22 April, 2010

Audience Experience versus Musical Participation

I know a couple that is very active in a charity organisation that brings classical music into people’s everyday lives. They arrange for very talented musicians, mostly master students from the local music conservatory, to play music in concert halls, churches, school auditoriums, hospital wards, prison cafeterias, senior citizen homes, women centers… anywhere people gather, they try to bring music to them.

One of the perks of this couple’s volunteer work, is they get to know many of the musicians personally. A few years ago, three musicians mentioned how they were preparing some pieces for an international music competition. They were concerned that they had only practiced the pieces, but not actually preformed them. So, began a series of home concerts in my friends’ living room.

The next concert is just around the corner (piano and violin) and I am very much looking forward to going. It is hard to describe how magical it is to hear music of such beauty in the intimacy of a living room. There is something visceral, physical, and emotional about the experience. It cannot be compared to recorded music, and not even music performed in a concert hall.

I watched this video today with much interest:

On the TED site, the video is explained as follows:

185 voices from 12 countries join a choir that spans the globe: "Lux Aurumque," composed and conducted by Eric Whitacre, merges hundreds of tracks individually recorded and posted to YouTube. It's an astonishing illustration of how technology can connect us.”

Initially, I was very intrigued by the idea and even the realisation. Then it started to remind me of some science fiction film, a little eerie, if not unsettling. Then I realised that, from an audience point of view, it just doesn’t work for me.  It couldn’t be further from the experience of sitting in the living room with a group of friends and hearing every nuance of a musician’s genius.

The merit of Eric Whitacre’s idea is perhaps in the experience the people performing the piece felt. The opportunity to sing in the comfort of your home and still participate in a virtual concert.

What do you think, would you rather be in that living room as the audience, or in your bedroom as a participator? 


  1. I like both experiences - they are so different yet moving in different ways.

  2. Participant. :) Thank you for this as usual.