Thursday, June 26, 2008

Re/searching for an audience

Catching up, I was pleased to notice these two posts. Ralph Locke at Dial M asks the pertinent question "Why do we do research?" (which echoes previous posts elsewhere about why we blog, right?). The answer may be here.

Jeremy Denk writes about the urge to share our musical experiences and the difficulty therein. I think that's precisely why we do this research. First it has to engage us enough to make it worth the effort, but more importantly, we cling to the hope that there's someone out there who shares this interest. Someone you could sit down with and talk to for hours. And maybe you will. But until you make it known where your passions lie, how are you going to find them? It's like opening up the conversation, and for that I appreciate scholarship that poses questions, not just answers, that makes an attempt to communicate beyond whatever frame, not to mention drawing you in with evocative writing. I've always said the best conference papers and articles are the ones that make me want to go listen to music, and the best performances are the ones that make me want to talk about them or write about them.

I have some such performances, but that will come another day.

Sunday, June 22, 2008


I'm back from my research trip, a success both in terms of getting some clarity and direction in my dissertation and in terms of taking a break from everything, visiting friends. There's really nowhere I'd prefer to be than sitting around, chatting late into the evening with my Swarthmore friends. Music is great, but those are the real moments that set my brain going.

There's a lot of things that have collected up in my mind that will trickle out in the next few days. Some concerts, some responses, some other things.

For starters, there's this article, another mixed uplift and worrisome article from the times (most notable is one about Amtrak's rise in popularity and inability to fix up their infrastructure). I like the way this article approaches the question of how to get new audiences. It focuses on an important part of the solution that often gets ignored, the performer. It's a good goal, and I like that it acknowledges at the end the difference between professional performers and music school educators, but each of them learns something (I'd actually like to know more about what the school teacher learned).

I think we all have a role to play in this. Look at how curious the students were when she arrived. How do we harness that natural curiosity? I think the key is flexibility. So the Carnegie Hall concert didn't go over. Don't stop there. Find other concerts, other ways to make the music tangible. Nothing worried me more in this article than this:

Erin Lynch, the dean of students, delivered a stern warning to the auditorium. No talking, no hoods, no gum chewing. “I want you to listen and enjoy,” she barked in a bullhorn voice.

You can't command enjoyment, you can't expect one concert to draw in every student. If you want audiences, you're going to have to open up the floor, expand your own notion of what music can mean, and maybe they'll expand theirs.