Time to rethink concert traveling?


Bill's Concert Poll  

5 members have voted

  1. 1. Bill's Concert Frequency Poll

    • I want more concerts!
      4
    • I want fewer concerts!
      1


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I am on board. I've always thought that too much of the world has engaged in too much unnecessary travel.

Travel for the sake of traveling is a negative; the stress, the expense, the related pollution, all draining, both on individuals and on the planet.

So nice to see the movement is building. I hope we can reap positive personal and global benefits in the aftermath of the pandemic. We now know we can survive well with less:

https://slippedisc.com/2020/12/german-violin-star-joins-the-end-touring-lobby/

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Yes, please can I have the seat behind the driver. Orchestral tours can sometimes be justified on grounds of cultural exchange but I really can't see the point of taking "coals to Newcastle" as is so often the case. Julia Fischer cites the Boston SO whose visits to Munich were once seen as special occasions. I've seen them twice in London in 1984 and 2015 and although they were undoubtedly fine, on neither occasion did they contribute anything that stood out from the local product. More recently I saw Fischer herself but she did at least play some unusual repertoire

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The parties involved have choices to make.  Their choices on the whole likely reflect their best judgment about what would make the kind of life they want from the available options.  Perhaps the pandemic will expand the possibilities, or their understanding of the possibilities.  It is only in this regard that discussion of future changes makes sense.  Fischer says what she thinks ought to be without giving very solid reasons, and without addressing the reasons things had been the way they were--we all know very well people don't usually choose the type of grueling touring schedules just for fun.  Concert tours happen for reasons.  Those reasons won't have been permanently evaporated when the pandemic ends.

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I wonder how the relationship between touring vs. recording income, investment income (if any...), and general status within the profession is affecting POV on this?  :huh:

I'll note that ASM, OTOH, as successful as a violinist can get, is raising merry hell trying to raise money for musicians affected by the lockdowns, as well as trying to get the German government to address the collapse of cultural infrastructure:

https://www.dw.com/en/anne-sophie-mutter-performs-to-help-jobless-musicians/a-55938368

and Lebrecht, predictably, is attacking her on what grounds he can find....  https://slippedisc.com/2020/12/where-anne-sophie-mutter-gets-it-wrong/

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3 hours ago, Violadamore said:

and Lebrecht, predictably, is attacking her on what grounds he can find....  https://slippedisc.com/2020/12/where-anne-sophie-mutter-gets-it-wrong/

The distillation of that article is people need church but they don't need concerts.  So much for the career as a music critic, if it was a serious world.  All jurisprudence aside.

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10 hours ago, Bill Merkel said:

The distillation of that article is people need church but they don't need concerts.  So much for the career as a music critic, if it was a serious world.  All jurisprudence aside.

If I hadn't dismissed that as pure hypocrisy, I would have found it very peculiar.  In my experience of journalists,  the only serious spirit-related convictions that most of them ever seem to have, contain the words "driving while....", or ".....and disorderly".   :ph34r:  :lol:

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There is an inverse relationship between quantity and quality. 
No Matter how good something is, if it becomes too easily available then it’s perception as “quality” decreases. 
There is absolutely no purpose to the Boston symphony going to Munich or vice versa, because the two products are the same. There’s no such thing anymore as “the Philadelphia sound” or “the Toscanini style” and therefore everything is the same, and therefore everything is meaningless.
We need to put a little bit more effort into achieving our music. Traveling has nothing to do with it.

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8 minutes ago, PhilipKT said:

There is an inverse relationship between quantity and quality. 
No Matter how good something is, if it becomes too easily available then it’s perception as “quality” decreases. 

There are places you can live where you can go to a different classical concert every day.  You're saying that's bad?  That it makes the quality insufferable?  :)

 

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2 hours ago, Bill Merkel said:

There are places you can live where you can go to a different classical concert every day.  You're saying that's bad?  That it makes the quality insufferable?  :)

 

Not quite what I meant.

