You lost me at 'accompanied by dazzling images'

You lost me at 'accompanied by dazzling images'
Photo by Margaret H. Laing

As I was getting started this morning, I heard an ad for a concert I might have liked. But then it said “accompanied by dazzling images.”

I’m out. I can’t even remember what the concert was to be anymore. If you don’t have enough confidence that the music will be the “dazzling” part, concert promoters, why should I go?

On Jan. 1, I listened to the Vienna Philharmonic concert live on the radio. I enjoyed it far more than having to listen through the ballet and scenery of the over-produced TV version in the evening.

I know, we’re all expected to multi-task these days. But in the context of a concert, part of the glory is looking around at the surroundings, watching the musicians and — yes, all right — the audience. I have plenty to watch at an un-adorned concert.

If promoters want to encourage listening, they need to give people exposure to the joy of it. Rest your eyes and try it, and you’ll be back for more of this glorious music (whatever the style).

Sometimes I like to watch what the cello section’s doing, just to see how they’re tackling a problem I know is coming or whether I can guess how they’ll approach what’s next… if I know. If I don’t, I’m used to learning what’s going on by listening to and watching the cellists.

If you don’t have that advantage, pick the soloist, or watch who the conductor is pointing to — he’s going to be the soloist in the next few seconds. See whether you can turn watching the conductor into predicting where the solo comes from. In other words, listen for what your eyes tell you might happen.

If there isn’t any conductor, watch the violins in the quartet — they call the first violin the concertmaster because he does the leading that a conductor would usually do. See what you can see of his signals.

If it’s a choir concert, there’s likely to be a conductor, and soloists might be standing apart, but could be in their sections. Listen┬áto where the deepest and highest parts are. Are the tenors, the higher part for men, singing higher than the sopranos, the higher part for women?

There — that’s a lot to do. No dazzling images. no ballet. Just music. Try it.
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Filed under: Music and language


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  • Multidimensional? Isn't that the word they use to describe a production that appeals to more than one sense?

    There is much good to be said about purely listening to music, especially classical music. It allows us to focus without other sensory distractions. Which enhances our appreciation of its beauty and form.

  • In reply to Aquinas wired:

    Yes, multidimensional is a good way to describe "productions" -- but I only wish that more people in the concert world would concentrate on just the music and let our eyes rest. You're right, focus is valuable without distractions.

  • Don't write off opera. It combines music with stage acting and, at its best, enhances both without giving our eyes a rest, But I would be reluctant to say it produces "dazzling images."

  • In reply to jnorto:

    Thank you, jnorto, and welcome back. I wasn't writing off opera so much as (uncharacteristically) ignoring or excluding it. I actually love a lot of opera, and you're right, it enhances both music and acting. That is, if it's without the dazzling images! I once saw a production of "Tannhauser" with "modernized" staging (uh-oh), and the great "Song to the Evening Star' was sung at the gate of an airport. I heard the cello part and wanted to go home to try it, but all I can remember of the experience is the darn plane in the scenery. Too dazzling there. A Bryn Terfel CD helped me recover the tune and start to try it with my cello.

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