Thursday, September 13, 2018

I've no idea

A couple of weeks ago, I wrote about how successful the Minnesota Orchestra tour to South Africa was. The Music for Mandela tour brought people to the music who had never heard a symphony orchestra before. It also brought people together in a way I’ve not seen before. In Minneapolis, audiences had more people of colour than I’ve seen in 35 years of going to Symphony Hall. And that brought a spontaneity of appreciation I’ve also not seen before, with outbursts of appreciation after movements rather than the normal withholding of applause until the end.

I really enjoyed this freshness.

All of this took my thoughts in a different direction. 

I realized how privileged we are to have radio and TV to provide ways to listen to the music we love. We can check out a program that we don’t know before we spring for tickets. And if we like the music at a concert, we can download it and listen to it as many times as we want.

Go back a couple of hundred years: if people were lucky enough to go to attend a concert, the evening’s program may be the only time they would ever hear the pieces – no phonographs, no radio, no Walkmans, no TV.

How frustrating!

What did they think of this? Did they just accept it? Did they hustle for tickets? Did they buy the sheet music? 

I have no idea.

Maybe this lack of repeat possibilities is the reason we read about concerts where the audience demanded movements and whole pieces be repeated; where encores were sometimes numerous – the audience wanting more than their money’s worth.

And this wondering about what happened several hundred years ago brought me back to the present. Will those people who attended their first classical concert during the Music for Mandela series attend another? 

Will they use their fingertip-access to music to listen to more classical music? 

Will the classical audience shake off their focus on Bach, Beethoven, and Brahms to download African music? 

Will they make the effort to listen to the great musicians from across the African continent? Will they jump up and dance?

I have no idea.

But I'm really pleased that I can listen as much as I want.


  1. Oh, Stan, what an interesting topic. When I was a tiny girl, learning my passion for music literally on my grandfather's knee, we listened to the radio (Texaco Metropolitan Opera broadcasts :) and Caruso and Nellie Melba on his wind-up Victrola. Today, we would cringe at the quality of the sound reproduction. But then!! I remember, vivid as yesterday, my grandfather saying, with his soft, sibilant Italian account, "When I was born, only a king could have the music he wanted when he wanted it. This machine makes me a king." I can see my favorite picture of my nonno from where I am sitting. I often try to imagine how he would feel if I could show him how I can download pretty much whatever music I want, by the musicians I favor, and put it at my command. Or watch the long dead Andres Segovia--with a close-up of his fingers on the strings--when ever I want--on YouTube. Magic!

  2. Ahh Haaa Haaa !! But how much of the music around today is any good? How much of it just damages the ears (or in the case of rap music the fingers) Good music is heard once and remembered for ever. I have a whole jukebox instead my head!!! ( And not a lot else I'll admit)

  3. Let's re-cap: Stan is pleased, Annamaria is in command, and Caro has a jukebox for a head. All these revelations in one blog post. Wow.