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 to 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