Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Dude, It's Dance Music!

One entertaining theme here at the Music Salon is the wacky high jinks that ensue when well-meaning people try to make classical music "accessible" to people who mostly don't seem interested. Dude, with millions of clips of classical music available for free on YouTube 24 hours a day, how much more accessible could it be?

Anyway, Anne Midgette has a piece at the Washington Post that illustrates the hazards: Conductor plays ‘Rite of Spring’ at a club — and then berates the audience for acting like they’re at a club
“We have started a revolution in classical music,” the conductor James Blachly told the crowd. Behind him was a 70-piece orchestra. In front of him was a dance club. The venue was Dock 5, a nightclub at Union Market in the District, and the event was billed by Septime Webre’s Halcyon Stage as a “Stravinsky Rave: Rite of Spring Dance Party.”
All around the world, orchestras are eager to break out of their conventional trappings to reach new audiences. The Tonhalle orchestra in Zurich has a long-standing series called tonhalleLATE, with concerts starting at 10 p.m. followed by a dance party with DJs. Two years ago, the NSO played at Echostage, the District’s largest club. So why not offer a Stravinsky rave, let people dance, break out of the traditional classical music mold, and abolish the outmoded idea that people are supposed to listen to certain kinds of music in certain ways?
The only problem: Blachly’s “revolution” didn’t really allow for that kind of freedom.
That is, having gone to all the trouble of putting an orchestra (largely made up of New York-based music students and freelancers) in a club, and assembling a trendy-looking audience (largely, it seemed, people with some connection or other to the various presenting organizations), he didn’t actually want a rave atmosphere. 
The conductor kept berating the audience for talking, took them to task for their cellphones (“we’re here to dance, not to take pictures”) and, at one point, actually stopped the music to try to force people to be quiet. Some in the audience tried to help, with cries of “It’s classical music!” and “Show some respect!” — which seems the opposite message to the one sent by playing Stravinsky in a club in the first place.
Heh! Well, of course! Turns out, now who could have guessed it, that a dance club is a very poor venue for one of the most demanding scores of the 20th century. If you want people to listen closely to complex music then you really need a specially designed space with good acoustics and good sightlines. Something like, I dunno, a concert hall?

Sometimes I just get the feeling that we are regressing culturally.

Let's have a listen to Stravinsky while we are on the topic. The Rite of Spring played by the Netherlands' Radio Filharmonisch Orkest conducted by Jaap van Zweden:


Will Wilkin said...

Well I have dreamed of finding the right woman who will dance the concert aisles with me to Mahler symphonies. To me, that would be the ultimate "showing of respect." I don't understand why audiences of serious music need be quite so stiff, though I agree absolute silence is proper.

Bryan Townsend said...

I'm a poor concert-goer myself as I hate sitting for so long in the same position. I would rather be onstage! But I think the problem here was the texting, chatting, selfie-taking and so on. Perhaps not the dancing?

Will Wilkin said...

Before I discovered classical music around age 18, I'd already been a "Dead Head" for a few years (and continued for some more). Grateful Dead concerts weren't like other rock concerts. For most of the 29 I went to (when Jerry was still with us, I stopped counting after we lost him), I never did find my ticketed seat --usually just danced (mostly twirling and jumping around in perfect synchronicity to the music) the aisles and sometimes only popped into the actual auditorium for a song or two just to get a look and see they were all there --the rest of the time was twirling with other dancers. When I migrated to some Bob Dylan shows I found the crowd much more sedentary and I was one of very few freaks who danced at his concerts. But at least in rock venues, movement is tolerated. I suppose someday when I find the right woman to waltz the symphony hall aisles with me, we'll be kicked out as crazies. Its a risk I'm ready to take, just for the ecstasy of it until finally arrested.

Bryan Townsend said...

Those were different days, weren't they?

Will Wilkin said...

Its okay, let the days pass. Last night I heard a gorgeous concert of 6 cantatas by Nicolaus Bruhns (and 2 organ pieces by Buxtehude). Honestly Bryan I prefer 17th century music over anything, even the Grateful Dead. Baroque sacred and opera music will always hit me deepest, no matter what days happen to pass by. I think that transport from the music helps relieve the pain and distress of our own times. Almost like the comfort and security of Platonic truths despite real-world disasters and destructions, betrayals and loss, etc. None of it disturbs the perfect harmonies and form of an eternal Bruhns cantata. I suppose dancers find a similar ecstacy, I know I did. Something in music brings comfort and solace, no matter what the tastes of the listener, there is comfort to be found.

Bryan Townsend said...

Many deep truths there, Will.

I once did a post on My Favorite Century, which was the 18th, not the 17th: