Sunday, October 24, 2004

Why info matters

Greg Sandow has this on creating the 'concert companion' - rather like an audio guide for going around art exhibitions.

I'm always amazed by the number of people in the musical sphere who think that knowing something about the music's background and structure can add nothing to one's enjoyment, or who think alternatively that only the most specialised academic labels will do for such matters. In the art world, audio guides are taken for granted. You'd be surprised to turn up at an exhibition, pay for your ticket and not be offered one. And would you try to put together a bookshelf together without reading the instructions? (well...)

In music, even top orchestras still sometimes print dry, useless, outdated programme notes, some concerts provide none at all - it costs money to print them - and many recitalists are still scared witless by the idea of talking to their audiences. What in heaven's name is so alarming to the establishment about accessible, non-patronising background notes? And what's so alarming to a musician about saying a few words before you play? It's nowhere near as frightening as playing the piano!

Seriously, though, an audio-guide 'concert companion' sounds like an exceptionally useful tool. I wonder how long it'll take British orchestras to catch up with the idea. Sweepstake, anyone? I say five years. Ten if we get a Tory government next.