Thursday, October 7, 2010

Quite agree, quite agree, too silly, far too silly

The world of classical music has been rocked - rocked, I say! - by this quote from Jonathan Harvey:
'Young people don't like concert halls... and wouldn't normally go to one except for amplified music. There is a big divide between amplified and non-amplified music... The future must bring things which are considered blasphemous like amplifying classical music in an atmosphere where people can come and go and even talk perhaps.. and certainly leave in the middle of a movement if they feel like it. Nobody should be deprived of classical music, least of all by silly conventions.'
(from On An Overgrown Path; ellipses not mine).
I'm not much of a concert-goer, or a believer in the concept of blasphemy for that matter, and at first glance this struck me as a sensible idea. But the more I think about it, the less I like it. If you're putting on, say, a Bruckner symphony, and you're happy to encourage the audience to "come and go and even talk perhaps", just what exactly is it that you think you're offering? If you're going to pander to that extent, then surely the battle's already lost. Harvey acknowledges that "It is, of course, not expecting as much of music as those of us who are musicians would want". Too bloody right it's not expecting as much. Have you really heard that Bruckner symphony if during the slow movement you nip out to get a cup of tea and then come back to the hall to have a chat about last night's X Factor? More pertinently, have I really heard it if I have to also listen to you slurping and yammering on beside me?
OK, try this. I confess to not having seen any of the films of Yasujiro Ozu, and I'm reluctant to go see one because they sound rather staid and quiet and perhaps a bit boring. Do you (a) suggest that I rent an Ozu movie, preferably a colorized version, and just leave the DVD running if ever I need to leave the room to use the toilet or make a sandwich or whatever, or (b) tell me not to be an idiot, and go see the damn thing in a cinema, quietly sitting down for two hours like everyone does when they're in the cinema, and if I don't like it then I can just fucking get over it.
Who are these "young people" Harvey is talking about? The ones who are being "deprived" of classical music? Could we not just take them aside and explain to them that there are such things as "recordings" which they can use to expose themselves to lots of classical music, and that if they should develop a wish to see such music performed live, then they can go to a concert hall as long as they're aware that, just like when you listen to a recording, you have to be quiet and pay attention?

This just in: leading artist recommends that, to deal with the short attention spans of today's young people, galleries should mount paintings on those rotating advertising billboards so viewers don't have to look at the same picture for more than twenty seconds...


Angus said...

The other way of dealing with short attention spans would be to program much more Webern. ;)

Nereffid said...

Well, the concert halls would certainly be quiet again. Nobody would be there!