Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Anecdotes and Opinions

Medtner and Audience Participation

A friend of mine recently came to Boston to accompany a violin recital, and I was asked to page-turn for him. Before the concert, we had a brief chat to catch up and to discuss the art of performing the music of composers whose works are impeccably written but are relatively unknown for a variety of (usually non-musical) reasons. One composer about whom we discussed was Nikolai Medtner. My friend remarked that he does not mention anything about Medtner's life or about particular aspects of the music that may be worth pointing out to the audience before he sits down and play. He contended that Medtner is not a composer whom he feels has to "bow down" to the audience because he believes that the music--like the music of Beethoven or Chopin that is deemed great enough not to require an introduction--will speak for itself.

There is a sense of wonder I feel, however, about whether certain kinds of music need no introduction in the current era of information overload and instant gratification. A usually justified preconception about classical music is that listening to it requires a great deal of patience, focus, and time; and some--especially those who are uninitiated to the accepted art of listening to classical music--may turn to other forms of entertainment or enlightenment that are as readily available and that may be easier for them to obtain gratification from. Perhaps all music needs and deserves to be introduced, and what is said before the performance does not have to be the same for all the performers.

Aspen and Audience Decorum

When the Detroit Symphony Orchestra re-emerged from strike a few years ago, a public press conference was held. One of the audience members asked a question:  would the dress code change? When I heard this question, my first understanding was that the question pertained to the musicians of the orchestra, who almost always had to dress up for performances.

Recently, I was reading an article in The New Yorker that countered the arguments that were made by an article in Slate concerning an apparent death of classical music. In the comments section, I have noticed a person who had mentioned the words "patrons" and "dress code" in a same sentence. I then realized that the "dress code" that the person in the Detroit press conference mentioned was in fact about what the audience members were to wear.

To my knowledge, I believe that no dress codes are required for most classical music concerts (perhaps except for benefit party concerts that usually cost in the hundreds). This fact apparently does not help abate the popular misconception--through movies or spoken and written words--that people who attend operas and classical music concerts must be patrons who have to dress well and who have to donate thousands of dollars to keep these concert organizations in business.

Enter the concerts of the Aspen Music Festival. A seat in the concerts in this festival usually costs at least $75, and the benefit concerts cost at least $500 per attender. Many audience members are those who live and vacation in Aspen, and my understanding is that their monetary status is quite above average.

I would like to invite you to observe the dress code for one of these concerts:

Click the photo for a bigger view, and observe the dress code!

And this dress code is held for all of the concerts in the Festival.

Some people seem to state their ambivalence of classical music by mentioning an appropriate and proper decorum in a concert hall. Perhaps they are right on the money, and perhaps they are misinformed.

Coming soon:  a post about music and disability, or a post about something entirely different. Stay tuned!

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