Friday, June 22, 2007

Get rid of the packaging

Matthew Guerierri has a fine post about some experiments with audience reception of concerts with and without preparation. In short, it appears that the less audiences are prepared, the more they enjoyed the concert. Virgil Thomson warned us decades ago about the "Music Appreciation Racket" and I think not only was old Mr. Thomson right, but he didn't go far enough: it's not just the racket of telling us how and when we're supposed to enjoy music, but the entire racket of packaging music into neat commodities. Should it really be surprising that what audience want most from a concert is music and not someone telling them about music? We've gotten ourselves into a management/marketing/appreciation cul de sac that is -- by evidence of the best accounting of the managers and marketers themselves -- a poor business model for serious music, and it's time to get out.

Matthew remarks correctly that putting instruments into the hands of young people is one of the best investments we can make, so that a wider potential audience encounters sound- -- and, eventually -- music-making as a physical, pre-cognitive, pre-mediated experience. I would add that we ought to get out of the formula that classical music is that which happens between applause and intermissions and pre-concert talks and glances at program notes, and is actually something that musicians value and enjoy so much that they can't stop sharing it. How would it be, if one were to go to a concert and were to encounter non-stop live music making -- in the packing lot, by the ticket counter, in the lobby, as well as in the concert hall, and then back out again?

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