a blast as well.

    If your heart is set on symphonies, get the piano reduction. Don't know any pianists? Play it on a bunch of other instruments, or better yet, sing the parts! You don't have to be a virtuoso to enjoy classical music with friends, just don't take it too seriously.

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    Senior Member Kurkikohtaus's Avatar
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    Such a good thread. I hope people catch on and keep it running for a long time. I find that most internet music-discussion forums are centered around the world of recordings. Many contributors' opinions and tastes and value systems are centered around their experience of classical music through the recorded medium, which is obviously relevant and here to stay, but in my opinion misses the most important part of the Western Classical Music tradition, and that is the phenomena of live performance.

    Quote Originally Posted by phatic View Post
    I would like to see classical music continue into the 21st century with a wider appeal, and less of an intimidating atmosphere associated with it.
    If one associates an intimidating atmosphere with the concert hall, then one needs to get out to the concert hall more often and understand the tradition associated with it, and the fact that it is within this tradition (and not in a vacuum) that composers wrote the works which we love.

    Quote Originally Posted by Notserp89m View Post
    Classical music has a stigma of being the music of snobs and upper class people, which i think is more a testament to the environment of classical music than the music. Tons of people enjoy classical and don't even know it but they would never think of stepping into the concert hall where the "aristocrats" go.
    Classical Music has always been associated with upper class (or nobility) and educated people. This is not a "stigma". This is good and necessary for the preservation of the Classical Tradition, in that it is not entertainment; it is art.

    Quote Originally Posted by zlya View Post
    If your heart is set on symphonies, get the piano reduction.
    I disagree (respectfully). If your heart is set on symphonies, go and hear one in the concert hall, where it was meant to be heard.

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    Senior Member zlya's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Kurkikohtaus View Post

    I disagree (respectfully). If your heart is set on symphonies, go and hear one in the concert hall, where it was meant to be heard.
    Kurkikohtaus, I was not suggesting that piano scores replace the experience of LISTENING to symphonies, but that if performing in a symphony orchestra is beyond someone's scope, then piano reductions provide a way to PERFORM great works in an informal and fun atmosphere. Listening is all well and good, but sometimes you just want to play!

    And playing piano reductions of famous works in an informal atmosphere is well within the classical tradition of the 19th century.

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    Notserp89m
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    I would love to know people that play classical but none of my friends enjoy it at all. I know one person who plays and i would love to play with him but he lives a days drive from me, and at that the only time i see him is at a summer camp i work at and i can't drag a piano out there, so im getting a cello! Hopefully knowning piano will help me pick up fairly quick. I guess i just am not in the right town for classical. I live in Nashville so its much easier to find someone to play bluegrass with than Bach.

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    Notserp89m
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    Quote Originally Posted by zlya View Post
    Whenever my Dad and I see each other we start on the four handed piano
    That would be amazing to have someone in the family that plays or, even listens. That is really cool you and your Dad both play.

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    Senior Member Kurkikohtaus's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by zlya View Post
    ...playing piano reductions of famous works in an informal atmosphere is well within the classical tradition of the 19th century.
    Good point, well said.

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    Senior Member Saturnus's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by phatic View Post
    How many contemporary performances of Mozart or Bach were listened to with undivided attention and in complete silence? To me this is implying false values in such music.
    Haha! Bach wrote most his harpsichord concertos for performances in coffee-houses
    I'd like to see that today

    "The Starbucks chamber ensemble"

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    Quote Originally Posted by ChamberNut View Post
    phatic,

    I partially agree with you're saying.

    I'm 33 years old (I consider myself in the 'young' crowd ), and I love going to see a live performance at my local symphony orchestra. This will now be my 2nd year as a subscriber to several concerts.

    Our symphony orchestra offers a broad range of concert series that appeal to a broad range of musical tastes. In addition, the dress code is not enforced. At a regular symphonic concert, the crowd is a mixture of younger and older people, some dressed casual, semi-casual and some dressed formal.

    Our symphony orchestra also offers what are called "Musically Speaking" concerts, which are highly interactive with the audience. Before actually playing the musical work, the conductor will talk to the audience about the work, and explain about certain points in the music, and have the orchestra demonstrate by playing a small excerpt. The conductor also asks the audience questions and answers questions......it's one of my favorite concert series!

    Also, there are children's programming, called 'Sundays With The Family".

    In other words phatic, some symphony orchestras are broadening their programs, ideas and horizons to appeal to a greater mass. I think it's been a great success in my city. Plus, we have a young, energetic and enthusiastic conductor who has pre-concert talks that I find very envigorating!
    Great to hear that! I would love to see classical concerts keep the 'event-ness' of the traditional concert hall but become more open and engaging and less strict. I imagine many classical fans come from classic rock and are used to concerts being a place to hear serious music, but also a party, and the formality probably intimidates many people.

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    Quote Originally Posted by ChamberNut View Post
    phatic,

    I partially agree with you're saying.

    I'm 33 years old (I consider myself in the 'young' crowd ), and I love going to see a live performance at my local symphony orchestra. This will now be my 2nd year as a subscriber to several concerts.

    Our symphony orchestra offers a broad range of concert series that appeal to a broad range of musical tastes. In addition, the dress code is not enforced. At a regular symphonic concert, the crowd is a mixture of younger and older people, some dressed casual, semi-casual and some dressed formal.

    Our symphony orchestra also offers what are called "Musically Speaking" concerts, which are highly interactive with the audience. Before actually playing the musical work, the conductor will talk to the audience about the work, and explain about certain points in the music, and have the orchestra demonstrate by playing a small excerpt. The conductor also asks the audience questions and answers questions......it's one of my favorite concert series!

    Also, there are children's programming, called 'Sundays With The Family".

    In other words phatic, some symphony orchestras are broadening their programs, ideas and horizons to appeal to a greater mass. I think it's been a great success in my city. Plus, we have a young, energetic and enthusiastic conductor who has pre-concert talks that I find very envigorating!
    Great to hear that! I would love to see classical concerts keep the 'event-ness' of the traditional concert hall but become more open and engaging and less strict. I imagine many classical fans come from classic rock and are used to concerts being a place to hear serious music, but also a party, and the formality probably intimidates many people.

    [originally posted by Saturnus: '"The Starbucks chamber ensamble"']
    And another great idea... my dream coffeehouse!

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