But I’m teaching at the moment, so I’ll have to clarify when I’m doneBut I’m teaching at the moment, so I’ll have to clarify when I’m done

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^Nice attempt to escape.  I went to see the Vienna Symphony or Philharmonic and the thing I remember besides a bunch of waltzes with the Vienna rhythm swing is at the very beginning the concertmaster or maybe it was the first stands had some kind of solo, I can't remember, and it was horrendously out of tune like some strings had slipped.  I've heard that at the beginning of concerts enough to wonder if it's some kind of tradition I'm not aware of,...

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I wouldn't travel a long way just to hear a good orchestra.  I do shortish trips to hear the Boston Symphony in their home hall 2.5 hours drive) and in Tanglewood in the summer (1.5 hours) and I usually go to New York City for the Met Opera a couple of times a year. Only exceptionally do I go to concerts by visiting orchestras in Boston or New York.  If I were going to Amsterdam as part of a vacation trip to Europe I would try to get to The Concertgebouw, and when I was on a trip to Europe that included Vienna I did go to the Vienna State Opera.  But those European trips were not just for the music opportunities.  If I lived in an area where there was little available in live classical music concerts maybe I'd make vacation trips devoted to hearing music. 

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Familiarity breeds contempt.

What we are rapidly losing, in our current climate of immediate gratification, is that anything is special anymore.

There is joy in looking forward to and anticipating an event.  We've lost that joy.

Example:  While I'm not an opera fan, if I was, I'd really be looking forward to the few that are put on locally.  Usually the cast are super-excited about performing and the performances are very engaging and dynamic.

Several years ago I went to see Carmen at the Prague Opera House.

It was flat.  It runs for many weeks.  The performance was on auto-pilot.  The audience was very obviously not engaged.  They weren't there to see the opera, they were there to be at the opera.  It was very sad.

18 hours ago, Bill Merkel said:

There are places you can live where you can go to a different classical concert every day.  You're saying that's bad?  That it makes the quality insufferable?  :)

 

So yes...I think Bill is right...even if he thinks he's not...^_^

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I’m not sure how to verbalize this effectively, but the fact that I can go to YouTube and find technically perfect performances of almost anything I care to name Takes a lot of the fun out of the performance.

”why care when it’s everywhere?”

Once we had Liberace and Victor Borgia and dame Ethel Smythe and PDQ Bach, but now we have countless musician comedians, and we have countless everything. How can we make a performance unique? The last time I gave a recital, I made the performance unique by playing things nobody had ever heard. My next recital will be the same. 

That doesn’t really address the problem. The problem is that it is so easy to find excellent performances that both the effort that goes into making that performance, and the performance itself, are devalued.

 

Edited by PhilipKT
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6 hours ago, Rue said:

They weren't there to see the opera, they were there to be at the opera.  It was very sad.

What gave that impression?   Were they noisy or something?  Anyway, the ONLY people who are there for the music are other musicians.  The rest are there for the scene, which is totally fine.  Great even.  It's the same with people going to see a bar band.  Somewhere in that crowd is a guy studying every note.  Somewhere at your concert was a guy with a mini-score poring over it.  Maybe you?

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When we walked into the wrong church in Prague--not the one with the organ concert (we'd seen musicians entering)--we were lucky enough to hear one of the most moving concerts of my lifetime: an all Dvorak program, none of which I was familiar with, the centerpiece of which was his wonderful Biblické písně (Biblical Lieder) for baritone and orchestra. The audience was rapt. No one coughed or whispered or unwrapped cough drops or clapped between movements, as they are wont to do in the States. I suppose that could seem unenthusiastic. The audience  for Jenůfa  in Budapest was similarly restrained and attentive. Maybe decades of war and totalitarian rule do that. But they were certainly there to hear the opera, and I am very glad we were, too (the opera house was a seven minute walk from our Airbnb). And in Nurnberg we were walking around near Hans Sachs Platz and heard familiar music coming from the opera house. I could have kicked myself for missing Siegfried that afternoon.

