CLASSICAL AUDIENCES WANT to have A Unique Concert Experience

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Classical Audiences want to have something exceptional.  They love the sense that this is a shared experience, but one from which they can each take away something personal and special. They love the uniqueness and excitement of a live performance, the sense that it is a one-off, an experience created there and then.


They love the  enjoyment being shaped by watching star performers and hearing new interpretations. They like that live experience offers authenticity: it allows concert attenders to experience the work of performers whom they know they like, but in a live capacity: therefore, witnessing performance quality in the most direct way possible, as well as being privy to a performance by a well-regarded player that will never be repeated exactly.


The importance of shared ethos and experience when attending classical concerts has been expressed by many people.  Sharing social experiences, including using arts events to 'build bridges' with distant acquaintances.


It has already become evident that the live nature of classical performance mediates the influences of familiarity: making unfamiliar works engaging and accessible, while also helping to retain experienced listeners' interest in familiar music performed.


Concerts are viewed as unrepeatable entities that could only be experienced through the action of deciding to attend, and so in this capacity the unpredictable and therefore distinctive nature of live experience is a primary attendance motivation.

CLASSICAL AUDIENCES WANT TO BE MOVED - TO BE TRANSPORTED

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Many people see the arts as separated completely from the world of the ordinary, mundane, and every day. Each classical concert is a living, unique event that is constitutive of (not set aside from) social life.  While an important part of the event is its role in facilitating engagement, a recorded performance may supply 'perfection' but can it also convey a combination of 'enthusiasm', 'personal expression', and 'character ‘a personal, individual experience?


The capacity for variance, a sense of uniqueness, and the immediacy of the experience creates anticipation in the concert goer. 


Enjoying the classical concert as an event (rather than merely as a performance) can come from engaging with the music/performance and/or with one's inner dialogue. 


We have so many components happening simultaneously in our organ and multi-media concerts that help transport a concert goer to another place, another world. Johann Sebastian Bach couldn’t have written harmony more tightly woven than these experiences. Orchestrated in our dramatic concerts is that the whole truly becomes one. It is why people are transported. 


In live performances, people are lifted from the present to another place. Live performances are experiences for the senses.


Concert goers commented on live concerts as…a holistic perception that was greater than the sum of its parts… in live performances you get to know the pieces and the artists…the concert hall's a detachment from everyday life…it is some form of 'sacred space…in the simple audience context…they will be invested with a sense of the sacred.

Classical audiences want you to expand their Interest

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The audience wants to feel familiar with what is happening. When they feel “safe,” they then want you to expand on their interests. To expand on what they know to a new space.


They want a combination of novelty and familiarity: the warmth of familiar favorite pieces and the excitement of unfamiliar works,  appreciating the mixture of loved and familiar with new and interesting,  making unfamiliar works engaging and accessible, while also helping to retain experienced listeners' interest in familiar music performed.


Going to a concert keeps you on the edge of your seat. 


Listening to music from a CD is an opportunity to relax, however going to a live concert is much more stimulating. With eyes, ears; the presence of the space, and feeling involved, it’s all-encompassing.


Concert-goers experience that no matter how well they think they know a piece, when hearing it live, they hear something new.


Classical audiences want to feel that they are engaged in the performance, that they are part of the communication. Primarily they don’t want to feel patronized or bored.  Different audiences want different things but ultimately, they want to feel part of what’s going on . 



Classical Audiences want you to make use of new technology

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California Symphony’s executive director Aubrey Bergauer says, "I warned them I was going to do things differently." 


Unlike many orchestras that try to appeal to younger audiences (in the symphony world, "younger" means "under 60"), Bergauer and Donato Cabrera, the California Symphony's music director and conductor, didn't start with the premise that there was something wrong with the music itself.


"People think that to bring in younger audiences you need 'The Symphony Meets the Beatles,' but a Beethoven symphony is amazing to anyone. You don't have to 'symphonize' pop music," Cabrera says. "We needed to change the experience, not the repertoire."


People outside the organization have taken note. "She's recognized that, as a field, we tend to be ritualistic about how we do things and how we’ve operated behind a sort of veil," says Jesse Rosen President and CEO of the League of American Orchestras. 


"She's focused on the quality of the experience, beginning with how an orchestra comes across online, and worked to make it more in line with contemporary audiences. She's a gifted leader who's getting good results."


Participants in a focus group noted that the lack of visual stimuli contributed to a feeling of being 'disconnected' or 'distanced' during the concert. “When you can watch, you can focus more easily.”   When they were purely listening to music with which they had little affinity, it was easy to become disengaged. However, they experienced the event becoming 'personalized' through the ability to see or interact with the performers, as was the case in the other concerts.


