On Thursday I attended a lecture and concert at MIT given by electronic music pioneer John Chowning. Famous for having discovered the algorithm for frequency modulation (FM) synthesis, and also known for his work in sound spacialization, Chowning's biggest contributions are more in the world of technology than they are in music. Given this, it was heartening to see a full hall (If I had to estimate, I would put the attendance number somewhere around 50-60) for the concert portion of the event; given the fact that it was at MIT, the lecture was bound to be well-attended, but I did not expect so many people to be interested in hearing his compositional applications of the aforementioned technical innovations.
On Friday and Saturday, as part of my job working at the box office for Puppet Showplace Theatre in Brookline, I ushered an adult puppet show entitled "Senseless!". The show is a send-up of old-timey noir radio mysteries, complete with a bumbling blind detective, a perfectly ridiculous plot involving the murdering of students at the Helen Keller School of Music, and a musician providing an incidental score to the piece. While the show itself garnered lots of laughs for the inspired puppetry and the pun-heavy rapid-fire dialogue and plot, the evening's biggest laugh came as a result of the music: following the climax of the piece, the musician began a Johnny Cash-style parody of the events that had transpired which had the audience in stitches.
What do these unrelated accounts have in common? The power of music to appeal to an audience outside its normal bounds. Though the music could probably have functioned as an entity on its own (and in the case of Chowning's work, it absolutely does), it was the intersection of technology and dramatic narrative that took the music to a new level, or, at least, a new audience.