Sunday, September 03, 2006

Looking ahead . . . next time plugged

I just came home from a wonderful afternoon and evening outdoor jazz festival, right here in Greencastle.

I found myself thinking about what Cleveland Johnson (the Interim Dean of the DePauw School of Music) mentioned in his comment on the classical-music-in-jeans concert post. He said he found himself wanting to hear the music amplified--something he would never before have imagined himself wanting at a classical concert.

At the jazz festival, there was certainly much more talking and laughing than at my concert. And there was dancing. And there were even kids energetically playing basketball, just a few yards away from the stage. People were walking around, including some selling raffle tickets and desserts. Chairs were constantly being set up or taken down. Blankets were laid out and picked up. People waved to each other, moved to be with each other, embraced. They ate and drank.

But we could still hear every note being played or sung, because it was all amplified. (Quite well, too.) There was much, much more audience-generated sound and movement at the jazz festival than at the no-etiquette-rules recital I did the other night. But with the performers amplified, music was never obscured by the other sounds. The dancing and basketball playing wasn't right in front of the performers, but to the side and a bit behind the stage, so it wasn't visually distracting.

Traditional concert halls are designed for traditional concerts. I'll do my next informal, interactive classical concert in a different sort of setting, and be amplified, too.

But it occurred to me while I was hanging out at the jazz festival that there was powerful symbolism, at least on the personal level, in using an official faculty recital in a university concert hall (where we used to have a list of 10 commandments for audience behavior, all stated as "thou shalt not . . .") to smash the tradition, generate some debate, and start myself on a new adventure. The more I think about it, the more I like it.


Anonymous said...

Hi Dr. Edberg! This is your former student, Sarah (class of 2003). I saw your article on the DPU website and followed it here. I am at Notre Dame now, and see the same thing you see at DePauw, where people just won't come to concerts. The orchestra here is pretty good (we played at Carnegie Hall in March), but we can't even get people to come to the concerts when we GIVE away tickets! The Glee Club (singers) have no problem, but the orchestra....we're lucky if the auditorium is 20% full at most.

Your concerts sound great! Hopefully the next time I'm in Greencastle I'll get to catch some "Classical Music in Jeans"!

Anonymous said...

With Greencastle bars offering great deals on alcohol and people doing different things on campus, I feel like I graduated a bit early.

But first of all, kudos for trying something new. I only started going to recitals after taking music appreciation, and although I really liked the music (I went to 19 recitals one semester), it was always terribly uncomfortable. I would feel very guilty even at making squeaky noise while moving my body at the middle of a movement. So I would wait until the end of the movement or song to move my body. I really did not like being physically constrained when my basic instinct while listening to music is to move my body. If you think, in a way, very paradoxical stuff happens at art music concerts.

At one point in the semester an Indian group came, and how contrasting it was. The musicians would themselves be tapping their hands to the beat, while the western listers sat still statuesque!

I think Indian classical musicians (and others from the subcontinent) provide perfect examples of how to transform themselves and embrace new environments and technology. The same group had one musician playing electric mandolin and another playing electric violin(!). And that's their primary instrument--they weren't doing it one off to try something new. Their music was also amplified, as are almost all classical indian concerts. And most of all, they were playing "pure" Karnatak music, no jazz or fusion.

Perhaps it's the reason why indian classical music still gets decent amount of audiences and classical musicians achieve rock status there.

Good luck on your next plugged concert.

Eric Edberg said...

Hi Sarah, and hi anonymous, and thanks for your comments!

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