Being aware of the audience's expectations.


Thus the presence of novelty in a classical concert perhaps reemphasizes live classical listening as a distinctive, special experience, as it is distinguished by a greater period of anticipation from the more immediate gratification of recorded listening.


Visual cues are indispensable in helping the listener to [accept] every event just as it comes and [resist] the temptation to fight each one by comparing it with a private version. 


Multimodality in the 21st century has caused educational institutions to consider changing the forms of even its traditional aspects of classroom education. According to Hassett and Curwood, authors of Theories and Practices of Multimodal Education, “Print represents only one mode of communication…” and with a rise in digital and Internet literacy, other modes are needed, from visual texts to digital e-books. 


Other changes occur by integrating music and video with lesson plans during early childhood education; however, such measures are seen as augmenting and increasing literacy for educational communities by introducing new forms, rather than replacing literacy values.


The same holds true for classical music. We don't need to replace the crucial values of Classical Music but can introduce new forms of presenting it.

CLASSICAL AUDIENCES WANT A MIX OF EMOTION, TECHNIQUE

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While attending a narrative-based performance requires concentration and memory in order to make sense of the work (Woodruff, 2008), the enjoyment of a classical concert as an event (rather than merely as a performance) can come from engaging with the music/performance and/or with one's inner dialogue.

Lydia Goehr's (1992) book The Imaginary Museum of Musical Works consolidates this idea by examining the rise of the 'work concept' in the late eighteenth century, especially through what she terms the 'separability principle', by which 'it became the custom to speak of the arts as separated completely from the world of the ordinary, mundane, and everyday'. (Goehr, 1992: 157) This quote also demonstrates how going to concerts inevitably involves a degree of risk (cf. Radbourne et at., 2009). Unlike a recording or a film, it is impossible to read a review of the exact 'product' before you 'buy' it; but, counter-intuitively, expectations about the performance may be higher, generated by the anticipation of seeing a unique performance that is therefore a rarer commodity than more widely available mediatized products.

A description of enjoyment being shaped by 'watching star performers, hearing new interpretations'  reiterates that live experience offers authenticity: it allows concert attenders to experience the work of performers whom they know they like, but in a live capacity: therefore witnessing performance quality in the most direct way possible, as well as being privy to a performance by a well-regarded player that will never be repeated exactly.

 Attending live performances was important to the participants because it provides access to experiencing live sound, which increased the degree to which the listening experience was perceived as 'holistic'. 13% of questionnaire respondents indicated that either the hall's acoustics or the quality of live sound contributed to making concert attendance an enjoyable experience: Live music is what matters most in music appreciation. To hear live sound, well played in a good acoustic setting ... ah! [Q117/Calum]

One respondent described 'seeing and hearing world class performers capturing one's whole being', while another characterized live concerts as 'an experience for the senses’. 

These descriptions relate to recent research in music cognition which has found that when participants can both see and hear a performance (as opposed to visual-only or auditory-only conditions) higher levels of physiological arousal are observed, leading to the conclusion that 'the interaction between the two sensory modalities conveyed by musical performances created an emergent property, a holistic perception that was greater than the sum of its parts'.

For audience members who do not seek a primarily auditory experience, visual details therefore enhance the concert experience:allowing audience members to regard performers as people.  This idea relates to Becker's assertion that a musical event is not just in the minds of the participants, it is in their bodies; like a vocal accent in speaking, emotion in relation to musical listening is personally manifested, but exists supra-individually.


additional comment

 We have designed our 3 concerts ,Bach and Sons, From Sea to Shining Sea, and Around the World in 80 MInutes, to include all of these points. The audience and hosts thank us.

 It's even beyond their imaginations. It's worth exploring.  


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Sources

Portions of 10 Things Classical Audiences Want,  were excerpted from :

· The Imaginary Museum of Musical Works: An Essay in the Philosophy of Music Lydia Goehr

. Association of British  Orchestras - Stop Re-inventing The Wheel A guide to what we already know about developing audiences for Classical Music 

· Abercrombie, N., and B. Longhurst. 1998. Audiences: A Sociological Theory of Performance and Imagination. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage 

· Between stalls, stage and score: An investigation of audience experience and enjoyment in classical music performance Melissa Dobson Submitted for the degree of PhD Department of Music University of Sheffield April 2010

· Blog WHAT DO CLASSICAL AUDIENCES REALLY WANT? Russel Steinberg