Friday, 28 October 2016

Trend: orchestras leaving the concert hall

In the USA, a new trend seems to have spread considerably over the last years, a trend which probably will also increase in Europe where the Berlin Philharmonic has already been detected playing Brahms in a factory hall. An important article, summing-up what happens, can be found on the site of Vulture:

Some quotes:

"By now the deinstitutionalization of music has become institutionalized." Concerts have to be organized, if music making is not the activity of private people in their home or in a communal space, solely for their own fun, or being merely shared by their friends. When music making is in the format of a public event, which should be encouraged if we want classical music to survive as a cultural phenomenon within modern society, the concert hall is the best possible creation of an environment where the music can get into its own and experienced as separate from the noise and distractions of daily life.

"Theater, opera, and virtual reality have discovered immersive as the ultimate buzzword, promising to obliterate the fourth wall or the screen, or the stage, or whatever divides performers from passive consumers." The idea that concert audiences are mere passive consumers comes from people, who are completely ignorant of music and what happens when it is experienced. Is someone reading a book in a chair, silent, calm, almost immobile, a passive consumer? No, because what is being read creates an imaginary life in the mind and heart. The same with listening to classical music: an acoustical, imaginary landscape is unfolding, and if the music is well-played, this may be a gripping and enriching experience. The workings of the imagination are not passive at all, but active engagement; the observation that the body seems to rest quietly during the process, and that it is only what you see that tells what is happening, is pure materialism, and basically stupid and nonsensical. A good orchestral concert in a concert hall will be entirely immersive to the perceptive listener, and does not need physical immersion to make its point.

“Arts administrators are united in the belief that spreading music as far as possible, in both the digital and physical worlds, is more than just a marketing gimmick: It’s a strategy for survival. The world is full of intellectually curious, artistically adventurous young people who would no more buy a ticket to hear Brahms’s Requiem in concert at Geffen Hall than they would stick a stamp on a handwritten letter.” Here, the solution of the problem of decreasing audience numbers is sought in the presentation format instead of in education, which, after all, is the only way to make the art form understandable to newcomers. What is the point to lure people into classical music who think that handwriting is not 'cool' and who could not manage to stick a stamp on an envelope? Here we see pandering to the lowest denominator and not to 'intellectually curious, artistically adventurous young people', because such people would know quite well how to find their way into the arts. That the numbers of potential lovers of classical music are understood as to diminish, says something about the general educational achievements of society, and not about the art form seemingly 'failing' to attract new audiences. In other words: if society sinks its levels of sophistication, let classical music shrink and become an island of the insiders.... and if they can no longer afford orchestras and concert halls, so be it, they should restrict concerts to chamber music.

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