I guess what I'm saying is I agree with Bill--the more music is available,  the greater the opportunity there is for serendipity: the spontaneous discovery of something wonderful. (And I feel strongly that search engines have deprived us of much serendipity,  leading us to search for that which we already know rather than discover something we never knew existed.)

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I think we've lost sight of the environmental issue that was one of Rue's Original Points. I can see a time coming (some would say has already come) when unnecessary international travel for the sake of music and other forms of sensory-intellectual delectation will have to be rationed or strongly justified in terms of cultural diplomacy. Orchestras and individual performers will have to restrict their tours to places where they're not just wanted as judged by ticket sales but in some sense needed. It's going to be tough for them and for true musical enthusiasts, but there we go.

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5 hours ago, matesic said:

I think we've lost sight of the environmental issue that was one of Rue's Original Points. I can see a time coming (some would say has already come) when unnecessary international travel for the sake of music and other forms of sensory-intellectual delectation will have to be rationed or strongly justified in terms of cultural diplomacy. Orchestras and individual performers will have to restrict their tours to places where they're not just wanted as judged by ticket sales but in some sense needed. It's going to be tough for them and for true musical enthusiasts, but there we go.

Yes!

Same goes for other unnecessary travel.

My husband travels too much. Since March, no one in his company has been traveling. Guess what? 

They're getting along quite well. (Although now I'd argue they've slipped into having too many unnecessary Zoom meetings :rolleyes:. There seems to be some inherent human tendency towards excess).

Fewer, more important, in-person meetings would be much more meaningful. 

I can't put a figure on the money saved, the pollution reduced and the availability of more quality time spent at home with family, etc. 

I think this is a great time to reevaluate why we do what we do, and how we do it.

5 hours ago, Bill Merkel said:

Does this primitive, seemingly homemade software have a polling feature?

I want more concerts.

II want fewer concerts.

 

Start a poll!

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A couple tangents. A large part of my performance mission has been bringing music to more rural places and spaces.

1.  I've written about the audiences here before, but it's remarkable how engaged and appreciative the audiences are when you bring the music to them. I've regularly performed for people who've never heard live classical music before. It astonished me the first time they had educated things to say about Bartok or Barber or whatever, but then I got used to it and now have come to expect it.  What we do is long-form.  Most peoples' brains are being reprogrammed for short-form.  Finding communities who still appreciate long-form is as important as adapting our presentation to entertain the short-form brain.

2.  There's a lot to be said for maintaining small and medium-sized local arts institutions, especially if the goal is promoting our cultural relevance.

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19 hours ago, PhilipKT said:

I’m not sure how to verbalize this effectively, but the fact that I can go to YouTube and find technically perfect performances of almost anything I care to name Takes a lot of the fun out of the performance.

”why care when it’s everywhere?”

 

 

But it's not everywhere at a high standard.   I listen to a lot of music on YouTube or streaming and, really, there is no comparison with what I hear live in a good hall.  There are not many orchestra halls in the world that can compare with Boston's Symphony Hall, Amsterdam's Concertgebouw, or the Vienna Musikverein.  Then, too, the quality of the performance, i.e. instruments, skill of the players, and the interpretation are important.  There is a place for classical music performances not at the highest levels.  I play in a community orchestra and many people, who have never been to a classical music performance, come to our concerts because a neighbor or friend is playing.  That way people unfamiliar with classical music can get a sample of it and may develop an interest in it that way.  There is a third class professional orchestra with a performance venue 45 minutes away from us but beginners don't want to drive that far and don't want to pay the ticket prices, let alone the ticket price for the Boston Symphony.  So our community orchestra with mostly amateur players in a high school auditorium does offer something that the Boston Symphony can't.  It could happen in the future that climate change and air pollution might make it undesirable to travel to distant concerts.  Then we will have to enjoy what we can get.  For me, playing music is better than just listening, and I can play without any serious travel.  Even listening to CD's on high quality electronics is not a substitute for live concerts, but they offer a variety of music that would not be available in live concerts.

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