The Well-Tempered Ear

Classical music news: Should concert halls be noisier and livelier or quieter and more attentive to attract bigger and younger audiences to classical music? The argument grows.

June 16, 2012

By Jacob Stockinger

One urgent question continues to loom at the center of the classical music world: How do performers and presenters attract more audiences and young audiences to live music?

One answer is to emphasize new music.

Another and opposing answer is to emphasize tried-and-true old masterpieces.

One answer is to use more non-traditional venues such as coffee houses (below), bars, churches, open-air markets, the street, parks and workplaces — much like the local groups Classical Revolution (bel0w) and New Muse (New Music Everywhere) do.

But there are still people who are unabashed in their love of the concert hall as the appropriate place to hear classical music.

However, even those partisans can’t agree on what makes for a great concert hall experience.

Recently, one observer wrote that concert halls need to be noisier and more raucous, more filled with cheers and yells, with life and excitement – much like I have written about what I find when I go to concerts by the Wisconsin Youth Symphony Orchestras (photo below):

Here is a link to the nationally distributed and controversial  story  — which drew a lot of comments – by Richard Dare on The Huffington Post:

But recently a story in the New York Times took issue with that approach and argued, though several sources, that a focused and attentive silence is the more appropriate response inside the concert hall.

The Ear tends to think that no matter what side you take, it all depends on the circumstances and the music. It is similar to how some music, say a concerto, lends itself to applause between movements – and many soloist especially would like to see more of that – while applause could ruin the mood of other works, say a Mahler symphony or a Requiem.

Which side do you take – noisier or quieter concert halls?

The Ear wants to hear.

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