Here is the first of our videos from Sunday’s live event in San Francisco, our keynote conversation with Alan Gilbert, Music Director of the New York Philharmonic and Matthew VanBesien, Executive Director Designate of the New York Philharmonic.
Alan Gilbert says that his relationship with an audience is all about trust. It’s built over the long term, and it’s that trust that allows for exploration and risk-taking. In a world of immediate gratification, it can be hard to let go and let someone else choose what you hear and what is told to you — and it perhaps makes what happens in the concert hall even more important.
The Asphalt Orchestra (really a twelve-piece marching band) has made a name for itself with edgy, in-your-face, street performances. Anthony Tommasini of The New York Times describes them as “part parade spectacle, part halftime show and part cutting-edge contemporary music concert.” (Watch video.)
So what happens when the Asphalt Orchestra decides to take their music off the streets and into the concert hall?
It’s interesting to watch their solution to questions that orchestras also struggle with… how do you make a connection to the people on the other side of the music stands? How do you bridge the stage/audience divide? How do you engage people in the music? Their answer is a physical, choreographed performance—with musicians out of their chairs, virtuosic soloist spins taking center stage, and movement, movement, movement.
I always enjoy reading Alex Ross, author of The Rest is Noise and writer for The New Yorker. In a recent interview with Michael Louis Vinson of the Appleton Post Crescent, he had this to say about some of the traditions surrounding the classical music concert experience.
I really am a big believer in pushing back against some of these stereotypes around classical music. It discourages me when I see scenes in movies or even TV commercials where classical concerts always get depicted as a bunch of stuffy people in evening wear. When you go to a regular concert, people don’t dress like that. People dress up a little bit, in the same way they do when they go to the theater, but it’s really not that kind of an environment.
Some of those stereotypes are self-generated to a certain extent. I think classical music has had a problem with projecting a certain image and being too reserved and too attached to some old rituals of behavior in the concert hall. That needs to be addressed, and there are some people who are really taking that on. They’re thinking about how we can do this differently. What is a different contemporary model that we could have for classical concerts? Read the full interview with Alex Ross.
In the classical music world, we talk so much about ways to enhance the tradition-bound concert experience—down with tuxes and gowns! up with video projections!—that I found this an interesting read for an alternative point-of-view. (more…)
Now, almost two weeks after participating in the panels at Davies Hall, some reflections on that experience. First, it was exhilarating to see so many people interested in the health of the American orchestra, brimming with insightful observations. I wish there had been more time for the audience members on Sunday to have posed more questions or made additional comments, but the larger conversation was certainly encouraging, on a sunny Sunday afternoon. (more…)
Random Acts of Culture is an intriguing program that takes classical music out of the concert hall and into… well, shopping malls, farmers markets, trains and basically any place there’s a captive audience. Here is a recent video from the Mall of America, featuring musicians from the St. Paul Chamber Orchestra. How would you like some Mozart to go with your dish towels? (They appear to be in the home section of Macy’s.)
Steven Winn, co-moderator of our live events in San Francisco, examines one particular part of the classical music concert ritual — the entrance. Who exactly should we be applauding for?
I knew there was something I liked about the Mariinsky Orchestra filing onstage together at Berkeley’s Zellerbach Hall, where the ensemble played three knockout Tchaikovsky programs last month. But it took eavesdropping on the couple behind me one night to pin down what the appeal was.
It’s just good theater, I’ve always thought. Good showmanship. Leave the stage empty, bring down the lights, then start the stage-filling parade to a steady rumble of applause. The tactic seems much sharper than the casual gathering of forces most American orchestras employ. (more…)